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French Connection 68 Charger
reprinted with permission Mopar Collectors Guide
August 2011

Around here at MCG, we catch heat once-in-a-while for being politically
incorrect. For that, we offer no apologies because we are who we are and we don’t try to hide our views on politics or the environment, or anything else for that matter. A few years back, however, we met Annee Vaujoies at our Mopars at the Playboy Mansion car show and party - and right away, we knew she was not the stereotypical quiet little French girl you would typically expect. In fact, Annee Vaujoies is a real-life honest-to-god version of those guys from the “Secondhand Lions” movie. She might very well be in contention for being “the most interesting woman in the world” (as in the beer commercials), for if there’s an adventure going on somewhere, this lady with the thick French accent is typically neck-deep in it. Before we get to the ‘68 Charger shown here, allow us to tell you just a little about Annee. Annee grew up in New York, just outside of Manhattan, and she’s lived there most of her life. Her father’s American as apple pie, but her mother’s as French as a croissant - a native of Normandie. Speaking to Annee, you’d expect she had been born and raised in Paris, but behind the wonderful accent is a hardcore New Yorker. Annee, to put it mildly, is a thrill seeker and always has been. She’s traveled the world extensively and continues to do so, and she loves performance cars and all things mechanical. She also loves guns; lots of guns. In fact, Annee has more firepower at her disposal than most guys can ever dream of. That comes in very handy because her most extreme passion is big game hunting in Africa. No kidding, she’s a world-traveling French-speaking Mopar fanatic lady who happens to love hunting big game in Africa. Say what you will, that’s very different from the average Mopar person you see roaming around Carlisle. And we’re not talking about primitive big game hunting, oh no indeed!
Annee tells us there’s nothing that compares to hunting big cats while sticking out of the roof of a speeding Range Rover or going deeper into the wild and actually hunting from a helicopter! Needless to say, we doubt if PETA is sending Annee any Christmas cards, but she does have some magnificent furs and some of the finest leather furniture in the world! Like we said, this is not your typical Mopar girl!
When Annee was a little girl, however, long before she began having wild adventures all over the world, she was seeing New York from the back seat of a bright red ‘68 Dodge Charger. Her father walked into a downtown Manhattan Dodge dealership back in early 1968 and immediately took a liking to a glowing red brand-new Charger sitting on the showroom floor. It wasn’t an exotic R/T or Hemi car, but it was bright red with a black bucket seat interior and a black vinyl top, and even though it was powered by a basic 318 two-barrel motor, the new Charger looked fantastic. He bought the new Charger, and for the next several years, it served as the family’s primary source of transportation, with Annee’s mom reportedly behind the wheel most of the time. As the years ticked past, they couldn’t bring themselves to part with the sporty, but aging, Charger, so they used it less and less, but it remained a weekend car and occasional driver for the remainder of the decade. Finally, Annee was old enough to drive herself, and having always loved the red Charger, she asked dad if he’d mind letting her have it. What father would deny his teenage daughter a request like that? Especially back in the early eighties when these cars weren’t worth much? This served as a bit of a godsend, because it allowed the beloved Charger to stay in the family, and, it kept him from having to buy a new car for his daughter!
Annee used the Charger as her high school cruiser, but despite their best efforts to take care of the old Dodge, time was taking its toll. The New York winters hadn’t been kind to the Charger’s frame rails and even the torsion bar mounts were beginning to show serious rust problems. The car’s exterior was
looking more like a faded rose than a glorious would-be muscle car, and
mechanically, just about everything started to fail. The suspension gave up the
fight, the original 318 lost compression in one cylinder and ran terrible, the
brakes were hit-and-miss - you get the picture. By 1988, the Charger was just
plain dangerous to drive and it certainly wasn’t anything special to look at.
It was time to either junk it or restore it, but honestly, since Annee and her
father both loved the car, sending it to the scrap heap was never a serious
