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Balls out! Dion D’Anvers’ 1968 Dodge Charger

8 March 2017


Dion D’Anvers needs no excuse to thrash his Charger. Whether he’s dropping his son Rico off at school or killing tyres on the burnout pad, the loud pedal is never far from getting smashed …

Wherever there’s a tough second-gen Dodge Charger, you know the movie references aren’t far away, but Dion D’Anvers’ Charger is a little different from most. Sure, if you wanted to, you could identify elements of Dom Toretto’s blown street racer from The Fast and the Furious, or the loose antics of the Duke boys from The Dukes of Hazzard, but ‘WIKD68’ has carved out a reputation and identity that are entirely its own. That said, without the Duke boys, it’s unlikely that Dion would have built himself what’s got to be one of New Zealand’s most well-known Chargers. Like most who grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, Dion inexplicably found himself drawn to second-generation Chargers — the only thing a bogan boy wanted more than a piece of Daisy Duke was a Dodge Charger of his own! 

And, like all good bogan boys, Dion became proficient in the art of sustained loss of traction, to go along with his love of American muscle. After owning a ’65 Impala and a crazy custom ’55 Chev, Dion began to take the Charger hunt seriously. So, one summer around 12 years ago, in the hope of finding one, he travelled north with his mate Joe to the Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival. There, Dion found an amazing-looking example only to miss out on it, but this simply fuelled his desire to own one, and it wasn’t much later that he had another mate call him about a big block ’68 Charger he’d seen on Trade Me. 

“That car was in Mosgiel, so I spoke to the owner and told him I was interested in having a look,” Dion says. “If it was as good as he said it was, I’d drive it home; if not, I’d jump on the next plane home.” Well, he loved the look of the car as soon as he saw it, and a road test around town was enough to see the deal get done. “I loved every minute of the 1300-kilometre road trip home, apart from the regular service-station stops!” he laughs. 

With 440 cubes of Mopar big block under the bonnet, Dion became as disliked by the local constabulary as he was seen as a hero by the local petrol stations. It was also around this time that the Waikato Roadmarkers Club hosted a successful burnout competition in the car park of a local Morrinsville pub. Unfortunately, the event was stopped, and, being the industrious bloke he is, Dion couldn’t help but think how cool it would be to have a skidpad in the paddock out back. Borrowing a digger from his work, and, with the help of a few concreter and car-enthusiast mates, a square skidpad was poured. Not large enough for anything other than standstill burnouts, the square was soon modified with the addition of four more sides, turning it into an octagon and creating the cornerstone of what is now the Scrap Palace Morrinsville Burnout Comp and Wet T-Shirt Comp!

Dion’s now run the event for over 10 years, and the Charger has been there for it all. Of course, you can’t run an event like that without being partial to blowing a few sets of tyres, and, for that, he hasn’t limited himself to just his own event. Having won the Best Mopar award at the 2007 Father’s Day Drags, placed first-equal at the 2010 Kaipara Car Show Burnout Comp, won the 2010 Thames Anzac Car Show burnout competition and both the A-bracket and burnout competition at the 2014 Father’s Day Drags, you might begin to understand why this car is such a hit with the punters. 

The crowd-pleasing antics don’t come free, though, and such abuse was taking a mechanical toll on the car, as Dion explains: “I’ve broken almost everything there was to break with this drivetrain — two engines, two transmissions, axles, diffs … so I’ve progressively replaced everything with stronger aftermarket items.” 

This means that, although there’s still a factory Mopar 8¾-inch diff under the bum, it’s not quite so standard inside — a super-tight Sure Grip LSD centre takes care of the important business of destroying both rear tyres, and Yukon 33-spline axles have so far proven strong enough to withstand all Dion’s thrown their way. 

And, as the factory 727 TorqueFlite transmission gave up the ghost, it was steadily upgraded — by both Chuck Mann, at Rotorua V8 Performance, and Marshall Transmissions — to the monster unit that’s in there today. With full Cope Racing internals, a reverse-shift-pattern manual valve body, and 3400rpm Transmission Specialties 10-inch heavy-duty torque converter dealing with the task at hand, this transmission won’t be blowing up any time soon. That’s really saying something, when you consider the fact that Dion’s engine combo has been steadily changing from mild to seriously wild over the years. 

When the 440 just wouldn’t do it, Dion gave the big block a birthday. Newly bored and stroked to displace a huge 500ci, the big tank was able to dispatch a pair of tyres even quicker than before, and managed to haul itself down the Meremere dragstrip in a hugely respectable 11.6 seconds! However, that monster motor was only ever going to be a stop-gap in his quest for a blown big block — one that would come about after a mate imported a supercharged Mopar big block crate engine but had his plans for the vehicle fall through. 

Dion quickly purchased the engine and hasn’t looked back. If you’ve heard the name ‘Al Lombardo’ or ‘Big Al’s Toybox’, you’ll understand the significance of the big power plant. Having built and sold over 10,000 engines since 1989, Big Al’s Toybox is recognized as one of the heavyweights in the aftermarket–crate engine market, and, with products like this, it isn’t hard to see why. The bottom end is filled with the sturdy goods that you’d expect, and a Comp Cams billet roller camshaft, Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy heads, and Comp Cams valvetrain give it a healthy pair of lungs to rev with — handy, considering the package is topped with a hefty BDS 8-71 supercharger. All Dion had to do was get Shaun at Ace Motors in Hamilton to modify the sump, headers, and a few small things to get it to fit properly in the hole and look the way that he wanted it to. 

