- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

The reason that bright yellow 1973 Dodge Charger SE is in Michael DiMeglio’s driveway in Dumfries, Va., can be traced back to New England.

Mr. DiMeglio was a preteen in Johnston, R.I., when his father, Joe, would take him across the state line to the Seekonk, Mass., Motor Speedway, where a lot of the cars on the track were Dodge Chargers.

“I fell in love with Chargers in Seekonk,” Mr. DiMeglio confesses.

Decades later, in 2004, he was taking part in a charity golf event when another golfer happened to mention that he had a 1973 Dodge taking up space in his garage. He inquired if the Dodge was a Charger and when he learned that it was, he offered to buy it, sight unseen.

The offer was declined, but Mr. DiMeglio was told the car had some minor damage to one of the front fenders - though, mechanically, it was in great condition.

Mr. DiMeglio repeated his offer a few times as the months went by and then forgot about the car. Then one day in November 2006, the long-awaited call came. An anxious Mr. DiMeglio told the owner of the Dodge: Name your price, and tell me where to pick it up.

When he got the car, it was painted green with a black engine hood. The interior was also green vinyl. “I thought it was beautiful,” he recalls.

Records indicate that this model Dodge was very popular in 1973, with 61,908 such Chargers manufactured. Each of the 3,540-pound cars had a base price of about a dollar a pound - or $3,375. He said he believes he is the fifth owner of the Dodge.

Remembering the flashy race cars at the Seekonk racetrack, Mr. DiMeglio opted for the black and lemon-twist yellow color combination with an abundance of chrome wherever possible.

Much to the disappointment of Mr. DiMeglio’s teenage son, Corbin, the Dodge was immediately delivered to a restoration shop in Stafford, Va., where a miraculous transformation was about to take place.

The interior now is all black - from the headliner down to the carpeting. Mr. DiMeglio likes to say the black vinyl seats have been reupholstered with high-quality, genuine imitation leather.

The base engine for the car in 1973 was a 318-cubic-inch, 150-horsepower V-8 capped with a two-barrel carburetor and a single exhaust pipe. The current owner has upped the ante with the installation of a four-barrel carburetor and added a dual exhaust system. A four-blade fan pulls air through the radiator to keep the temperature of the 16 quarts of coolant under control.

Power from the engine is sent to the rear drive wheels via a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The gear-shift lever is on the console.

When the 77-inch wide Charger was new, Dodge advertised it as “Built For The Take Charge Driver.” Chrome-plated mirrors add a bit of sparkle to the sides of the Charger.

The big car stands only 4-feet, 4.5-inches high and rides on a 115-inch wheelbase. The capacity of the trunk is a generous 14.3 cubic feet.

Only 18 months after buying the car, the restoration shop informed him that his car was mostly finished.

His Dodge is equipped with power steering and power brakes, but no air conditioning, he says, “Unless open windows qualify.”

Still, he says, “the sound and feel of that engine is awesome,” Mr. DiMeglio planned to replace the 318-cubic-inch V-8 with an optional 440-cubic-inch V-8 capped with dual four-barrel carburetors, which would boost the horsepower output to 280.

With the original engine, he reported mileage of about 9 mpg, which didn’t get him far on a 19.5-gallon tank of gas.

Mr. DiMeglio doesn’t intend to put many miles on his car. “I just want to drive it around and have fun,” he says.

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