The Dodge Charger first appeared as a show car in 1964; from 1965 to 1967, sleek, low production Chargers based on the Dodge Coronet were sold, with limited success. [Details and photos]
Thanks, Jamie Kittrell and Ron Hansen, for your work on this section.
The restyling of the 1968 Dodge Charger is unquestionably the main reason for its sales success, since the 440 Magnum and Hemi were already available in 1967, and sales were dismal. The new "Coke bottle" look made the Charger one of the best-looking muscle cars, period, with many considering it the best-looking performance car of the 1960s. The base drivetrain remained identical with the 318 on the bottom end. Dodge wrote, “This is no dream car. It’s a real ‘take-me-home-and-let’s stir-things-up-a-bit’ automobile.”
The model line up expanded to include the Charger R/T, equipped like the Coronet R/T - it came with a 440 Magnum, heavy duty suspension and brakes, and the bulletproof Torqueflite 727 3 speed auto with a 4 speed manual optional. The rear bumblebee stripes were a deletable option. Hemi sales went up to 467, still quite small.
1964-67 Dodge Chargers • 1971-74 • 1975-78 • Modern Dodge Charger • Inside story of the Dodge Charger • Sidelight Story • 1969 Press Kit
The 1968 sales were far higher than expected; product planners assumed they would sell 20,000, but 96,000 were built, and the market might well have taken more. The Charger was a runaway success.
For the next year, Dodge was understandably torn between the usual annual styling changes and not wanting to mess with a good thing; they made minor changes to the grille as a compromise. The 1968 has a chrome bumper under the grille, the 1969 has a chrome center divider in the grille, and the 1970 has a rectangular chrome bumper around the grille.
Dodge Charger model reviews.
At its Chicago unveiling, Dodge general manager Robert B. McCurry declared the second-generation Charger a full-sized sports car featuring semi-fastback design and "jet-age aerodynamic styling." The new Charger represented a radical departure from the fastback styling of the Charger introduced in 1966, but continued its performance image. The "wedge-form" design places styling emphasis over the rear wheels with the design tapering forward to convey a forward thrusting look. A recessed backlight has been added for improved visibility and curved sides hint of aircraft cockpit styling. Instruments canted to the driver continue the aircraft theme.
The 117 inch wheelbase Charger features a longer, lower hood line and a wind spoiler that is an integral part of the rear deck. Headlights are set in the grille and concealed by an eyelid type of door that automatically moves up and out of the way when the lights are turned on. The grille has a bright decorative aluminum moulding.
The Charger's integrated bumper with vertical bumper guards blends with the design of the car and still accomplished its functional assignment. Other performance and styling features in the new Charger include simulated wastegates in the hood and body sides, a large quick-fill gas cap located aft on the quarter panel, and bumper mounted parking lights that resemble rallye type lights.
A new special performance model the Charger R/T (Road and Track) has been added to the lineup. This new model is equipped with the high performance 440 cubic inch V-S1 heavy duty suspension and brakes, dual exhausts and wide tread tires. Wrap around "bumble bee" stripes accent the R/T's sporty flavor. The stripes run across the rear deck and down the quarter panels.
Charger's all new six passenger interior features front bucket seats with an optional center cushion console in an exclusive all vinyl design. A new rallye clock and the addition of convenient map pockets on both doors are sporting new touches for 1968.
The standard engine in the Charger was the 318 cubic inch V-8. Options incline the 383 cubic inch two barrel V8, the 426 Hemi, and the 440 Magnum.
While stressing its sportiness, Charger also stressed its new safety features, including a new stove box door hinged at the top so that it could not fail open and downward, and window crank knots made of soft plastic formed into a tulip shape to yield in an impact.
The top of the front seat back had a corrugated section metal structure covered energy-absorbing foam, instrument panel padding was extended around the lower portion of the dash for leg and knee protection, and fold down front seats had manually operated seat back latches to prevent any forward pitch.
