Sexy Mopar marketing circa 1969
Words by Larry Weiner; Photos by Larry Weiner and Mr. Norm’s Collection
When it comes to performance, there is no question 1969 was a very good year for buyers of fast cars. Muscle cars roamed the streets in ever-increasing numbers, and it seemed as though the party would never end.
After the record sales Dodge enjoyed in ’68 (thanks in no small part to a fresh lineup of great-looking B-Body muscle cars marketed under the catchy “Run With The Scat Pack” moniker), the edict for the new year was “why mess with success?” Enthusiasts were undeniably enamored with all of the Mopar models, but none made a bigger splash than the incredible new Charger. Entering its sophomore year of the second- Gen body style, the Charger continued unchanged other than details such as a new split grille and revised tail lights.
Dodge advertising reflected the times, and beautiful girls were an integral part of the marketing. For 1969, the slogan was Dodge Fever, and the model chosen for the campaign was Joan Parker. A wholesome little pixie, she quickly became the face of Dodge in television, magazine, and newspaper ads, in addition to appearances at automobile shows and events around the country. Wearing a white mini dress, chain belt, and Go-Go boots, Joan exemplified the look of the flower power era and was a perfect fit for ads promoting the youthful-looking Dodges.
Among the challenges automakers faced after the new models debuted in the Fall of ’68 was how to keep the excitement going throughout the model year. Madison Avenue ad agencies often came up with seasonal ad campaigns to drive sales. In the spring of ’69, Dodge launched the White Hat Special promotion, which focused on accessory packages offered at a discounted price.
White Hat Specials were available on Chargers, Coronets, and Darts. “Enhancing” the ads was Joan Parker’s smiling face in her trademark white mini dress and matching Go-Go boots. To tie the promotion in with the Dodge White Hat Special tag line, Joan even sported a white cowboy hat.
At the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, we spotted a spectacular 1969 Charger R/T on display. An original numbers-matching 426 Hemi, equipped with an A-833 four-speed and Dana 60, this B-5 Blue stunner represented the ultimate Charger in terms of both looks and performance. We were so enamored with this Mopar that we tracked down owner Ted Wolff and set up a photo shoot.
A car of this caliber deserved a special backdrop, so we tracked down a real 60s-style drive-in restaurant, Superdawg in Wheeling, Illinois. This piece of Americana has the obligatory drive-thru, along with spaces where you can park, order your food over an intercom, and be serviced by a real carhop on roller skates. Our thanks to owner Laura Berman for letting us photograph at this location.
The theme of the shoot centered on capturing the mood and visuals of the original White Hat Special and Dodge Fever marketing campaigns. We knew from experience that choosing the right vehicle was a key element in achieving our goal, and the Charger was the perfect candidate with its white vinyl top, white bumble bee stripe, and a white interior, all of which perfectly contrasted with the flawless B-5 Blue paint.
The other part of the puzzle was a girl who could stand in for Joan Parker, the original Dodge Fever model. Fortunately, we had the perfect person with Debbie Weiner, our very own Dodge Fever Girl. Debbie was great to work with again (we had shot vehicles with her numerous times during the past several years both on location and at events like the SEMA Show) and made our work easy.
We met up with Ted Wolff at his home, where the Charger sat in the driveway basking in the warm summer sun. We followed him to Superdawg, and listening to the big, bad 426 Hemi going up and down through the gears was all it took to get us juiced up. The location was perfect, the Charger was photogenic, and Debbie added just the right touch to the period-perfect recreation.