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Dodge Challenger History

After some 22 years without the Challenger name plate, and 31 years without a high-performance Dodge Challenger, rumors begin to travel about the possible reincarnation of a Hemi-powered rear wheel drive Pony car from Dodge, which would carry the Challenger name. Magazines and web pages alike discussed and speculated on what could be the next legendary vehicle from Dodge, shown in various artists renderings, mostly lamenting what the recently released Dodge Charger could have been, as so many people were disappointed to see its new high performance family sedan look. Late in 2005 photos surface of what was believed to be the "Next Dodge Challenger". Again, with these hazy, slightly blurry pictures of what looked to be a vintage Challenger with some body alterations to "modernize it", rumors were flying, and the anticipation heightened as several magazines released articles confirming what the Dodge Faithful had hoped for some 31 years...this was the New Dodge Challenger. It was real, with a real engine, the new 425 Hemi, and it was to make its grand debut at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. Then on January 8, 2006, the North American International Auto Show opens, and pictures from every possible news source debut the first moving pictures of the Challenger, and on January 14, 2006, the general public is introduced to the 'Dodge Challenger Concept', as the public viewing days begin at the North American International Auto Show. Rave reviews come from both Dodge Forum young and old, as well as those who were faithful GM and Ford owners. While this awesome new car is but a concept as of early 2006, Dodge sources indicate a 2006 or 2007 beginning of production, which could put the car on the road, and in peoples driveways as early as 2007. The Challenger is back, and with the new 6.1L Hemi, as well as a plethora of model technologies, this new Dodge Challenger may prove to be better than ever.

Read more about the Dodge Challenger Concept Car.

1978-1983 Dodge Challenger History

The Challenger name popped back up in the United States as Dodge embarked on a new partnership with Mitsubishi Motors. The car was not actually built by Dodge, but instead, it was simply a rebadged version of the 1977 Mitsubishi Galant Lambda. It was a rear wheel drive, 2 door hardtop, packed with a 1.6L or 2.6L inline four cylinder engines, so it was economical, and while it was fast for what it was, it was nothing like the Challenger of the Muscle Car Era. There were various options such as different wheels, and leather interior offered to try to bolster the sales of the new "import look" Challenger, but it simply was not what original Challenger owners expected from a car badged thusly. While the car was obviously a Mitsubishi, it carried a similar look to the "K Car" series that was being released by Chrysler Corporation, in which many of their newer cars closely resembled each other. This car lasted as long as the original run of the Challenger, but made virtually no mark on the automotive industry, and in 1983, it was again discontinued, but its very unlikely that anyone noticed, or made any fuss about it going away.

1972-1974 Dodge Challenger History

When the 1972 model came out, the brochure was a disappointing one at best. The grille had been redesigned with a new egg crate filling, with a chrome piece along the top which sloped downward at the corners where it met the headlights, giving the car a frowning look. Many speculated that the Challenger was sad due to the fact that the R/T option was gone, and with it, all big block and high performance engine options, giving the car, and the owners, little reason to smile. 1972 did feature a new look with the gills now moved up the car, to just behind the front wheels, with gradually broken stripes seemingly pouring out of the gills, and down the body. The base model Challenger came equipped with a 318 cubic inch engine building only 150 horsepower, and the new performance model, labeled the "Challenger Rallye Edition", came with the 318 cubic inch engine, with an optional 340 cubic inch engine making 240 horsepower, only 10 more horsepower over the base model V8 one year earlier. Sales slumped again, this time down to 26,658 , and as new government regulations on emissions were coming out all the time, there was no end in sight for the steady decline in performance car output. Read more about the 1972 Dodge Challenger 1973 brought about almost no cosmetic change from the 1972 model year Challengers. One slight alteration was the addition of bumperettes on the front bumpers. The grille section, and fender gills remained the same. The Rallye option was offered, but only as an option package on the base model, and Dodge offered a sort of "build your own car" program, where you could piece together the various offered options in order to make the car exactly as the buyer wanted it, and evidently, even with the same balmy engine options as in 1972, sales increased to 32,596. Midway through the 1973 model year there were rumors that Dodge would drop the 340 cubic inch engine to make way for the new 360 cubic inch engine, which boasted a whopping 5 horsepower increase over the 340, but this engine would not debut until 1974. Despite the 240 horsepower engine, the 318 cubic inch engine was by far the most popularly chosen engine in 1973. Read more about the 1973 Dodge Challenger 1974 brought about no changes on the Challenger over the 1973 model, and the only real news in 1974 was that the car would be discontinued after the 1974 model year. There were no trim lines offered other than the base model and the Rallye option, and the only engines offered were still the 150 horsepower 318 and the 245 horsepower 360. While the Challenger surely made its mark in its short 5 year existence, the last few years were sad ones, marked by low performance 'economy' engines. Sales in 1974 were at a disappointing all time low, at only 16,437. No car really took the place of the Challenger, as the market was shifting away from the high performance gas guzzlers to small engine powered, economy driven family cars. Read more about the 1974 Dodge Challenger

