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    1. · Premium Member
      3,295 Posts
      The Plymouth Barracuda: First Pony (Fish?) Car

      From an article by Doug Zwick with material by Allpar and by Lanny Knutson.

      The Barracuda beat the Mustang to market by two weeks (April 1, 1964). A Valiant-based A-body from 1964 through 1969, it was replaced with the larger E-body version for 1970-74. (Development rationale and details.)

      The Valiant Barracudas (thanks, Jim Deane, for additions)

      Irving Ritchie, in the design studio, had the idea for making a sporty fastback version of the Valiant; it wasn't just a copy of the Ford Mustang, essentially the same idea applied to the Falcon, and at the same time.

      Unlike the Mustang, the 1964 Plymouh Barracuda was considered a Valiant, with a base 225 slant 6 and optional 180 horsepower (gross), 273 cubic inch V8. The V8 Barracudas would run 0-60 in 12.9 sec, and the quarter mile in 17.8 @ 72 mph, with an automatic (Car Life, July 1964). Gas mileage was 16-19. While most Valiants were sixes, 90% of buyers 1964 Barracudas were ordered with the V8.

      1964 was the only year that Barracuda had Plymouth, Valiant, and Barracuda badging. It also had the Valiant symbol used throughout instead of the later fish. Despite strong reviews for the Barracuda, the inexpensive, more clearly unique (as opposed to sedan-based) Ford Mustang outsold the Valiant model by 8:1.

      See the end of the page for 1965 specifications and a Plymouth Barracuda ad.

      By the end of the first generation (after the 1966 model year), the Commando 273 V8 - introduced in 1965 with the Formula S - was producing 235 HP. With 3.23:1 gears it would propel the Barracuda to 60 MPH in 10.3 sec, with the quarter coming up in 17.7 @ 79 MPH. (Road & Track, March 1966). Car & Driver got 0-60 in 9.1, and 1/4 mile in 17.6 @ 81 MPH (C&D, June/66). Both test cars had automatics.

      The Barracuda Formula S made a name for itself with its ability to corner better than most American (and European) cars; it provided a nice balance of acceleration and handling, with a European feel. Introduced in 1965, the Formula S had stiffer springing, front anti-roll bar, special badging, and most importantly, the 'Commando 273' engine, putting out a 'conservative' 235 hp. (Jim Deane wrote that most engine simulation programs put the Commando 273 at much higher levels.)

      Engines were the same in 1965 and 1966. The 4 speed was available from the introduction.

      Motor Trend tested an 1965 model with 3.55 gears and a 4-speed at 0-60 in 8.0 seconds, and the 1/4 mile in 16.1 @ 87 (MT, Jan/65). Though roughly the same as a 1995 Neon stick, these were excellent times for the day, when 0-60 in 12 seconds was considered pretty good (despite all those muscle cars, which were by no means what everyone drove).

      The first separate Plymouth Barracuda cars

      Deeper into the 1967 Plymouth Barracuda

      For 1967 the Barracuda was completely redesigned, and no longer shared any sheet metal with the Valiant. A coupe and convertible were added to the line. The engine bay of the A body was enlarged, so the 383 would fit (and fit it did, starting in 1967), and the 340 could be made optional in 1968. The 225 CID six would generate 0-60 times of 13.6 sec, and 1/4 mile in 19.4 @ 69.8 mph. The 273 V8 did 0-60 in 9.2 sec, quarter-mile in 16.9 @ 85.6 mph. Both test cars were automatics and 3.23:1 gears. (Car Life, March 1967)

      Because the engine bay was not that large, the 383 ended up with just 280 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, down from the 325 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque seen in the bigger Belvedere and Fury.

      The new Barracuda, the product of the design team of Plymouth Chief Stylist Dick McAdam, was Chrysler's first application of the flowing-curves style introduced by General Motors in 1965, largely because Barracuda didn't have a sedan to compromise its sporty styling. The new Barracuda seemed purposely designed for the fastback style and, in a reversal of 1964, the hardtop and convertible seemed to be afterthoughts.

      With the three body styles, Barracuda matched Mustang, which had been marketing
      hardtops, fastbacks, and convertibles since 1965. However, Plymouth decided
      not to match Mustang's long-hood-short-deck dimensions that had also been
      adopted by the new-for-1967 Cougar, Camaro and Firebird. Ironically, Plymouth had championed the long-hood/short-deck
      style on its 1960 Valiant and 1962 Plymouth, but had quickly abandoned it.

      When Barracuda finally adopted the accepted sporty car
      dimensions in 1970, its profile appeared similar to that of the 1967 Camaro
      while, in another irony, the new 1970 Camaro sported a fastback roof that
      seemed to be a direct copy from the 1967 Barracuda.

      Thus, for all its new good looks, the Barracuda suddenly seemed a bit out of style. A driver sat higher in a Barracuda than in its competitors, comfortably practical but not as sporty.

      Restrictive exhaust manifolds (due to the tight engine bay space) helped keep the 383's horsepower down to 280, compared to its 325 hp counterpart in the bigger Plymouths. (The 325 hp version apparently did become available in the Barracuda later in the model year.) The big engine left room for neither air conditioning nor the power steering that would have been especially welcome in such a front-heavy car. Changing spark plugs on a hot engine was difficult. On the other hand, a relatively stock 1968 383 Barracuda ran the quarter in 14.20 @ 100+, using 3.23:1 gears and a 4-speed (Performance for the Chrysler Car Enthusiast, March 1992).

      The 340 cubic inch engine used starting in 1968 provided the best of both worlds: relatively light weight with amazing speed. A 1969 road test clocked the 340 A-fish at 7.1 sec 0-60, and 14.93 @ 96.6 in the quarter.

      The big news for 1968 A-bodies was the Super Stock 426 Hemi package, available in the Dart and Barracuda; around 50 of the latter were produced. This was a drag race only package, featuring a race-tuned Hemi and a seriously lightened body with acid-dipped doors, Lexan in place of glass, factory delete of anything not essential to life on the drag strip (e.g. back seat, sound deadener, window cranks). Lightweight van seats on aluminum brackets were used in place of the factory bench. They had a little sticker which indicated that the car was not for use on public highways, but for "supervised acceleration trials" only. It ran the quarter in the mid 10s in '68. Today [well, in the mid-1990s, when this paragraph was written], these cars dominate the top NHRA Super Stock classes (SS/A and SS/AA), and have broken into the eights! (Mopar Muscle Apr/94, Mopar Action Dec/93, Mopar Action Apr/94, Chrysler Power Mar/94). Spaulding Dodge also produced some 440 Barracudas in 1968, but these weren't true factory packages, even if they did masquerade as a "dealer installed option."

      Closer look at Rich Rinisland's 1969 Plymouth Barracuda.

      1969 saw the first appearance of the 'Cuda designation for a performance Barracuda package. A limited number of 440 Darts and Barracudas were produced. Car Life tested the 'Cuda 440 at 0-60 in 5.6 sec, and 14.0 @ 103 in the quarter mile. They were disappointed; they just couldn't get the car to hook up, it kept spinning the tires instead of racing down the track. (Car Life, June/69). Another period road test, reprinted in Musclecar magazine, backs up the 14-flat quarters, but they also tried it with ten-inch slicks, and ran low 12s. Modern street tires are better than those slicks ...

