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'It's just beautiful:' Minden man's '66 Charger a tad controversial

'It's just beautiful:' Minden man's '66 Charger a tad controversial

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1966 Dodge Charger

Dan Porter decided to restore this 1966 Dodge Charger because “I was getting too old. I wanted to finish it so I wouldn’t die before it did.” He plans to show the car during the annual Cruise Nite’s Show & Shine from noon-4 p.m. Saturday at Downtown Kearney: The Bricks.

KEARNEY — Dan Porter kept this 1966 Dodge Charger in a shed for 45 years.

“It was the first year of the Charger and the first year of the Hemi engine,” he said. “I got the car in the 1970s when I was about 14 years old. I got busy with other things and it just sat there for 45 years.”

Porter, who lives in the rural Minden area, looked over the black vehicle at the Cruise Night Show & Shine on Tuesday at BluePrint Engines.

“I planned to fix it and then got busy with life,” he said. “I had to do just about everything to get it in this condition. We started at the back and worked forward.”

Porter turned to his friend, Marlin Bogner of Kearney who helped him restore the Charger, and asked, “What didn’t we replace?”

“Not much,” Bogner said.

“I needed help and Marlin knew what to do,” Porter said. “He’s a Hemi man. Everything works on this car. Every wire is brand new.”

The pair worked on restoring the classic car and now regularly bring it to car shows. They plan to show the car today (Saturday) at Cruise Nite’s Show & Shine in Downtown Kearney: The Bricks. The event, presented by Central Nebraska Auto Club, begins at noon and ends at 4 p.m. The Cruise Nite Parade will start at 5 p.m. and give patrons a chance to see the classic and collectible cars in action as they drive on Central Avenue from Railroad Street north to CHI Hospital. Admission to both events is free.

Brad Kernick, chairman of the steering committee for Cruise Nite and a member of the Central Nebraska Auto Club, said the cool weather and large crowds have added to the success of the event.

“Attendance has been strong and the weather has been great,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier. I’ve received a lot of calls asking about Cruise Nite from people throughout the state. A lot of people are excited about it.”

When it comes to Porter’s car, he understands that collectors of a certain age show more interest in vehicles from the 1960s.

“Young people want a rat rod or something like that,” he said. “This car takes a lot of patience. It should never have been sold on the market. There was a NASCAR mess back in the ’60s. In the mid-60s Chrysler came out with a 426 Hemi engine. It just cleaned the clocks at the races.”

NASCAR balked at the engine, stating it wasn’t used in a production car and thus ineligible to race.

“So Dodge made 500 of these cars to sell to the public so they could race it at NASCAR according to the rules,” Porter said. “It’s not an easy car to drive.”

Because of the styling, professional drivers at the time equated operating the 1966 Charger at speeds over 150 mph as “driving on ice.” The company installed spoilers on the rear of the vehicle to provide more stability.

The engine took its name from the hemispherical cylinder head, a design that gave the engine more efficient combustion.

“This is just a hard motor to maintain,” Porter admitted.

He saw an ad in 1966 featuring the Dodge Charger and immediately liked the body style.

“To me it’s just beautiful,” Porter said. “Not many people like it. People liked the 1968, ’69 and ’70 Charger. Those were the hot items. But to me, I like this one. I always have.”

rick@YardLightMedia.com

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