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History of the Challenger

The first generation of Dodge Challengers first appeared in 1970 - 1974. Dodge was late to the muscle car wars but they came in with a heavy hitter, the Challenger. The Challenger debuted with engines that ranged from a slant six to the powerful 440 Sixpak (three 2 barrel carbs) and the potent 426 Hemi.


1970

The Dodge Challenger was based on the Plymouth Cuda platform with its wheelbase stretched two inches for more interior room. The Challenger was offered in both hardtop and convertible versions. Performance versions wore the R/T (Road/Track) badge and either the base or R/T model could be ordered with the SE luxury package. The SE package included leather seats and a vinyl roof with a smaller "formal" rear window. Challenger R/T's came standard with the 335 bhp 383 engine. Optional were two 440 engines, the four-barrel Magnum with 375 bhp and the tri-carb Six Pack with 390 bhp (chosen by 2,035 buyers). Topping the list was the almighty 426 Hemi with 425 bhp (chosen by 356 buyers). The Hemi cost an additional $1,228 and required heavy-duty equipment. The 440s and the Hemi came standard with TorqueFlite automatic. Optional was a four speed manual which included a pistol-grip Hurst shifter and a Dana 60 axle. Gear axles climed from 3.23:1 to 4.10:1, with limited slip as an option. All R/Ts received a heavy duty suspension and the 440s and Hemi received 15 inch 60 series tires, although essentials such as power steering and front disc brakes were still optional. The R/T's standard hood had two hood scoops, but they did not feed directly into the air cleaner. For just $97, the buyer could specify the shaker scoop, which mounted to the air cleaner and stuck up through an opening in the hood.


To race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans Am Championship, it built a street version of its race car which it called the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am). Plymouth's race version was the 'Cuda AAR. Although the race cars ran a destroked version of the 340, street versions took the 340 and added three two-barrel carbs on an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, creating the 340 Six Pack. The Challenger 340 Six Pack was rated at 290 hp, same as the original 340 engine (and the same rating as the Camaro Z/28 and Ford Boss 302 Mustang), it was estimated at a realistic 350 hp. Air was forced through a large sized air scoop molded into the pinned down, lift off matte-black fiberglass hood. Low-restriction dual exhausts ran to the muffler under the trunk, then reversed direction to exit in chrome tipped megaphone outlets in front of the rear wheels. TorqueFlite automatic or Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission, 3.55:1 or 3.90:1 gears, manual or power steering were available. Front disc brakes were standard. The special Rallye suspension used heavy duty parts and increased the camber of the rear springs. The T/A was among the first production vehicles to use different size tires front and rear: E60x15 fronts, and G60x15 in back. The modified camber elevated the tail enough to clear the rear rubber and its side exhaust outlets, thick side stripes, bold ID graphics, and a ducktail spoiler added to the street punk image. The interior was strictly stock Challenger. Unfortunately, the race Challenger T/A wasn't very competitive and the street version suffered from severe understeer in fast corners. But it could turn mid 14s in the quarter mile which would do any small block muscle car proud. The T/A would only be available for 1970 as Dodge would pull out of Trans Am racing.

Production:
Challenger Base: 53,337
Challenger T/A: 2,142
Challenger R/T Coupe: 12,747
Challenger R/T Convertible: 1,070
Challenger RT/SE Coupe: 3,679

Engines:
225 I6 145 bhp.
340 V8 275 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 340 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
T/A: 340+6 V8 290 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 345 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm.
383 V8 330 bhp.
426 Hemi V8 425 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 490 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm.
440 V8 375 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
440+6 V8 390 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm.

Performance:
T/A: 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds @ 99.6 mph.
R/T 440-6: 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, 1/4 mile in 13.7 seconds @ 105 mph.

 

1971

For 1971 the Challenger received a new grille and other changes. The Challenger T/A was advertised but never made and was officially dropped since Dodge had withdrawn from Trans Am racing. The R/T convertible was also dropped and the SE package was only available on base model Challengers. The R/T for 1971 had color-keyed bumpers, dummy brake cooling slots on its rear flanks, and new tape stripes. The 383 engine was still standard on R/T models, but it was detuned to 300 bhp due to a lower compression ratio to meet new government regulations. The base 440 was dropped, but the 440-6, rated at 385 bhp (down 5 bhp from 1970) and the Hemi, still rated at 425 bhp were still available. A small group of Dodge dealers tried to boost Challenger sales in 1971 by providing 50 specially prepared examples as official pace cars for the Indianapolis 500 race. All of these cars were Hemi Orange convertibles with white interior, although just two had high-performance options. The initial pace car had skidded and crashed into a press box, injuring reporters.

Production:
Challenger Base: 23,088
Challenger Base Convertible: 2,165
Challenger R/T Coupe: 4,630
Challenger R/T Convertible: ?
Challenger RT/SE Coupe: ?

Engines:
225 I6 145 bhp.
318 V8 230 bhp.
340 V8 275 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 340 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
T/A: 340+6 V8 290 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 345 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm.
383 V8 300 bhp.
426 Hemi V8 425 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 490 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm.
440 V8 375 bhp.
440+6 V8 385 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm.

Performance:
T/A: 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds @ 99.6 mph.
R/T 440-6: 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, 1/4 mile in 13.7 seconds @ 105 mph.

1972

Challenger gained new front end styling which included a new eggcrate grille which had downturned ends. The R/T performance version was dropped and convertibles were eliminated. The 440 and Hemi were also dropped. A new Rallye edition replaced the R/T model with only a 318 with a mere 150 hp. The largest engine available was a 340 with just 240 hp.

Production:
Challenger Base: 18,535
Challenger Rallye Coupe: 8,123

Engines:
318 V8 150 bhp.(SAE Net)
340 V8 240 bhp. (SAE Net)

Performance:
340/240: 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, 1/4 mile in 16 seconds.


Production: Engines: 318 V8 150 bhp. 340 V8 240 bhp.
Performance:

 

1973

The Rallye edition was dropped, although buyers could still build their own on the option sheet. The base model cars had the 318 with 150 bhp, hardly and still available was the 340 with 240 hp, but it was replaced mid-season with a new 360 with 245 bhp.

Production: 32,596


Engines:
318 V8 150 bhp.(SAE Net)
340 V8 240 bhp. (SAE Net)
360 V8 245 bhp. (SAE Net)

Performance:

 

1974

This was the last year for the Dodge Challenger (until the 2008 Challenger) still available with the 360 for performance minded indiviuals.

Production: 16,437


Engines:
318 V8 150 bhp.(SAE Net)
360 V8 245 bhp. (SAE Net)

Performance:

 
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