      The final Barracudas kept numerous reminders of their Valiant roots, in their basic exterior dimensions and dashboard shape, as well as a considerable amount of small hardware, but they were differentiated far enough that casual buyers would probably not see the similarities. Their place as "sporty Valiants" was taken over by the much more successful Plymouth Duster; while their name was applied to a much bigger car, one that could easily handle a 426 Hemi or 440 Six-Pack. Those Plymouth Barracudas or 'Cudas are in the next section... (click here)
      1970-74 Plymouth Barracuda and 'Cuda
      Dodge Challenger2016 SRT Barracuda?


      Hot rod builder George Poteet piloted his 1969 Blowfish Barracuda, powered by a Mopar 4-cylinder Midget engine and a Mopar Performance P5 Hemi head, to a new record in the Blown Fuel Competition Coupe/Sedan Class F with a run of 255.7 mph in August 2006. The pass bettered the previous record of 230 mph, set in 1990, by 25 mph.

      The Blowfish Barracuda project was first conceived during the 2004 Autorama in Detroit by Poteet and fellow car builder Troy Trepanier. Trepanier, along with his father Jack, built the car at their shop, Rad Rides by Troy, based in Illinois. Dodge Motorsports engineer Terry Dekoninck worked on aerodynamics with the group, with Mopar Performance engineer Jim Szilagyi also helping on the build as designer of the Mopar 4-cylinder Midget engine used in the 1969 Barracuda.

      The group, certain the record would fall entering the event, decided to run the car conservatively at about 950 horsepower but was confident another 500 horsepower could be added with slight modifications, enabling the Blowfish to run in the 280-plus mph range.

      Barracuda feedback and reviews

      1968 Barracuda 340-S (Steve Kokkins)

      I owned a blue 1968 Barracuda 340-S fastback from 1969 thru 1974. It had a 4-speed stick, 4-barrel Carter carb, a posi rear end, manual steering (!), and no A/C. I can personally attest to the great combination of decent handling (even with the Red Line stock tires) and power, although by modern standards it was fairly nose-heavy. Much better than the 383 which my buddy owned. I live in the Boston metro area, bought the car w/15K on it from Post Motors, a defunct Watertown MA Mopar dealer for about $2800.

      The manual steering was very heavy for parking and the clutch was heavy also (needed to transmit the torque, which was prodigious.) I had to sell it when I developed kneecap tendon problems from too-zealous workout squats, and could not use the clutch for any length of time. The gas crisis of '73 was a factor too. It required premium fuel. I miss it dearly today, and I regret selling it 35 years ago with 85,000 on it (for $600, and it needed work at the time).

      One thing not mentioned in your tech info was that it had a dual point distributor which wasn't easy (at least for me) to set up. One set determined the opening, and the other the closing; the dual points were needed, I think, to get enough current thru the coil. I still have some of the N9Y Champion plugs for it. I put on transistorized ignition to extend point life, although the rubbing blocks wore, requiring re-timing each year.

      In the snow (weekend ski runs up to Vermont), studded snow tires were needed on all four corners. Back then, you could get studded front winter tires, which did not have the huge aggressive tread of the rears, so handling on drier roads was not too scary. I remember some coming out like pistol shots at 85 mph, but it was the usual rear-drive muscle car in its behavior, which required a sensible attitude. I had just started being a pilot then (still am, with the geezer part of the US Coast Guard), so a little snakiness in the handling at speed was valuable for developing a light touch on the controls. We slept in it too, folding the seats down. I was in SCCA driving a Turner GT in D-Production, so it towed the race car trailer fine.

      1969 Barracuda 383 (Darrell Walls )

      I'm 60 years old and the only new car I ever bought was a 1969 Barracuda Coupe with a 383 and 4 speed with 323 gears. I out run most every thing I run except one 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440. With his automatic trans he pulled me about a half car link and we stayed that way up to around 140 to 145 mph; we ran out of road and that was the only loss my Cuda ever handed me. Pound for pound, this was one hell-of-a-ride. I kept it 36 months and like a nut thought I needed something different. The only thing I ever did performance wise was to put a set of Mickey Thompson Super Scavenger headers on it. It was already fast, but this really helped, at least I thought it did. It also was a Formula S.


      Brakes were drum for each year, with front discs optional. The front suspension was torsion-bar; the rear was leaf-spring.

      1965 (A body)1968 (A body)1971 (E body)
      Headroom F/R38.5 / 36.837.4 / 35.837.4 / 35.7
      Legroom F/R40.6 / 31.141.7 / 30.242.3 / 28.9
      Hiproom F/R56.9 / 56.4
      Seat Height F/R7.8 / 10.37.3 / 9.7
      Max Tread55.957.4
      Height53.5 - 53.852.650.9
      Plymouth Barracuda Engines (1964-65)

      Engine225273273 Commando
      Horsepower (gross)145 @ 4,000180 @ 4,200235 @ 5,200
      Torque (lb-ft)215 @ 2,400260 @ 1,600280 @ 4,000
      Compression ratio8.4:18.8:110.51
      Bore x stroke3.40 x 4.1253.625 x 3.313.625 x 3.31
      NoteChosen by 90% of
      buyers in 1964
      Not available in 1964
      0-6012.9 (auto, 2.73:1)
      Quarter mile17.8 @ 72 mph
      (auto, 2.73:1)
      Plymouth Barracuda Engines (1968)

      Engine size225318340383
      Horsepower (gross)145 @ 4,000230 @ 4,400275 @ 5,000300 @ 4,200
      Torque (lb-ft)215 @ 2,400340 @ 2,400340 @ 3,200425 @ 3,200
      Compression ratio8.4:19.2:110.5:110.0:1

      1970-74 Plymouth Barracuda and 'CudaDodge Challenger
      Barracuda Books

      Page updated/fixed David Zatz, January 18, 2021


    1. · Premium Member
      3,295 Posts
      The big E-body Plymouth Barracuda and Cuda: Plymouth's Challenger

      From an article by Doug Zwick with material by Allpar and by Lanny Knutson.

      The original Plymouth Barracuda was based on the little Valiant. Despite fine handling, it did not sell well; and the engine bay could barely hold a 340 V8, much less the huge 440.

      In 1965, Chrysler started working on a new version of the Barracuda, with the Plymouth Duster to replace it as the "sporty Valiant." Designer Carl Cameron refined the brand new Barracuda for some time, and, by 1968, they were building prototypes of what would be the 1970 cars.

      The E-body Plymouth Barracuda was created by merging A and B body components to fashion a sporty, attractive car that could handle any engine Chrysler had; some sources claim the suspension itself was designed by Bob Bachelor, adapted from one of the turbine cars.

      The new Barracuda was nearly the opposite of the original, capable of fitting a 440 or 426 Hemi, but not providing the same sports-car cornering as the older models.

      The Barracuda and Challenger design story

      by Diran Yazejian

      It was a Saturday during the summer of 1967. In the Dodge studio, Elwood Engel was happy with the Challenger proposal designed by Carl Cameron and okayed it to go into the theme approval the following Monday.

