Ringbrothers ‘Tusk’ 1969 Dodge Charger

How do you improve one of the best-looking muscle cars ever? Give it to Ringbrothers, of course!

Photographers: Eric Becker

I don’t know how, but Ringbrothers just keeps building amazing cars that seamlessly blend modern aesthetics and classic US muscle-car styling. The ’69 Charger has been done so many times that it’s hard to imagine you could do a fresh take on it, yet here we have it. It’s almost what hasn’t been done that makes this car stand out – it’s still got the Charger badge on the C-pillar, the door handles and the stock fuel cap. There are a couple of subtle changes you may not even pick up at first, but we’ll get to those a bit later.

First published in the April 2024 issue of Street Machine

Drawn up by Gary Ragle Designs, the Charger was brought to the Ringbrothers shop by a developer from New York City. He’d recently had the car completely rebuilt but really wasn’t happy with how it turned out or how it drove. “He brought the car to us fully restored, with the Hellephant in it, and he had spent a sizable amount of money, but he hated it so badly he wouldn’t even get in it or start it up,” Mike Ring’s wife Nancy explains. “He said to us, ‘Start over; do it again. I still want it black, and I want the Hellephant, but I want you guys to do this.’”

You might be thinking that sounds like a crazy idea, and you’d be right, but the owner was adamant. “We encouraged him to try and sell the car and find a donor car, but we ended up doing a full build,” Nancy says. “There wasn’t much we were able to save, so it ended up being a very expensive donor car.”

I’ve already mentioned the Hellephant, but in case you’re not aware, it’s the hottest of the hot when it comes to late-model Mopar performance. It gets its name from a mashup of ‘Hellcat’ and ‘elephant’, the Hellcat being the comparatively lower-powered, 707hp version of the modern Hemi.

The elephant moniker dates way back to the 60s, as the name given to the second-generation Hemi – the legendary 426 – due to its large size, weight, and of course, its ground-pounding power.

While the modern take on the Hemi isn’t quite the behemoth its predecessor was, it’s still a pretty big lump of metal to shove into an older car, especially if you don’t want a heap of it hanging out of the bonnet.

One of the major changes Ringbrothers brought to the build was the use of a Roadster Shop chassis, which delivered a raft of benefits. Chief among them was much-improved handling with independent suspension front and rear, and a two-inch stretch to the wheelbase at the front.

This allowed the engine to sit much lower, and combined with the 2.5-inch setback, it helps with the handling balance of the car and reduces the size of the scoop needed to keep those 1000 Hemi horses away from prying eyes. Reverse-cowl scoops can be a bit hit-and-miss, but this design is one of nicest I’ve ever seen. The way the bodylines are worked into the design, and the addition of twin CNC-machined scoops at the rear make it look more like something from an Italian supercar than a muscle car.

Earlier in this story I mentioned there were a couple of subtle, yet major changes to the body, and you may have figured them out by now. After stretching the wheelbase, the front wheel openings had to be moved as well, so the entire lower halves of the front guards were remade, but that wasn’t the end of it. Moparphiles will likely have picked that the signature Charger door scallops aren’t there anymore; they’ve now morphed into scoops at the trailing edge of the front guards. This required brand new door skins fabricated in sheet metal.

The interior is another masterpiece, though by Ringbrothers standards it’s quite low-key, and almost a stock restoration. It’s not, of course, but Mike and Jim Ring have once again managed to seamlessly blend modern features into a classic 60s design. The dash is essentially stock, but the gauges have been replaced with Dakota Digital units that mimic the originals right down to the ‘tic toc tach’ gauge.

The seats are another example of modern functionality in a classic package. They’re out of a Honda and have been reshaped (including the headrest) to look very similar to a factory bucket seat, the crowning piece being the stitched trim reminiscent of the stock pattern. There’s a full-length console that runs up between the seats and hides a lot of the electrics and other necessities; Ringbrothers had to sacrifice the centre part of the rear seat due to the massive tubs and raised tunnel, so it’s now a four-seater.

The final touch and perfect complement to the jet-black paint is the brushed gold powdercoated wheels. A one-off design by Ringbrothers, they were manufactured by HRE Wheels and measure up at 19×10.5 and 20×13 inches. Yeah, people have jammed bigger wheels under ’69 Chargers before, but I think the proportions and stance are absolutely spot-on, thanks to the Roadster Shop chassis allowing the car to hunch down low over the wheel/tyre combo. There are no airbags here, either; Fox coil-overs on all four corners make sure this thing actually goes around corners!

What makes cars like this possible are customers that have the means and passion to make their dreams come true, and the team at Ringbrothers always rises to the challenge. “It takes a special person to give us unrestrained latitude to build what we think is cool,” Nancy says. “We are wholeheartedly grateful for the trust this owner gave us to make his childhood dream a reality.”


Paint:BASF Black to the Future
Type:Mopar 426 Hellephant
Blower:3.0l IHI
Pistons:Forged aluminium
Crank:Forged steel
Conrods:Forged H-beam
Exhaust:Custom, Borla mufflers
Box:Bowler Tremec T56
Diff:Strange 9in, 31-spline
Rear:Roadster Shop Fast Track IRS, Fox RS SV coil-overs
Steering:Woodward rack-and-pinion
Brakes:Baer Extreme 6S six-piston (f & r)
Rims:HRE Ringbrothers ‘TUSK’ Edition; 19×10.5 (f), 20×13 (r)
Rubber:Michelin Pilot Sport 4S; 285/35R19 (f), 345/30R20 (r)

BASF/Glasurit; Motul; HRE Wheels; MSD, QA1; Dynamat; Global Finishing Solutions; Heatshield Products; Miller Welding; California Car Cover; Dakota Digital Gauges.