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Brad Toles’ Triple Black Tribute 1968 Hemi Charger is Highly Contagious

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 8/23/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff
Toles-Street-Hemi-Charger---01© Hot Rod Network Staff Toles-Street-Hemi-Charger---01

Brad Toles is a sick man.

Not in the sense of having truly debilitating illness, but in the realm of an addiction to Chrysler's Street Hemi cars and the Holy Grail of performance engines, the 426-cid Hemi. Affectionately labeled Elephant Engines when they debuted in 1964 due to their immense size and power output, they were to cut the die as arguably the most dominant drag racing engine of all time.

This stunning 1968 Street Hemi R/T "Tribute" Charger was restored to perfection by Toles at West Coast Mopar, a division of All American Collector Car Restoration in Palm Springs, California. Taken down to bare metal, this rotisserie restoration is perfect in every way. But the road to perfection doesn't come easily — it takes vision, time, and money to create a car like this.

In the Beginning

"I purchased the Charger February 2011 from a gentleman in Los Angeles," notes Toles. "It had been stored in his backyard for 30-plus years. The Charger belonged to the father of the person I purchased it from and their goal had always been to rebuild the car. But like so many automotive projects, that dream was never realized. Instead, the car slowly decayed, many of the original parts sold off or thrown in the trash. To most people who saw the car, it was a pile of junk sitting in someone's backyard."

Chasing cars like these has become an obsession for Toles who loves nothing more than to drop everything in his life and head to parts unknown to check out a collection of specifically classic Mopar parts. At about the same time of the Charger purchase, he was to fortuitously meet up with Tom Agee, whose contagious Hemi affliction was in full bloom.

States Toles, "I have been hunting for classic Mopar parts and cars for the last decade, and it was on a run when I met up with Tom Agee. As we walked through the Mopar items he had for sale, the subject turned to the topic of Hemi's. Agee shared a passionate story about when he was a teenager his dad had given him a 1968 Street Hemi Charger — a car that was to save his life in later years. Evidently, years later he would be dating a girl whose father became unhappy about her choice of boyfriends. To avoid the shotgun blasts from the angry father, it required the power of a Street Hemi to carry him away from the dangerous encounter. With guns blazing, expletives flying, and gravel spewing from the Charger's spinning tires, Agee escaped with his life. But I digress ..."

What came out of Toles' conversation with Agee was the connection to a guy named Jim Shewbert. According to Agee, Shewbert was the only person who knew more about Hemi motors other than Agee's father. That's when Toles' Hemi troubles began. Shewbert was a racer who had worked with the likes of racing legends Ed Pink and Keith Black along with so many other great nostalgic Mopar racing geniuses. It was through Shewbert's knowledge of Hemis, that Toles discovered the right guy to build period-correct, high-output Mopar engines.

"One of 'products' [and there have been many since] of having met Jim Shewbert was the Hemi engine that currently resides in this Charger," noted Toles. "From the onset, the goal wasn't to just build a Charger — it became absolutely paramount to build as close as we could to a perfectly restored '68 Hemi Dodge Charger. Knowing that only 475 original [264 with automatic transmissions and 211 four-speeds] 1968 Street Hemi R/T Chargers were ever built and that only a couple dozen probably exist today, this is the best route to create one I could afford. My passion for Mopars has not only led me to want to save these amazing cars but it is also equally important to me to seek out the Mopar masters logging their knowledge and wisdom."

The State of The Street Hemi Today

Toles' passion for 1968-1971 Chrysler cars is proven by his large collection of hard-to-find original parts that he has chased down from all corners of the country — his "nugget runs" as he calls these excursions. His facility in Palm Springs, California, has a full complement of state-of-the-art tools to allow him to fully strip to the bare metal and then build back to perfection with number's matching perfection.