      Elwood then reviewed four body sides of the Plymouth Barracuda. He didn't like any of them. He pointed to four people and said, and I paraphrase, "We're coming in tomorrow (Sunday) to design a car." They were Milt Antonick, designer; Nick O'Shea, Jack Avoledo, and one other modeler whose name escapes me. On Monday morning, the body side of the '70 Barracuda, as we know it today, was ready for theme approval.

      The world will continue think of it as John Herlitz's design and legacy and so be it, but he wasn't even in the building on that Sunday.

      John understood and mastered form and surface development like no one else. He obviously did a great deal of refinement, and designed the front end and maybe the rear. I can't say enough about him as a designer and a gentleman.

      To have a launch in time for the 1970 model year, all parties agreed to pull-ahead the 1971 B body dash (firewall) and related components, already designed in engineering, which set the body width, cowl height, windshield shape, and belt height for the Barracuda and Challenger. [written later, in April 2016]

      In the Spring of 1968, both John Herlitz and I were promoted to Studio Manager level on the same day, he in Plymouth and I in Dodge, which made us eligible to lease company vehicles ordered per our specifications. For 1970, I ordered and leased a Challenger RTSE coupe with a 440 6-Pack, Plum Crazy with a red stripe on the rear. John leased a Barracuda convertible, triple black, 426 Hemi with a four speed trans. This is the car everyone is going crazy about today.

      At the end of the year, we turned in the old lease and picked up the new lease cars, '71s. My new one was a Charger and John's a Satellite, which he did design. With that, the Barracuda went to, who knows where, probably the auction! Remember, during that time nobody wanted performance cars.

      In the fall of 1969, the nearly identical 1970 Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger were introduced; the Dodge was two inches longer in wheelbase than the Plymouth. Both were made in hardtop and convertible versions. The E-bodies had a huge range of powerplants - from the slant six engine to the 426 Street Hemi, with just about every other engine in between, and a choice of four-speed sticks and tough three-speed TorqueFlite automatics.

      The 340 engine pushed out 275 hp (gross) and 340 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm; the 340 Six Pack (triple two-barrel Carter carburetors) had the muscle of bigger engines with lower weight, helping traction and cornering.

      The 383 was up to 335 gross horsepower standard. Buyers could also get the legendary Hemi (425 hp), the 440 Magnum (375 hp with a single four-barrel carb), and the Hemi-challenging 440 Six Pack, with three two-barrel carburetors (390 gross hp and a stunning 480 lb-ft of torque at a very low 2,300 rpm).

      With the 340 engine, the 'Cuda seemed perfect for Trans Am racing, but the package didn't work as well as they had planned; traction remained an issue, and the AAR 'Cudas, though acid-dipped and weight-reduced, didn't remain in production long. (A small number were sold to the public, with reportedly poor worksmanship.) Tom Murden mentioned that the Plymouth 'Cuda was an inch too short for Can-Am, so the Challenger, being two inches longer, was raced there.

      A heavy duty TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission was standard on the 440s and Hemi engines, with a four-speed manual (boasting a Hurst pistol-grip shifter and bulletproof Dana 60 rear axle) as an option; the TorqueFlite could outrun the manual.

      A limited slip differential, which would be a coveted feature, was optional, but a heavy duty suspension was standard across the R/T line. Even the Hemi was given 15-inch 60-series tires, which today are reserved for economy cars and family sedans.

      The dual-scoop hood pushed air into the engine bay, rather than forcing it into the engine; for that, you need the "shaker" hood, which was essentially an attachment to the air cleaner that protruded through the hood.

      For 1971, the Barracuda got a new grille designed to suggest barracuda fish teeth; both the E-bodies had quad headlights. Simulated chrome inset louvers suggested gills. The rear lights were modified, and large, flat-black decals covering most of the rear quarter panels, with engine size callouts on the doors, were optional; the shaker hood scoop was available on all 'Cuda models ('Cuda was a separate name for high-performance Barracudas).

      1971 ended up being the last year for the Barracuda convertible, with just 1,385 sales. Production was much more disappointing than in 1970, faling from 54,800 to 18,690.

      In 1972, horsepower ratings fell, and the various B engines disappeared; the 318 became the standard engine on all models with the 340 optional. Electronic ignition became available as an option.

      1973 Plymouth Barracudas

      by Lanny Knutson. Copyrighted by the Plymouth Bulletin. Reprinted by permission. Abridged from this original article.

      There were few visible differences between 1972 and 1973 Barracudas: the side marker light positions were slightly changed, a 'Cuda body-side stripe had a flat bottom edge, and there were impact-absorbing black rubber bumper guards. The latter didn't detract much from the lines of the original thin-line bumpers. But then, they didn't offer much extra protection either, except in head (or tail-) on situations.

      There were just two engines, the 318 standard engine in both the Barracuda and 'Cuda, and a detuned 340 optional in both. Included with the 340 was a non-functional twin scoop hood. It could also could be ordered with a flat black pattern treatment.

      Bucket seats were standard. A console and the Rallye Cluster instrument panel remained options. Standard 'Cuda (and 340) features were the scooped hood, heavy duty suspension, large tires, and a 7-blade Torquefan. It seems only 'Cudas got a body color grille and a black rear valence panel, and, if you wanted all the high-performance appearance features and suspension with a 318 engine, you could get them only if you ordered a 'Cuda.

      Although greatly downplayed from its splashy 1970 introduction, the Barracuda-Cuda series rebounded to a 22,213 sales total, up from the 18,450 sold in 1972 but less than half the 55,499 1970 total.

      The third-generation concept car, and the four-door concept

      Chad Imthurn wrote that the 1980s concept Cuda was in Mopar Collectors Guide. Two cars were made with rear window louvers and ground effect kits from the Shelby Chargers. Both cars were used for a driving school after they were done.

      The guys who created the 'Cuda drove it around Chrysler HQ and everbody liked it except for ... Carroll Shelby. He didn't like the idea of Plymouth making their own version of the Shelby Charger; he said it would take away the specialness of owning a Shelby Charger. Since Chrysler didn't want to offend Shelby this early in their relationship, the Cuda was dropped.

      Special 'Cuda

      Buzz Graves wrote: "I bought a 1970 U-code 'Cuda, built at the Los Angeles plant on 6-09-69, B5 blue with B5 interior, split bench seat with armrest, rubber front bumper, power everything, and A/C. It has the California Noise Reduction package, Six-Pack torsion bars, and even 440-6 emblems on the hood. ... it was original paint and where one emblem was removed, you could see the outline of 44-6.

      It had a "warranty motor" in it with no VIN stampings and the dimple on the side of the block where the metal tag usually goes on a warranty motor. It didn't have the original intake or carb. When we lifted the cover, I saw the HP2 stamping, external balancer, 6 quart oil pan, and the original six pack rods, pistons, and cam. It's stamped 5-9-69 on the block and the heads match the numbers.

      We discovered a green engineering change tag that had some faded writing ... we even gave it to a specialist at the police forensics lab. The result is we can see a date of 5/9/69, a 3x2 in the change box with some other number.