Other standard safety features included recessed ashtrays, power window safety lockout, and a child protection feature which required the ignition to be on for power switches to be activated. Optional safety equipment included front seat head restraints, lap belts for center seat passengers, shoulder belts for front and rear outboard passengers, padded steering wheel, and rear window defogger.
The 1968 Charger came in a choice of six interior and 17 exterior colors. In 1968, three out of every four Chargers sold were equipped with a vinyl top.
Total production for both models of the 1968 Charger was 96,100, far outpacing projected sales of 35,000 units. To meet the increased sales production at the Hammtramack, Michigan plant was tripled and a Charger production line was added at St. Louis, Missouri. The Charger accounted for 16 percent of Dodge car sales in 1968, and ran 460 percent higher than in 1967.
Mopaully wrote that MoPar Muscle Feb/Mar 1991 listed the following 1969 production figures: 392 Charger 500s, 67 Hemi 500s, 433 Daytonas with 440, 70 Daytonas with Hemi. Sales were already down, though, with only 69,000 built - still double the 1966 sales.
The Charger was left virtually untouched, and for good reason. They added a center grille divider, and recessed taillights. The backup lights moved to below the rear bumper.
The Charger 500, with a Coronet grille and a flush rear window, was built by Creative Industries; 500 were sold in accordance with NASCAR rules. The main reason for the Charger 500 was to eliminate aerodynamic problems that hurt it in comparison to Ford's lower-power but more slippery racing models. Chrysler had an ace up their sleave, though: the product of extensive wind tunnel testing, the Charger Daytona included a massive rear spoiler and an aero nose. No other car could match it for top speed (200 mph), with its standard 440 and optional Hemi. Its looks, notable today, were not appreciated in 1969.
The slant six was actually added to the range — or this year, though only about 500 were sold. Slant-powered Chargers, if left unmodified, would have been fairly slow (even modified, they had quite a bit of weight to push around).
For 1969, Dodge refined Charger, using a new grille and tail light treatment to bolster the sporty image. New vinyl roof treatments and exterior colors were optional, to appeal to the youthful driver. Engineering innovations ranged from manual tilt seat adjusters and easier rear door lock buttons to improved brake adjusters and headlights on warning buzzer.
A new optional Special Edition decor group for Charger and Charger R/T models was added. It featured leather bucket seats, wood-grain steering wheel, and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel. These cars are identified by SE name plates on the roof pillars. The Special Edition package also included bright trimmed pedals, deep dish wheel covers, and a light group including time delay ignition light and hooa mounted turn signal indicators.
Dodge exec Burton Bouwkamp on the
life and death of the Charger1969 Charger press kit
Dodge also had a Charger for the Scat Pack. The Charger 500 was designed for the performance-minded driver; the rear window was slanted more, to be flush with the trailing edge of the rear window pillars; the grille was flush mounted instead of recessed, to improve airflow; and headlights were fixed, not concealed. The 500 was powered by the 426 cubic inch Hemi engine. It was built to meet a NASCAR requirement to allow Chargers to race on the stock car circuit; flush mounting provided a tremendous aerodynamic advantage which was to culminate in the Charger Daytona.
An even wider array of vinyl top choices were optional, adding tan, green, black, and white. The standard engine was the 318 cubic inch V8, but buyers could drop down to the slant six; only 500 did. Two optional 383s were sold, with two and four barrel carburetors. In the Charger R/T, which accounted for 21 percent of 1968 Charger sales, the 440 C.I.D. Magnum, 375 H.P. power plant was standard and the 426 C.I.D., 425 H.P. Hemi was optional.
These were the everyday engines were the engines people ordered if economy outweighed performance... they all took regular fuel, had a single snorkel air cleaner, and a single tailpipe.
These were the engines for performance buyers. All had dual tailpipes and took premium fuel. The 340 generated less power than the 383 two-barrel, but because it was much lighter, cornering was better.
