Think Australian cars and of course you think Holden. But add to that one brand and model that was an Australian treasure since it was launched in 1971, and since – the Chrysler Charger.
It became a hit straight off with motoring and motor sport enthusiasts much to the surprise (and obvious delight) of the Chrysler Corporation. Executives at the time hadn’t expected the two-door coupé to be received so well.
And therein lies the value of Hey Charger the definitive book on the brand and the company by Charger uber-enthusiast, Gary Bridger, and Australian motoring journalist and historian, Gavin Farmer. In fact, as we discovered with this book, Gary Bridger drove the very first Charger in New Zealand which is just one of those snippets of information the book is so liberally sprinkled with.
This is a second edition, an updated version that includes new gems of information and photos not previously seen and now published by Ilinga Books in very handsome, large-format, hard-back form.
This a definitive tale of the conception, gestation and birth of the Charger, and a collector’s dream tome. But you don’t have to be a Charger lover to enjoy this book. There is so much history and knowledge within its pages it will appeal to anyone who wants to know anything about our past. If there’s anything missing about the make and models, the makers and racers, owners and lovers of all things Charger then it’s not worth knowing or isn’t germane to the story.
The Charger played a significant part of New Zealand’s motoring history as well and sales here contributed to the phenomenal success enjoyed by Chrysler in both countries. The authors – and mostly likely Gary Bridger – made sure the Kiwi contribution hasn’t been forgotten and, in fact, celebrated.
When the first model was launched in 1971 the advertising campaigns were as innovative for the time as the design of the car. They even featured women for goodness’ sake which was a rarity (and still is) and the punch lines became part of the Australian lexicon – hence the title of the book. So, too, did the two-fingered V-salute for a time. Look at the advertisements on YouTube and you’ll see for yourself.
The layout of Hey Charger is utterly logical. That may have something to do with Gary Bridger’s training as a senior Air New Zealand pilot, or it may not. But the upshot is a clear and concise summary of just how comprehensive this book is. Part one deals with development, part two looks at the Charger years and part three examines racing Chargers.
The foreword is by American, Bob Burke, who was Resident Engineering Manager on the Chrysler project in South Australia from 1970 to 1973. He pays tribute to the Australians who contributed mightily to the car industry and how appropriate given that, now, the manufacturing of cars in Australia is about to cease altogether.
Another American, Bob Hubbach, is mentioned generously too, as he deserves to be. He was the stylist who drew the initial body style concept sketches. When the first edition of Hey Charger came out, he visited New Zealand and I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bridger home to meet him.
He generously gave me a water colour of Leo Leonard on track in his Charger being chased by Allan Moffat in a Falcon.
It sits proudly on my office wall – a reminder that Charger is part of our history and that Gary Bridger and Gavin Farmer must be heartily congratulated for ensuring so competently that we shan’t forget those glory days.
Bob Burke is an Aussie and still lives in Adelaide. The price of the book is $90, and the author’s details to purchase (as they are not available in bookshops) are email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021 718841. Limited copies now available.