The Dodge Charger is one of the most beloved V8 muscle cars in the world. Plus, it’s one of the few sacred cars that keeps its promise of being a silly, tire-guzzling time capsule. After more than fifty years of the Dodge Charger, it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to the history of this larger-than-life American icon.
The first-generation Dodge Charger was a big, bad car with a bigger, badder look
By the mid-1960s, major US manufacturers were already producing V8 muscle cars in coupe and convertible platforms. Ford shocked the planet with its pony car, the Mustang, which the company released as a 1964 ½ model. Furthermore, Pontiac had clear success with its GTO and Chevrolet had a dominator in the Chevelle. So what did everyone’s favorite Mopar muscle car maker do? Dodge created the 1966 Charger on a Coronet chassis.
The car was an instant hit, with four V8 engine options and a sporty sloping fastback roofline. Specifically, the first-generation Dodge Charger offered a 5.2L V8, a 5.9L V8, a 6.3L V8, and a massive 7.0L Hemi V8 that produced 425 horsepower. Mopar Connection Magazine says Dodge followed Ford’s initiative to use motorsport victories to boost sales. The Dodge Charger would make history at NASCAR.
When did the first Dodge Charger enter NASCAR?
During Dodge’s 1966 venture into NASCAR with the Charger, the big muscle car won 14 times and won the Grand National Championship. But even with the spectacular wins under its belt, the 1967 model year saw a drop in sales that worried Dodge executives.
The second-generation Dodge Charger is one of the most famous silhouettes in cinema
Armed with timeless Coke bottle lines, a fastback roofline and that sinister hidden front headlight, the 1968 Dodge Charger came out swinging. The second generation, which ran from 1968 to 1970, is the immortal Hollywood star of films such as Bullitt and The Fast and the Furious. Given its menacing aesthetic, it makes sense that filmmakers would opt for the villainous Dodge muscle car.
But even more intimidating than the styling, the Charger now has an optional 7.2L V8. In addition, fans of V8 muscle cars could rejoice at the introduction of the Dodge Charger 500 and eventually the unmistakable Charger Daytona. The Daytona would break an oval race record by shooting to over 200 mph.
The Charger is dead, long live the Charger
After a short tenure, Dodge seemed to be hit pretty hard by the global oil crisis of 1973. It seemed unsustainable to produce and own real V8 muscle cars. In a parade of model years that MotorTrend calls “Meh,” the Charger seemed to dial it up. Finally, in 1978, Dodge discontinued the iconic vehicle.
Several attempts were made in the 1980s to make more fuel-efficient Chargers, including a collaboration between Lee Iacocca and American motorsport royalty himself, Carroll Shelby. The team produced several small engine chargers, including a turbocharged variant. However, in 1987, the Dodge Charger faded into history again, this time for a count.
When did Charger come back?
The history of the Dodge Charger continued with a vengeance in 2005. Initially, DaimlerChrysler conceived the Charger sedan to accompany the Dodge Magnum wagon. However, it soon became clear that the reborn Dodge Charger had a market of its own. The horsepower cascade began with an R/T model and an SRT8 that churned out 425 angry ponies from a 6.1L V8.
Dodge started cranking things up to the levels we know and love in 2011. Bigger and bigger power sources found their way to the stable. Additionally, along with a 2015 redesign, the Charger met the Hellcat. The Dodge Charger made history for the first time with a factory 707 hp V8. If that wasn’t enough, the latest Chargers, like the Hellcat Redeye, will destroy all tires with nearly 800 horsepower.
The Dodge Charger is more than a four-door sedan or muscle car. It is an American institution.
Scroll down to the next article to learn more about a recent Dodge Charger that stays true to its roots.
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