consideration. That being the case, they decided, if they were going to rebuild the family Charger, why not transform it into a Hemi R/T look-a-like? Back in 1988, we were right in the middle of the first major muscle car feeding frenzy. Prices were going through the roof, demand for the old hot rods was climbing fast, and some people were paying as much as $25K for nicely restored Superbirds and Daytonas. As a result of this, restoration shops catering to this new market started opening their doors, specializing in muscle cars. Among the shops that came along in the eighties was Dave Ferro’s Totally Auto. Dave had literally started in a two-car garage a few years earlier and had expanded to a 6,000 square foot shop by the time Robert and Annee came along (he’s up to a 17,000 square foot former dealership now). All that aside, Dave Ferro found himself absolutely stunned one afternoon in 1989 when Annee showed up and informed him she wanted the ‘68 Charger completely restored, and furthermore, she had practically every part imaginable already in-hand that would enable Ferro to transform the car into a Hemi R/T look-a-like. Granted, there was a lot of “cloning” going on back then with muscle cars, where Coronets became Super Bees and Satellites became Road Runners, but they had somehow managed to wrangle up just about every little part that would convert the Charger into a Hemi R/T - and this was way before the internet came into vogue, keep that in mind. Needless to say, Ferro was a little past surprised when presented with the proposition, then he found out about the extraordinary cache of parts Annee had.
Annee had teamed up early on in their scheming with Mopar legend Dick Landy, and through Landy, they had managed to buy a complete Hemi drive train that had
come out of a long-dead ‘68 Hemi Charger. This gave them a numbers-matching 426 Hemi, a Hemi TorqueFlite, and a 3.55 Sure Grip 8-3/4" rear axle. Landy built the Hemi in his shop, using a Crane cam and a few other tricks to boost horsepower up to a dyno proven 508 horses at 6,400 rpm. This was certainly going to be a step up from the tired 318 sitting between the frame rails!
Totally Auto took over the Charger and the crates of parts back in early 1991, and within months, it had been given the stern-to-bow Ferro treatment. The Hemi drive train was installed so that it looked like it had been born there, the
Charger’s bright red paint was freshened up, and the entire undercarriage was blasted, cleaned, and practically everything was powder coated or painted bright red to match the Charger’s topside. The black roof went away, and a set of custom offset mags were installed with Goodyear Eagle GT radials. And so it was that Annee Vaujoies came to know the second incarnation of the Charger she had grown up with. While she was driving the wheels off it, the car also turned up twice in High Performance Mopar magazine, once in a single page feature in their July 1992 issue, and on the cover of their January 1993 issue. In that issue, in an article entitled “No Excuses!,” they took the Charger to Englishtown drag strip and beat on it all day, finally recording a best time of 13.04 at 104.50 mph. That’s not bad for a car that was driven to-and-from the strip in summer heat!
For the better part of the next decade, Annee was content to drive the brilliant red Charger (when she wasn’t hunting in Africa) just as it was, rolling up several thousand miles each summer. Last year, once again, the car needed a little freshening up, so she brought it back to Totally Auto for a
“fluff-and-buff” and to have some stripes added. The red paint you’re looking at is still the same stuff applied back in 1991, as are all the undercarriage details (that powder coating is tough stuff). This go ‘round, they added some black stripes to the hood, and added a black R/T-style stripe to the rump with a cool ghosted “tribal” design on the deck lid that features a black cross patee. The Hemi received a few cosmetic mods to clean the engine bay up, some fresh rubber was added, and everything was polished and gone through to perfection. And, in typical Totally Auto fashion, once it was finished, Dave and Annee decided it was time to have some misadventures with the old Dodge. The reborn R/T clone had its coming out debut at the MuscleCars at the Playboy Mansion show in October 2010, then, it was off to Las Vegas for the Moparty at the Strip event. Ferro and Annee drove the big Hemi south to Vegas on the cruise from Salt Lake, after hauling it all the way from New York - like we said, this lady loves to travel! We’re pleased to say the car performed magnificently the whole way, and it sounds like we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of this Hemi cruiser in the years to come.

 

 

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