The Dodge Challenger is the name of three different generations of automobiles marketed by the Dodge division of Chrysler.
The first generation Dodge Challenger was a pony car built from 1970 to 1974, using the Chrysler E platform and sharing major components with the Plymouth Barracuda. The second generation, from 1978 to 1983, was a badge engineered Mitsubishi Galant Lambda. The third, and current generation, was introduced in 2008 as a rival to the evolved fifth generation Ford Mustang and the reintroduced fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro.
Dodge Silver Challenger (1959)
The first car that carried the Challenger name was the mid-year introduction of a limited edition 1959 Dodge Silver Challenger. This was a six-cylinder or V8 model available only in silver paint and only on a two-door body. It came with extra features at no cost, including premium white wall tires, full wheel covers, electric windshield wipers, as well as an upgraded interior with luxury fabrics and wall-to-wall deep pile carpeting.
First generation (1970–1974)
The Challenger was described in a book about 1960s American cars as Dodge's "answer to the Mustang and Camaro." It was one of two Chrysler E-body cars, the other being the slightly smaller Plymouth Barracuda. "Both the Challenger and Barracuda were available in a staggering number of trim and option levels" and were intended "to compete against cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, and to do it while offering virtually every engine in Chrysler's inventory." However, they were "a rather late response to the ponycar wave the Ford Mustang had started." In his book Hemi Muscle Cars, Robert Genat wrote that the Challenger was conceived in the late 1960s as Dodge's equivalent of the Plymouth Barracuda, and that the Barracuda was designed to compete against the Mustang and Camaro. He added that Chrysler intended the new Dodge as "the most potent ponycar ever," and positioned it "to compete against the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird." Genat also noted that the "Barracuda was intended to compete in the marketplace with the Mustang and Camaro/Firebird, while the Dodge was to be positioned against the Cougar" and other more luxury-type musclecars.
The Challenger's longer wheelbase, larger dimensions and more luxurious interior were prompted by the launch of the 1967 Mercury Cougar, likewise a bigger, more luxurious and more expensive pony car aimed at affluent young American buyers. The wheelbase, at 110 inches (2,794 mm), was two inches longer than the Barracuda, and the Dodge differed substantially from the Plymouth in its outer sheetmetal, much as the Cougar differed from the shorter-wheelbase Ford Mustang. A/C and a rear window defogger were optional.
Exterior design was done by Carl Cameron, who also did the exterior for the 1966 Dodge Charger. Cameron based the 1970 Challenger grille off an older sketch of his 1966 Charger prototype that was to have a turbine engine. The Charger never got the turbine, but the Challenger got that car's grille. Although the Challenger was well-received by the public (with 76,935 produced for the 1970 model year), it was criticized by the press, and the pony car segment was already declining by the time the Challenger arrived. Sales fell dramatically after 1970, and though sales rose for the 1973 model year with over 27,800 cars being sold, Challenger production ceased midway through the 1974 model year. 165,437 Challengers were sold over this model's lifespan.
Four hardtop models were offered: Challenger Six, Challenger V8, Challenger T/A (1970 only), and Challenger R/T with a convertible version available only in 1970 and 1971. Although there were no factory-built R/T Challenger convertibles for 1971, the R/T continued as a model with the hardtop body-style. The standard engine on the base model was the 225 cu in (3.7 L) six-cylinder. The standard engine on the V8 was the 230 bhp (171.5 kW)318 cu in (5.2 L) V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor. Optional engines were the 340 cu in (5.6 L) and 383 cu in (6.3 L) V8s, all with a standard 3-speed manual transmission, except for the 290 bhp (216.3 kW) 383 CID engine, which was available only with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission. A 4-speed manual was optional on all engines except the 225 CID I6 and the 2-barrel 383 CID V8.
The performance model was the R/T (Road/Track), with a 383 CID Magnum V8, rated at 335 bhp (249.8 kW); 300 bhp (223.7 kW) for 1971, due to a drop in compression. The standard transmission was a 3-speed manual. Optional R/T engines were the 375 bhp (279.6 kW) 440 cu in (7.2 L) Magnum, the 390 bhp (290.8 kW) 440 CID Six-Pack and the 425 bhp (316.9 kW) 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi. The R/T was available in either the hardtop or convertible. For 1970 only, base hardtop and R/T hardtop models could be ordered with the more luxurious SE specification, which included leather seats, a vinyl roof, a smaller 'formal' rear window, and an overhead interior console that contained three warning lights (door ajar, low fuel, and seatbelts). The Challenger R/T came with a Rallye instrument cluster that included a 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer, an 8,000 rpm tachometer, 1972–1974 tachometer went to 7,000 rpm and an oil pressure gauge. In 1973, the R/T badging was dropped and these models were called "Rallye", although they were never badged as such. The shaker hood scoop was not available after 1971.
