The original winged car was built by a group of Dodge engineers, designer John Pointer, Bob Rogers, Larry Rathgeb, George Wallace, and Bob Marcell after hours with parts acquired wherever they could find them. Some with management approval, some not ...
The group went to work on an aero package, which they needed to get the Dodge back in NASCAR's winner circle. In 1965, NASCAR outlawed the Hemi and Ford won 32 consecutive races and 48 out of 55. This after Chrysler had dominated in 1964 with the Hemi.
They had acquired a '65 440 race engine and one of the first '66 Charger body stampings with "not intended for delivery" stenciled on it. They built the wing from steel and added several scoops for cooling, airflow, and downforce. The car was completed in late 1965 and taken to the test track where it was wrecked after just a few laps. The car took a real hard hit in the left front and the driver was severely injured. Since a lot of the parts and track time were unapproved by management, the car was taken to a friend's farm and hidden in a barn where they had plans to repair it. But shortly thereafter, NASCAR re-approved the Hemi and the aero package was no longer needed, and Chrysler returned to dominance in 1966.
We found the car while at the NDR Soap Box Derby Nationals in Saginaw, Michigan. During a parking lot party, one of the young fathers started talking about how his dad had a wrecked '66 Charger in his barn. He said it had some really off-the-wall parts on it, and his description of the scoops and spoiler got me interested, so we went to look at it.
Much of the stuff is similar but different from the parts that were eventually used on the '69 Dodge Daytona.
The preceding account is a complete falsehood-Larry Doerr's idea of a way to intrigue a car show audience and spice up his day a little. It clearly worked because we were intrigued by the story and offered to shoot his orange '66 Charger. Of course, we immediately began asking questions. After mentioning that we knew a couple of the men Larry identified in the story, notably retired engineer George Wallace, Larry came clean.
"I made it all up," he said. "It's based in fact-the stuff about the Hemi being banned and Ford dominating. It makes the story more believable. But really I just wanted to build this car and the story came later."
The truth is, this South Sioux City, Nebraska, native who is a Ford technician by trade, has been building cars for 30 years. His resume includes a trio of '55 Mercury panels and trucks, along with a '70 Challenger T/A clone and a Pro Street '70 Plymouth 'Cuda. Larry found this Charger languishing behind a garage. All the paint had been removed, leaving the body with a solid patina of rust covering the entire exterior. The body appeared to have no serious rust holes, and the odometer promised a mere 42,000 miles, so Larry bought it as a parts car for $600. Later he discovered that the car had sat in a body shop from 1968 until 1982, suffering from a major left-front collision-hence the low miles and giving Larry the genesis for his later fabrication work.
At first, Larry's buddy Sonny Lariviere thought there was no way they'd ever get the rust out of the body since it was pitted so badly. Later, Sonny suggested treating the body with muriatic acid. After a tremendous amount of work to remove the rust, Larry, Sonny, and Larry's son Brad managed to save the Charger.
This allowed the bodywork to begin in earnest. But Larry decided the car also needed a hook-something to make it stand out from the crowd. The orange hue was a good start, but that's when he began "fooling around" with the Charger 500 idea. In 1969, Dodge began the race year with a Charger 500 model that featured a flush grille along with a flush-mounted rear window that improved the car's aerodynamics. This was the precursor to the outrageous winged Daytonas that followed.