1974 Dodge Charger Review

1974 Dodge Charger Brougham 5.2L 318 ci V8 2 barrel from North America

Model year1974
Year of manufacture1974
First year of ownership2012
Most recent year of ownership2013
Engine and transmission 5.2L 318 ci V8 2 barrel Automatic
Performance marks 9 / 10
Reliability marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.5 / 10
Distance when acquired103400 miles
Most recent distance104500 miles
Previous carMercedes-Benz S-Class

Summary:

Best car I've ever had

Faults:

Disclaimer - Now my car is pretty dependable, but this review is for a car that needed a partial restoration. It was turn key when I got it, but it sat in a garage and was rarely driven. If you are considering a 72-74 Charger, I will list the things it needed for you to know about how much parts cost. I normally went to Autozone, sometimes O'Reillys.

The day after I bought it, I had to buy 4 new tires. I went to Discount Tire. $480 with a 3 year warranty - $60 extra. A total of $540.

After the first few weeks of driving my Charger, the first time it failed to start was because the fuel filter was clogged. $6. Changed the filter, then it started right up.

The second issue was a few weeks later. I parked it at my house and the radiator started leaking. I didn't feel anything, but the car had to have hit something from beneath (my fault). Pulled the radiator and there was a dent on the bottom of the radiator. It turned out to be the original radiator. 38 years old! I was impressed. Also replaced the hoses, thermostat and thermostat gasket. Decided to put in a separate trans oil cooler in front of the radiator because the aftermarket radiator's trans cooler didn't line up with the lines. I could've bent the lines to fit, but I didn't think that was the best idea. The total was still cheaper than buying an OEM radiator, which is 400 f-ing dollars. Oh well, separate trans coolers have usually proven to be better for cooling transmission fluid anyways. Total of about $270.

Then a few weeks later, the brakes seemed mushy, so changed the master cylinder. $15. That helped a lot.

Then a few weeks later, it would start but would die when shifting into gear. The accelerator pump on the carb was stuck on high idle for a couple weeks before, and sounded like I had my foot all the way down on the gas everywhere I went. Then it went out. Rebuilt the original 2 barrel carb and it started right up. $21 for the carb kit. Idled much lower and better.

It was completely primed and ready to paint when I got it. I was told the original paint wore out. There was a drought in my area so I took my time, but finally I took it in to paint before it rained. Dupont paint - I call it Cocaine white :) I don't remember the real color name. Similar to the bright white Corvettes use. Added side louvers too. It used to have the vinyl top, but it was removed before I got it. Now it looks great. $1200, but I was lucky it was ready to paint. It would've been at least $2000 if it needed to be sanded, prepped and primed first.

A couple months later, I got stranded at a 76 gas station. Tried a jump and that didn't work. The owners were nice and let me leave it overnight. A good friend of mine who is a mechanic came the next day, and started it with a hand crank to the starter somehow, and I drove it home. I wired a push button to the starter, and it started fine for a while.

Maybe a month later it quit starting. I bought a new starter for around $50 (high torque, only $3 more) and it started fine. Removed the push button switch and it was turn key. I thought the ignition switch was bad and I didn't feel like taking apart the steering wheel to get to it, but it must have been the starter.

Then I removed the EGR valve and put a plate over the opening. The stupid thing was full of dirt anyways. Put in a K&N air filter in ($40), which made quite a difference. Advanced the distributor timing 2 degrees. It came with an aftermarket dual exhaust; no catalytic converter or muffler. I think it may have come stock with a muffler but probably no cat. No headers unfortunately. It's still surprisingly fast and now has at least 210 HP.

I may put a 440 in someday, but I'm keeping the 318 for now. I drive it 2-3x a week, and a 440 would only guzzle gas and help me get more speeding tickets. Maybe someday if I drove it only 2-5x a month, I will seriously consider it.

General Comments:

When I first saw it, I thought I probably wasn't going to buy it. I didn't really have an interest in a 318 2 barrel. But these cars are getting pretty rare. I like almost exclusively European cars now, especially Jags. But I've got a thing for old Chargers, and the 71-74 Charger has been a dream car of mine since middle school. So I kept an open mind.

The interior was in great shape. Seats and dashboard are original and look great. The engine is all original too. Even had the stock air cleaner cover and original A/C compressor. This is very rare. Usually these cars need complete interior restoration and don't have all original engine parts.

It was a high priced model in 74, with air conditioning, cruise control, and front disk brakes. Only things it didn't have are power windows or a 360 engine option.

I took it for a test drive and it was fast! I'm used to driving it now, but I remember the first time driving it felt like I was driving a tank with a rocket strapped to the back. I was immediately sold.

UNPARALLELED driving experience. Everything is cool about it, how it looks, sounds and accelerates.

It is faster the 91 Formula Firebird I used to have with the 5.7 350 V8. I'd rather drive it than any new car.

And it's a real head turner. Women LOVE it :) People tell me my car is awesome at gas stations and at red lights. I get thumbs up from pedestrians too.

Gas mileage is not too bad, but obviously it's not a commuter car. It's around 12 MPG city. It can get incredible freeway mileage, however. One time I took a freeway trip over 75 miles and I got over 30 MPG! I couldn't believe it. I filled it up before I left, then came back and tried to fill it up, but the automatic pump shut off at 2 1/2 gallons. I thought it was a mistake, but it refused to stay on after a few more tries. The gauge said it was full so the tank was full for sure. I think normally for shorter freeway trips it gets around 20 MPG. I use premium gas only with a little octane boost.

Bottom line, this car is phenomenal, and I believe a great investment. If you are responsible and willing to do some work, old Mopars are more than worth it. My Charger is very fun to drive, and they only get more valuable over time, and eventually they become even more rare. Parts are cheap, but maintaining old cars requires TLC.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th March, 2013

30th Mar 2013, 19:18

Life is short. Live it up. Dump the 318 boat anchor & throw in the 440 Magnum.

31st Mar 2013, 07:49

"eventually they become even more rare"

As does anything that is not being made anymore.

Not buying your 30 MPG claim either.

31st Mar 2013, 11:20

It's numbers matching and it is a V8. I would leave it be. Dress up the engine compartment and save the original parts. Spend your big block motor money on a quality paint job. If you are running headers, put some starter shield wrap on the starter to prevent heat soak.

I buy cars entirely different than I did 30 years ago. I use to buy cars with good interiors and chrome, as aftermarket support on many cars was weaker. I use to go to junkyards and re-chrome parts. Nowadays I buy cars with a good body and good paint. You can fix everything else. People buy cars in primer and are shocked at how much it costs for quality bodywork and paint. I find it far cheaper to buy a nice example than restore one.

Good Luck.

Average review marks: 8.5 / 10, based on 1 review