A 1970-only model was the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am) racing homologation car. In order to race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship Trans Am, Dodge built a street version of its race car (just like Plymouth with its Plymouth 'Cuda AAR) which it called the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am). Although the race cars ran a destroked version of the 340, street versions took the 340 and added a trio of two-barrel carburetors atop an aluminum intake manifold, creating the 340 Six Pack. Dodge rated the 340 Six Pack at 290 bhp (216.3 kW), only 15 bhp (11 kW) more than the original 340 engine (which also had the same rating as the Camaro Z/28 and Ford Boss 302 Mustang). The engine actually made about 320 bhp (238.6 kW). It breathed air through a suitcase sized air scoop molded into the pinned down, hinged matte-black fiberglass hood. Low-restriction dual exhaust ran to the stock muffler location, then reversed direction to exit in chrome tipped "megaphone" outlets in front of the rear wheels. Options included a TorqueFlite automatic or pistol-grip Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission, 3.55:1 or 3.90:1 gears, as well as manual or power steering. Front disc brakes were standard. The special Rallye suspension used heavy duty parts and increased the rate of the rear springs. The T/A was the first U.S. muscle car to fit different size tires front and rear to give a racing stance: E60x15 in the front, and G60x15 in the rear. The modified chamber elevated the tail enough to clear the rear rubber and its side exhaust outlets. Thick dual side stripes, bold ID graphics, a fiberglass ducktail rear spoiler, and a fiberglass front spoiler added to the racing image. The interior was strictly stock Challenger.
Dodge contracted Ray Caldwell's Autodynamics firm in Marblehead, Massachusetts to run the factory Trans-Am team. Sam Posey drove the No.77 "sub-lime" painted car that Caldwell's team built from a car taken off a local dealer's showroom floor. When the No.76 was completed mid-season from a chassis provided by Dan Gurney's All American Racers, Posey alternated between the two. Both cars ran the final two races, with Posey in the #77. Ronnie Bucknum drove the No.76 at Seattle Washington, and Tony Adamowicz drove it at Riverside, California.
The Challenger T/A's scored a few top three finishes, but lack of a development budget and the short-lived Keith Black 303 c. i. engines led to Dodge leaving the series at season's end. .
The street version suffered from severe understeer in fast corners, largely due to the smaller front tires. Only 2,399 T/As were made. A 1971 model using the 340 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor was planned and appeared in advertising, but was not produced since Dodge had left the race series.
The "Western Special" was a version available only to west coast dealers. It came with a rear-exit exhaust system and Western Special identification on the rear decklid. Some examples came with a vacuum-operated trunk release. Another late production version was the low-priced "Deputy", stripped of some of the base car's trim and with fixed rear side glass.
By 1972, the convertible version, most interior upgrades options, comfort/convenience items (in particular power windows), and all the big-block engine options were gone. The R/T series was replaced by the Rallye series. Engine choices were down to the 225 cu in slant-6, the 318 cu in V-8, and the maximum power 340 cu in V-8 which was downgraded to 240 horsepower (180 kW) to reflect the more accurate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) net hp calculations, and altered to run on low-lead or lead free gasoline. Each engine could be mated to a 3-speed manual or automatic transmission, while the 340 could also be hooked up to a 4-speed manual if so ordered. The 1972 models also received a new grille that extended beneath the front bumper. The only 1972 convertibles which exist are actually 1971 models with the 1972 front end (grille, lights, etc.) and rear end (tail lights and their panel). These were specially built for TV programs such as "Mod Squad". The only way to ascertain a 'real' 1972 Challenger convertible is to look at its fender tag. On the code line which gives the dealer order number, that number will start with an "R", which designates "Special Meaning" (in this case, a TV 'special promotions' car). A cigarette lighter was standard.
