The Dodge Charger was introduced on January 1, 1966. Built off of the Dodge Coronet chassis but using its own body, the Charger was Dodge’s first fastback, high-speed street racer. It featured many styling cues from the Charger II concept car like a fastback roof design and full width taillamps. The interior featured four bucket seats and a full-length floor console.
The vehicle came with a standard 5.2-liter, 318 cubic-inch V-8 engine delivering 230 horsepower. Other available engines included a 361 cubic-inch V-8 engine that created 265 horsepower, or a 6.2-liter, 383 cubic-inch V-8 engine delivering 325 horsepower. However, it was the availability of a massive 426 cubic-inch Street HEMI® engine that provided 425 horsepower and 490 lb.-ft. of torque that forever defined the vehicle.
Carl "CAM’" Cameron would be the exterior designer of Dodge’s new flagship vehicle, and on January 1, 1966, viewers of the Rose Bowl were first introduced to the new "Leader of the Dodge Rebellion", the 1966 Charger. The Charger’s introduction coincided with the introduction of the new street version of the 426 Hemi. Finally, Dodge would have the performance image to go along with this performance engine.
As the 1966 Charger ’s features would go, the "electric shaver" grille used fully rotating headlights that when opened or closed made the grille look like one-piece. Inside, the Charger used four individual bucket seats with a full length console from front to rear. The rear seats and console pad also folded forward, and the trunk divider dropped back, which allowed for lots of cargo room inside. Many other things were exclusive to the Charger such as the door panels, courtesy lights and the instrument panel.
The instrument panel was especially interesting as regular bulbs weren’t used to light the gauges. Instead four electroluminescent dash pods housed the tachometer, speedometer, alternator, fuel and tempature gauges. In the rear the full length taillight carried the CHARGER script.
Total production in 1966 came to 37,344 units, which was successful for the mid-year introduction.
In 1966 Dodge took the Charger into NASCAR in hopes that the fastback would make their car a winner on the high-banks. But the car proved to have rear end lift around corners which made it very slippery on the faster tracks.
The lift was because the air actually travelled faster over the top of the car than under it, causing the car to act like a giant airplane wing. Drivers would later claim that "it was like driving on ice." In order to solve this problem Dodge installed in a small lip spoiler on the trunk lid which improved traction at speeds above 150 mph. They also had to make it a dealer-installed option in late 1966 and through 1967 because of NASCAR rules (with small quarter panel extensions in 1967). As for history, the 1966 Charger was the first US production vehicle to have a spoiler. Back to NASCAR, David Pearson (driving a #6 Cotten Owens prepared Charger) went on to win the NASCAR Grand National championship in 1966 with 14 first place finishes.
In 1967 the Dodge Charger was slightly moddified. Just afew moddifications were made because the car was such a big succes and the makers decided not to upset the buyers. Outside, new fender-mounted turn signals were introduced and would serve as the main outside indentifier between a 1966 and 1967 Charger. A vinyl roof become available as well. Inside, the full length console was gone, due in part to customer complaints about entry and exit from the back seats. It was replaced with a regular sized console, which was also optional as well. Bucket seats were again standard but as an option you could order a folding armrest/seat in place of the console, which allowed three people to sit up front. A column shifter was standard when you ordered this new option.
In 1968 the Dodge Charger was completely restyled, and now featured a big, bold, aggressive look. A new roof design, called a tunnel roof or a flying buttress, was introduced. An exposed decorative gas filler cap also was a design feature.
In order to further boost the Charger’s muscle car image, a new high-performance package was added, the R/T. This stood for " Road and Track " and would be the high performance badge that would establish Dodge’s performance image. Only the high performance cars were allowed to use the R/T badge. The R/T came standard with the previous year’s 440 " Magnum ". The Slant Six was added to the option list in 1968, but it proved to be a very poor seller. Most people wanted a V8 in their Charger. The rest of the engine lineup (318-2, 383-2, 383-4, 426-8) remained unchanged.
Despite success of the 1966, sales slipped by half. In 1967 only 15,788 Chargers were sold. The fastback craze was over and it was time to completely reinvent Dodge’s muscle car for 1968.
