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Story and photos by Geoff Stunkard
Driving an 8,200 mile Hemi Charger, if only for our cameras, gave partner/owner Keith Arteman a lot to smile about. The first gen fastback denoted the car’s close connection to the Coronet, which featured the same basic body lines except without this roof treatment. The Charger’s design and good driving gave David Pearson the Grand National crown that year (and Ernie White won one in USAC’s stock division as well for good measure).
Never say never. This is the OEM air cleaner top that was delivered with the car, but it has no centered orange 426 Hemi decal on it like most examples do.
Street legends. Every town and county had at least one in the car culture, some amazingly rare musclecar that showed up only on very rare occasions. Sometimes to clean clocks, sometimes just to get the blood excitement of the onlookers going. The mauve 1966 Hemi Charger your looking at was one such beast.
When it debuted in 1966, the Street Hemi was detuned just enough to be curbside reliable and was available in almost any Chrysler B-platform body. This 425 (plus) horse mill was a handful, but Mopar sent over 1,000 Hemi engines out onto America’s byways that year. So our story begins in late 1965 when a single, middle-aged woman named Cora Case made up her mind to buy a just-released Dodge Charger model with that new engine.
Cora worked at a local Dodge franchise, Courtesy Dodge in Bloomington, Illinois, at the time, and though the dealership owner tried hard to dissuade her from opting for the $877.55 motor, (recommending a 383 instead), Cora put her foot down and stated unequivocally that the Hemi was the only choice for her.
An order for a gold example went into the system, and then Cora waited, and waited, and waited. She would get a telegram stating her car would be built on such-and such a date, followed by another stating it had been postponed. She finally went in and told the boss to start seeing if there as another new Charger in the Land of Lincoln that could be gotten in its place. As chance would have it, he found a Y6 Mauve example available from a dealer down south in Springfield, and that became Cora’s car. She drove it sparingly that summer, making an occasional blast down Route 66 with regular area street racers until those 426 fender badges made her a highway pariah; after the dealership swapped the Hemi badges for a set of 383 Four Barrel versions, she was back at it. That fall, the dealership agreed to store the car in their upstairs storage area for the winter, and she drove only occasionally again in 1967.