      Could it have been a specially changed car from the factory?

      What about the four-door Barracuda, whose photos have been shown around the Internet, and claims that four-doors were seen driving around Highland Park back in the 1970s? Designer Diran Yazejian wrote in April 2016,

      I have never seen nor heard of a 4 door 1970 E bodied Barracuda on paper, clay, sketch, or on a loading dock at Highland Park headquarters (if so, word of it would have spread like wild-fire) or any other form.

      I was a designer in the Dodge Exterior studio (from 1962 to 1972) during the time when the E-body was designed in 1967. There never even was any talk of a four door. Back then, it would be absurd to even propose or sketch one. Pony car coupes and convertibles were hot; sedans cold; and Chrysler was late getting into it. There was barely enough time for a pair of coupes and convertibles much less a sedan that nobody wanted anyway.
      First generation Barracuda

      AAR 'Cuda

      The AAR 'Cuda was an option package for the public to allow racing in Trans Am. A thousand cars, as required, were built and sold to the public. Ed Poplawski provided the following Product Planning letter, which was used to create the 'Cuda Trans Am (AAR 'Cuda).

      Plymouth Barracuda Specifications

      Brakes were drum for each year, with front discs optional. The front suspension was torsion-bar; the rear was leaf-spring.

      1965 (A body)1968 (A body) 1971 (E body)
      Headroom F/R 38.5 / 36.8 37.4 / 35.8 37.4 / 35.7
      Legroom F/R40.6 / 31.1 41.7 / 30.2 42.3 / 28.9
      Hiproom F/R 56.9 / 56.4
      Seat Height F/R 7.8 / 10.3 7.3 / 9.7
      Wheelbase 106.0108 108.0
      Max Tread 55.957.4
      Length188.2 192.8 186.6
      Height53.5 - 53.852.6 50.9
      Plymouth Barracuda Engines (1971)

      Engine size 225318340
      Horsepower (gross)110 @ 4,000 155 @ 4,o00 240 @ 4,800
      Torque (lb-ft) 185 @ 2,000 260 @ 1,600 290 @ 3,600
      Compression ratio 8.4:18.6:18.5:1
      Barracuda Books

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    1. · Premium Member
      3,295 Posts
      The 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger

      by Kelly Doke and the Allpar staff

      See Challenger T/A and Challenger R/T

      1964 was a important time in the Challenger's history, though the car had not yet been created. John Z. Delorean converted the Tempest into the GTO, a car that had young buyers flocking to Pontiac to get their own high-octane-burning cheap thrills. Then, in April, rivals from Dearborn unveiled the Mustang at the World's Fair, grabbing attention and sales despite Plymouth quietly beating them to the punch, weeks earlier, with the Barracuda.

      In terms of power, Dodge was no slouch that year. Tom Hoover's brainchild, the 426 Hemi, loosely based on the 426 Max Wedge, dominated Daytona and much of the NASCAR season. To Lynn Townsend's chagrin (or perhaps to his credit), a few 330s with Hemi power were clandestinely let loose on Woodward.

      It didn't take a marketing analyst to figure out that the children of the baby boomers were becoming financially aware, and the proliferation of Mustangs and GTOs on the streets were proof of that. Chrysler had to make a move, and make one fast. Thus, in 1968, Plymouth launched the popular Road Runner, which took off like wildfire. Still, some believe they needed a small, lithe, agile compact, much like the "Panther" project GM was cooking up. While the Valiant and Dart had athletic aspirations, they were no match for the Camaro and Firebird.

      A sporty car based on the Dart and Valiant (as the Barracuda had been, and the Duster would be) could be perfect. Burton Bouwkamp, product planner, wrote that, in 1967, 1.5 million specialty compacts were predicted for 1970; and Chrysler predicted market penetration of 15%, for 225,000 cars per year. They could, based on those projections, easily make 200,000 Challengers and Barracudas, perfect for plant scheduling.

      Clay models for the new "pony car" started taking shape, literally, in 1967. Late 1968, Bill Brownlie and Carl Cameron's mockups looked almost production ready. Roger Struck (Dart/Challenger Product Planner in 1967) wrote,

      I was in the styling studio one day when Elwood Engle (VP of design) was reviewing the exterior design of the "'E' Body" Challenger clay model. Elwood suggested to Bill Brownlie (Dodge design chief) that the main character line along the side of the model (I think we called it the "B" line) was a little low and to bring it up so it didn't have a dragging appearance.
      In 1968, another event altered the course of the Challenger's evolution. Over at General Motors, Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen had, years earlier, imposed a moratorium on engines larger than 400 cubic inches in the mid-sized (A-Body) model range, along with a ban in official factory participation in motorsports. That year, Pandora's Box was opened with the end of that moratorium, and a 455 cubic inch V8 appeared on the option list for the Cutlass 442. Others followed: Camaros with 427s, Mustangs with 428s.

      This was a new problem for Chrysler. The new pony car was only intended to have the 383 as the largest engine (the most the Barracuda could handle), but still remain based on the A-body, as the Barracuda was (the Barracuda itself could only barely handle the 383, and most reviewers preferred the lighter 340). 716 pounds of Detroit pig iron up front in the form of the Hemi wouldn't translate well for a platform based on agility. Chrysler had seen its share of headaches in the Hurst Hemi Darts and Barracudas, and even in the 440 Darts and Valiants. A big motor in a small car, on the manufacturing scale that Chrysler needed, wasn't feasible. Again, to quote Burton Bouwkamp:

      The original form was the Barracuda derived from an A Body. We had
      experience with that approach and knew that we could not get a competitive
      sporty proportion and B engine options with an A Body plarform. The B engine option forced a wider car. Also we had to add width
      for provision for bigger wheels/tires. The additional width helped
      appearance but of course it added weight and cost.
      The new car would have to use the B-body cowl (radiator core support to firewall), and most of the underpinnings of the larger cars.
      The E-body tag reflected current Chrysler Corp. body styles: the compacts were As, mid-size to large were B, and C and D were reserved for oversized Chrysler models. [Challenger creation stories]

      In terms of safety, Challenger and Barracuda alone got a new energy-absorbing steering column, added roof rollover protection, crash-resistant inner door beams, and safer latch strikers and door handles.

      The 1970 Dodge Challenger arrives

      Friday, August 1, 1969 saw a fervor of excitement at Line One and Line Two at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. While numerous plants around the country were producing new 1970 Plymouths, Dodges, Chryslers, and Imperials, Dodge Main was, for the moment, the only one constructing the all-new Challenger and its platform sibling, the Barracuda. (Van Nuys Plant in Los Angeles would begin weeks later.)

      The new Dodge pony car rode on a 111-inch wheelbase, while the high-strung 'Cuda had a shorter 108 inches, spindle to axle. The cars shared some parts, glass, underpinnings, and interior trim pieces, but were still unique to each other. The Challenger had enough options, trim packages, and colors (18, including the Hi-Impact colors that added $14.70 to the bottom line) for the most discerning consumer. With styling echoing the contemporary Chevrolet Camaro, and with the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird market segment in its crosshairs, this car was envisioned for "The Peformance Guy Who Is Married With Two Kids."

