Thursday, January 3, 2008

1966-1970 Dodge Charger

I am a bit car crazy but don't know a lot about the history of a lot of car models. I was reading up on muscle cars, and as I am most familiar with the Dodge Charger I started there. I found some great info at Wikipedia and found some more around at various car sites. I've pulled some of it together to make a brief history of the Dodge Charger for you.

Carl "CAM'" Cameron would be the exterior designer of Dodge's new flagship vehicle, and on January 1, 1966, viewers of the Rose Bowl were first introduced to the new "Leader of the Dodge Rebellion", the 1966 Charger. The Charger's introduction coincided with the introduction of the new street version of the 426 Hemi (7.0 L). Finally, Dodge would have the performance image to go along with this performance engine.

As the 1966 Charger's features would go, the "electric shaver" grille used fully rotating headlights, not seen on a Chrysler product since the 1942 DeSoto, that when opened or closed made the grille look like one-piece. Inside, the Charger used four individual bucket seats with a full length console from front to rear. The rear seats and console pad also folded forward, and the trunk divider dropped back, which allowed for lots of cargo room inside. Many other things were exclusive to the Charger such as the door panels, courtesy lights and the instrument panel.

The 1966 to 1974 Chargers were the high performance B-body models. The 1975 to 1978 Chargers were based on the Chrysler Cordoba. The Dodge Charger R/T was one of the largest muscle cars available in the 1970s. (The Chrysler B platform was the basis for rear-wheel drive Chrysler cars from 1962 through 1979).

As for engine options, the 440 "Magnum" was added and the 361 cid engine was replaced by a 383 cid engine. The 440 was conservatively rated at 375 hp (280 kW) with a single 4-barrel carburetor. The 318 two-barrel engine remained, although it was now an Chrysler LA engine, unlike the 1966 polysphere "poly" design. The 383 4-barrel and the 426 Street Hemi remained as options.

Despite the Chargers' NASCAR racing success of 1966, sales slipped by half. In 1967 only 15,788 Chargers were sold. The Chargers faced competition from the Trans-Am Series, the Ford Mustang and the just introduced Chevrolet Camaro. Dodge decided that a major redesign was in order, rather than a minor face-lift.

In order to further boost the Charger's muscle car image, a new high-performance package was added, the R/T. This stood for "Road/Track" (no 'and' between Road and Track) and would be the high performance badge that would establish Dodge's performance image. Only the high performance cars were allowed to use the R/T badge. The R/T came standard with the previous year's 440 "Magnum" and the 426 Hemi was optional.The standard engine was the 318 2bbl the rest of the engine lineup (383-2, 383-4) remained unchanged.

In 1968 Chrysler Corporation unveiled a new ad campaign featuring a Bee with an engine on its back. These cars were called the "Scat Pack". The Coronet R/T, Super Bee, Dart GTS and Charger R/T received bumble-bee stripes (two thin stripes framing two thick stripes). The stripes were standard on the R/Ts and came in red, white or black. They also could be deleted at no cost. These changes and the new Charger bodystyle proved to be very popular with the public and helped to sell 96,100 Chargers, including over 17,000 Charger R/Ts.

A famous Charger was the four-speed, triple-black 1968 Charger R/T used in the movie Bullitt. The chase scene between Steve McQueen's fastback Mustang GT and the hitmen's Charger R/T is popularly regarded as one of the greatest car chase scenes ever filmed. During filming of the scene, the Charger proved to be extremely durable. When performing the various jumps over the hills in San Francisco, the Mustang GT encountered several suspension problems, while the suspension of the Chargers used never failed once.

A similar 1968 Charger R/T was seen in the Blade Trilogy trilogy of films.

In 1969 not much was changed for the popular Charger. Exterior changes included a new grille with a center divider and new longitudual taillights both designed by Harvey J. Winn. A new trim line called the Special Edition (SE) was added. This could be available by itself or packaged with the R/T, thus making an R/T-SE. The SE added leather inserts to the front seats only, chrome rocker mouldings, a wood grain steering wheel and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel. A sunroof was added to the option list as well, and it would prove to be a very rare option (some 260 sold). The bumble bee stripes returned as well, but were changed slightly. Instead of four stripes it now featured one huge stripe framed by two smaller stripes. In the middle of the stripe an R/T cutout was placed. If the stripe was deleted, then a metal R/T emblem was placed where the R/T cutout was. Total production dropped slightly to around 85,680 units. But in 1969 Dodge had its eye on NASCAR and in order to compete it would have to create two of the most rare and desirable of all Chargers: Charger 500, and the Charger Daytona.

