1968 Dodge Chargers Face-Off at DirtFish Rally School on Roadkill!
It’s the end of Roadkill‘s 10th season, and what better way to sign off for the year than to head back to one of David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan’s favorite places in the world: the DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington! They’re only bringing two cars, but fear not, they’re your favorite 1968 Dodge Chargers: Freiburger’s General Mayhem and Finnegan’s Death Metal Charger!
Related: Roadkill will be back next month for the premiere of Season 11, but in the meantime, catch up on all 128 episodes on MotorTrend+! Hurry, the $3/month Holiday Deal ends January 3, 2022!
David Freiburger often says his favorite episode of Roadkill was the very first time he and Mike Finnegan went to the DirtFish Rally School. The motorhome 440-swapped ’68 Charger cemented its reputation as Freiburger’s ultimate dirt-bombing vehicle, and the guys swore they had to come back. Finnegan loves General Mayhem, too, and it just so happens that his favorite Dodge Charger is also the 1968 model, so he couldn’t pass up the opportunity when a 50-year-old barn find ’68 Charger prepped for NASCAR racing popped up on eBay. Now, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Two of the greatest Roadkill project cars of all time going head-to-head at one of Roadkill’s favorite places to hoon around.
History of Freiburger’s “General Mayhem” 1968 Dodge Charger
Episode 23 of Roadkill is special for two reasons: 1) It holds the record for the longest time it took to film one episode (6 months!), and 2) It was the birth of David Freiburger’s favorite Roadkill project car ever, a 1968 Dodge Charger built to be the dirt-cheap rat rod version of the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee. Freiburger had grown up dreaming about being able to off-road bomb a second-gen Dodge Charger, just like the Duke boys, but you can’t take just any example of arguably the greatest muscle car in history and thrash it off-road.
To not commit sacrilege against a muscle car icon, Freiburger had to find a Dodge Charger that was still solid enough to drive, but too far gone to be worth restoring. And he did! Traded for a pair of cylinder heads, the roller 1968 Dodge Charger Freiburger found was the perfect amount of junk for the Roadkill crew to not feel bad about ruining (which they didn’t). A junkyard Winnebego was hacked apart for its 440ci big-block V-8 and the General Mayhem was born.
In episode 32, the guys decided to pit a 2015 Subaru Legacy against a selection of your favorite Roadkill project cars—the General Mayhem ’68 Charger included, of course—and that’s where Freiburger truly fell in love with his creation. The General Mayhem floated around corners, swinging its tail like a dog with a bone, kicking up clouds of roost, and generally being the best thing to ever happen on an episode of Roadkill.
Then Dodge came calling and said, “We want to put a Hellcat Hemi in the General Mayhem.” Who was Freibuerger to say no? Episode 43 chronicled the first time ever a 707hp 6.2-Liter supercharged Hellcat Hemi V-8 was swapped into anything. Freiburger’s junk-tastic ’68 Charger took on a different persona then, no longer an off-road bomber (although it was still capable of dirt-based hoonage), now it was a serious barn-storming drag car.
The trouble with collecting project cars is one tends to run out of room and or money to continue working on said cars. David Freiburger made the comparatively easy decision to sell his beloved Charger to MotorTrend, knowing it would always be close in the Roadkill fleet, but earlier this year he decided to buy it back and return it to its former 440-powered glory.
There was nothing wrong with the Hellcat-powered version of General Mayhem, but Freiburger built the second-gen Charger to be a piece of junk he didn’t have to worry about preserving, and the Hellcat drivetrain took away some of that magic. Earlier this year in episodes 75 and 76 of Roadkill Garage, the General Mayhem was not only re-440-swapped, it was incrementally improved! Now the ’68 Charger is ready for it’s biggest challenge yet—racing Finnegan’s Death Metal Charger at DirtFish!
History Finnegan’s “Death Metal” 1968 Dodge Charger
Mike Finnegan’s favorite version of Dodge’s greatest muscle car is the 1968 Charger. The first year of the incomparable coke-bottle styling, the flying buttress B-pillars, and especially the double round taillights (from 1968 only) make the first-year second-gen Dodge Charger one of the most (if not the most) iconic muscle cars of all time. Some adult-beverage-influenced eBay browsing caused Mike to indulge in his favorite pastime—buying more project cars—and how could he pass up not just a barn find 1968 Dodge Charger, but one that was also set up for vintage NASCAR circle track racing?
He won the bid, then with the help of Tony Angelo from HOT ROD Garage, dropped a Mopar 383 V-8 with a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission between the empty frame rails, and thus spawned the Death Metal Charger. Why is it called Death Metal? In true Roadkill fashion, Mike Finnegan’s 1968 Dodge Charger is more rust and body filler than pristine sheet metal. Joe Barry, the ameteur racer who built the car in the late-1960s, didn’t use the most conventional parts at the time, either.
The rear axle is a completely defunct late-1940s Willys Timken truck axle, the 4-corner drum brakes are form a Ford F-250, the radiator was designed for a Ford Taurus, and the roll-cage Mr. Barry fabricated 50 years ago looks to be made of heavy-gauge plumbing pipes. Decades of neglect and questionable suspension geometry set up to drive in a circle made driving Finnegan’s Charger for the first time a fun, yet harrowing experience for he and Tony. So harrowing, when they road-tripped the Charger to visit it’s original builder, Joe Barry flat out refused to even sit in it!
Death Metal Charger made an appearance on Faster with Finnegan in episode 5, where it competed against the other Roadkill NASCAR racer, the Chevy Monte Carlo body-swapped Stock Car known as NASCARlo. Incremental improvements have been made to Death Metal’s chassis over the years, but the biggest change happened earlier this season on Roadkill. In episode 125, Finnegan (with the help of Tony Angelo, again) did the unthinkable by pulling the Mopar 383 V-8 out and dropping in—gasp—a Japanese inline-six engine!
It’s not just any Japanese inline-six engine, it’s the Japanese inline-six engine, often referred to as Japan’s LS—Toyota’s giant-killing 2JZ. Coming in turbocharged (2JZ-GTE) and non-turbocharged (2JZ-GE) forms, the 2JZ enjoys gobs of aftermarket support for performance parts and is known for its reliability, simplicity, and capacity for huge power with minor modifications. Officially, Finnegan and Tony have a 2JZ-GE, but with the help of friends from KSR Performance and Real Street Performance in Gainesville and Miami, Florida, the guys bolted on a turbo and various other performance parts, drastically increasing the performance of the Death Metal Charger.
Losing nearly 200 pounds off the nose, gaining nearly 200 hp to the rear wheels, and just about doubling the rev capacity of the old V-8 (fourth gear is now good for 120 mph!)—Mike Finnegan’s 2JZ-powered junkyard circle track racer is a flat out monster. And Finnegan couldn’t be happier that he’s finally getting to run it at DirtFish. Oh, and guess who decided to help the guys prep their cars for DirtFish? Steve Dulcich and Tony Angelo are back to help their buddies, and—making his first-ever appearance on Roadkill—“Dirt Head” Dave Chappelle generously loaned his Spokane, Washington, shop to Roadkill. Jeez! Can that guy fabricate a rollcage, or what!
Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger have kept their promise to return to DirtFish twice now, but who built the better Roadkill 1968 Dodge Charger? Find out on MotorTrend+, right now! This may be the last episode of Roadkill for 2021, but we’ll be back next year with 12 more episodes and plenty of questionable car-nage! For now, live the Roadkill ethos—don’t get it right, just get it running, then get out and drive!
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