Blown big-block 1968 Dodge Charger R/T

When Louie Demetriou first spotted a black '68 Dodge Charger, he fell deeply in lust. Two decades later, that lust was finally sated by this tunnel-rammed big-block brawler

Photographers: Alex Jovanovic

For Louie Demetriou, cars are in the genes. His dad, Takis, was into hot Fords and ran C&J Motors in Oakleigh, Victoria. His older brothers Jim and Stratis were car-mad, too, as were his cousins and nephews.

First published in the May 2022 issue of Street Machine

“Every school holidays, from about age nine, I’d be at Dad’s workshop,” Louie says. “Dad and my brothers taught me skills, along with what good, hard, honest work can bring you.”

Twenty or so years ago, Louie chanced upon his dream car. “Around 2000, Stratis was after a ’67 fastback Mustang, and I told him I’d find one for him,” he says. “While searching, I spotted an ad for a black ’68 Dodge R/T Charger – 440ci, four-speed – for $40,000. It was beautiful – nothing to spend; just jump in and drive. Apart from my brother’s ’68 Corvette, I’d mostly been surrounded by Fords; my first car was a ZB Fairlane. I’d never taken any notice of Chargers, but this one drove me crazy.”

Louie didn’t press the ‘go’ button on that Charger, as he’d taken a bit of a break from cars to concentrate on restoring vintage motorbikes. But he couldn’t get it out of his mind.

Fast-forward about another decade and a couple of things happened that re-ignited Louie’s passion for Mopars in general and black Chargers in particular. First, Stratis built a 512ci big-block 1973 Barracuda, and then, tragically, their mother was struck down by cancer.

“She was taken from the family way too soon,” says Louie. “It was a bit of a life-is-too-short moment, so I made the move [to find a Charger] around 2015.”

An Aussie Mopar enthusiast put Louie in touch with a bloke in California who apparently could build a ’68 Dodge Charger to Louie’s exact specs. Louie boarded a jumbo for the other side of the big pond.

“After a nine-hour drive to the workshop, I liked what I saw,” he recalls. “The guy had a shell there with almost no rust and all its original sheet metal – the perfect blank canvas.

“I gave him my expectation of the level of workmanship, along with my checklist: a hamburger with the lot, just like the one I saw in the ad in 2000. I wanted a 440 big-block, A833 four-speed, R/T Dana 60 rear, centre console, vinyl roof, triple black with a red R/T bumblebee stripe and a set of Magnums wrapped in BF Goodrich T/As.” Louie and the Cali-based restorer negotiated a price, and he was promised a “Barrett-Jackson restoration”.

Back in Oz, regular progress photos kept Louie pretty excited during the nine-month build, and he was full of anticipation on his way to pick up the car from Melbourne importer Classic USA Imports. Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived, as the black ’68 Charger that greeted Louie didn’t look anywhere near as good as the photos.

“The paint was all scratched and cloudy,” he says. “It wouldn’t start, and when we finally got it going, it drove appallingly and there was a violent vibration coming from the engine or drivetrain. I thought, ‘What the hell have I got into?’”

Down but not out, Louie and his family, friends and contacts got stuck into resolving the car’s many issues.

Motorstyle Automotive spent hours buffing and polishing, with the paint eventually coming up quite presentably.

Next on the list was sorting out the driveability. Louie tells us that the wheels on these cars are incredibly hard to align. Luckily, his brother Stratis runs Bridgestone Vermont, and he ironed out the Dodge’s wandering and erratic road manners.

The other big one was the driveline vibration. After rebuilding the gearbox and having the driveline thoroughly checked, Louie made the decision to yank the engine – more drama! “It was supposed to be a built engine, but it was nothing more than a junker out of a motorhome, with a set of alloy heads and a lick of paint,” he explains.

Not really wanting to spend good money after bad, Louie instructed Pro Race Engines to make the most of what was already there. “They did a 512 stroker, which came out great; it made 560hp and 650lb-ft,” he says. “But three clutches and 3000 or so miles later, the engine grenaded due to parts failure!”

Time to do things properly. Pro Race were able to salvage the crank, rods and rocker gear from the old motor, but everything else is new, including the 1968 date-coded block.

“The car was screaming at me to have something hanging out of the hood,” says Louie. “I would have loved to plonk an 8/71 blower on top, but I decided to keep that for the Hemi I’d like to build later on.”

Instead, Pro Race added an Indy tunnel ram between the new Trick Flow CNC-ported heads. Other goodies like a solid-roller cam, BAM lifters, Icon Platinum slugs and a pair of APD 750cfm carbs round out the now-reliable package. It spun up 762hp and 630lb-ft on the engine dyno at Adicted Performance.

US company 440 Source supplied a lot of advice and componentry for the build, while Australian Clutch Services provided the Xtreme Performance clutch, which has proven itself capable of handling the grunt.

While it was all apart, Armstrong & Sons repainted the engine bay and front clip. Louie also decided the coupe needed more muscle in the looks department. After Staunch Fabrication added a set of mini-tubs and a shortened nine-inch from Supa Trik Diffs, the car easily swallowed bigger, meatier 315/60R15 M/T ET Streets. Mission accomplished, as BLKMPR now has a far more menacing persona.

You’d think one gnarly ground-pounder would be enough, but not for Louie. “I grew up with the pro street look in the 80s; it influenced me a lot,” he says. “I’d like to find my original Vintage Burgundy 1968 ZB Fairlane. I’d give it the big-block, big-tyre pro street look.”

Why not? There’s no such thing as having too much pro street.


Paint: PPG Black
Brand: 512ci Chrysler V8
Inlet manifold: Indy dual-quad
Carbs: Dual APD 750cfm
Heads: Trick Flow PowerPort 270 CNC
Camshaft: Solid-roller
Lifters: BAM
Rockers: Hughes Racing 1.6:1 
Crank/conrods: 440 Source
Pistons: Icon Platinum
Rings: Total Seal
Sump: ASR
Oil pump: Milodon
Fuel pump: Mallory
Cooling: Race Radiators alloy, twin Spal fans
Headers: TTI 2in primaries, 3.5in collectors
Exhaust: 3in mild steel, X-pipe, MagnaFlow mufflers
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD crank trigger, HVC coil, 6AL Digital box
Gearbox: New Process A833 four-speed manual
Clutch: Xtreme Performance twin-plate
Tailshaft: 3in chrome-moly
Diff: 9in, Truetrac, 35-spline, 4.11:1 gears
Front: Standard springs, KYB shocks
Rear: Relocated leaf springs, Koni shocks
Brakes: Dodge drums (f), Ford drums (r)
Rims: Billet Specialities Street Lite; 15×4.5 (r), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson 26×6.0R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 315/60R15 (r)

Con Sagiaris at Pro Race Engines; Danko at Adicted Performance; Brandon Nicholas at 440 Source; George & Mick Papadopoulos at Motorstyle Automotive; Jim Diamontopoulos at Armstrong & Sons; Ryan at Race Coatings; Craig Lee at Australian Clutch Services; Aaron Williams at Staunch Fabrication; Andrew at Supa Trik Differentials; Mal Wood Automotive; GJ Drivelines; my mother Anna for her inspiration; my father Takis; my wife Vas and daughters Krisahna & Paris; by brothers Stratis & Jim; my nephews Chris & Dean Demetriou; my cousin Stratis Charalambous