Evolution of the Charger: The Car that Built Dodge’s Reputation for Muscle


For the midseason return of Roadkill’s Junkyard Gold, Steve Magnante is at Stephens Performance, an all-Mopar junkyard in Anderson, Alabama, wanting over 3,000+ vehicles unfold throughout 58 acres. What’s he in search of? The hottest automobile Dodge ever constructed, the Charger!

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When the Dodge Charger arrived in 1966, it helped remodel Dodge’s picture as a maker of boring, sensible vehicles to a frontrunner in efficiency and the muscle automobile section. The Charger nameplate carries a lot weight, Chrysler introduced it again in 2006 to assist enhance gross sales—a transfer that helped maintain the model alive by means of the 2008 monetary disaster. Today, the trendy Dodge Charger is among the hottest muscle vehicles on this planet and classic fashions, with the suitable choices, are a number of the most costly vehicles on the planet.

1966 Dodge Charger

The first-generation Charger (1966 and 1967) was primarily based on the Coronet and was the present piece of Dodge’s B-body lineup. This got here at a premium of $3,112, $418 greater than the Coronet. The disappointing gross sales of the first-gen fastback physique didn’t do justice to the wonderful inside and engine packages of the 1966 and 1967 Chargers. This was a little bit of shock to Dodge, contemplating the recognition of Plymouth Barracuda—Chrysler’s first fastback-bodied automobile.

Related: The History of the Dodge Charger

The metal-faced gauges of first-gen Chargers had unique electroluminescent lighting. The seating association was not two, however 4 normal bucket seats (for 1966 solely) with a full size console. The door panels have been vacuum fashioned ABS plastic with brushed aluminum inserts. This was a full-on present automobile proper from the manufacturing unit. Cool touches didn’t cease there, the trunk had a flat load ground with fold down rear seats that allowed for a very good quantity of configurability and cargo capability in a muscle automobile. The headlamps additionally had a neat trick, the one-piece diecast items rotated on electrical motors to cover them when not in use. And we are able to’t overlook the full-width taillight with “CHARGER” emblazoned throughout it, letting everybody know precisely what you have been driving.

Under the hood, the smallest engine out there was the 318ci V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor, there have been no slant-sixes right here. From there, it was all big-blocks—the 361 with a 2-barrel, the legendary 383 with a 4-barrel, and the incomparable 426 Street Hemi. Selling solely 37,300 items in 1966 and 15,788 in 1967 proved simply how little the shopping for public understood what they’d with the fastback Charger. If Steve Magnante had the ’66 he discovered at Stephens Performance, he would ditch the 383 beneath the hood in favor of a 1,000hp Hellephant crate engine from Mopar Performance, again it up with a Torqueflite 8-speed transmission, steal the impartial rear suspension from a contemporary Charger, and put 17-inch Demon alloy wheels wrapped in Nitto drag radials on all 4 corners. That would present everybody what this 1966 Charger might and will have been.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T

The second era of Charger (1968 by means of 1970) introduced two issues—one good, one dangerous—the Coke-bottle styling made well-known by the likes of Dukes of Hazzard and Bullitt, and the cheapening of the Charger lineup. Less content material meant a lower cost, although, costs dropped $114 from 1967 to 1968. Those worth reductions got here in a number of methods, however largely it was changing steel components with plastic.

First to go have been these trick, rotating headlamp assemblies. Instead of the all-metal grille, Dodge used a plastic grille with vacuum powered headlamp covers (1968 and 1969 vehicles, 1970 vehicles had electrical motors) to realize the full-width grille look. Next have been the futuristic electroluminescent gauges with steel faces, being changed with a plastic facia and common mild bulbs. The entrance seats have been nonetheless normal buckets, however the heart console was now elective. Finally, these present automobile aluminum and plastic door panels have been vinyl-covered cardboard. But it wasn’t all dangerous. One cool characteristic on the second-gen Charger garnered extra reward and a spotlight than all of the options on the first-gen vehicles mixed: the pop-top gasoline cap. A easy, spring loaded and hinged lid with a gap stamped within the quarter panel coupled with that well-known coke bottle styling and flying buttress rear glass have been sufficient to propel gross sales of the 1969 Charger to 85,680 vehicles.

