(Image of a Dodge Challenger)
The Dodge Challenger was released in 1970, making it the last American auto manufacturer at the starting line for producing a pony car. Even though it was late, some argue the Challenger was the best pony car. That is hard to argue with, considering available engines for the Challenger were the 426 Hemi and the 440, with an available "Six Pack" (triple two barrel carb setup) for that 440.
Dodge planned the Challenger to compete directly with the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. It was based off the Plymouth Barracuda line, but was two inches longer for more legroom. The front grille was taken from a 1966 Dodge Charger concept model, and modified a bit. Sales were fantastic the first year of release in 1970 with nearly 73,000 sold, but then sales nosedived, before the Challenger line ended mid model year in 1974.
1970 Dodge Challenger
The 1970 Challenger was sold as a hardtop and convertible version, with many available option packages. The R/T (Road/Track)was the performance option, which came standard with a 383 V8, or the optional four-barrel Magnum 440 V8 or the Six Pack (tri-carb) setup. The Magnum put out 375 bhp, and the Six Pack 390, but they were left in the dust by the optional 426 Hemi. This put out 425 bhp, but is a rare option with only 356 being sold. A stronger suspension was standard for all R/T’s, and the bigger engine models (440 and Hemi) had 15 inch tires. A non working twin hood scoop was also standard, and the “shaker scoop” was available essentially feeding the air cleaner through those hood scoops. It was named “The Shaker” for how it shakes considerably. Both the base model and the R/T had the SE package as an option, which was a trim package. This included leather seats, a vinyl roof, and a smaller rear window.
The Dodge Challenger T/A was released mid model year 1970 to help Dodge compete in the Trans American Sedan race. The race cars had a detuned version of the 340 V8, but the street model released had a Six Pack sitting on an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold. Rated horsepower was 290, but estimates are closer to 350 bhp. The front and rear tires were different sizes (Front = E60x15; Rear = G60x15), to help keep the rear elevated.
The Challenger T/A was not produced for 1971, even though it was initially advertised. Dodge dropped out of the Trans Am race for 1971, so the model never had to go into production. The pony car and muscle car market was tanking, and 1971 Challenger sales dropped by over 60% over 1970 Challenger sales. The R/T convertible was no longer an option, and the SE package was now only available on the base model.
The 383 engine was still available, but detuned from 330 bhp to 300 bhp to meet new EPA emission standards. The base 440 V8 was also no longer available. The 440 V8 Six Pack was detuned by horsepower but still available, along with the 426 Hemi V8, which still kept its’ 425 bhp rating. This would be the last year for these muscle car engines, and true performance in general for the Challenger.
By 1972, the Challenger was a skeleton of what performance it used to symbolize. Gone were the 440 Six Packs and the 428 Hemi’s. The convertible and R/T options were eliminated, and the new Rallye edition had an unenticing 318 V8 with only 150 bhp. The biggest available engine was the 340 V8 with only 280 bhp. Sales fell to only a little over 26,000 for the 1972 Challenger.
1973 saw the elimination of the Rallye edition. The largest engine available was the 340 V8 now rated at 240 bhp, which was replaced mid model year by the 360 V8 which put out 5 more horsepower. Yay. The 1974 would end mid model year in 1974, with the 360 V8 still available