For the 1973 models, the 225 cu in six-cylinder engine was no longer available, leaving just the two V-8s. For 1974, the 340 cu in (5.6 L) engine was replaced by a 360 cu in (5.9 L) version offering 245 hp, but the pony car market had deteriorated and production of Challengers ceased in late April 1974. The A/C was not available with the 3-speed manual.
Although the body style remained the same throughout the Challenger's five year run, there were two notable changes to the front grille. The 1971 models had a "split" grille, while 1972 introduced a design that extended the grille (nicknamed the "sad-mouth") beneath the front bumper. With this change to the front end, 1972 through 1974 models had little to no variation. The only way to properly distinguish them is that the 1972s had flush mounted bumpers with no bumper guards, (small bumper guards were optional), while both the 1973 and 1974 models had the protruding "5 mph (8.0 km/h)" bumpers (with a rubber type filler behind them) in conjunction with large bumper guards. The 1974 cars had larger rear bumper guards to meet the (new for 1974 and on) rear 5 mph rear impact law. These changes were made to meet U.S. regulations regarding crash test safety.
The 1970 taillights went all the way across the back of the car, with the backup light in the middle of the rear. In 1971, the backup lights were on the left and right instead of the middle. The taillight array also changed for 1972 onwards, with the Challenger now having four individual rectangular lamps.
Although few mourned the end of the E-body models, the passage of time has created legends and highlighted the unique personalities of both the Challenger and the Barracuda. In a historic review, the editors of Edmunds Inside Line ranked these models as: 1970 was a "great" year, 1971 was a "good" one, and then "three progressively lousier ones" (1972–1974). With total sales and production off by 2/3 from 1970, the performance engine 1971 Challengers are the most rare. Sales and production of the 1973 cars (with only two V8s available) actually exceeded 1971 by approximately 1,700 cars. This may be explained by 1973 being a very good year for the U.S. auto industry in general and an increased interest in Chrysler (the Plymouth Barracuda and Plymouth Road Runner also saw sales increases) performance cars.
Original "numbers matching" high-performance 1970–71 Challengers are now among the most sought-after collector cars. The rarity of specific models with big engines is the result of low buyer interest and sales with the correspondingly low production when new. The 440 and the 426 Hemi engines nowadays command sizable premiums over the smaller engines.The 1970 and 1971 models tend to generate more attention as performance and style options were still available to the public. However, with the popularity of these vehicles increasing, and the number of usable and restorable Challengers falling, many collectors now search for later models. Many "clones" of the 1970 and 1971 Challengers with high-performance drivetrains have been created by using low-end 6-cylinder and 318-powered non-R/T or non-T/A cars and installing one of the "Magnum" performance engine combinations (340, 383, 440 or 426 Hemi) and adding the specific badging and hoods. Total production (1970–74) was 165,437 cars, and perhaps 1/3 of that number now exist in any condition.
Dodge Challengers were mainly produced for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Interestingly, Chrysler officially sold Challengers to Switzerland through AMAG Automobil- und Motoren AG in Schinznach-Bad, near Zurich. Only a few cars were shipped overseas each year to AMAG. They did the final assembly of the Challengers and converted them to Swiss specs. There are few AMAG cars still in existence. From a collector's point of view, these cars are very desirable. Today, less than five Swiss Challengers are known to exist in North America.
Chrysler exported Dodge Challengers officially to France as well through their Chrysler France Simca operation, since Ford sold the Mustang in France successfully in small numbers. However, only a few Challengers were exported and Chrysler finally gave up the idea of selling them in France. A few French Challengers still exist today.