Of the practically 86,000 fashions offered in 1969, 19,298 have been R/Ts, just like the one Steve discovered right here. The tail stripe and badging have been the primary clues, however these are simple to pretend. The actual check of whether or not any second-gen Charger is an R/T lies within the VIN. Standard Chargers began with XP29, whereas R/T outfitted vehicles have been XS29. The Charger R/T had solely two engine choices, the 440 and 426 Street Hemi, which means these vehicles was all about efficiency. An L within the fifth digit of the VIN indicated a 440, the place a J meant 426. Upping the efficiency cred have been upgraded entrance brakes, one-piece solid 11×3-inch “cop brake” drums versus the usual multi-piece 10×2-inch stamped drums. Thicker, 0.92-inch torsion bars (up from 0.88 inches)  to assist tame the burden of these 400+ cubic-inch big-blocks within the turns, and out again the asymmetrical leaf springs helped to offer even traction between the wheels when all that energy tried to twist up the driveline. The proper leaf spring was a five-leaf pack with two half leaves that acted like a traction bar, and the left facet was a heavy-duty six leaf pack. Between the springs have been both the 8-3/Four rear finish with elective Suregrip on 440 vehicles (Chrysler’s identify for restricted slip) or the well-known Dana 60 with its enormous 9-3/4-inch ring gear and normal Suregrip on Street Hemis.

If Steve put his fingers on this ’69 R/T, he would exchange the lacking 440 and 727 Torqueflite (matching numbers be damned), stuff some 3.55 gears within the 8-3/Four and use some W21 5-spoke Magnum wheels on all 4 corners. Many builders would go for the 10-hole Rallye wheels, however these weren’t out there till 1970 and can be inappropriate on this automobile.

1972 Dodge Charger Rallye

The third era of the Charger (1971 to 1974) got here with one other restyling and but extra content material reductions. The headlamp covers that have been a signature trait of the Dodge Charger up up to now have been now elective, as effectively the beforehand normal entrance bucket seats. While the fuselage styling of the third-gen Charger was extra mundane than the beautiful Coke bottle of the second-gen, it nonetheless handily outsold the first-gen, transferring 75,594 into American garages in 1972.

This specific ’72 is certainly one of solely 4,531 Rallye fashions, the efficiency package deal that changed the R/T and Super Bee packages that lasted till 1971. Rallye version Chargers are simple to identify. Most noticeable is the domed hood, blacked out trunk and louvered taillights. The 5 character dimples on the finish of the entrance fenders even have hashmarks in them. All however the 318 Rallye Chargers had stylized twin exhaust suggestions as effectively, the 318 was a single exhaust. The ’72 Steve is checking nonetheless has its authentic 340 Magnum and 4-barrel Thermoquad beneath the hood, the blue painted block and orange air cleaner are a lifeless giveaway. But the column shifted 727 and bench seat imply this automobile isn’t worthy of a concours-style restoration.

On the opposite hand, 1972 was the primary yr “The King” Richard Petty switched from racing the Plymouth Super Bird in NASCAR to the Dodge Charger. If Steve have been to take this ’72 residence, he would construct a tribute to that automobile, copying the blue and pink livery and ditching the 340 in favor of 440.

1977 Dodge Charger SE

By the mid-1970s, “muscle car” was a nasty phrase. The OPEC oil disaster and federal laws made gas financial system and low emissions extra necessary than outright efficiency. At the identical time, American automobile patrons have been transitioning into private luxurious vehicles, and that’s precisely what Dodge did with the fourth era Charger (1975 to 1978). Dodge wanted one thing that might stand as much as the 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo, so that they appropriated the Plymouth Fury and Chrysler Cordoba.

Standard Chargers had the very same physique because the Fury and SE vehicles have been the identical because the Cordoba, however this lazy styling method was normal observe with all American automobile producers on the time. It did assist to economize, in addition to the lighter and cheaper fiberglass entrance ends discovered on fourth-gen Chargers. But due to these financial savings, the usual entrance bucket seats and heart consoles have been again!

1976 introduced the arrival the Lean Burn system. This was an air cleaner-mounted laptop with a number of sensors protecting observe of issues like consumption vacuum, throttle place and coolant temperatures. The Lean Burn system allowed the 400ci V8 beneath the hood of this SE to satisfy federal emission requirements and was used on nearly all Chrysler V8s by means of the mid-1980s. The fourth-gen Charger won’t have had the appears or efficiency of earlier generations, but it surely was the suitable automobile for the time and gave the sales-leading Monte Carlo a run for its cash.

Steve desires to overlook concerning the OPEC oil disaster and federal CAFE requirements and construct this ’77 Charger SE right into a “what if” Hemi Charger. That means a 426 with twin quads, a pistol grip 4-speed, Ram Charger hood, Dana 60 and 15×7-inch Rallye wheels!

The Dodge Charger might have disappeared for a number of a long time, however the legend lives on immediately and is main the modern-day muscle automobile motion. No different producer can match the efficiency and affordability of the present Hellcat-powered Charger and Dodge solely retains one-upping themselves. But there are such a lot of nice Mopar vehicles to see at Stephens Performance, so Steve is unquestionably coming again quickly!















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