1971 Dodge Challenger History

1971 brought about a few minor changes, but these were changes that obviously had more impact than intended as sales plummeted from 72,975 in 1970 to just over 30,000 in 1971. A newly designed grille was present on all of the Challengers for 1971, and the most obvious change of sorts, was the aforementioned drop of the T/A, although many of the T/A options could still be ordered on R/T models. The R/T convertible was also dropped, and the SE Luxury package and ragtop options were only available on the base model Challengers. The base model actually received the most benefit for 1971, with the introduction of the base model droptop, and with the addition of an extra engine, the 318 cubic inch V8 which offered 230 horsepower. The 225 cubic inch slant six, and the 340 cubic inch engines were also still offered, and of the roughly 30,000 1971 Challengers sold, over 25,000 of them were the base model. The R/T model, while losing the convertible option also lost some power. It still came standard with the 383 cubic inch engine, but due to new government standards, it was 30 horsepower lower than the previous year. The 440 6-pack was the only 440 cubic inch engine offered, but it also received a drop of 5 horsepower. The Hemi was still available, and still offered 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque, and 1971 brought the introduction of the small block to the R/T lineup with the 340. The R/T did receive a few cosmetic changes, such as the option of color-keyed bumpers, non-functional brake cooling gills in front of the rear wheels, and new striping down the side, which was punctuated right over the rear wheels with the R/T logo. There was one special edition trim line offered in 1971, which were Indianapolis 500 Pace Car clones, and these were only offered by a few dealerships around the Speedway. There were 50 of these Pace Car clones made, and all of them were Hemi Orange convertibles with white interior, and just three had high-performance options; two 340 cubic inch engines, and the official Pace Car, with a 383 cubic inch engine. The actual Pace Car was driven by Eldon Palmer, who owned one of the dealerships selling the special edition cars. When practicing getting the Challenger up to speed, and braking it gradually coming down pit road, he had marked the appropriate point at which to start braking with an orange road cone. When the actual race began, and Mr. Palmer dove into the pit area as the cars roared past, he realized that his road cone, which indicated where he should begin slowing down, was gone. Unfortunately, there was no where for him to go as the car simply would not stop, and he slammed into a crowded section of bleachers filled with members of the press, and the car was substantially damaged. After this incident, the Pace Car trim line did not sell very well, nor did the available aftermarket striping packages. Read more about the 1971 Dodge Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger History