Engine choices by Chrysler included the following:
- C: 225 cu in (3.69 L) Slant 6 I6: 1970–71 145 bhp (108 kW) SAE gross, 1971-72 110 bhp (82 kW) SAE net
- G: 318 cu in (5.21 L) LA V8 (2-barrel carburetor, single exhaust): 1970-71 230 bhp (172 kW) SAE gross, 1971 155 bhp (116 kW) SAE net, 1972-74 150 bhp (112 kW) SAE net
- H: 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970-71 275 bhp (205 kW) SAE gross, 1971 235 bhp (175 kW) SAE net, 1972-73 240 bhp (179 kW) SAE net
- J: 360 cu in (5.9 L) LA V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1974 245 bhp (183 kW) SAE net
- J: 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8 (3 × 2-barrel carburetor): 1970 290 bhp (216 kW) SAE gross, used in T/A
- L: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 (2-barrel carburetor, single exhaust): 1970 290 bhp (216 kW) SAE gross, 1971 275 bhp (205 kW) SAE gross, 1971 190 bhp (142 kW) SAE net
- L: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970 330 bhp (246 kW) SAE gross (likely 240 bhp (179 kW) SAE net)
- N: 383 cu in (6.28 L) B V8 Magnum (4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust): 1970 335 bhp (250 kW) SAE gross, 1971 300 bhp (224 kW) SAE gross, 1971 250 bhp (186 kW) SAE net
- U: 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8 Magnum (4-barrel carbureted): 1970 375 bhp (280 kW) SAE gross, (Charger R/T only in 1971 370 bhp (276 kW) SAE gross, 305 bhp (227 kW) SAE net)
- V: 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8 Six-Pack (3 × 2-barrel carburetor): 1970 390 bhp (291 kW)/490 lbf·ft (660 N·m) SAE gross, 1971 385 bhp (287 kW) SAE gross, 1971 330 bhp (246 kW) SAE net
- R: 426 cu in (6.98 L) Hemi V8: 1970-71 425 bhp (317 kW)/490 lbf·ft (660 N·m) SAE gross, 1971 350 bhp (261 kW) SAE net. Costing an extra US$1,228 with very few sold.
SAE gross HP ratings were tested with no accessories, no air cleaner, or open dyno headers. In 1971, compression ratios were reduced in performance engines, except the 426ci and the high performance 440ci, to accommodate regular gasoline. The compression ratio would be reduced on the high performance 440ci starting in 1972. 1971 was the last year for the 426ci hemi.
Chrysler may have underrated their performance engines. There are current tests by Mopar Magazine and others, which built and dyno-tested the 426-8V, 440-6V, 440-4V, 340-6V, and 340-4V in 100% stock configuration (SAE net). Results have come within 1% of the above rated power SAE gross HP.
Publishing SAE net ratings became required by federal law starting with the 1972 model year. SAE net ratings were produced and published for many engines in 1971, but it was not a requirement. Therefore, SAE net ratings could be estimated from SAE gross ratings before 1971 based on what was published in 1971.
Chrysler Corp. had plans to continue the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A for 1971, even publishing advertisements for a 1971 Dodge Challenger T/A. However, no 1971 Dodge Challenger T/A was made.
The 383 Magnum was the standard engine for the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee, 1970 Plymouth Cuda, and 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. It was not available in any other models. However, before 1972, American automobile manufacturers were allowing customers to special order nearly any engine they wanted. Thus, you could get a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury S/23 with the 383 Magnum, which likely had 270 bhp (201 kW) SAE net. This engine was very difficult to start in cold weather until the compression ratio was reduced in 1971. It was introduced in 1968.
The 440 Magnum was not available in the 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T except by special order.
Performance 1/4 mile
- 340: 14.8 @ 96 mph (154 km/h)
- 340 T/A: 14.3 @ 99.5 mph (160.1 km/h) 4-speed with 3.55; it was the same car used on all published tests.
