18th Nov 2014, 19:02
I'm the original author of this review. When I wrote it, the everyday runabout vehicle for my parents was a 1997 Mercury Sable station wagon. In 2009, my dad indulged in a life-long dream and bought a 2007 Cadillac DTS, and then in 2011 he traded that on a 2010 Cadillac DTS. My mom died in 2009, and she was the once-a-week driver of the 1975 Dodge Charger, so it has been sitting in a shed since then. My dad is 92 and had been indulging his enjoyment of having a Cadillac before he lost his license, so he didn't drive the Charger anymore.
After sitting for 5 years, the Charger ran a little rough and wouldn't idle when I decided to get it running this Fall, so I replaced the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, and tweaked the carburetor adjustments a little. It was really a joy to get it back cruising down the road. I always knew the Charger was a solid car, but, well... I know there will be those who will virulently attack me for saying this, but that 1975 Dodge Charger is at least as smooth and quiet as the 2010 Cadillac DTS, which I've driven quite a bit. It makes one feel that although many things have been gained in the field of automobile technology in the nearly 40 years since that car was made, some things may have been lost.
19th Nov 2014, 17:14
My dad had an absolutely loaded mid 70s Chrysler Newport and a 1988 Lincoln Town Car. We commented that the Chrysler front seat was far more comfortable. It was like a double cushion sofa. I also liked the uninterrupted side windows with no post. I've personally owned some Cadillacs from that era as well. The big Newport was better to drive. I can only imagine the Imperial being better.
25th Feb 2020, 00:04
I am the original reviewer, posting a long term update. Although I post yearly updates for vehicles I'm actively driving, this car is in the process of being awakened from a long slumber. When I posted the initial review in 2006 and the update in 2014, this car belonged to my father, although it had been in the family since the time I originally stated. Now it has become my car, and I've begun to set my hand to it, reversing years of neglect. Just about always, I improve whatever I touch. Sad to say, this car has pretty much sat and deteriorated since the last posting in 2014. With my 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, 1973 Dodge Charger (both of which have reviews on this site), and my wife's 1979 Chevy C-10 pickup, this 1975 Charger SE fits right in! However, with the '70s cars and three "normal" vehicles (2017 Explorer, 2010 Cadillac, and 2010 Honda Fit), I'm a bit pressed for garage space, and am not sure when I'm going to be able to get the Charger SE the help it needs. Here's what I've done so far, and they have been improvements.
As always, I like to know where I'm starting. So, in the last couple of years, I replaced the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, and air filter. I also changed the oil, starting with Mobil 1 now and forever after, and topped off the transmission fluid, and changed the engine coolant after running some Super Flush through it. Scale had started to form on the radiator passages. The belts and hoses are good, including (thankfully) the numerous vacuum lines that run all the emission control switches. Last year I replaced both rear tires, ancient 721's that were paper thin after one delaminated on the road. I also had to replace the plastic windshield wiper bushing that couples the wiper motor to the reciprocating wiper assembly. That is a fine job that required lying on a sheet of plywood on top of the engine bay to reach into the the space behind the fire wall--really fun while trying to press on the plastic bushing that you can't see while also encountering a huge, disgusting mouse nest (complete with mouse carcass) in that well, all the while being wedged up under the hood. Thanks for moving the padding out of my seats and into the firewall, that's really helpful...
So, with all that, I have a solid car that runs and drives well. Last summer I put a couple hundred miles on cruising the county roads to get things gently working again. The idle after initial start was still rough, and the full tune-up hadn't fixed that, so I added a can of Sea Foam to see what would happen and miraculously the idle problem cleared up within seconds. I'm still evaluating that one, as I had assumed it had more to do with the heater passage in the intake manifold being clogged shut with carbon, or perhaps a temperature controlled switch not opening to pull off the choke. If it's as simple as Sea Foam clearing out some tar, I shall not complain. At this point, the only thing that doesn't work is the air conditioning, from sitting for just too long. So, the next thing will be to add some refrigerant.
