Back in the early 1970′s pony cars were the rage. Chevrolet had the Camaro, Ford had the Mustang, Plymouth had the Barracuda and Dodge had the Charger. But the Charger was a larger car, more of a muscle car than pony car. Plus the Barracuda was showing its age. So, Dodge created their new answer (or their Challenge) to the Mustang and Camaro…the Challenger, which also gave Plymouth a new platform the 1970-174 Barracuda.
Both the 1970-1974 Challenger and the 1970-1974 Barracuda used the Chrysler E-body platform. To differentiate between the two cars, the Challenger was a little larger than the Barracuda. Similar to what Ford did by having the 1967 Mercury Cougar being longer and more luxurious than its stable mate the Ford Mustang. The Challenger had a longer wheelbase, larger dimensions and more luxurious interior than the Barracuda. Besides the 110 inches wheelbase, which was two inches longer than the Barracuda’s, the Challenger also had different sheetmetal from the Barracuda.
1970 Dodge Challenger
The new Challenger was a hit with the public, 76,935 produced for the 1970 model year. However, it was criticized by the motor press. The Challenger was also a little late to the pony car era as sales of pony cars had already peaked by 1970. Sales would fall dramatically over the Challenger’s life, sales for the 1973 model year were a little over 27,800. Challenger production would ceased midway through the 1974 model year. During the four year run, Dodge would sell 165,437 Challengers.
The Challenger premiered with four hardtop models offered: Challenger Six, Challenger V8, Challenger T/A, and Challenger R/T with a convertible version. The standard engine on the base model was the 225 cubic inch six-cylinder. The standard engine on the V8 was the 230 bhp 318 cubic inch V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor. Optional engines included a 340 or 383 cubic inch V8. All engines came with a standard 3-speed manual transmission, except for the 383 engine, which was available only with Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic transmission. A 4-speed manual was optional on all engines except the 225 six-cylinder and the 2-barrel 383 eight-cylinder engine.
1971 Dodge Challenger
After a great introductory year, Dodge did not change too many things on the 1971 Dodge Challenger. The Challenger T/A model was discontinued and the R/T convertible was no longer factory built. However, the “don’t mess with success” theory did not work for the Challenger, only 26, 299 were sold.
1972 Dodge Challenger
To control costs, the Challenger options were cutback and reworked in 1972. The convertible version, most interior upgrades options, comfort/convenience items like power windows and power seats, and all the big-block engine options were gone. There were a few leftover 1971 convertibles that were sold with the 1972 grilles. The only way to tell the real year of production is to check the fender tag. The R/T series was replaced by the Rallye series. Engine choices were down to three: a 225 cubic inch six-cylinder, the 318 and 340 eight cylinders. All three engines were detuned to lower compression ratios in order to run on unleaded gas. Each engine could be mated to a 3-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 340 could also be ordered with a 4-speed manual. On the exterior the 1972 models received a new grille that extended beneath the front bumper. Sales for the year would total 22,919.
1973 Dodge Challenger
With all the changes that occurred in 1972, changes for 1973 were kept minimal. The Challenger front end was revised to accommodate the Federally mandated 5 mph bumpers. The 225 six-cylinder engine was also discontinued. Sales were up over the prior year sales at 27,930.
1974 Dodge Challenger
In October 1973, OPEC would have the first oil embargo against the United States. The embargo effectively killed the market for large American made cars and the pony car. Everyone suddenly wanted fuel efficent sub-compacts, something Chrysler Corporation was lacking across all its brands. The changing market conditions almost killed Chrysler. Given the gas crisis and Chrysler’s delicate financial situation, the 1974 Dodge Challenger (and it cousin the Plymouth Barracuda) was a dead man walking. Dodge stopped production of the Challenger in April 1974. Changes for the year included replacing the 340 cubic inch V8 with a 360 cubic inch V8. Only 11,354 Dodge Challengers were sold in 1974. Dodge would not directly replace the Challenger.
Dodge would bring back the Challenger in 1978 as a sub-compact coupe. However this was Mitsubishi Galant with Dodge emblems.