Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Sometimes, it seems that the decision to buy a collector car has somehow already been determined for us. Occasionally, all the stars just seem to line up, all the green lights come on, and all the excuses and reservations just fade away.
Dave and Pam Rick enjoyed one of those “no-brainer” episodes four years ago when they found a 1973 Dodge Charger SE for sale. The timing was perfect, the price was right, and the car was just what they had in mind. The green Mopar wasn’t exactly like the one Dave had bought new in 1973 right after he graduated high school, but it was close enough. The Ricks had to have this car — that's all there was to it.
“Well, we had our 25th [wedding] anniversary coming up, and we wanted one for that,” Dave said. “And we had looked at some different ones, but the color wasn’t the same. So when this one came up on eBay, man, it was just what we wanted. I said, ‘Pam, look at this one here!’ The car was sitting in a showroom in Florida and it was totally original.
“The color was the same as my original one. I had kind of been looking, and when I saw it, that was it. We were going to get this one no matter what.”
“When he saw this one, it was like, ‘Oh, we have to do it,’” Pam said. “Yeah,” Dave added, “This was a ‘have-to.’”
Suffice it to say, the Ricks' offer for the car was a winner, and before long, the car was showing up at their front door in Wonewoc, Wis. “I was speechless when I saw it,” Dave said. “Just speechless.”
When Dave had bought his original Charger back in 1973, it carried a 400-cid V-8, making it one of the last vestiges of the fading muscle car era. This time around, high horsepower wasn’t really on the couple's wish list for a hobby car. Their trip down memory lane was going to be taken at a nice leisurely pace, and the 318-cid V-8 in Charger No. 2 was plenty for their needs.
“Everything on this car is the same, except mine had the 400,” Dave said. “But a 400 meant more back then, when you were a teenager. I know [my dad] thought it was too much [engine]. I had to almost beg for it!”
Added Pam: “That’s why we sold it. We didn’t want our kids having that. We have five kids, and we didn’t want them driving that big, powerful car.”
Dodge had been onto a good thing for years, and continued to stick to a winning formula with the 1973 Chargers. Putting svelt, swoopy sheet metal over midsize B-body underpinnings and topping it off with a variety of trim levels and attractive engine options had made the Charger one of the most beloved cars of the 1960s, and Dodge was not ready to give up the ghost until it had to.
The Chargers got a major restyling for the 1971 model year, and those new looks took the cars through 1974. The 1973s got new grilles and vertically slatted tail lights. Under the hood, the 1973 Chargers carried a base 225-cid slant six or the 150-hp 318 V-8. The 400 was optional in both two- and four-barrel varieties. Above that was the 280-hp 440.
The Chargers got a new Torsion-Quiet Ride suspension setup for the model year, and disc brakes were standard on the front. A three-speed manual transmission was also standard, but for a few more greenbacks a buyer could move up to a four-speed pistol-grip Hurst gear changer.
The Special Edition “SE” was the top trim level. It had a vinyl landau roof that featured a trio of vertical “louver-like” windows — not great for visibility, but they looked cool.
Bucket seats were optional, but very popular in the Chargers. The Ricks, however, were glad to have a bench seat in both of their Dodges. “They were both automatics, and they both had bench seats,” Dave said. “There are a lot of them out there with buckets seats, but we wanted the bench seat.
“This one has air-conditioning, and my other one didn’t. And this one has a rear-window defroster, and my other one didn’t. One other little thing — mine had a little white stripe on each side. This one had the white stripe deleted.”
The Ricks have no problem remembering what their original Charger was like because they still see it around. In fact, they’ve even tried to buy it back at times over the years, but never had any luck.
“I sold it in about 1988 or ’89, and the guy actually drove it through high school, and he’s still got it. He won’t sell it, we asked him!” Dave said. “But he has looked at this car, too, and said I got a better deal than he has trying to restore his. I just got more for the money.
“I’ve gotten to see it at least.”
“Afterward, we could say we wished we hadn’t sold it,” Pam added. “It was his original car and he bought it new.”
At one time, the couple's first Charger performed the same duties as today’s minivans — albeit with a lot more potential at the drag strip. “At one point, we had four kids in the back, and her and I and the [baby] seat in front,” Dave laughed.
The Ricks haven’t had to do much to their second Charger, which now carries about 115,000 miles on the odometer. After owning the car for three years, they elected to give it a fresh coat of dark green paint. “It didn’t need any bodywork,” Dave said. “Underneath there was no rust or anything, just a few door dings and things like that.”
The green cloth interior has also been redone. “And he replaced the tail lights and painted the engine parts to look original,” Pam noted.
These days, the Ricks are doing exactly what they had intended to do with their lovely, authentic Charger: exercise it regularly, take it for frequent joy rides, and hit a variety of car shows every summer. They even joke about owning matching green Mopars some day.
“Maybe,” said Pam. “Can you imagine the attention we could draw?”
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