Christian Butera's 1966 Dodge Charger with a 426 Hemi
(from Volume 24, Issue 280)

story by owner Christian Butera, photos by Michael B. Kelly


After I moved to Florida in 1988, I went to a car show and saw a 426 cubic inch Hemi powered 1966 Charger with a 4-speed manual transmission. I said to myself, “One day I will have a car like that”. Little did I know that 8 years later in West Palm Beach, Florida, I would go to another car show with my ‘69 Charger R/T and see the exact same 1966 Charger with the 426 Hemi from years before park next to me with a small for sale sign in it. Long story short, I purchased the car from a gentleman by the name of Roger D. To this day I still love it as much as the day I got it. I found out from Roger that he had purchased the car from a museum of all Ford cars in Pennsylvania. The owner of the museum had owned it when he was in college, and decided to turn it loose from the museum.

The car has 60,000 original miles, and still retains the original 426 Hemi engine, 4-speed transmission, dual Carter 4-barrel AFB carburetors, and most everything else too. Since I have owned it, the car has been on the American Muscle Car TV show on the Speed Vision channel (filmed at the Goodyear blimp hanger in Ft. Lauderdale), and it has also appeared in many reference books available at the bookstores. The car drives and runs amazingly well. Even in the hot Florida summers I can drive it anywhere at any time, with no worries.

1966 was the first year for the Dodge Charger, and was also the first year for the 426 cubic inch Street Hemi. The ‘66 Charger was built off the Coronet body, but with a fastback top half. Inside, the standard Charger featured a simulated wood-grain steering wheel, four individual bucket seats, with a full length console that ran from the front to rear. The rear seats and rear center armrest pad also folded forward while the trunk divider dropped back, which allowed for generous cargo room. Numerous interior features were exclusive to the Charger including door panel courtesy lights, as well as premium trim and vinyl upholstery. The instrument panel did not use regular bulbs to light the gauges, but rather electroluminescence lit the four chrome-ringed circular dash pods, needles, radio, shifter-position indicator in the console, as well as clock and air conditioning controls if equipped. The dash housed a 0 to 6,000 RPM tachometer, the speedometer reads from 0 to 150 mph, plus fuel, alternator, and temperature gauges were standard equipment.

Engine selections in 1966 consisted of only V-8s, with four engines offered: the base-model 318 cubic inch (5.2 Liter) 2-barrel, the 361 cubic inch (5.9 Liter) 2-barrel, the 383 cubic inch (6.3 Liter) 4-barrel, and the new 426 cubic inch (7.0 Liter) Street Hemi with 425 horsepower. Only 468 Chargers were built with the 426 engine. 1966 transmissions included a three-speed steering-column mounted manual with the base engine, a console mounted four-speed manual, or a console mounted three-speed automatic. Introduced mid-year, total production of Chargers in 1966 came to 37,344 units. Among those, production numbers for the 426 Hemi cars with 4-speeds were only 250 units, and 218 for the Hemi with an automatic. CN