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by David Zatz
By 1973, Dodge had left its roots as the slow-but-tough, all-for-durability brand, and was positioned with its feet in Plymouth mass-market turf and its head in Chrysler near-luxury. All of its cars were shared with Plymouth or Chrysler; typically Dodges sold at a premium over the equivalent Plymouths but provided more space or luxury, while Chrysler sold at a premium over Dodge and provided more space or luxury.
For the moment, the formula seemed to be working, as Dodge sold over 675,000 cars - the most popular line, though, being the inexpensive Dart with well over 200,000 cars sold (second best was Charger; Coronet had dropped dramatically in recent years).
The big muscle car engines were on their way out, but some were still around, even if not in full power; the slant six, economy 318, 340, and 440 were still around, and the 360 and 400 provided big cars with nice grunt if not stellar performance. The 340 was still quite hot, especially in the light Dart Sport/Duster, and the four-barrel 400 and 440 were no slouches, either, even if the two-barrel 400 seemed to drink more fuel than the power would merit. Primitive emissions systems were being developed, with the reliable on-board electronics and materials needed for electronic fuel injection still some years away - even though the basics of modern fuel injection had been tried out on the DeSoto Electrojector and other Chrysler Corporation vehicles over a decade before.
The electronic ignition system invented by Chrysler Corporation increased performance and mileage while decreasing pollutants; it was now standard on all engines, making points and condensors things of the past. An electric assist choke prevented the mixture from being overly rich after the car warmed up; exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) burned exhaust gases again, reducing unburned hydrocarbons; proportional EGR was introduced; and orifice spark advance control (OSAC) helped both driveability and pollution control, when kept working. All engines received these technologies.
Major improvements were made to cut interior noise, and both Charger and Coronet were given the Torsion-Quiet Ride system (which isolated the passenger compartment from road and engine noise through rubber mounts, extra padding, and other materials). Charger SE was “super quiet” with extra silencing materials.
One new option was an electronic security alarm on the 1973 Monaco and Polara; tampering with the hood, doors, or trunk lid caused the horn to pulse and the lights to flash until the ignition key was used, or the tampering ended.
A new high speed starter was used on the 360, 400, and 440 engines.
The trailer towing package allowed the Dart to pull 2,500 pounds; the Charger and Coronet to tow 6,000 pounds; and the Monaco and Polara, a stunning 7,000 pounds. That included a wiring harness, heavy duty suspension, high capacity radiator, fan shroud, coolant reserve system (soon to be standard across the board), variable-load turn signal flasher, 60-amp alternator, heavy duty rear axle (3.23:1 ratio), extra wide rims, and auxiliary tr4ansmission cooler. Buyers were required to get an automatic, power front disc brakes, and larger tires.
Dodge called the Monaco “one of the roomiest and most comfortable cars on the road regardless of price.” It included hidden headlights, stronger bumper guards, deep-pile carpeting, a cloth and vinyl seat, and fold-down center armrest. Standard features included power steering and power front disc brakes; Torqueflite automatic transmission; electric clock; armrests; simulated wood-grain door trim and dashboard panels; interior hood release; lighting package; heater-defroster with three-speed fan; two-speed concealed wipers; and wheel covers. The Monaco now came with a relatively small engine, the 360 V8, but it could be purchased with the 400 or 440 V8s. An AM/FM stereo was optional, with or without cassette player. The Brougham package included a vinyl roof, 50/50 cloth seat with passenger-side recliner, fold-down center armrest in rear seat, cornering lights, carpeted trunk, and sill moldings.
The Polara was similar, with nearly identical rear styling but a unique grille; it offered most of the features and space of the Monaco, but with a lower price tag. In a swipe at competitors’ ads, Dodge wrote: “Some cars are built for chauffeurs, diamond cutters, and handwriting experts - Polara is built for drivers like you.” They noted the independent, adjustable torsion bar springs, special rubber cushions, and quiet interior. Standard equipment was somewhat more limited, but included power steering and power front disc brakes; Torqueflite automatic transmission; armrests; cloth and vinyl front bench seat; interior hood release; faux wood trim; day/night mirror; and two-speed wipers. Powered by an economy 318 V8, the Polara could also be purchased with the 360, 400, or 440. Options were similar to the Monaco. This was the Polara’s last year.
The Charger SE took the top of the line for Chargers, with the new Torsion-Quiet Ride system and other sound deadeners; the Rallye instrument cluster; a hideaway center armrest; and a plush-looking interior.
The standard Charger had a firmer ride, but the same Torsion-Quiet system, and standard front disc brakes. Standard were an all-vinyl front bench seat (split bench for SE), dual headlights, dual horns, simulated wood, and two-speed concealed wipers. Base engines were the slant six and 318; optional were the 340, 400, and 440 engines, the 400 being available with a two or four barrel carburetor. Unlike the Monaco and Polara, the Charger could have a manual transmission, with a three-speed being base and a four-speed with Hurst shifter and pistol-grip handle optional. Power steering was optional.
