Chop Cut Rebuild has recently stood out from the morass of cable car shows on TV due to their choice of a ’69 Dodge Charger. While a show featuring something other than a Chevy is not unusual these days, there certainly was something unusual about this Charger: could the Chop Cut Rebuild’s Keisler XP Charger be the very same car used in Chrysler’s 1969 media campaign?
The VIN XP29J9B186523 points to a base Charger with a HEMI, a car that was never supposed to have been built. Additionally, this ’69 Charger had some distinctive ’68 parts on it, such as the door handles, headlight bezels, and fuel filler cap, lending credence this car was an early or pre-production car (if not the car in the promo photos).
The Promo Charger
Here’s the promotional photograph taken for the introduction of the ’69 models. The color of the car is “T5” Copper with a white top, and the folks involved with the project have determined T5 was the original color for the Keisler XP Charger. Could they be one and the same?
Based on the VIN, it couldn’t be the car in the photo because the sequence number was not low enough for an early production car. Additionally, those involved with the 1969 Charger Registry believe it was built on October 24, 1968, based on registered cars with similar sequence numbers.
A manual transmission side plate was found on the Keisler XP Charger, but the car in the promo photos is an automatic. It is possible that the interior shot is of another car, but so far all evidence points to the Keisler XP Charger being a different car from the photograph.
It even gets stranger when you look at this other promotional picture. It appears this is the same car, but some equipment has been shuffled such as the wheels, although this really isn’t unusual for promo photos. But where did the HEMI badge go? It’s not there, but do you see the imperfections where the badge used to be? Hmm…
The Keisler XP Charger
So could the Keisler XP Charger still be a real HEMI car? XP29J points to a base Charger with a HEMI, but is it possible that the HEMI’s J-code should have been, let’s say, an H for the 383 4-barrel? This is plausible because the two letters are next to each other on a keyboard. The above photo is evidence that it’s happened before (a 1970 “XS” Charger R/T never would have been equipped with a C-code Slant Six but could have a V-code 440 Six Pack).
Then maybe there was a typo in another manner: Maybe the body code was supposed to be an XS for an R/T? That makes sense, right? But there was never any R/T markings on the car, from the grille to the bumblebee stripe.
If it was a stripe-delete R/T, it would have received an R/T badge on the rear fender, but this car never received one, lending more credence that it’s a real XP Charger assuming that the rear fenders were original.
Lastly, there’s the torque boxes. The Keisler XP Charger has them, as all HEMIs should. But we also know that “regular” Mopars have been found with torque boxes because anomalies happen on the assembly line.
According to a list of Canadian HEMIs that’s been in circulation for years, XP29J9B298249 is documented to have existed. And it seems someone in CA parted a blue XP29J9Bxxx562 20 years ago; the fender tags were on eBay last year.
Or so it’s claimed. Does that mean there’s at least four XP HEMI Chargers built?
Regardless of the possibility of the Charger being a “one of none” car, there are purists in the Mopar community (and, really, the old car community in general) who feel such a rare car should be restored to Original Equipment factory specs.
The thinking is that there’s a ton of 318 Chargers that could be used by the Chop Cut Rebuild folks. On the other hand, the Keisler XP Charger was a basket case to begin and, with no proper documentation to show how it was originally equipped, this gave the Chop Cut Rebuild gang free reign to stray from stock. After all, it’s their car to restore/rebuild, so isn’t that their right?
At least they had the sensitivity and fortitude to ensure any modifications, from the Reilly MotorSports AlterKation and Street-Lynks suspension kits to Wilwood Engineering six-piston brakes, could be reversed on a whim. But the purists continued to raise a stink when a 1970-style steering column was installed, feeling the car’s supposed provenance was being ignored in the name of aftermarket product sponsorship.
Then there’s the rebody issue. What some enterprising people do is to find a desirable-but-trashed car like a HEMI Charger R/T and then transfer the engine and transmission to another Charger in much better condition.
Then, for the piece de resistance, they’ll transfer the fender tag from the trashed car (see eBay tag mentioned above) to the better car or even create a new, fake fender tag to show how the “rebuilt” car is equipped.
This is not what happened with the Keisler XP Charger because it doesn’t have its original motor or fender tag. However, much of the metal on the car needed to be replaced, so at what point does a car stop being the car it originally was?
Some people consider replacing the whole car a rebody and, in the Keisler XP Charger’s case, cutting out the numbers of of the core support and trunk lip and grafting them onto new sheetmetal is akin to rebodying in their eyes.
Credit needs to be given to the members of DodgeCharger.com for their enthusiasm for this project. A lot of credit also needs to be given to Chop Cut Rebuild executive producer and host Dan Woods, who actively participated in the discussion.
Shafi Keisler also piped in from time to time to answer questions and fend off criticism. And AMD is to be given props for tooling up affordable, complete, and correct sheetmetal to a segment that has long struggled to find quality parts.
But that doesn’t answer any of the questions: Is this a real XP HEMI Charger? I can’t say for sure, but all evidence points to a real HEMI car.
Whether it’s a factory freak XP Charger or a Charger R/T with a typo in the VIN is a different story, but if we had to go out on a limb, we’d venture to say it was a factory freak.