History Of The Dodge Challenger
1965 Work begins on the first Dodge-badged pony car. Carl Cameron's design was chosen, with the 1970 car's grille coming from his grille design first proposed for the 1966 Dodge Charger.
1968 The first of the Dodge Challenger prototypes is produced.
1969 The Dodge Challenger is officially released to the public as a 1970 model on Friday, August 1, 1969.
1970 The first model year. In coming with Dodge's market position of competing with Pontiac and Mercury, the Challenger's wheelbase is 2" longer than its Plymouth cousin, the Barracuda. The Challanger was offered in five different trim lines (Deputy, base, R/T, SE and T/A) 1970 and several engine options were available, ranging from the 225 CID "Slant Six" to the 426 cubic inch Hemi. There were variations of the 340, 383, and 440 CID engines in between. Almost 73,000 units were sold that first year.
1970 In order to race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship, Dodge built a street version of its race car called the Dodge Challenger T/A. Although the race cars ran a destroked version of the 340, street versions took the 340 and added a trio of two-barrel carbs atop an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, creating the 340 Six Pack, rated at 290 hp. The engine breathed air through a suitcase-sized air scoop molded into the pinned down, lift off matte-black fiberglass hood. Dual exhausts ran to the stock muffler location under the trunk, then reversed direction to exit in chrome tipped "megaphone" outlets in front of the rear wheels. The T/A was the first production car to use different size tires front and rear: E60x15 in the front and G60x15 in back. Bold stripes, 340 Six Pak graphics and a ducktail spoiler added to the package. The T/A would only be available for 1970 as Dodge would pull out of Trans Am racing.
A photo of my dad's 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A (bought new on '70, sold in '74)
1971 Revised grille and taillights differentiate the '71 from the '70. The T/A option is dropped, but a base model convertible is offered, as well as 50 "Indianapolis 500 Pace Car" models. The R/T model is now available with the 340. Sales slumped from 1970, with roughly 30,000 units sold.
1971 The Dodge Challenger makes its film debut in the movie "Vanishing Point". In the film, our man Kowalski works for a car delivery service and bets that he can deliver a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. After run-ins with motorcycle cops and highway patrol they chase him through Utah, Nevada and California. Along the way, Kowalski is guided by Super Soul - a blind disc jockey monitoring a police radio scanner. Throw in lots of chase scenes, gay hitchhikers, and a naked woman riding a motorbike and you've got a great cult hit from the early 70's.
1972 Big changes in 1972. Gone were the R/T, SE and convertible models and all big block engines, incluidng the Hemi. Another new grille (the third in three years), the "fish mouth" (“sad faced”) grille. The Challenger Rallye was introduced to replace the R/T and it came with the (now 240 hp) 340. Base engine was the "Slant Six" and optional was the 318 2-bbl with 150 hp. Production was down to just over 26,000 units.
1973 1973 brought large bumper guards and the "Slant Six" was dropped from the lineup. Base engine was now the 318 2-bbl with 150 hp. A gunmetal grey color was added and the 360 4-bbl (245 hp net) was introduced late in the year to replace the 340, which was difficult to certify for emissions. Production rose to nearly 33,000.
1974 By 1974, there were two engine choices: the 318 and the 245 hp 360. Larger bumper guards were installed to meet increasing crash standards. Challenger production ended in April, 1974, with a mere 16,000 units produced. In its short life, the Challenger turned out to be one of the best-looking pony cars and is today highly sought after. Its sales were probably never satisfying for Chrysler, which had invested quite a bit in the Challenger and Barracuda.
1978 The Challenger nameplate was resurrected on a re-badged Mitsubishi Galant Lambda, an "economy sport" car paired with the Plymouth Sapporro in United States. Offered with 1.6L or 2.6L inline four cylinder engines, the car was priced right around $8,000. It was a far cry from the original with its tiny engines and distinctly "import" styling.
1983 Production of the Mitsubishi built Dodge Challenger ceased. Few noticed.
2005 After some 22 years without the Challenger name plate, and 31 years without a high-performance Dodge Challenger, rumors begin to circulate about the possible reincarnation of a Hemi-powered rear wheel drive Pony car from Dodge. Spy photos surface of what is believed to be the "next Challenger".
2006 In early January of 2006, several car magazines release articles showing pictures confirming that the 2005 photos which were suspected to be the next Dodge Challenger were correct, and the magazines confirm that this new Challenger will come equipped with a 6.1L, 425 hp Hemi. On Jaunary 8, 2006, the North American International Auto Show opens, and pictures from every possible news source debut the first moving pictures of the Challenger, and on January 14, 2006, the general public is introduced to the 'Dodge Challenger Concept', as the public viewing days begin at the North American International Auto Show.
2008 The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Chicago.
2009 The 2009 Dodge Challenger was unveiled on March 19, 2008. Powering the Dodge Challenger R/T will be a revised 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine producing 370 horsepower with a five-speed automatic and 375 hp with a six-speed manual transmission. The engines belt out 398 lb-ft (540 Nm) and 404 lb-ft (548 Nm) of torque, respectively. The Challenger R/T can do 0-60 in under six seconds, bone stock.
The manual-transmission Challenger R/T has numerous differences from the automatic aside from the transmission itself, using a variable displacement power steering pump, different rear shocks, and other tuning changes — and the ability to shut off the ESP completely, rather than having it in “rescue” mode. The gas mileage for the manual transmission is a little lower than the automatic, because it cannot have the multiple-displacement system (cylinder shutoff). A special-edition Dodge Challenger Classic R/T will be available later in the 2009 model year, with B5 blue paint, black side stripes, unique badging, and 20-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels.
The 2009 Challenger SRT8 keeps its 425 horsepower V8, while adding a stick-shift option; it can do 0-60 in under five seconds. The Dodge Challenger SE, powered by the 3.5-liter V-6, uses a four-speed automatic.