FOR the past seven weeks, Jason Waye of Muscle Garage and Tuff Mounts fame has been reviving an icon of the South Australian racing scene, Clem Smith’s heroic Chrysler Charger Sports Sedan. Built and fielded in the 1980s by the car dealer and saviour of Mallala Motorsport Park, this mechanically injected, 358-cube beast carries decades of racing history
After Clem passed away in 2017, the unmistakable machine went under the hammer along with the rest of his impressive automotive collection.
Finding a buyer in a local Sports Sedan enthusiast, the Charger was immediately handballed to Jason, with the express mission of restoring it to 1984-85 race-going specs. Having already restored an unhinged 265 Hemi-powered, mid-engined LJ Torana Sports Sedan, Jason was clearly the man for the job.
Still wearing decades of CAMS approval stickers and original components, the Charger had sat for some years and lost plenty of shine. Jason took great pains to faithfully reproduce unique aero parts and dozens of period sponsorship stickers – all referenced from a handful of grainy 80s snaps!
A full respray, new glass and huge BBS wheels helped bring the Charger back to its former glory, while Jason has respected the car’s heritage internally, with the cockpit receiving nothing more than a sympathetic clean and polish. “It still uses the original key and ignition barrel,” he said.
The fibreglass missile finally returned to Mallala in April for the All-Historic Race Meeting, Clem’s long-time favourite event. For Jason, the car is a tribute not only to Clem but also to his staff, many of whom still work at Mallala. “They don’t know what we’ve done with the car; we’re gonna blow their minds,” he said.
Hopefully, the revival of Clem’s Charger marks a trend back towards these stunning cars, both vintage and modern. After waning in the late 1980s thanks to questionable regulation, a resurgence of the Sports Sedan class is now underway. Present-day line-ups include FJ Holdens, Subaru Imprezas, C6 Corvettes, and practically anything in between.
If this orange streak becomes a Mallala regular once more, a new generation will no doubt become enthralled with this rich class of racing.