      At Dodge Main, the Challengers were built on two dedicated lines, the R/T models, and convertibles would be built on line 1, along with any big block specialty cars. Line Two would see any Challenger (non-R/T, 383 engine and smaller) that didn't have a big motor or no top built alongside six cylinder Darts, 318 Chargers, and Coronet sedans. A quick check of a fender tag will annotate that by a "LN1 or LN2" on the fender tag.

      On the outside, the Challenger featured new, flush pull-up door handles, a new interior door lock recessed in the armrest, and high-back bucket seats with built in head restraints, or bench seats with folding center armrests in the Hardtop. Paint schemes included the colors Plum Crazy, HEMI Orange, and accented "bumblebee stripes." Door glass had no vents and was curved. Roger Struck wrote:

      Colin Neale (chief of interior design) loved the sculptured look of the plastic molded door trim panels. He said he would "soften" the hard touch of the molded panel with a textured surface. Well, it was still hard---texture or no ... it had a cost advantage as well as the 3-D freedom of a molded part, but it was unfriendly to the touch and had no sound dampening quality and, therefore exaggerated any rattles in the door.
      Burton Bouwkamp added, "The polypropylene material was unstable and every door panel was a little different dimensionally which made a problem for Car Assembly. The material was flexible so the assembler could force it to fit."

      Optional on Special Edition was an overhead console with low-fuel, door-ajar, and seat-belt lights. Seats could be manually tilted and moved fore and aft, or up and down; they were counterbalanced with springs to make movement easier. A stereo tape player, cruise control, rear defogger, power windows, headlight delay, and other luxury items were optional. Safety precautions included a collapsible steering column, two-piece door impact beam, and a box-section roll bar.

      A Slap-Stik Shift Gate was sold with the console-mounted TorqueFlite; 60-series tires were on 15 inch wheels, fairly aggressive for the time, as long as you got an engine beyond the non-Magnum 383 (such as the 340 or 383 Magnum); the 225, 318, and 383 non-Magnum engines came with 14 inch wheels. Tires (fiberglass belted) ranged from E78 to F60 (Hemi only). Wheels were 5.5 inches wide, except for the 340 and Hemi, whose wheels were 7 inches wide.

      The Challenger R/T started with a 383 cubic inch V8, with a 9.5:1 compression ratio and 335 gross hp at 5,200 rpm; torque was 425 lb-ft at 3,400 rpm. The premium-fuel-only powerplant had a single four-barrel Holley carb, hydraulic lifters, overhead rocker arms, and dual, reverse-flow mufflers.

      The standard transmission was a three-speed floor shift with a 2.55:1 first, 1.49:1 second, and 1:1 third; cam timing was 268° intake duration, 284° exhaust duration. Heavy duty drum brakes were standard, along with a rallye instrument cluster (including tachometer, trip odometer, variable speed wipers, 150 mph speedometer, and oil pressure gauge); a bumblebee stripe or longitudinal tape stripe were optional, at no extra cost. Vinyl bucket seats with head restraints and a 3-spoke "simulated walnut" steering wheel helped complete the package (Rick Ehrenberg of Mopar Action noted that these tend to wear out relatively quickly).

      Safety features included dual channel brakes, padded instrument panel, day/night rearview mirror (standard on R/T), seat belts in all positions, and an energy absorbing steering column.

      According to a contemporary brochure, legendary record-setting drag racer Don Garlits said:

      They watched the whole pony car thing develop, then built their own super-tough version... the Challenger R/T. Compact like a Dart. Wide like a Charger. Just the right size for anyone who likes his own personalized backyard bomb. Dodge should sell a million of 'em. Challenger and especially Challenger R/T are young people's cars with young persons' price tags."
      Los Angeles-built cars only had one line at the plant in Van Nuys, so a big block R/T could be built in sequence after a Dart Sedan. No Hemi or Six Pack cars came from the Los Angeles plant, due to the extra chassis work necessary for those cars.

      A special Hemi Challenger Convertible, the first off the line, was converted into the Dodge Yellowjacket, making the car show circuit for the 1969 season. Painted a honey-gold color, it showcased styling elements for future offerings.

      The grille of the car was a harbinger for the '71 model year cars, with a distant rear panel treatment of the '72-'74 cars, and a targa type roof, with fully-faired headrests that stylistically flowed into the rear decklid, much like the Jaguar E-type of the fifties and the Thunderbird roadsters of the early sixties. At the New York and Los Angeles Shows, a beautiful woman was displayed with the car, wearing as little as possible in that era, and served as a living canvas. Passerby could draw on her with markers to their heart's content. The car was largely overlooked. It would reappear the next year as the Dodge Diamante, and thanks to a scratch recieved somewhere between shows, it was now a pearl white.

      The second incarnation of the car would have taillights that would be directly duplicated on the '72-'74 cars, and an aerodynamic rubber-coated nose, much like the Elastomeric bumpered cars of the era, along with pop-up headlights. Steven Juliano owns the Diamante now, and it has been restored to its 1970 show season status.

      When the Challenger hit showroom floors in the fall, Chrysler expected to send 200,000 units to new homes, so all aspects of the market had been covered, with the low end Deputy Coupe, the bread-and-butter Highline coupes, sizzling hot convertibles, the agile T/A, the posh Special Editions, and the pulse-quickening R/Ts, with two 440s, a stout 383, and the coveted 426 Hemi. These cars were the first in the industry to utilize injection-molded plastic interior panels, and T/As were also the first in the industry to utilize different sized tires on the front and rear axles.

      1970 Dodge Challenger models

      For 1970, there were numerous Dodge Challenger models, from the low-end (late-introduction) Deputy to the limited-edition top-end T/A, with the luxury SE and hot R/T in between. The company was planning on 200,000 sales, and the wide range of models reflected that.


      The model year had started out with the Challenger Highline, JH23, and unlike the Deputy, it was available in almost every trim and luxury option. The base engine was the humble slant six, but the "starter" V8 was the 340, producing a rated 275 hp (gross) and 340 lb-ft of torque at a low 3,200 rpm.

      Western Sport Special (WSS)

      One unique package was the Western Sport Special. The WSS cars were based on the Challenger Highline, and had small block power, pedal dress up-kit, a vinyl top, and the requisite Western Sport Special Appliqué on the rear quarter panel. These cars were available only to the San Francisco and Los Angeles sales regions, and it was accepted that WSS cars were built at the Los Angeles plant, recently, a handful of 340-powered cars with the documented WSS option were found, having been built at the Hamtramck plant.

      One Challenger Trans Am is known that also had the Western Sport Special badging. The T/A cars had a lot of the pre-existing WSS options (pedal dress-up kit, vinyl top), and it was originally an East Coast car, so it is a very likely story that a dealer installed the WSS decals to move the car off the lot.

      Dodge Challenger Deputy

      The Deputy was a lower priced package, and these cars were very spartan, coming from Hamtramck and Van Nuys devoid of amenities such as air conditioning, power steering or brakes; the JH21 and JL21 Deputies also used base Barracuda seats. Some of the rarest Challengers that year were the 383 3 speed challenger Deputies, with examples numbering in the single digit territory.

