Radiantly Red

Everybody has had a first true love, at some point in their life, doesn’t matter who you are, or where you live, everyone, has experienced that feeling of unsurpassed joy. That very first love of your life, the undeniable emotion that makes you realize, somehow, you cannot survive without this. Some call it young love, others say its puppy love, regardless of what you might call it, there’s no love greater than the love we have for our car.

This beautiful, radiant red Dodge Charger is Jack O’Hanlon’s first real true love, in fact, you might even say this classic example of Mopar muscle was O’Hanlon’s High School Sweetheart since he bought the car in his senior year at Largo High School, in Largo, Florida. Although this beauty was not O’Hanlon’s first car, it is definitely his favorite. “I believe I was destined to find and own this car.” O’Hanlon stated. Seems his older sister had presented him with a t-shirt when he was eight years old, not really knowing anything about cars, O’Hanlon’s sister had one objective in mind; give her little brother a shirt with a car on it. With her non-existent knowledge of the American automobile, she grabbed the first shirt she saw that had a picture of a car on it, and was the correct size. As it turned out, the car on the shirt was a Dodge Charger.

O’ Hanlon credits dear old dad for his love of the automobile, and particularly, the Mopar product line. “I was born just outside of Detroit.” Hanlon recalled, “At the time, dad worked for Dodge, he would come home from work and give me the decals that had not been used that day, Road Runner, Duster, GTX, anything and everything Mopar.” Although unsure of where all of these decals ended up, O’Hanlon regrets that he doesn’t have them in his possession today. After only three-years with Dodge, O’Hanlon’s father resigned his position with the number three automaker, packed up his family and relocated to the bright sunshine and warm temperatures of Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Once the family was settled in the Sunshine State, O’Hanlon’s dad took a position as the manager of a Union 76 service station just north of downtown Saint Petersburg. This is where O’Hanlon gained much of his mechanical abilities. “I spent a lot of time at the station.” O’Hanlon remembers. “I was pumping gas when I was nine-years old.” When the other kids were out of school and hanging out on the beach, O’Hanlon was spending his summer vacations at dad’s service station honing his mechanical skills, as you might expect, O’Hanlon was soon able to perform many of the tasks associated with routine maintenance.

When O’Hanlon turned 14 years old, his dad presented him with his first car. O’Hanlon’s dads decided the old, service station work truck, a 1958 Ford F100, would be a great learning experience for his son, and further his school of hard knocks education in automotive mechanics. “This is when I really started learning about cars, working on this truck.” O’Hanlon offered. The truck came equipped with a 223 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder motor, coupled to a three-speed manual transmission with a column mounted shifter. O’Hanlon soon discovered the old truck would require a bit of work. “I replaced the head gasket and the water pump, The exhaust system was rusted through and I had to replaced the complete system from the manifold, to the exhaust tip coming out the back, I did all this before I was even legal to drive.” O’Hanlon laughed. Admittedly, talking about his old truck today brings back many fond memories, “I drove the truck on and off for a good ten years, it drove like a tank and never let me down, I wish I had never got rid of it.”

When O’Hanlon entered his senior year in high school, he was still using his old truck as a daily driver, but that desire to own what O’Hanlon considered his dream car, was stronger than ever. Over the years he had saved his money with the intent of someday buying his ideal ride, and he would settle for nothing other than a 1969 Dodge Charger. “I think my addiction to the Charger started back when Dad worked for Dodge, and he would bring me those decals.” O’Hanlon recalls. This, combined with the shirt his older sister gave him when he was young, and the fact O’Hanlon grew up watching the “Dukes of Hazzard”, cemented his craving to own a 1969 Charger. “I thought the 1969 Charger was the best looking muscle car that had ever come out of Detroit, and you can’t beat Mopar horsepower.” O’Hanlon smiled.