- 383 2-barrel: 15.1 @ 96 mph (154 km/h)
- 383 Magnum R/T: 14.3 @ 99 mph (159 km/h)
- 440 Magnum R/T: 13.8 @ 102 mph (164 km/h)
- 440 Six-Pack: 13.4 @ 107 mph (172 km/h)
- 426 Hemi: 13.2 @ 108 mph (174 km/h)
- J: Car line, Dodge Challenger
- S: Price class (H-High, S-Special)
- 27: Body type (23-Hardtop, 27-Convertible, 29-Sports hardtop)
- R: Engine code (see engines above)
- 0: Last digit of model year
- B: Assembly plant code (B-Hamtramck, E-Los Angeles)
- 100001: Consecutive sequence number
- 1970 = 76,935 *includes 2,539 T/As
- Hardtop I6: 9,929
- Hardtop V8:. 39,350*
- Sports hardtop I6: 350
- Sports hardtop V8: 5,873
- Convertible I6: 378
- Convertible V8: 2,543
- Hardtop R/T: 13,796
- Special Edition hardtop R/T: 3,753
- Convertible R/T: 963
- 1971 = 26,299
- Hardtop I6: 1,672
- Hardtop V8: 18,956
- Convertible I6: 83
- Convertible V8: 1,774
- Hardtop V8 R/T: 3,814
- 1972 = 22,919
- Hardtop I6: 842
- Hardtop V8: 15,175
- Hardtop V8 Rallye: 8,123
- 1973 = 27,930
- Note: All models were V8-powered hardtops
- 1974 = 11,354
- Note: All models were V8-powered hardtops
Light Gold Metallic-FY4, Plum Crazy (purple)-FC7, Sublime (green)-FJ5, Go-Mango(orange)-EK2, Hemi Orange-EV2, Banana (yellow)-FY1, Light Blue Metallic-EB3, Bright Blue Metallic-EB5, Dark Blue Metallic-EB7, Rallye Red-FE5, Light Green Metallic-FF4, Dark Green Metallic-EF8, Dark Burnt Orange-FK5, Beige-BL1, Dark Tan Metallic-FT6, White-EW1, Black-TX9, Cream-DY3, Panther Pink-FM3
Light Gunmetal Metallic-GA4, Light Blue Metallic-GB2, Bright Blue Metallic-GB5, Dark Blue Metallic-GB7, Dark Green Metallic-GF7, Light Green Metallic-GF3, Gold Metallic-GY8, Dark Gold Metallic-GY9, Dark Bronze Metallic-GK6, Tan Metallic-GT5, Bright Red-FE5, Bright White-GW3, Black-TX9, Butterscotch-EL5, Citron Yella-GY3, Hemi Orange-EV2, Green Go-FJ6, Plum Crazy-FC7, Top Banana-FY1
Light Blue-HB1, Bright Blue Metallic-HB5, Bright Red-FE5, Light Green Metallic-GF3, Dark Green Metallic-GF7, Eggshell White-GW1, Black-TX9, Honeydew-GY4, Light Gold-GY5, Gold Metallic-GY8, Dark Gold Metallic-GY9, Dark Tan Metallic-GT8, Light Gunmetal Metallic-GA4, Medium Tan Metallic-GA4, Super Blue-GB3, Hemi Orange-EV2, Top Banana-FY1
Black-TX9, Dark Silver Metallic-JA5, Eggshell White-EW1, Parchment-HL4, Light Gold-JY3, Dark Gold Metallic-JY9, Gold Metallic-JY6, Bronze Metallic-GK6, Pale Green-JF1, Dark Green Metallic-JF8, Light Blue-HB1, Super Blue-TB3, Bright Blue Metallic-GB5, Bright Red-FE5, Top Banana-FY1, Light Green Metallic-GF3
Yellow Blaze-KY5, Golden Fawn-KY4, Parchment-HL4, Bright Red-FE5, Deep Sherwood Metallic (Green)-KG8, Eggshell White-EW1, Black-TX9, Light Blue-HB1
Second generation (1978–1983)
The Challenger name was revived in 1978 for a version of the early Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe. It was known overseas as the Mitsubishi Sapporo/Scorpion and sold through Dodge dealers as a captive import. It was identical except in color and minor trim to the Plymouth Sapporo. Although mechanically identical, the Dodge version emphasized sportiness, with bright colors and tape stripes, while the Plymouth emphasized luxury, with more subdued trim. The cars were slightly restyled in 1981 with revised headlights and other minor cosmetic changes. Both cars were sold until 1984, until being replaced by the Conquest and Daytona.
The car retained the frameless hardtop styling of the old Challenger, but had smaller engines (inline-4s instead of the six and eight-cylinder engines from the old Challenger) and was a long way in performance from its namesake. Nevertheless, it acquired a reputation as a reasonably brisk performer of its type, not least because of its available 2.6 L engine, exceptionally large for a four-cylinder. Four-cylinder engines of this size had not usually been built due to inherent vibration, but Mitsubishi pioneered the use of balance shafts to help dampen this effect, and the Challenger was one of the first vehicles to bring this technology to the American market; it has since been licensed to many other manufacturers. During its six-year run, sales of the Challenger averaged between 12,000 and 14,000 units per year.
Third Generation (2008-present)
The Challenger was reintroduced in 2008 with a design based on the original Challengers. An R/T Hemi version is also available, using Chrysler's modern Hemi V8 engine. This generation was used in the Grand American Road Racing Association. Chrysler has since introduced a Challenger 392, after the size of its engine in cubic inches.