      1970 Dodge Challenger SE

      The Special Edition Challenger, JS23 and JS29 for R/Ts, was a separate model, denoted by the second character in the VIN (The Deputies had "L" for low, Highlines had "H"), S for special. The most obvious difference was the "Formal" or smaller rear window, meant to emulate a limousine's back glass. A fiberglass plug was placed over the rear window, and covered up by a vinyl top.

      SE cars had a velour headliner (non-SE cars had a standard headliner, with fabric and bows), and an SE-only overhead consolette, that had warning lights for low fuel and open door. SE and R/T SEs also had leather seating unique to that series, and a "credit-option" of leather seats with fabric inserts. Opting for these seats meant a credit could be utilized towards another option. The Special Edition would be discontinued for the 1971 season, but the vinyl-covered roof with the smaller window would continue as the A78 formal roof option.

      Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger T/A

      See our separate page on the hot 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger T/A.

      1970 Challenger in review

      Beetween the falloff in the market, hot competition from the company's own Duster and Road Runner, and criticism of the cars' dynamics, 1970 Challenger sales were disappointing. There was a tremendous irony there, because two alternative approaches to the same project succeeded wildly, on far smaller budgets.

      The Valiant Charger, Australia's low-budget project which also combined A and B body components, was a wild success, albeit in a smaller market. Valiant Charger may not have worked in the US: the hottest engine was a hemispherical-head, triple-two-barrel carb six. But the other ironic success was a more modest project even than the Valiant Charger: the 1970 Plymouth Duster was merely a fastback Valiant, and with its 340, it was the performance bargain of the year. Challenger and Valiant Charger were both made by combining A and B bodies; Duster was still a pure A-body, with the same semi-formal Valiant front end, yet sales were in the hundreds of thousands.

      Meanwhile, in 1970, Chrysler sold 53,337 standard Challengers; 6,584 SEs; 3,173 convertibles; a bit over 1,000 T/As; and 19,938 R/Ts (including convertibles and SEs). In all, 83,032 Challengers were sold; 60% had the base V8, and nearly 90% had automatics. Styled wheels were more popular than big engines; and the slant six seems to have outsold Hemi and 440 Six-Pack combined, easily. As Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

      ...the compact specialty car market leveled
      off below 1,000,000 cars per year and our E body sales never hit even
      100,000 per year. We lost money (unhappy management) and we did not build
      the cars well (unhappy customers). 1970-1974 Barracudas and Challengers are
      admired and collected today but 35 years ago they were seen as problems..
      And how did the ironic companion to the Challenger/Barracuda fare? Plymouth sold 217,192 Dusters in 1970, their first year. Though Duster fell somewhat in 1971, sales would then rise every year to a peak in 1974 with 250,000 sold (in 1975 and 1976, the Volare/Aspen cut Duster sales dramatically - but even in 1975 it outsold Challenger's peak).

      Dodge Challenger 1970-711973-74
      Width x Height 76.1 x 50.9 76.4 x 50.9
      Track (max) 60.760.7
      Headroom, F/R 37.4 / 35.6* 37.4 / 35.6
      Legroom, F/R 42.3/30.942.3/30.9
      58.1 / 56.8
      Base tiresF70 x 14 (6 x 14)7.35 x 14
      Battery46 amp-hour
      Alternator41 amp41 amp
      Trunk capacity8.6 cubic feet8.6 cubic ft
      318 axle ratio, manual3.23:13.23:1
      318 axle ratio, auto2.76; 3.23 opt2.76; 3.23 opt.
      Curb weight2,970 - 3,336
      * Hardtop headroom: 38.2/36.4; shoulder: 56.2/56.8
      1971 Dodge Challengers

      For 1971, planners looked at the 1970 sales and simplified the range slightly, otherwise largely leaving Challenger and Barracuda intact. They added in the 340 V8, a lightweight but powerful engine that gave serious performance without hurting agility; with the 340 in the line, the U-code 440 four-barrel was dropped. The 383 was detuned to 300 hp and was only available with the R/T; and the 440 Six-Pack was now 5 hp lower.

      The visible changes for were switching from a single tail lamp design ub 1970 to two distinct lights in 1971; and using a new twin-inlet grille, painted silver on standard models and black on R/Ts, which also got fiberglass quarter-panel louvers.

      The slow-selling ragtop R/T was not available, but a few savvy buyers optioned 340 non-R/T hardtops and ragtops with the Go-Wing, Shaker, Rallye Gauge Cluster, and the side stripes that mimiced the R/T versions. The 1971 340 R/T, like 1970's A40 340 performance Challengers (often badged as R/Ts), had a tachometer with a higher redline than their big block bretheren. By the same token, you could order a 340 R/T look-alike with a shaker and a go-wing, and most of the R/T paraphernalia, without the higher insurance premiums.

      The 1971 SE's back window grew to normal size. The Challenger Deputy, a low-cost version with fixed rear side glass and a 198 slant six, joined the base, SE, and R/T models.

      1971 Dodge Challenger pace carSales were dramatically lower in 1971, despite being the Indy 500 pace car - or perhaps because the pace car crashed into the press box. Production was a mere 30,000 units or so, and the R/T - again, the only car to feature the 383 and 440 - sold just 4,630 units.

      The writing was clearly on the wall; the older Charger was easily outselling Challenger, as was Dart Swinger (which cleared 100,000 units in 1971). Over at Plymouth, they sold over 14,000 Road Runners - a dress-up and performance-enhancement package on top of the standard Satellite - as well as 173,592 Dusters (not including 12,886 Duster 340s and over 48,000 similar Scamps). Plymouth wasn't doing much better with their version of the Challenger, a shorter-wheelbase design called the Barracuda: for 1971, they sold fewer than 20,000 of the cars.

      1971 Dodge Challenger T/A: did it exist?

      It appears that the T/A was dropped before model year 1971, but a former factory employee reported that around thirty Challenger Trans Ams were converted from 340 R/Ts (four-barrel version) for the 1971 season, before Dodge pulled out of SCCA. The thirty cars were then converted back to R/Ts.

      To add fuel to the '71 T/A debate, the ad of the Top Banana 1971 T/A in the rain appeared in Motor Trend in late 1970, looking suspiciously like the rainy day ad for a Top Banana 1970 T/A. The reader can draw their own conclusions of the validity of the 1971 T/A's existence. Expert airbrush work (such as the 426 Hemi hood badging in the "No Shrinking Violet" 1970 R/T ragtop ad, an in-violet 383 automatic) was a signature of the advertising department back then.

      1972-1974 Dodge Challengers

      In 1972, there were big changes as a newly struggling Chrysler Corporation dealt with its miscalculations and a failing muscle-car market (failing, among other things, because of the value inherent in the big-engined compacts, and because of rapidly rising insurance premiums).

      A few 1971 Challengers were converted into 1972 convertibles for the T.V. Show "Medical Center" starring Chad Everett.