The television series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) featured a 1969 Dodge Charger that was named The General Lee, often noted as being the most recognizable car in the world. "The General" sported the Confederate flag painted on the roof and the words "GENERAL LEE" over each door. The windows were always open, as the doors were welded shut. The number "01" is painted on both doors. Also, when the horn button was pressed, it played the first 12 notes from the de facto Confederate States anthem "Dixie's Land". The muscle car performed spectacular jumps in almost every episode, and the show's popularity produced a surge of interest in the car. The show itself purchased hundreds of Chargers for stunts, as they generally destroyed at least one car per episode. (Real Chargers stopped being used for jumps at the end of the show's sixth season, and were begrudgingly replaced with miniatures.)

In 1969, in order to help Dodge battle Ford/Mercury in NASCAR, two special Chargers were built. The regular production Charger wasn't aerodynamic enough to compete with the Ford Torino/Mercury Cyclone. The first year for the Charger 500 was 1969. This car looked like a standard Charger, except that the rear buttress was filled in, and a flush-mounted 1968 Coronet grille was used with exposed headlights. The rear bumble bee stripes would also have a "500" cutout which would help to identify this new Charger. These changes would help the car aerodynamically. Only 503 copies were built to abide with NASCAR rules--hence the name "Charger 500". The only engine choices were the standard 440 Magnum or the 426 Hemi. Only 67 Charger 500s were built with the Hemi.

Despite all of the new changes, Ford/Mercury continued to beat the Chargers. Dodge did not stand idly by. They went back into the wind tunnel and unleashed a new Charger that changed everything.


NASCAR in 1969 stipulated that any car raced in their series had to be available for sale and must build a minimum of five hundred for the general public. Since the Charger 500 was not fast enough, Dodge went back into the wind tunnel and created one of the most outrageous and most sought after Chargers, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.

The Daytona used a pointed nose piece that added 18 inches (457 mm) into the front of the car. This gave the car the down-force that the engineers were looking for, but the rear end still tended to lift at speed. To solve this, they mounted a large wing over the trunk lid which would give the Charger Daytona and its sister car, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, the nickname of "wing cars". The wing was 23 inches (584 mm) tall so that the trunk could be open without hitting the bottom of the wing. Fenders and a hood from the upcoming 1970 Charger were used on the Daytona. Rear facing scoops were added to the front fenders, above the tires, which added an aerodynamic advantage. It was widely believed at the time that they were only used to help with tire rub in hard corners. In fact, they relieved the high pressure that would build up in the fender well at high speed.

Only 503 Charger Daytonas were built with either 440 Magnum or 426 Hemi power. All Daytonas wore red, black, or white bumble stripes that bore the name "Daytona" in the middle of the stripe. The wings were painted the same color as the stripes. The "wing cars" would prove to be so fast and dominating that NASCAR effectively outlawed them for the 1971 season, as a new regulation was introduced that restricted all "aero" cars to a maximum engine displacement of 5.0 L (305 in³), down from the previous 7.0 L (426 in³).


In 1970 the Charger changed slightly again. This would be the last and rarest year of the 2nd generation Charger and it now featured a large wraparound chrome bumper and the grille was no longer divided in the middle. New electric headlight doors replaced the old vacuum style. Side markers were now actual lights. The taillights were similar to those used in 69, but 500 and R/T models came with a new more attractive taillight panel. On the R/T new rear-facing scoops with the R/T logo were mounted on the front doors, over the door scallops. A new 440 or HEMI hood cutout made the option list for this year only.

In order to achieve the desired look, Dodge painted the hood scallop inserts black and put the silver engine callouts on top. New "High Impact" colors were given names, such as Top Banana, Panther Pink, Sublime, Burnt Orange, Go Mango and Plum Crazy (sometimes nicknamed "Statutory Grape"). The 500 returned for another year, but now it was just a regular production Charger unlike the limited production NASCAR Charger of 1969.

Interior changes included new high-back bucket seats, the door panels were also revised and the map pockets were now optional instead of standard. The ignition was moved from the dash to the steering column (as with all Chrysler products this year), and the glove box was now hinged at the bottom instead of the top as in 1968-69. The SE "Special Edition" option added high end luxury to a full on muscle car and was available as 500 SE and R/T SE models. The all new pistol grip shifter was introduced, along with a bench seat, a first for the Charger since its debut.

A new engine option made the Charger's list for the first time, the 440 Six Pack. With three two-barrel carburetors and a rating of 390 hp (291 kW), it was one of the most exotic setups since the cross-ram Max Wedge engines of the early 1960s. The Six Pack was previously used on the mid-year 1969 Dodge Super Bee and Plymouth Road Runner and was notorious for beating the Hemi on the street. Despite this hot new engine, production slipped again to 46,576 but most of this was due to the brand new E-body Dodge Challenger and the high insurance rates. In the 1970 Nascar season it was the 1970 Charger that tallied up more wins (10) than any other car....including the notorious 69 Dodge Charger Daytonas and Plymouth Superbirds, giving Bobby Isaac the Grand National Championship. Lower sales, higher performance and more options has made the '70 Charger the most collectible of the 2nd generation Chargers.

For more information go see the original post at Wikipedia.

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