Charger's sporty car appearance in 1969 was enhanced by the use of a divided grille with six functional air vents in the divider piece resembling dual intakes. Near wall to wall rectangular tail lights which were recessed replaced the dual, round projecting lights used on the 1968s. These lights are surrounded by a black insert as they were in 1968 to retain Charger's highway identity.
A high rate “rallye” suspension, including sway bar, was standard. The R/T and 500 models had special handling suspension package which inclined heavy duty torsion bars, heavy duty shocks, extra heavy duty rear springs and sway bar. The long list of options included automatic speed control, front disc brakes, tachometer, rear window defogger, AM, AM/FM, and A M/Stereo Tape radios.
The Charger's wheelbase remained at 117 inches, overall length was 208 inches, width 76.6 inches, and height 53.2 inches.
Dodge also built in 1969 the Dodge Charger Daytona. This model was built specifically for the Daytona 500, and other stock car races. The Daytona marked a concerted effort by Dodge and Chrysler Corporation to take back the NASCAR limelight from Ford. The Daytona featured a wind cheating billet shaped front cap instead of the standard grille, hidden headlamps, front spoiler, flush backlight, and a huge rear deck spoiler. Compared with the Charger 500, the Daytona was about 20 percent more aerodynamically efficient. Dodge built 505 Charger Daytonas, just enought to beat the NASCAR stipulated 500 unit limit to qualify as a production model. Standard engine in the Daytona was the 440 cubic inch V-B, the 426 Hemi was optional.
At the Daytona's first outing at Talladega, Alabama, piloted by Richard Brickhouse, the Daytona won handily. Charger also won at the Daytona 500, driven by Bobby Isaac. Dodge won 22 Grand National races that season, but failed to nab the NASCAR manufacturers’ trophy.
The success of the American Dodge Charger caught the attention of international product planners. While the Charger was far too large and thirsty for South America, the Valiant and Dart were not, and the Charger look was adapted to the A-body platform — hideaway headlights and all — as much as they could swing it. Production was fairly low but many Chargers still remain in South America.
Thanks to Jamie Kittrell (Mr. C-Body) and Richard Bowman of the Walter P. Chrysler Club)
For 1970, the Charger received only minor changes, except for the 500 model, no longer needed for racing with the Daytona making speed; as happened all too often, the performance name was converted to a trim level, with a standard 318, sitting between Charger and Charger R/T. The Charger's length increased by one inch. The least expensive Charger came with a bench front, while all the others came with bucket seats. The SE package was still available, with the optional bucket seats. Unlike other Chrysler intermediates, the Charger did not have standard 15" wheels.
In 1970, a Dodge Charger Daytona made history at Talladega Speedway when Buddy Baker became the first driver to be clocked at more than 200
mph for a lap on a closed course. That speed record was held for a good
number of years.
New features for the 1970 Charger included a front bumper which completely encircled the grille and new full width tail lights, and the Federally mandated ignition switch buzzer to remind drivers not to leave their keys in the car. The R/T got simulated scoops on the door, and a longitudal stripe instead of the rear bumblebee stripes.
Engine options remained the same, except for the addition of the hot 440 6 pack (three double-barrel Holley carbs monted on an Edelbrock intake manifold). The Charger R/T’s base 440 required premium gas but pumped out a whopping 375 (gross) horsepower at 4,600 rpm, and 480 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. A single Carter four-barrel carb was used on these models; the cam timing was identical to the Hemi, with 268° intake duration and 284° exhaust duration.
Total Charger production for 1970 was 49,768 vehicles, of which 10,337 were Charger R/Ts. While still a big seller compared with the 1966-67 Chargers, sales fell to a bit over half of what they had been in 1968, and were less than half of 1969’s gangbuster performance. (Burton Bouwkamp wrote: “The Charger sales nosedive in 1970 was caused by the introduction of the
Challenger. The Dodge merchandising focus on the new Challenger reduced the marketing and merchandising efforts on the 1970 Charger.”)
