You're at a stoplight in a Detroit suburb on a Saturday afternoon when your muscle car radar goes off. Greg Charney's 1968 Dodge Dart has just rolled up. Suddenly, whatever cookie-cutter car you're driving seems vastly inadequate. The symphony of solid-roller valvetrain, geardrive whine, and Flowmaster exhaust is cloaked in the most beautiful custom metallic blue paint you've seen in years, but that's not what you're thinking as your eyes lock onto the no-joke Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials. If no cops are around, Greg might even crack the throttle and haze the tires through a couple of gears, showing off his stick-shift chops in the process. Even if he doesn't, your day just won't be the same.
To understand Greg Charney's magnificent 1968 Dart, it helps to understand the man. The 64-year-old retired Chrysler powertrain engineer is still very much the same teenager who used his street-racing acumen and mechanical aptitude to wrangle a highly coveted job at Chrysler engineering back in 1967. "I was one of the many people who went down there and applied. I took the mechanical test and got the job," Greg says. "They don't usually pay much attention to these tests unless somebody does really bad or really good." (You get one guess which one Greg was.) Soon, Greg was palling around with Al Adams—who history records would become heavily involved with the Motown Missile Pro Stock program.
Greg explains: "I wasn't at engineering for two months when I started building a 440 Max Wedge. They asked me to bring my 1965 Plymouth out there, so I did. I would go out to 696 on Thursday nights and beat up on the Fords and the Chevys. If you were lucky, you could suck out Jim Wangers and show him the door. I did that a few times. That car went 11.50s at like 122 mph. It was very unassuming looking."
After talking with Chrysler's Tom Hoover—best known as the father of the Hemi—Greg decided to build a real race car and successfully secured a leftover 1965 Dodge Coronet A990. Years prior, a shipment of A990 Coronets had been converted to altered wheelbases and run in NHRA A/FX—then in the embryonic Funny Car class. There just so happened to be several unmolested, stock-wheelbase shells remaining. When combined with a wrecked yet complete 1965 Coronet scored for $300, Greg was able to build a Super Stock Hemi car that quickly rose through the NHRA ranks and took the spotlight at one of the most significant drag races of the 20th century. "I was at the right place at the right time," Greg says. "We couldn't afford not to race with all the cool stuff that was being handed to us. We got parts for free, and I loved doing it. I wasn't making much money at the time, so it was great having somebody give all that stuff to us. Why wouldn't you? The car was quick and had a good reputation. We went some rounds and won a race or two."
Went some rounds and won a race or two, huh? How about winning the Super Stock class at the 1971 NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indy in one of the most star-studded fields ever assembled? In case your memory fails, the 1971 U.S. Nats was the same race that Steve Carbone's slingshot dragster went up against Garlitz's newer, faster rear-engine Swamp Rat 14—and won the Top Fuel final after a still highly controversial starting-line burn down. Meanwhile, Greg was not only a witness to history, he was a part of it, beating Terry Earwood's Challenger in the final round of Super Stock. As if the Wally on the shelf wasn't enough, Greg also took Second Place at the 1971 Detroit Autorama with the same 1965 Dodge A990. Yeah, the country's biggest, most influential car show. Do you see a pattern here?
Within two years, Chrysler would pull the plug on its support for motorsports, including NHRA drag racing. When coupled with the oil embargo, tough economic times, and a rocky first marriage that resulted in divorce, it was no longer feasible for Greg to race. Nevertheless, fast cars and hot engines were never far from Greg's mind, or his job at Chrysler, where he pulled the dyno handle for 27 years. That time went to good use as he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of everything Mopar—something that would help him years later with the car you see here. In 1993, Greg got a tap on the shoulder because the suits wanted him to take a job in management upstairs. ("That was a cultural shock!") The white-collar position put Greg in charge of coordinating all prototype engine builds for the large-car platform.
By 2002, it was time for Greg to hang up his hat. But unbeknownst to him, the fun was just beginning. Right around that time he started going to car shows and races and hanging out—where else?—at the Mopar Performance semitruck display. As you can imagine, the Mopar booth attracts a who's who of Chryco engine builders, racers, fabricators, and dignitaries past and present, especially when it's camped out anywhere near the Motor City. Naturally, Greg started helping out, informally at first. Then they offered him a job working it full time, giving him the chance to crisscross the country once again.