(from Dodge Press
Release) Dodge Challenger: Forty Years of a Dodge Muscle-car
Visit the heritage of the Dodge Challenger at
Chicago, Feb 10, 2010 - When the Dodge Challenger first entered in
the muscle car ranks of Detroit’s Big Three, it arrived with
something its competitors didn’t have: the greatest range of
powertrain choices in the industry, from the small but durable
225-cubic-inch “Slant Six” to the fearsome “Elephant Motor” — the
426 HEMI®. With the best muscle-car powertrains in the business,
Dodge Challenger has added, and continues to add, to its rich
legacy, creating one of the most storied nameplates in automotive
Dodge Challenger’s 40-year legacy includes:
The Dodge Challenger
made its debut in the fall of 1969 as a 1970 model. While it shared
Chrysler’s “E-body” short-deck, long-hood platform with the
third-generation Plymouth Barracuda, Dodge Challenger’s wheelbase
was 2 inches longer, creating more interior space.
The Dodge Challenger was originally offered as a two-door hardtop or
convertible, in base, SE (Special Edition), R/T (Road/Track) and T/A
(Trans-Am) trim. But it was the range of powertrain choices that was
I-6; 145 horsepower
318-cubic-inch V-8; 230 horsepower
340-cubic-inch V-8; 275 horsepower (290 horsepower in the
383-cubic-inch V-8; 290 horsepower
383-cubic-inch V-8; 330 horsepower
383-cubic-inch V-8; 335 horsepower
426-cubic-inch HEMI V-8; 425 horsepower
440-cubic-inch V-8; 375 horsepower
440-cubic-inch V-8; 390 horsepower
Driveline choices for
various engines included Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic
transmission and a three- or four-speed manual transmission, which
could be equipped with a Hurst “pistol-grip” shifter. Big-block
Challengers could be ordered with a heavy-duty Dana 60 differential
equipped with a limited-slip differential.
Even the paint schemes said “performance,” with colors, including
Plum Crazy and HEMI Orange, accented with “bumblebee” stripes.
Customers could further customize their cars with twin-scooped
hoods, “shaker” hoods and deck-lid wings.
Befitting the brand’s performance heritage, Dodge raced the
Challenger in its first year on the market. For the street, it was
offered in the limited-edition T/A model to meet homologation
requirements for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans-Am racing.
The T/A was one of the first production vehicles to offer staggered
size tires in the front and back; E60 x 15-inch front and G60 x
In 1970, Sam Posey drove the lone Trans-Am racing Challenger,
prepared and run by Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics Race Shop. While he
didn’t win a race in the No. 77 car, Posey finished fourth overall
Drag racers, including Dick Landy and Ted Spehar, also campaigned
Challengers in the National Hot Rod Association’s new Pro Stock
class. In 1970 and 1971, the HEMI-powered Challengers (and Plymouth
‘Cudas) virtually ruled the class.
On the big screen, a 1970 Challenger R/T starred in the film
Vanishing Point, a high-speed pursuit movie that has become a cult
favorite with muscle-car fans. The movie was remade for television
Other 1970 Dodge Challengers have been seen in films, including Used
Cars, Natural Born Killers and Phantasm I and II; and in television
shows, including Mod Squad.
For the 1970 model year, more than 83,000 Dodge Challengers were
In 1971, designers made
subtle styling changes to the Dodge Challenger, providing new
treatments to the taillamps and grille. The single-taillamp design
from 1970 became two distinct lights for 1971, and a new-for-1971
twin-inlet Challenger grille was painted silver on standard models
and black on R/Ts.
Challenger R/T models also received a set of fiberglass
quarter-panel louvers. An additional coupe model with fixed quarter
windows was added to the lineup.
As in 1970, a wide range of trim levels, exterior colors and
striping options made the Dodge Challenger easy for customers to
create a special car. However, for 1971, Dodge dropped the T/A (it
was no longer racing in Trans-Am), SE models and R/T convertible.
New EPA emission standards led to some powertrain changes; the
optional 375 horsepower 440-cubic-inch was eliminated, as was the
Six Pack-equipped 340-cubic-inch powerplant. The 383-cubic-inch
Magnum engine was detuned to 300 horsepower by lowering the
compression ratio for improved emissions. However, a 390 horsepower
six-pack 440 V-8 was available, and the 425 horsepower
426-cubic-inch HEMI still topped the vast engine offerings.
A Dodge Challenger paced the Indianapolis 500 race in 1971. Dodge
produced 50 Challenger convertible pace car replicas — all painted
HEMI Orange with white tops and interiors.
insurance rates and new EPA emissions mandates, more changes came to
the Dodge Challenger in 1972. Also, the Society of Automotive
Engineers (SAE) revised the torque and horsepower rating test from a
“gross” to a “net” as installed in the cars. This reduced all
ratings 20 to 30 percent, making them non-comparable to previous
Only three engines were available in the 1972 Dodge Challenger: the
225-cubic-inch Slant Six with 110 horsepower, the 318-cubic-inch V-8
with 150 horsepower and the 340-cubic-inch V-8 with 240 horsepower.
All were equipped to use the then-new unleaded fuel.
With convertible sales in steady decline over several years, the
1972 Dodge Challenger was offered in hardtop form only. The sun roof
had become a more popular alternative and was offered as an option
for more than $400.
New front-end styling in 1972 featured a larger “egg-crate” grille.
It was painted argent for standard Challengers and black on the
Challenger Rallye performance model, which replaced the R/T. The
Challenger’s taillamp design included twin lights on each side, with
the center panel painted the same color as the grille. The Rallye
model also was equipped with four small scoops on the front fenders.
Beginning in 1973, the
federal government mandated new bumper-impact standards that
resulted in the only changes to the Dodge Challenger exterior —
five-miles-per-hour bumpers equipped with large rubber guards that
extended out from the bodywork.
Inside, grained vinyl was the only available seating material, but a
new instrument-cluster design was part of the Rallye option package.
The Rallye was eliminated as a separate model, although customers
could create one with options.
Under the hood, the six-cylinder engine was no longer available; the
150 horsepower 318-cubic-inch V-8 was standard, with the 240
horsepower 340-cubic-inch V-8 as the only option.
With performance car
insurance rates skyrocketing, more safety equipment led the short
list of changes for the 1974 model-year Dodge Challengers.
Inside, lap and shoulder belts were equipped with an inertia reel.
In addition, there was a federally mandated seat belt-ignition
interlock, which prevented the car from being started if the driver
or passenger didn’t buckle up.
The Dodge Challenger offered a different engine option for 1974.
With the 318-cubic-inch V-8 still standard, a 360-cubic-inch V-8
producing 245 horsepower replaced the 340-cubic-inch V-8 as the only
In April 1974, Challenger production ceased. During a five-year
span, approximately 188,600 Dodge Challengers were sold.