The standard Charger came with the 225 slant-six or 318 V8, with a three-on-the-tree manual. The interior had a vinyl bench seat, deep-pile carpet, three-spoke steering wheel with a separate horn ring, heater/defroster, cigarette lighter, self-adjusting brakes, fiberglass belted tires, heavy duty suspension (using torsion bars and a front sway bar), rear bumper guards, concealed headlights, and quick-fill gas cap. The parking brake was foot activated.
The Charger 500 added vinyl bucket seats, a clock, and wheel-lip mouldings. The R/T made the clock optional while adding the 440 V8 with four-barrel carb and dual exhaust; automatic; heavy duty drum brakes; F70 14 inch wheels with white sidewall tires; the R/T handling package; simulated walnut instrument panel; three-speed wipers; and a bumblebee or longitudinal stripe.
The Charger SE was more of a luxury package and had leather and vinyl front bucket seats, a simulated walnut steering wheel, pedal dress-up, lighting group, deep-dish wheel covers, simulated walnut instrument panel, and vinyl map pockets.
Options included air conditioning, cruise, front center cushion with fold-down armrest (for bucket seats), headlight time delay, locking gas cap, luggage rack on the rear deck lid, sunroof, left remote control mirror, right side mirror, power brakes, steering, and winddows, rear seat speaker, a variety of AM and FM radios (with an optional stereo with 8-track player and three speakers, all in the instrument panel), rear shoulder belts, rear window defogger, six-way manually adjustable driver's bucket seat, three-speed wipers, tinted glass, and hood insulation. There were also numerous appearance options.
Performance options included the 383 (two and four barrel) engines, the 440 Six-Pack (R/T only), the 426 Hemi (again, R/T only; with two four-barrel carbs), automatic, four-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter (the only way to get a manual with the R/T, and available only with the four-barrel 383, the 440, and the Hemi), floor-mounted three-speed stick (383 four-barrel only), Sure Grip differential, tachometer, front power disc brakes, heavy-duty drums, trailer towing package, axle packages, and XHD Rallye suspension (R/T suspension).
1971-74 Dodge Charger page • 1975-78 Dodge Charger page
The Dodge Charger was restyled and resized for 1971, coming off looking as much like a Pontiac as a 1970 Charger from the front. The wheelbase was two inches shorter, the length three inches shorter. The wide model range continued, complete with Super Bee, a new model for Charger (it moved over from Coronet). The 1971-74 period saw a good deal of performance disappearing, with the dropping of the Hemi and a detuned 440 after 1971; yet, 1973 would be the best year for the Dodge Charger. Product planner Burton Bouwkamp credited that to styling, broader marketing (since insurance rates had cut down on the performance crowd), and good pricing on the Charger SE. Even in 1974, the Charger could be equipped for high performance. These cars were generally lighter than the 2006-2010 Chargers, but were also smaller inside, with less trunk space. [1971-74 Charger]
Starting in 1975, Charger moved to the Cordoba body in Dodge Charger SE form. Differences from the Chrysler were barely visible. A Charger Daytona re-appeared, but was now a trim package including larger wheels and tires and big graphics.
In 1976, Charger returned as a Coronet sub-model, while the Charger SE continued alongside it. Both Charger and Charger Sport were unpopular, with fewer than 18,000 clearing the lots in 1976. Charger SE was also a slow seller but managed to beat the entire Coronet line including Charger; it also beat the sales of all Dodge full-sized cars combined.
For 1977, product planners took the names of their large cars and put them onto their intermediates. The Coronet, Charger, and Charger Sport names were all dropped, leaving the SE.
In 1978, Dodge put a new front and rear clip onto Charger SE and called it Dodge Magnum; 48,000 Magnum sales drowned out the 3,000 Chargers, and the Charger name was dropped.
A few years later, Dodge attached the Charger name to a barnstorming version of the Dodge Omni. When that fizzled out in the 1980s, the Charger was allowed to rest — until the 1999 Dodge Charger R/T concept car and the 2006 Dodge Charger sedans.
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