Car of the Week: 1973 Dodge Charger SE

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?”

Got a car you’d like to see us feature as our “Car of the Week”? We want to hear from you! E-mail us.




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8 thoughts on “Car of the Week: 1973 Dodge Charger SE

  1. mark

    i had one just like it same color with the 400 an slapstick trans . god i wish i still had it, but someone stole it out ran all the police then wrecked it. got it fixed but the police was always following me so i sold it . still i wish i could find one at a good price. p.s. your car looks great.

    1. Gary

      I know where there is a 1973 Charger SE. It has to be restored but the body is in Great shape and all the chrome is in Fantastic condition. The guy is wanting 5000.00 for it. It has been sitting for a while. But since i live in Nevada there is no rust that was visable on the car. If you want i can check it out futher and let you know. May be able to send pics if requested. Thanks Gary

  2. Lori

    When I turned 16, I knew I wanted my first car to be a Charger. Dad worked at a local Dodge dealer and worked with a guy who had one for sale… he’d bought it brand new — but it had a 440 magnum in it and my dad was like “NO,” end of discussion.

    The one I ended up getting was just like this one. Same dark sherwood green metallic paint. Cloth interior, bench seats, 400 CID 2 Bbl. No a/c. It would be worth some money now, no doubt. 🙂

    Love your car!

  3. Glen

    I had one as the first car I bought on my own. Paid $2K for it in ’77. I loved that car. Had to give it away when I was transferred to Japan. I’ve always regretted not putting it in storage.

  4. vin

    The first cool car i can remember seeing was a yellow 1973 charger driven by an old childhood school buddy. all threw high school i searched for one and finally found it, I bought it for 1700 bucks and drove it for a few years until i could not afford to maintain it . so i sold it and regreted it for the last 20 years. finally i found another one and bought it. i was going to fix it up and was actually under way when i found one on an online auction. Long story short i was the highest bidder. never seeing the car a friend flew across the country and picked it up and actually drove it home. Over 2000 miles, with no probs. it now has 21.000 original miles on it. when i finally recieved the car i was dumbfounded, The most beautifull car i had ever seen, and original bb5 blue with a black vinal roof. I slapped a set of tires and rims on it and vulla , i have my dream car. i appriciate all fine cars but only ever wanted this one, this year and model of car is like an obsesion, i love looking at any of the same on the internet. happy cruising.

  5. Pingback: What made manufacturers switch to column ignition switches in 69 and 70? - Sports cars, sedans, coupes, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tickets, dealers, repairs, gasoline, drivers... - Page 4 - City-Data Forum


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