States Toles, "This 1968 Dodge Charger triple X9, XSL code was one of the fortunate ones to be brought back, but is still in the process of becoming a completely accurate restoration. The more I learn from others like Jim Shewbert, the more this car and others will benefit.It was Shewbert's love for Hemi engines and the inherent rarity of Hemi cars and engines that really motivated me to build this "tribute" Hemi car."

While Toles says he would love to convert all of his car builds to incorporate exclusively Street Hemi engines, that's almost impossible due to do the rarity of Hemi blocks today. Hemi cars were never produced in big numbers (10,904 Street Hemis and just a tick under 900 Race Hemis) despite the headlines they drew. While that number may sound like it would be big enough to build as many Hemi-powered cars Toles could possibly want, it was the fact that guys like Shewbert and other racers often grabbed the Street Hemi engines out of original cars to build their race cars.

Remember, the 426-cid Hemi engine was the powerplant of choice for the majority of the truly fast drag cars in the 1960s and 1970s — many Top Fuel and Funny Cars using these engines for nitro-fueled competition. Aftermarket 426 Street Hemi "replica" engine blocks produced by folks like Keith Black reduced the need for the iron Street Hemis since they were lighter and stronger internally. But the damage had been done, and today finding an original Street Hemi is extremely rare. And when a Street Hemi iron block is used in Nitro Methane-class racing, the repetitive super-high heat and quick cool down cycling that these engines experience over time makes them very brittle. According to Shewbert, they "make a great paperweight" but can't be used as an engine in a vehicle ever again.

A Fitting Tribute

While Toles wishes this Charger was an original Street Hemi, his effort to honor a very rare car is extremely well done. From the X9 Black Paint to the Red deck stripes, this true 1968 R/T Charger is a work of art. The car is correct right down to the correctly dated Street Hemi engine block, date-coded cylinder heads, and ultra "unobtainium" Street Hemi exhaust manifolds.

The triple-black Charger (black vinyl top, black exterior, black interior) is a rare combination that strikes a stunning silhouette when rolling down the highway. Regardless of your favorite car brand, when a 1968 Street Hemi Charger appears, it becomes easy to fully understand just why these cars — especially with this engine combination — are the most iconic shape ever from America's classic muscle car era.

Fast Facts

1968 Dodge "Tribute" Hemi Charger

Brad Toles, Palm Springs, CA


Type: 426-cid Hemi, 425 hp, 490 lb-ft

Bore x stroke: 4.310 (bore) x 3.250 (stroke)

Block: factory OE 0.030-inch overbore

Rotating assembly: Diamond Forged pistons, Mopar Kellogg crankshaft, street Hemi connecting rods

Compression: 11:1

Cylinder heads: factory original port matched and bowl blended, over-size 2.19-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust

Camshaft: Comp Cams 0.3850/0.3830-inch Lift, 248/255-degree duration, All original valve train throughout

Induction: Factory 2x4 intake manifold with original Carter AFB 4BBL carburetors (PN 4430S front and PN 44315 rear)

Oiling system: Melling oiling system

Exhaust: stock Hemi exhaust manifolds

Ignition: factory Mopar original CD ignition, 36 degrees timing

Cooling: factory original radiator and clutch fan

Engine built by: Adams Machine (Palmdale, CA)


Transmission: Dodge A-833 New Process four-speed,18-spline input shaft

Clutch: McLeod clutch system

Shifter: factory stock Hurst four-speed shifter

Driveshaft: stock factory, restored to original

Rearend: Dana 60 with 3:55:1 ratio with Sure-Grip


Front suspension: stock Chrysler

Rear suspension: stock Chrysler

Steering: stock power steering box

Front brakes: stock Chrysler Bendix disc brakes

Rear brakes: stock Chrysler drum brakes

Painter: West Coast Mopar/AACCR

Paint: PPG water-base with two-stage clear X9 Black

Wheels: Factory original steel wheel with button hubcaps

Tires: Goodyear original style tires, F70-15 front and rear


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