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1971-1974 Dodge Charger: Past the classic cars

by Jamie Kittrell

1964-67 Dodge Chargers1968-701975-78Modern Dodge Charger

1971 brought a restyled Charger with a Pontiac-like grille and high beltline. Styling covered a two inch shorter wheelbase and three inch shorter length (see stats).

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The six Dodge Charger models in 1971 included a base, hardtop, 500, SE, R/T, and Super Bee, a Road Runner imitation which became Dodge's street racer. It replaced the Coronet Super Bee with a standard 300HP 383 and floor mounted 3 speed manual. Optional engines were the 440 six pack and the 426 hemi.

The top of the line was the Charger R/T with its standard 440 Magnum V8 rated at 370 HP. Optional were the 440 six pack and 426 hemi. The R/T used the same hood and tape side treatment as the Super Bee, but two additional stripes on each door simulated vents.

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The base V8, the 318 engine was still rated at 230 horsepower, gross, in 1971, with its normal Carter two-barrel carburetor; in 1972, that would change to 150 horsepower, net, at 4,000 rpm. That would continue to be the 318's horsepower rating for some years to come. The base-base engine, the reliable but under-tuned slant six, continued to put out 145 gross horsepower in 1971, as it nearly always had; in 1972, when they changed to net ratings, the figure dropped to 110 horsepower. The 318, through its life, generally had a Carter two-barrel which was good for reliability and economy, while the slant six breathed through a single-barrel Holley; in both cases.

1971 was the last full performance Charger, though the Charger 340 would remain with quite respectable performance.

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Added by Allpar based on materials from JACumbo (including the photos):
Dodge advertising for the Charger R/T noted its "styled road wheel with chromed trim ring," Ramcharger hood, and standard tachometer; more to the point, they pointed to the 440 Magnum engine with dual bright-tip exhaust, extra-heavy-duty suspension, full instrumentation, and vinyl bucket seats with built in head restraint.

The windshield wipers are hidden. Concealed headlights are optional. So is a little device that washes them with a brush. Still, it's the way it all goes together that counts. Balance. The extra leaf in the right rear spring to handle the torque. Easily adjustable torsion bars, heavy-duty brakes...Standard.
The hood came with a blackout treatment; other standard features included a glove box lamp and lock, 150 mph speedometer, oil pressure gauge, simulated wood grain on the doors and dash, high rate torsion bars, heavy-duty shocks, extra heavy duty rear springs, and sway bar. Fourteen inch tires concealed 11" x 3" front and 11" x 2.5" rear brakes. The TorqueFlite automatic, acknowledged as being no street-racing handicap, was also included.

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The Charger Super Bee, which lasted a single year - the prior Super Bee had been a Coronet, but Coronet was now advertised as "specially designed" to be a four-door sedan - came with its traditional standard 383 Magnum engine that drank regular gas, a heavy duty suspension and brakes with 14 inch wheels, and a floor-mounted manual transmission synchronized in all three forward speeds. The hood got the blackout treatment, the interior got the simulated woodgrain and full instrumentation with 150 mph speedometer, the brakes were the same as in the R/T, and carpet and dual exhaust were included.

Dodge also advertised the "Charger Topper," a "custom-equipped economy Charger." Instead of a hot engine (it came with a 318), it had a vinyl roof, whitewalls, wheel covers, bumper guards, left remote control mirror, extra chrome, and fender mounted turn signals.

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Just as Duster beat Valiant in sales, Charger easily beat Coronet. 1971 was, indeed, one of Charger's better years -- with its fourth highest sales year of the 20th century, easily beating (and practically doubling) 1970s sales.

Name 1971-74 2006
Wheelbase 115" 120"
Length 205" 200"
Height 53" 58"
Width 79" 74.5"
Weight 3,460 lb 3,800+ lb
Headroom, F/R 37"/36" 39/36
Legroom, F/R 42"/34" 42/40
Cargo (cu. ft.) 14.2 16.2
Turning circle 38.3 feet

From 1972 to 1973 the performance model was the Rallye, with an optional, detuned 440 engine putting out a still-substantial 280 horsepower (net) with a four-barrel carburetor, five main bearings, and hydraulic lifters. In 1974, the rating went down slightly to 275 horsepower.

In 1973, the Charger SE was 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 Super Bee had departed after a single year as a Charger.

1973 was, by far, the best sales year for the Dodge Charger. Burton Bouwkamp wrote, "The 1973 Charger sales increase was due to (1) good styling treatment in
front end design and roof and quarter window ornamentation, (2) broadened
marketing emphasis on Charger as high insurance rates limited the young
buyer market, and (3) attractive pricing for the premium (SE) model."

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.

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Tannon 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. My father has a beautiful 1973 Charger SE with a 1979 300 center console that was installed for the armrest for comfort on long trips, and everything on the transmission tunnel just fit stock to the later year console.

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Some people have used parts from other bodies and years; one guy swapped the front subframe out of a Cordoba into his Charger when it needed replacing, another guy put an 8.75" rear off of a Satellite into his Magnum. 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 only kit-style performance upgrade that I can't use from the pre-1975 Charger is the full dual exhaust system out to the back, as the fuel tank was positioned over against the driver's side frame rail instead of centered. I'd have to either modify the trunk floor to move the tank over, or go with a smaller gas tank if I wanted to go with a pre-existing full exhaust system.

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