Tanon Weber wrote: “The suspension redesign for 1973, advertised as being quieter than previous years and one of the quietest coupes ever, continued into the body change that occurred for 1975. Much of the unibody remained the same from 1973 through 1979 under the outside sheet metal, so suspension, drive train, and the bulk of the front part of the exhaust systems are compatible if not outright interchangeable. Some people have used parts from other bodies and years. I've put headers and polyurethane suspension bushings into my Cordoba; the headers were specifically listed for 1971 through 1974 Charger/Satellite on the info that came with them, and the bushings were the same kit that my father used on his 1973 Charger in front, the rear difference only being the front oval spring eye on the Cordoba. That Charger enjoys torsion bars, front sway bar, and 12" front rotors and caliper mounts off of a 1981 Dodge St. Regis police interceptor. (The R bodies continued to use the same suspension setup as the 1973 and newer B bodies, so factory police suspension components are sometimes in wrecking yards, and they bolt right in.)”
The Coronet was built on the same basic body as the Charger, but was only available with four doors this year, allowing the claim “Imagine, if you can, a car designed around your family. That’s just what Dodge did before it built Coronet — a car designed to be a four-door sedan and nothing else.” That was a bit of a stretch, since there had been two-door Coronets for some time, and in fact the Super Bee was based off the Coronet hardtop some years earlier; but the Coronet was now available as sedan or wagon only. (Come to think of it, if Coronet was designed to be a four door sedan and nothing else, how did they get a wagon?) As with the bigger cars, Torsion-Quiet was used, and none too soon, as the mid-sized Dodge had few other advantages over competitors. Before Torsion-Quiet, the Coronet was moderately quiet, but the suspension tended to be more jiggly than appropriate for its price, with substantial “bounce noise,” and competitors had moved forward. With Torsion-Quiet, simple though the system was, the Coronet felt much more luxurious.
Design changes for the Coronet included headlamp adjustment screws accessible without removing the headlamp or grille trim, and a better wiper blade design. Standard equipment included all vinyl front bench seats (with cloth on Custom), two-speed concealed wipers, armrests, seat spacers for height and angle adjustment, heater/defroster, dual horns, and various moldings including a drip rail. Standard engines were the slant six and 318, but the 400 V8 was available with a two or four barrel carburetor. Air conditioning was available only on V8s. Transmissions were the TorqueFlite and a three speed manual only.
For the Coronet wagon, which could actually hold a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood, the base and only engine was the 318; an all vinyl front bench seat was standard except on Crestwood, which got a split vinyl bench seat with center armrest. Other standard features were similar.
The Challenger remained for 1973 almost exactly as it had been in 1972, getting only rubber bumper guards and a revised grille insert. It started with a 318 but could get a four-barrel 340.
The Dart had a 111 inch wheelbase and torsion-bar suspension; new features for 1973 included standard electronic ignition and an optional sliding metal sunroof on two-door models.
The Dart 340 Sport, otherwise known as the Demon and Duster, kept its 340 four-barrel V8; it was still quite a hot car, with a whoping 240 net horsepower and fairly light weight. The Dart Sport had an optional utility package providing six and one half feet of carpeted cargo area with the security panel and rear seat folded down; or a capacious (especially compared with the standard Dart) trunk with everything in the normal position. Both front and rear seats folded down (except the driver's seat). An electric heated defroster was available for the rear window. The 198 slant six was still available (except in California), along with the 225 slant six; the 318 was optional except on Dart 340 Sport, for obvious reasons. The Swinger was essentially a two-door Dart with styling similar to the four-door. Standard equipment included a vinyl front seat (except Sport, Swinger Special, and Dart Custom, which got cloth and vinyl), simulated woodgrain, two-speed wipers, front armrests, deep pile carpet (except Dart and Swinger Special), dual horns on Custom and Swinger, and a heater/defroster. The base transmission was a three-speed manual, with an optional Torqueflite; the Dart 340 Sport could also have a four speed manual.
Dodge continued with a full line of vans and trucks.
The second-generation “B-vans” continued without any changes, with its standard slant six and optional 318 and 360, except for electronic ignition becoming standard on B100 and B200, and an option on the B300; and power brakes becoming standard. A new van was created, the Kary Van, with a 10 foot body and a six-foot-two-inch height for easy walking; it could have all options from the Tradesman.
The pickups now had a Club Cab option (rear wheel drive models only), which was unique for the time, adding a foot and a half of space behind the rear seat for storage; jump seats could be folded down to carry people or folded up for more storage, and windows extended along the full side of the cab for visibility. Electronic ignition was optional across the line. A tool storage compartment was available on D100 and D200 Sweptline pickups with eight foot beds. Trim levels were Custom Adventurer, Adventurer Sport, and Adventurer SE. Engines were the same as with the vans, with the 400 V8 optional on some models.
Among the big vans, the B300 (one-ton) with 127 inch wheelbase was most popular, selling over 73,000 units; overall, 414,709 trucks and vans of various sizes and shapes were made (only about 3,000 were diesel powered, a ratio that would change dramatically in the future).
The Dodge Tradesman passenger vans were still popular, with new optional front disc brakes, low-mount mirrors, camper packages, and inside hood release.
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