While the engine bay was being stripped and prepared for its precious cargo, Dion figured that he’d take the opportunity to tidy up the rest of the car to match, calling in a few good mates to help. He relentlessly picked the brains of Kiwi burnout legend Justin Morgan for ideas and opinions — as Dion says, “I’ve run so many scenarios past him, ’cause he has done it all before” — and Jason Skinner at Scatpack Restorations was instrumental due to his encyclopaedic Mopar knowledge, as well as for installing the Hotchkis chassis connectors and providing loads of the after-hours assistance and troubleshooting that a build like this inevitably requires. 

A lifetime of shredded tyres had given the rear quarters a fair beating, and, since John Sims from JS Customs has always been Dion’s go-to guy for panel work, he was the default choice to apply a fresh coat of vibrant Sikkens red paint. That panel and paint work extends to the de-loomed engine bay — with the messy wiring tidied up and hidden by Dion’s mate Stu Wot — which is clean enough to eat off. One of the last things left to do was to cut a hole in the bonnet for the big blower — something that was tasked to Bretto Stinson, with Jason Skinner coming in once again to weld in panel steel to support the inner and outer skins. 

But, when it came time to turn the key and bask in the glorious cacophony of a blown big block through the electronic exhaust cut-outs, Dion couldn’t ignore the glaring fact that something was not right with the engine. After a disappointing first impression, Dion brought the issue up with Carl Jensen at C&M Performance, who immediately noticed the problem — the pair of 950cfm carbs that had originally been fitted was far too big! With the smaller pair of 650cfm Quick Fuel carbs installed, the big block reliably runs on a diet of premium unleaded, a necessity considering just how much Dion uses the car: “It’s a daily-driver, used for weddings and school balls, burnouts, and a wee bit of drag racing.” 

Now all that’s left to do is to strap it down on the dyno, and Dion’s quietly hoping for around 700hp and bucketloads of tyre-shredding torque. Yep, despite the fact that the big Charger was yet to hit the dyno at the time we photographed it, Dion isn’t one to say no to a smoke show, frying the 295/50R15 rears at part-throttle. This thing will be crazy when it’s running at 100 per cent, and, we’ve gotta say, Dion’s very lucky to have a generous tyre guy like Matt Lowther at Tyre Tracks in Hamilton! 

If you thought WIKD68 was a wild thing before, you ain’t seen nothing yet! To see, hear, and feel exactly what a blown Mopar big block can do with a madman like Dion on the gas, lock in November 5, 2016, for the Scrap Palace Morrinsville Burnout Comp and Wet T-Shirt Comp. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, you’re almost certain to see Dion’s Charger in action at some point in the near future — after all, it’s what he built the car for. 

1968 Dodge Charger
Engine: 451ci big block Chrysler, Big Al’s Toybox crate engine, Chrysler big block, steel crankshaft, steel H-beam rods, JE forged pistons, balanced rotating assembly, Comp Cams billet roller camshaft, Comp Cams roller lifters, Edelbrock Performer RPM alloy heads, Comp Cams valve springs, Comp Cams Pro Magnum chromoly roller rockers, BDS intake manifold, BDS 8-71 supercharger, billet snout, funny car–style belt guard, two 650cfm Quick Fuel carburettors, Holley Dominator dual fuel pump, Quick Fuel fuel-pressure regulator, factory fuel tank, -12 fuel-feed line, -10 fuel-return line, Mallory distributor, MSD 6AL ignition module, MSD Blaster 2 ignition coil, 9mm ignition leads, custom headers, two-inch primaries, four-inch collectors, electronic exhaust cut-outs, custom triple-core alloy radiator, two thermo ‘pusher’ fans, external engine-oil cooler, thermo fan, LambdaLink sensor
Driveline: Chrysler 727 TorqueFlite three-speed auto, Cope Racing internals, manual valve body, reverse shift pattern, Transmission Specialties 10-inch XHD converter, 3400rpm stall, external transmission-oil cooler, thermo fan, Chrysler 8¾-inch diff with Sure Grip centre, Yukon 33-spline axles, four-inch driveshaft
Suspension: Torsion bar front, Calvert Racing split-mono leaf springs, Calvert Racing CalTracs traction bars, Calvert Racing CR Series nine-way adjustable shocks
Brakes: SSBC Performance Brake Systems brake booster, SSBC Performance Brake Systems front calipers and rotors, factory rear drums
Wheels/Tyres: 15×8-inch and 15×10-inch Magnum 500 wheels; 205/60R15 BF Goodrich front tyres, 295/50R15 Cooper Cobra rear tyres
Exterior: Sikkens paint, de-loomed engine bay, chromed firewall plate
Chassis: Hotchkis chassis connectors
Interior: Reupholstered factory interior, Momo leather steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, Sony Xplod speakers
Performance: 11.6-second quarter-mile (old engine)

Dion D’Anvers
Age: I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless!
Occupation: Lineman; Morrinsville Burnout Comp event director
Previously owned cars: ’65 Impala, custom ’55 Chev ute
Dream car: I’ve always wanted a ’68 Dodge Charger, but something with a nose cone and wing would be pretty rad!
Why the Charger? It’s been a dream for as long as I can remember.
Build time: The build continues … 
Length of ownership: 10 years
Dion thanks: Jason Skinner from Scatpack Restorations, Cambridge; John Sims from JS Customs, Hamilton; Justin ‘Morg’ Morgan from MorgFab, Gordonton; Shaun ‘Acehole’ Ace from Ace Motors, Hamilton; Stu Wot from All Wired Auto Electrical, Hamilton; Matt Lowther from Tyre Tracks Hamilton; lots of different friends, usually at ungodly hours — sorry, guys!; my son, Rico, and his very close friend Harrison; and, of course, my very understanding and supportive wife, Jenny