Words and photos by Ro McGonegal
Black requires more patience than most people can muster. It’s exasperating to live with, yes, but done right nothing compares for downright elegance…or sheer terror, if you’re on the outside looking in. On the other hand, if purpose was a tuxedo, then Alan Rutland’s ’68 Charger would be it.
He’s had the car for more than half his life, leading it through stages of development, like a father would his son. He’s even forsaken the Charger a couple of times, relegating it to the back yard for years while he spent his money on something more important to his family.
Spin back 20 years. The woman who owned the thing wanted $1,500. On the test run the motor kicked a rod. Said owner felt responsible and let Alan have it for say, $300?! Yes, ma’am! The agenda for his first mechanical raid centered on the engine. He swung a 0.030-over 440 in place of the wrecked 383 and flogged it for seven years as a to-work-and-back mule. It ran 13.20’s.
He liked it. He got hungry. He relished working on it. He loved changing things. He found patience. He loved the way it brought his wife Kim and son Bradlee (the heir apparent) into a tableau that was never static.
“When I needed help with something, I just walked into the house and my wife or (12-year-old) son would come with me. They liked working on it but couldn’t visualize the final result like I could.
“Working from 11 until 2 each night, in total silence and in deep concentration, it took me two years to rewire, rebuild, and put everything back…I wanted it to be street-worthy and run good in the quarter-mile. Really, my biggest thing is racing first and looking good second. I don’t bracket race but I love going to test and tune night at Memphis to see the effect that one little change has on performance. It fascinates me.
“I know it’s easy just to buy Indy cylinder heads, a solid roller cam, or just buy a crate motor, but I wanted to see how fast I could go with stuff that everybody says you aren’t supposed to use. The cylinder block is out of a ’77 motorhome and the cylinder heads are nasty old iron.”