On Friday, August 1, 1969, the first ever Dodge Challenger rolled off of the assembly line for sale as a 1970 model year. The production Challenger, as mentioned, was based on the same platform as the Plymouth Barracuda, but had a wheelbase two inches longer to allow for more interior room. It was offered in both a hardtop and a convertible, with three trim lines available; the base model, the R/T (Road and Track), and the T/A (Trans America). The base model and T/A were only available as hardtops, so the only convertible that could be ordered carried the R/T options. The base model and R/T model hardtops could be upgraded with the SE luxury package, which included leather seats and a vinyl roof with a smaller "formal" rear window. The base model Challenger's came equipped with a 225 cubic inch inline 6 cylinder which produced 145 horsepower, but a 340 cubic inch V8 was offered, and that engine was much more powerful, offering 275 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 340 lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm. The R/Ts came standard with a 383 cubic inch V8 which produced 330 horsepower, but for those who felt the need for speed, three performance engines were offered. The first two of the optional engines were both 440 cubic inch V8s, one being a topped with a four barrel carburetor, which built 375 horsepower @ 4600 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm; the second of the 440 cubic inch engines was packed with a trio of double barrel carburetors, labeled the "440 6-pack", which built 390 horsepower @ 4600 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque @ 2300 rpm. The big dog of the Challenger engine lineup was the engine that American manufacturers would try to copy for years, and it is still one of the most desired engines of all time. That engine is, of course, the Hemi. It was "only" 426 cubic inches, but it made 425 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and a whopping 490 lb-ft or torque @ 4000 rpm. The Hemi option included several heavy duty upgrades as well, and cost an additional $1,228 and due to the huge price hike, it was only chosen by 356 buyers in 1970. Both the of 440 cubic inch options, and the Hemi came standard with a 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission, but for those who demanded the most of out their new Challenger, it could be ordered with a four speed manual topped by a pistol-grip Hurst shifter and a Dana 60 axle packed with limited slip 3.54:1 gears and an option of 4.10:1 gears, instead of the standard 3.23:1. All of the R/Ts included heavy duty suspension, and if the either of the 440s or the Hemi were chosen, 15 inch wheels wrapped in a 60 series tire were included. The R/Ts came with a dual hood scoop setup, but these scoops did not feed directly into the engine. However, for only $97, the Shaker hood scoop option could be ordered. The Shaker scoop was actually mounted to the engine itself, and poked through a large hole in the hood, providing direct air to the engine. Power Steering and front disc brakes were available, but were only offered as options on the R/T and base model. The other trim line was the T/A package, which was offered just to comply with the rules of the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship, as the SCCA requires a certain number of cars to be sold to be considered a "production car" for their series. The Challenger T/A street car came packed with a 340 cubic inch motor with a "6-pack" of its own, and Dodge advertised the engine as building 290 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 345 lb-ft of [email protected] 3400 rpm, although it was dyno proven that the 340 6-pack actually made around 350 horsepower. The T/A featured a matte black fiberglass hood with a massive oval air filter smothering the 3 two barrel carbs. The T/A also had a special high-flow dual exhaust system which traveled to the rear axle, but then doubled back and exited in front of the rear wheels by means of two huge chrome exhaust tips. The T/A came equipped with either the 727 TorqueFlite automatic or Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission, with either 3.55:1 or 3.90:1 gears, and the option of either manual of power steering. Front disc brakes were standard, and a heavy duty "Rallye Suspension" was standard, including increased camber of the rear springs, which elevated the tail enough to clear the rear rubber. The T/A featured a thick black trim stripe that ran the length of the car, along with a subtle, molded wing spoiler. One of the unusual notes about the T/A, is that it was one of the first production cars to offer different size tires in the front and back, with E60x15 fronts, and G60x15 in back. Unfortunately, the T/As were not very competitive in the SCCA T/A series, and the street model under steered badly at high speeds, so it did not make for a very popular car from that aspect, although it did turn out mid-14 second quarter mile time, which was very good for that era, especially from a small block car. But even with the fine quarter mile time, and mean appearance, Dodge removed itself from the SCCA series after 1970, and dropped the T/A option. Read more about the 1970 Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger History

When most of America hears "pony car" today, only one car really comes to mind, the Ford Mustang, as it is the longest living of the great Pony Cars. But what most people do not know is that Ford was not the first company to release the pony car. It was actually the Chrysler Corporation, with the release of their 1964 Plymouth Barracuda, which was released a few months prior to the Mustang.
The 'Cuda, as it became known, was very popular, but in 1969 Chrysler Corporation released to the public the redesigned 'Cuda, for the 1970 model year. It was also at this time when they introduced another car that would become very popular to the American public, but it was from Plymouth's sibling company, Dodge. That new car, the Dodge Challenger, was the first pony car from Dodge. While the Challenger may have seemed like nothing more than a rebadged Plymouth Barracuda, as the two cars shared Chrysler Corporations new "E-body" platform, the Challenger was actually a car whose design process began some 5 years before production began.
Recognizing the popularity of the 1964 Plymouth and 1964.5 Mustang, designers at Dodge began working on a pony car of their own. The Barracuda received gradual upgrades year to year, including the addition of trim lines and performance enhancements, but Dodge continued to work on their own model, rather than rebadging one of the early Barracudas, which were on Chrysler's "A-body" platform.

While exterior styling design was a key point during the development of the Challenger, being competitive was one of the bigger concerns, and by the late 60s, Ford was putting huge displacement motors in some of the Mustangs. While the 340 cubic inch packed Barracuda S was fast, and handled well, it was no match for the 428 cubic inch Cobras. Design team head, Carl Cameron, recognized the need for a new look for this new car, and the need for a big engine, and in late 1968 the first of the Dodge e-body based prototypes were being made.

The 1969 Dodge Yellow Jacket Concept was the first look at what would become the Dodge Challenger, but this car has several major variations from what would actually be released to the public as the Challenger. The Yellow Jacket was originally painted Pearl White, but it was badly scratched while being transported to a show, and was repainted a honey-gold color. It featured a removable Targa style top, with only two seats, and a rear deck lid section that extended all the way to the back of the front seats. The taillights were those of a Dodge Challenger, but they differed from what actually came on the 1970 Challenger, and the taillights of the Yellow Jacket did not actually make it to production until later years. When the Challenger ended its run, it had the same multi-piece taillights as the Yellow Jacket. this Yellow Jacket later received a new front end, which would never see production, and was renamed the Dodge Diamante.

Big Thanks to Steven Juliano
for the images

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