As I say, it's a fun car that runs and drives well, but the rocker panels and quarters have some surface rust that is not what I like to have on my cars. It will be a little problematic to get this addressed in the short term, although it will be addressed. It took me 20 years to get my '73 Charger to the body shop, and it took me almost 30 years to get my '71 Barracuda to the body shop. At my age, I don't have that kind of time left, at least not to enjoy the car once it's finished. Although this Charger SE is post-muscle car era, I really enjoy it. It's still a rear-wheel drive, 2-door, V-8 Dodge sedan that runs on unleaded gas, and I really like looking out over that 5-acre hood. To my amazement, it's actually bigger than the 2010 Cadillac DTS that I also recently acquired. The days of big cars, when big meant quiet and comfortable. As I said somewhere above, even though there have been many impressive advances in automobile technology, a car like this '75 Charger SE makes you think that perhaps some things have been lost as well. It wasn't long after this body style Charger that we saw small, front-wheel-drive 4-cylinders with lots of plastic, a kind of car that Detroit seemed to have a hard time mastering for the next 30 years, so in that respect this Charger represents the last of an era.
5th Jun 2021, 14:21
I am the original reviewer of this 1975 Charger SE, posting an update. As previously stated, I have been in the process of "re-awakening" this car after a prolonged period of dormancy. I believe that stage is now over and I am in a better position to provide an assessment of the car as it now stands at age 46. The Charger SE now has 93,025 miles on it, which means I have driven it 900 miles over the previous 2 1/2 years. The car is stored at a vacation home about 950 miles away, so that means I am able to drive it a couple of hundred miles during each of two bi-annual visits.
Results from my last visit in October 2021 were improving from previous drives. The car would start fine, but would take a prolonged time to come off fast idle, too fast to put in gear. When I would take it off fast idle, the curb idle was rough and choppy, and the engine would die as soon as I put it in gear. That condition improved after I added a can of Sea Foam, and now there is an intermediate "step" in coming off fast idle. So, the car starts with the first or second turn of the key and goes to fast idle, a light tap of the foot pedal drops it to the intermediate idle step where the engine can warm up for 1-2 minutes, and then another hard tap on the foot feed drops the idle to curb idle and it will run without stalling. This sounds complicated in the modern age when everything is fuel injected and computerized, but in 1975 this was done with a series of vacuum switches. I also own a 1971 Plymouth and 1973 Dodge, and the emission controls were only a PCV valve. By 1975 there were tighter emissions standards, and the Charger SE had a catalytic converter but not yet a smog pump or hated Lean Burn. Instead, it has switches that screw into the radiator and intake manifold to sense coolant temperature, and open switches to vacuum lines running to the carburetor accordingly. I believe that with more consistent driving, and apparently the Sea Foam, the system is finally working like it's supposed to as the stalling and rough idle has cleared up.
Last October, I also had to replace the belts, which I realized had become so stretched out that they were simply sliding past the alternator pulley at highway speed. I discovered this on a test run with the wipers and headlights on, and the car died from running off the battery. The belts were replaced, the battery was charged up from the alternator, and all was well. This is why I like to give thorough test drives and prolonged evaluation periods to old cars before fully trusting them. The goal is, would I feel confident in flying in and driving this the 950 miles back home if I had to?
I was recently there again and put about 200 miles on the car. It was running normally, but on my last day I smelled gasoline and discovered that the fuel pump was leaking through the weep hole, indicating that the internal gasket is also leaking. The car would continue to run, but gasoline would be filling into the crankcase, diluting the oil probably without your knowledge, which can damage the bearings. Amazingly, the small-town auto parts store had a fuel pump in stock (the large chains never would have). This is an easy job, held on by only two bolts. As long as it requires removing the alternator for easier access, I also replaced the fuel filter and the rubber gas line, which was beginning to mushroom and crack, to avoid future trouble. The fuel pump, filter, and 1-foot length of rubber gas line cost $42. There is the advantage to these old cars: you can fix it yourself in 1-2 hours for pocket change.
So, the car is solid and runs great, like it did when when we first got it 45 years ago. I would still say the ride is comparable to my 2010 Cadillac DTS. Because I also own a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda and 1973 Dodge Charger, I am in a position to say that 1975 represented some great leap forward in suspension and handling, at least in this Charger SE. The ride is quieter and smoother by far than the 1973 Charger, and in my estimation, it took another 30 years for cars to equal that ride quality after the doldrums of the '80s and '90s. The SE still uses torsion bars, but has added front and rear anti-sway bars and lots of insulation for road noise. Also, the steering seems tighter than my 1973 and 1971. It's as though Chrysler was acknowledging that the muscle car era was over, and decided to build a very different kind of car more focused on comfort.
So, I am very happy with it, and I would now be confident in a cross country drive if needed. I would imagine that the next ancillary failures would be the water pump and alternator, which one expects to fail at any time around 100,000 miles on these old cars, or possibly the timing chain when the factory nylon-tooth gears wear out, but I would expect the 318 will never need a valve cover lifted.