      The R/T, convertible, and SE vanished, along with the 440 Six-Pack, Hemi, and 383; and the clean grilles of 1970-71 were replaced by the more aggressive "sad faced" grille. The Challenger Rallye was launched to replace all the slow-selling power models of the past. The power leader was now the 240-hp (net) 340, and the 318 (150 hp) was a more realistic base engine than the slant six (which was still around for 1972, but not 1973.) The changes were not enough, or went in the wrong direction, and production was down to just over 26,000 units.

      The sunroof, offered as an option for just over $400, became a popular alternative to the convertible. The larger "egg-crate" grille was painted argent for standard Challengers, and black on the Challenger Rallye model. The Rallye model was also equipped with four small scoops on the front fenders.

      1973 brought huge bumper guards and lost the slant six and gunmetal grey color but gained the new 360 (245 hp net). Production rose to nearly 33,000. As noted, the 318 was now standard, as were vinyl front bucket seats with headrests; a floor-mounted 3-speed manual transmission; front and rear ashtrays; heater/defroster; day/night mirror; concealed two-speed wipers; dual horns; various mouldings; and energy-absorbing steering column. Those who wanted a passenger side mirror had to pay for it.

      In 1974, there were two engine choices: the 318 and somewhat more powerful 360, which was only available in 1974; it replaced the 340, which ended in 1973. The lap and shoulder belts were equipped with an inertial reel. A generally disliked, single-year feature was the federally mandated seatbelt-ignition interlock. Production was a mere 16,000 units.

      Challenger production ceased in 1974, a choked incarnation of what ruled Woodward Avenue in the early part of that decade. The name was resurrected in the late seventies for a Mitsubishi built compact; and in 2008 for a visual clone of the original, the new Dodge Challenger. Ironically, the new version sales seemed to hover around those of the 1971 Challenger.

      1970-74 Dodge Challenger retrospective

      In its short life, the Challenger turned out to be one of the best-looking cars produced in the muscle era, and is today highly sought after. A 1970 Challenger R/T starred in the film Vanishing Point, a high-speed pursuit movie that has become a cult favorite among muscle car fans. 1970 Dodge Challengers also made appearances on the big screen, in movies such as Used Cars, Natural Born Killers, and Phantasm I and II. They were also seen in television shows such as The Mod Squad.

      Challenger sales were never satisfying for Chrysler, which had invested quite a bit in the Challenger and Barracuda - rather than in the A-body. Buyers found the interior space to be small for what was a fairly large car, critics slammed the handling, and the muscle-car market dried up rapidly with insurance company premium hikes and, later, gas shortages. The car had far too much overlap with Chrysler's existing cars - the Charger, Road Runner/Super Bee, and Duster/Demon. It seems that Chrysler could have simply restyled its existing B-body line to much better advantage; it would then have extra money to invest in A-body variants or even a replacement for the already-aging A-body line.

      Approximately 188,600 Dodge Challengers were sold over its lifespan.

      Dodge Challengers versus the competition

      The chart below is from 1972, so horsepower figures are net, not gross (as in the chart above).

      1972 figuresDodge ChallengerFord MustangChevrolet CamaroAMC JavelinPlymouth Duster
      Front headroom37.437.237.437.537.5
      Rear headroom35.636.036.135.636.5
      Front legroom42.341.843.842.541.5
      Rear legroom30.928.230.730.829.9
      Trunk space (cf)
      Base Six hp/torque110/18599/184110/185100/185110/185
      Base V8 hp/torque150/260141/242130/230150/245150/260
      Brake swept area314267337255/267254.5 / 251.4
      Lube interval36,00036,0006,00024,00036,000
      Rare Dodge Challengers

      A plethora of options could safely make no two Challengers alike; for example, a 318 Challenger was special-ordered in DY3 Cream, with a Red Vinyl top!

      In the spring of 1970, Gator Grain vinyl tops, with a texture mimicing an alligator's skin, appeared on the option sheet, as well as flourescent green and Panther Pink longitudal tape stripes. What really set those stripes apart was 3M's reflective technology; at night, they would reflect direct light, as street signs do. Many unique possibilities were available in cars built by Chrysler.

      The Diamante show car was constructed from a Challenger Convertible, but that wasn't the only custom-bodied Challenger built. Taking a cue from Sergio Scaglietti's rebodied Corvettes of the late fifties, Pietro Frua constructed a one off "Challenger Special" for a Swiss businessman in 1970. Starting with a R/T SE, and with styling rivaling Paninfarina's best offerings, the car had Borranni wire wheels, a 440 4 barrel/727 automatic, and an interior that was unmistakingly Dodge Challenger.

      That wasn't the only Dodge E-body in the European Union. Chrysler at the time owned the French car maker SIMCA, and around 200 partially completed white cars made the journey up the St. Lawrence Seaway, and on to final production in France, because shipping without headlights and a few trim pieces evaded the tax laws. The most obvious differences were speedometers in metric, which leaves this author to wonder if the odometers were geared for miles and kilometers; clear parking lamps/turn signals as opposed to amber; and door-mounted rear view mirrors manufactured by Talbot, of Talbot-Lago fame. Other European Challengers had special turn signal stalks with a button at the end to actuate all four headlamps, for passing that pesky slow-moving Porsche on the Autobahn.

      Other noteworthy Challengers are the R/T SEs specially ordered by Dandy Dick Landy. Covered in an Iridescent Silver Metallic from the Imperial's pallette, it would be months before a short-lived silver was available, and a whole model year before GA4 Light Gunmetal Metallic would appear on the order books.

      More homegrown customs include the handful of 1971 Challengers that got '72 noses and tails for Paramount Picture studios, after the demise of the convertibles from dealership floors in the 1971 season. Chad Everett always raced to the hospital just in the nick of time in a pretty '72 ragtop.

      The Indianapolis 500 that year was marked by disaster on the opening lap with the destruction of a red ragtop pacing the event. Eldon Palmer, a local dealer, misjudged the car's braking ablity going into a turn. The car was subsequently repaired, and others took its place to finish pacing duties. Replicas were available at local dealerships around the Indianapolis Metropolitan area. [Challenger pace car]

      Some 1970 Dodge Challenger Accessory Groups

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      1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger T/A

      1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

      by Kelly Doke

      In May 1969, a Chrysler product planner conceived the Dodge Challenger T/A; it was born nine months later, on February 12, 1970, and issued a "birth certificate" (Technical Service Bulletin 11). Pontiac had Trans Ams prowling the streets, so the name had to be shortened, but the car was created to run in the SCCA Trans America series, so the T/A name was justified.

      The T/A was created because automakers had to make actual retail cars to compete in some motorsports; just as they had to make real Charger Daytonas to run the supercars in NASCAR, Dodge had to make 2,400 Challengers T/As for civilians to support one SCCA racing car.

      In accordance with the Sports Car Club of America rulings, Sam Posey's #77 Classic Wax Challenger started life as a Body-In-White, meaning it was a street car that was delivered to a racing group with a unibody structure, and little else. #77 was painted FJ5 Sublime, and at first, the massive amounts of green were overpowering. Longitudal black R/T side-stripes and a black vinyl top were applied to offer visual contrast.

