Why the 1970 model was the best-selling Dodge Challenger of all time

For many, the 1960s and early 1970s defined the pinnacle of the automotive industry in terms of performance and style. At that time, many timeless nameplates in the pony car segment came on the market.


After Ford’s groundbreaking success with the Mustang in the late 1960s, folks at Cleverness decided to retell the story of the American pony in their own way. In the early 1970s, about six years after the debut of the Mustang, Dodge caught the attention of car enthusiasts by releasing the first-generation Challenger.

Even today, the classic 1970 Challenger is one of the most popular muscle cars and costs an arm and a leg at auction. But it’s not just now that the ’70 Dodge Challenger has gained widespread popularity. This model year was even the best seller in the history of the car.

Without further ado, let’s dig deeper into the history behind one of Dodge’s most iconic vehicles.

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Dodge sold more than 83,000 Challengers in its first year

sv1ambo via Flickr

Initially, Dodge introduced the Challenger in the fall of 1969 as a 1970 model. Although built on the same “E-body” platform as the third-generation Plymouth Barracuda, the Challenger offered more interior space thanks to a 2-inch wheelbase increase.

The Challenger was immediately ready to carry the brand’s performance heritage and enter the racing world. To meet homologation requirements, Dodge made the limited edition T/A model for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans-Am Racing. Although the 1970 Challenger failed to win a single race, Sam Posey finished fourth overall in points in Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics Race Shop.

In addition, the Dodge Challenger was one of the first production vehicles to offer different tire sizes for the front and rear wheels; the T/A trim came with E60 x 15-inch front and G60 x 15-inch rear wheels.

The pony also became an instant classic on the big screen. The “Vanishing Point” movie, a must-see high-speed chase movie, featured a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T that became a cult favorite among muscle car enthusiasts.

According to Stellantis’ claims, Dodge sold just over 83,000 Challengers for the 1970 model year. Although Ford managed to sell about double the number of Mustangs in the same year, 1970 was a successful year for Dodge. To this day, no other year of the Challenger has a higher sales rate than the original model.

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Dodge offered four trim levels for the 1970 Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger R:T in red
Via Mecum Auctions

Originally, the Dodge Challenger had two body styles; a two-door hardtop and a convertible. In addition, owners could choose from four different trims, including base, SE (Special Edition), R/T (Road/Track), and T/A (Trans-Am).

For the interior, the Challenger offered the spirit of the American Muscle in a trendy way aimed at younger drivers. A wooden steering wheel with three thin spikes with clear analog readouts dominated the dash making the interior of the 1970 Challenger look like the cockpit of an airplane.

Dodge offered a lot of technology for the first generation of the Challenger. An eight-song player, air conditioning, power windows and a signal-seeking radio are just some of the unique options available to buyers.

Even for colors, Dodge made sure none of the options were anything short of extreme. From the ‘Panther Pink’, ‘Plum Crazy’ and ‘HEMI Orange’ accented with ‘Bumblebee’ stripes to the eye catching ‘Sassy Grass Green’, the Challenger screamed ‘performance’ wherever it roamed.

RELATED: Mr. 1970 Norms-Tuned Challenger owner still drives it despite Dodge’s value

With nine different powertrain options, the ’70 Challenger was one of the most versatile ponies on the market

1970 Dodge Challenger R:T in purple
Via Mecum Auctions

The Dodge Challenger was a little late to the party, as it was the final entry in what people later dubbed “Detroit’s Big Three.” However, one of the main advantages over the Camaro and the Mustang was the variety of engine options.

For starters, the 3.7L inline-six was the smallest engine available for the Challenger. It could produce 145 horsepower. All other eight engines available were V8s with over 200 horsepower.

A 5.2L V8 was next in line making 230 horsepower. The 5.6L engine could produce 275 horsepower. However, due to the adjustments to the T/A trim, that number increased to 290.

The most notable powertrain Dodge offered was the big-block 7.0L Hemi with a dual exhaust system. The engine boasted a whopping 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque.

The first-generation Challenger’s run lasted five years. Within these years, the pony’s head skeleton remained the same, undergoing only minor changes. Although the second generation was considered a flop, the old American spirit was revived in 2008 for the third generation of the Challenger.

Source: Stellantis

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