Local Chrysler Fan Shares his Enthusiasm at Food Lion AutoFair
American automaker Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in April, but diehard fans such as local Concord resident Richard Canter plan to keep buying the company's stylish, high-performance vehicles for years to come. Canter's latest purchase from the troubled car maker, a 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8, will be displayed as part of a "Retro Muscle Rules" collection during the Sept. 10-13 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Canter's love of Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge products - what enthusiasts collectively call "Mopars" - began in 1976 when his sister handed down her '72 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus. It was a two-door hardtop with a Basin Street Blue body, white vinyl top and 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine. His sister's new ride, a Fiat X1/9 two-seater, mysteriously set itself on fire two months later, but the Satellite remains in Canter's possession to this day.
The young Mopar maniac spent the next seven years working at Dodge dealerships in Florida, where he saw muscle cars being traded because their powerful V-8 engines were considered too thirsty for the "high" gas prices of the day. Canter took advantage of the country's swing away from high-performance in the late 1970s and bought everything that struck his fancy during that period, including a trio of '73 Dodge Chargers and a rare '70 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda.
In hindsight, Canter realizes that the '70 AAR is the most-valuable Mopar he owned. He found it in a neighbor's driveway in 1978, disguised as a garden-variety ‘Cuda. Its factory "In-Violet" color and distinctive AAR stripes were covered with cheap orange paint, and the 340-cubic-inch V-8's multi-carburetor "Six Pack" intake had been replaced with a single four-barrel to encourage better gas mileage. Canter restored the AAR to its original condition - including the super-rare Six Pack carb setup - and sold it 18 years later for $25,000. Today, such cars sell for three times that amount.
More jobs and cars followed. Canter worked in the print room at Daytona International Speedway before moving to North Carolina, where he performed paint and body work for a NASCAR team. He then went to a Dodge dealer in Concord, selling the cars he loved most.
According to Canter, it was a great time to be a Mopar fan.
"The late 1990s was a revival of everything I liked about Dodge and Plymouth from the ‘60s," he said. "The Hemi V-8 engine came back. Dodge had the Viper sports car. The Ram looked better than any other truck on the road. Even the four-door sedans like the 300M had the looks and performance that once made Chrysler such a desirable brand."
Although he left his car sales position in 2001 to begin a career in real estate, Canter remains one of Chrysler's biggest supporters. Voting with his wallet, he currently has a driveway full of the 82-year-old company's products, including his '72 Plymouth Satellite, '07 Dodge Charger Daytona and '09 Dodge Challenger SRT-8.
"I must have passed it on to my sons," he said, "because they've also become Mopar fans. Joshua bought a 2008 Dodge Avenger SXT, and Justin just traded his 2006 Chrysler Crossfire for a new Dodge Ram Crew Cab pickup."
So, what about the many dozens of cars that have come and gone? Does Canter regret selling the '70 Dodge Challenger T/A with 340-cubic-inch V-8 and Six Pack induction, '71 Challenger, '79 Dodge Magnum GT, '88 Shelby Dodge Daytona Z or '96 Dodge Ram Indy 500 Pace Truck?
"Sure, I wish I could keep them all," he said. "But every car I keep means there is a car I can't own in the future. Come to think of it, though, I bought a 1973 Dodge Polara when it was just a few years old, back in Florida. It was big, roomy and powerful, and I didn't mind if it got a ding or scratch because it was just my daily driver.
"I really should have kept that Polara, because I'm always nervous about leaving my good cars in parking lots."
Canter's ding-free '09 Dodge Challenger will be displayed during the Sept. 10-13 Food Lion AutoFair as part of a "Retro Muscle Rules" collection. The Fall Food Lion AutoFair annually attracts more than 100,000 visitors. It features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a huge array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults while children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. On Friday, Sept. 11, in honor of their public service, all police, fire and emergency workers showing a badge or ID will receive free admission to the Food Lion AutoFair.
For more information, contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit the Food Lion AutoFair event page.