      The vinyl top was purported to increase structural integrity, as the Body in White was acid dipped to cut weight; and according to one report, a team member leaned on the roof during a qualifying race, and put a massive dent in the racer's roof. A Challenger from a local dealer's lot donated its normal roof, and Sam Posey went on to qualify the next day. Keith Black, of Hemi drag racing fame, built the 303.8 cubic inch LA-based motor that occupied the gloss grey engine compartment.

      Sam Posey drove the lone Trans Am racing Challenger in 1970. Drag races Dick Landy and Ted Spehar also campaigned Challengers in the National Hot Rod Association's new Pro Stock class.

      The T/A cars that ruled the streets were a different animal altogether. Starting with a Challenger Highline (JH23), the A53 Trans Am package had a special 290 horsepower 340. Carrying a unique "J" VIN prefix, the engine had increased webbing in the mains, valvetrain revisions, and the ubiquitous trio of troublesome Holleys residing on an Edelbrock intake manifold.

      The coveted Challenger Trans Am was based on the Highline, and unlike the big-motor R/T or the Luxurious Special Edition, it was not a separate trim level, but a package available on a pre-existing model.

      The A53 cars had unique spoilers front and rear, the N94 Fiberglass hood (the Pilot T/A has a regular R/T dual snorkel hood), and Hemi fenders up front to house the fat F60 series Polyglas up front. On many of these Challengers, fiberglass hood was lifted off (no hinges), and the flat black color and fender pins gave the car a unique look. (Wendell Lane wrote: "my 1970 Challenger T/A had hood hinges, with lighter hood springs for the fiberglass hood, and dual hood pins up front.")

      Out back, the cars had increased camber in the rear, and G60 tires. The antenna mast was relocated to the rear passenger quarter panel, in the belief that the lack of a steel hood impeded radio reception. The cars carried suspensions from the Hemi and 440 Six-Pack cars: the K-frame with a skid plate, thicker torsion bars and sway bars, front and rear, 3/8 fuel lines, torque boxes welded to the unibody just ahead of the rear leaf springs (the passenger's side has an extra half-leaf, like the Hemi and Six Pack cars did). The T/A cars had a fast ratio steering box as well, along with differently sized front and rear tires, and increased rear spring camber. They could do the quarter mile in 14 seconds.

      The T/As had unique striping that extended the character line of the leading edge of the C-pillar, and terminated just before the front fender trim at the front of the car. The manual 3-speed was not available, nor was a bench seat, and the only wheel options were black steel wheels with dog dish hubcaps and trim rings or the Rallye wheels. The passenger side front fender is completely unique to the T/A: it has a rolled wheel well lip like the Hemi Cars did (Hemis had 15" wheels), but no provision for the radio antenna. The T/As also carried unique exhaust (California models included) whose tips peeked out just in front of the rear wheels. Concours restorers should note that few examples had these unique mufflers (exit and exhaust on the same end) painted black, depending on the vendor.

      989 automatic and 1,411 four speed T/As were completed from late March to mid-April 1970. While the T/As were pretty much optioned alike, the rarest of those rare breed would be the lone Western Sport Special, which again, may be just a few stickers applied to a slow moving car. The rarest T/A known to be legitimate would be the one with a factory sunroof.

      William Fayling wrote: "I have had the pleasure of seeing the first one built and it has T/A striping, fiberglass hood (single scoop), rear and front spoilers."

      1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

      The Challenger R/T cemented the car's image in the hearts and minds of fans: a snorting big block, tape stripes, and the Shaker hood all made the car memorable. In 1970, the R/T package started with the 383 four barrel. Carrying a separate JH27 VIN prefix, single digit gas mileage, and neck snapping performance, the Challenger made its mark on Woodward Avenue.

      Dodge Challenger 1970-711973
      Width x Height 76.1 x 50.9 76.4 x 50.9
      Track (max) 60.760.7
      Headroom, F/R 37.4 / 35.6* 37.4 / 35.6
      Legroom, F/R 42.3/30.942.3/30.9
      Battery / Alternator 280 / 41 amp
      Trunk capacity 8.6 cubic ft
      * Hardtop headroom: 38.2 / 36.4; shoulder room: 56.2 / 56.8

      The most coveted of the R/T lineup was the 426 Hemi, rated at 425 Horsepower, and its sibling the 440 Six barrel, rated at 390 horsepower. The "R" code Hemi and the "V" code Six pack also carried a laundry list of architectural tweaks in the body structure that differentiated it from the lower performance E-bodies. For starters, both cars did not have air conditioning. Ever.

      The R/T's base 383 cubic inch engine, putting out 335 gross horsepower, was potent; options were the legendary Hemi (425 hp but only 356 buyers), the more affordable 440 Magnum (375 hp with a single four-barrel carb), and the Hemi-challenging 440 Six Pack, with three two-barrel carburetors (sold to over 2,000 people, and featuring 390 gross hp and a stunning 480 lb-ft of torque at a low 2,300 rpm).

      While the R/T had a standard dual-scoop hood, the functional scoops simply pushed air into the engine bay, rather than forcing it into the engine; for that, you needed the "shaker" hood, which was essentially an attachment to the air cleaner that protruded through the hood.

      The K-frame had an additional skid plate added to the bottom. The cars had thicker torsion bars, 3/8" fuel lines, and structural reinforcements to the floor around the pinion snubber area. Immediately recognizable is the "torque boxes", shared with the convertibles, which were situated just ahead of the rear leaf spring perches, underneath the rear seat area. Forming a square shape, they reinforced the rocker area with the rear frame rails, and after years of having jack pads and the weight of the car sandwiching them, they suffered lots of beating since leaving the factory. Also of note, most of these cars had the Dana 60 rear end, with an extra half-leaf on the passenger's side to counter the torque produced by these engines.

      Hemi cars also carried unique front fenders, due to the 15" wheel option. What made the fenders unique were that the wheel well openings were rolled more than the 14" wheeled siblings to accommodate the larger wheels. (All Challengers had a 110" wheelbase.)

      A heavy duty TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission was standard on the 440s and Hemi engines, with a four-speed manual optional; the common wisdom was that the TorqueFlite could outrun the manual, despite the latter's Hurst pistol-grip shifter and Dana 60 rear axle. A limited slip differential was optional, but a heavy duty suspension was standard across the R/T line. Even the Hemi was restricted to 15-inch 60-series tires, which today are reserved to base model economy cars.

      While the R/T had a standard dual-scoop hood, the functional scoops simply pushed air into the engine bay, rather than forcing it into the engine; for that, you need the "shaker" hood, which was essentially an attachment to the air cleaner that protruded through the hood.

      For 1970, Dodge sold 53,337 standard Challengers; 6,584 SEs; 3,173 convertibles; a bit over 1,000 T/As; and 19,938 R/Ts (including convertibles and SEs). In all, 83,032 Challengers were sold; 60% had the base V8, and nearly 90% had automatics. Styled wheels were actually more popular than big engines; and the slant six seems to have outsold Hemi and 440 Six-Pack combined, easily.

      The original Dodge Challenger Trans-Am 340 Product Planning letters

      2009 Dodge Challenger | Challenge Creation Stories | Plymouth Barracuda | Forum

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