1966 CHARGER -- GREAT DALE HOUSECAR
Photos and text by Zant O. Scott
"What a hack job!" or "What a waste of a Charger." Wayne Maddox, the owner of this Dodge has heard them all.
"In fact," he explains, "this car wouldn't even be around today if it hadn't been modified."
In early 1966, this Charger was rear-ended and totaled out by the insurance company. Dale Wasinger of Great Dale Housecars bought the wreck--not for parts, but for something altogether different, and the transformation began.
Since 1962, when he created the first Housecar, Dale has been perfecting this conversion process. From 1962 to 1966, he built as many as 56 vehicles. Starting with a late model, low mileage car, totaled due to a rear end or side damage, he stripped the frame of all body parts behind the front clip. Only the front seat and dashboard were left intact.
The frame was then cut behind the front seat and a 3/4 ton Chevy truck frame -- complete with heavy duty springs -- was "spliced" to it. The 8-3/4 rear end was retained in the Charger.
Dale used the word "spliced" to explain the mating of the different frames. What it entailed was welding diagonal plates of steel between the narrow parts of the truck frame to the wider car frame on either side. As a testament to the design's strength, Wasinger related how a Housecar owner drove his machine to and from Alaska.
"He came back to my shop to get a replacement windshield and have the frame welds checked, and the welds were good as new.
Channel iron was added to the car's frame, to support wood and aluminum pieces of a camper component and assembled by Wasinger and his wife. Dale explains that most of the camper parts were supplied by Mitchell's, a camper and trailer builder in Denver, Colorado.
To make the camper and car fit together, Dale made a cowl and a windshield of his own design. After the third vehicle, he standardized these parts, making them interchangeable from unit to unit.
Once this vehicle was complete, it was retitled and given a new VIN number. The 1966 Charger and 1965 Coronet were the only two Mopars he used.
Wayne Maddox allowed me to drive his Housecar to the Mopars at Thunder Mountain meet at Bandimere Speedway for the weekend. What a ride!! To get inside the car, there's a ground -level driver's door and an upright camper door on the passenger's side.
The two front bucket seats divided by a console and facing the expanded two-piece windshield gives a feeling of being in the cockpit of an airplane. Yet, the dash instruments, the ribbed maroon seat upholstery and the long white hood and chrome bordering either side reminds you--you're in a Charger.
Driving the machine about twenty miles, mostly on the interstate, I found the 31,0000 mile, 361 four barrel more than adequate to reach highway speeds. The engine labored very little going up hills even pulling the weight of about 5,000 pounds. To put it into perspective, a 1971 Imperial 4-door with three or four passengers weighs about that much.
I even passed some folks in a four-cylinder econo-box, side mounted duel exhaust rumbling as the Charger pulled by.
Once the Saturday night racing had ended [at Bandimere Speedway], I drove up to the track's pit area and got ready to sleep. All afternoon I'd taken advantage of the camper's many amenities...the dual sofas around a table, a refrigerator and a sink. Had I wanted to cook, the Housecar has three gas burners over a small oven, but now it was time to sleep. In a cupboard I found sheets, pillows and a comforter to cover a mattress above the bucket seats in a sleeping compartment. I slept surprisingly well, even at 6' 2" I could stretch out completely.
The next morning, the pits were full of anything Mopar that you could imagine, but racing was the main activity. Parked in a premiere spot by the concession stand, the Charger raised quite a few eyebrows, but didn't get the kind of enthusiasm I thought it might.
Even my AMC friends thought it was "goofy" (Like they should talk!)
At first glance, the vehicle does look like somebody's backyard project, but looking closer reveals quite a professional job. One gentleman even argued with me saying, "I know what this is; it's a kit!"
I couldn't convince him otherwise. Maybe some would still see it as a "hack job", but nobody can say it's a waste of a Charger. This Dodge had already been totaled.
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