The racing version of the new 1968 Charger combined aerodynamic design, and handling and performance for national circuit racing objectives. No other automaker had applied aerodynamic principles to a race car before, and because of wind tunnel testing, rear spoilers were introduced on NASCAR machines of the mid ’60s to control the tremendous amount of rear lift. In addition, the first front air dam was developed to counteract lifting in the front end.
In 1969 not much was changed for the popular Charger. Exterior changes included a new grill with a center divider and new longitudual taillights. A new trim line called the SE or Special Edition was added. This could be available by itself or packaged with the R/T thus making a R/T SE. The SE added leather inserts to the front seats only, chrome rocker mouldings, a wood grain sterring wheel and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel. A sunroof was added to the option list as well and it would prove to be a very rare option. The bumble stripes returned as well but were changed slightly. Instead of four stripes it now featured one huge stripe framed by two smaller stripes. In the middle of the stripe an R/T cutout was placed. If the stripe was deleted then a metal R/T emblem was placed where the R/T cutout was. Total production dropped slightly to around 85,680 units. But in 1969 Dodge had its eye on NASCAR and in order to compete it would have to create two of the most rare and desirable of all Chargers: Charger 500, and the Charger Daytona.
The 1969 Dodge Charger 500, featured a flush rear window to improve aerodynamics. The Charger Daytona was introduced in September and built specifically for NASCAR competition. The Daytona featured a large aerodynamic nose and a huge “wing” spoiler in the rear that stood 58 inches above the trunk. All Dodge Charger Daytona models were powered by either a 440 Magnum cid or 426 HEMI engine.
Dodge Charger Daytona won its first NASCAR Grand National race at Talladega (Ala.) in September followed by a win at Texas International Speedway. From September 14, 1969, through the next year, Charger Daytona and the Charger 500 won 45 out of the next 59 races. The car dominated racing so much that NASCAR eventually placed restrictions on the HEMI engine by forcing the use of carburetor restrictor plates on Chrysler models featuring the HEMI engine and limiting engine displacement to a maximum of 305 cubic inches on Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird models.
Driver Buddy Baker, behind the wheel of a HEMI-powered Charger, became the first to top the 200 mph mark on a closed-circuit course in 1970.
In 1971 the all new third generation Charger debuted. Completly restyled with a new "Pontiac" grille and more rounded or "fuselage" bodystyle was introduced. Many people have compared the look of the 1971 to 1974 Chargers to the 1968 to 1970 Pontiac GTOs. The interiors now looked more like its E-body cousins and was now shared by its Plymouth B-body sisters. A rear spoiler and a "ramcharger" hood made the option lists for the first time. A special scoop was mounted in the hood directly above the air cleaner. If the driver wanted to put clean air directly into the carburetor all he/she had to do was to pull on a small lever under the dash and the scoop would pop up. This novel idea was used on the Coronet R/T and Super Bees, but this would mark the first time it was used on the Charger.
Dodge also merged its Coronet and Charger lines. From 1971, all four-door B-bodies were badged as Coronets and all two-door B-bodies as Chargers. This change would add the one-year-only Charger Super Bee to the Charger stable.
The Dodge Super Bee made the move from the Coronet line to the Charger line for 1971 only, then the model was discontinued. Several other models were carried over from 1970, including the 500. However this 500 could be ordered with any engine and was not the high performance model it was in 1969. The R/T and SE versions carried over as well, but the R/T popularity was on the downslide thanks to higher insurance costs. Only 63 Hemi versions were built and 2,659 were built with other engines that year.
Rapidly rising insurance rates combined with higher gasoline prices reduced sales of musclecars and 1971 was the last year of availability for the 426 Hemi "elephant engine" in any car, including the Charger. 1972 also saw the end of the high performance 440 Six-Pack engine (although a very small amount of 1972 Chargers came with this engine). The 1972 Charger bowed with a new "Rallye" option to replace the former R/T version. The 440 engines were still available, but now had to use the net horsepower rating instead of the gross horsepower rating. This would cause their horsepower ratings to go down substantially.
After the 1972 model year no 440 four speed cars were built, and the use of the pistol grip 4-speeds were reduced to 400 cubic inches or less. The 1972 to 1974 Chargers saw a change as they were no longer called performance cars, but were gradually turned into personal luxury cars, as it was with other manufacturers who saw the handwriting on the wall. The end of the muscle car era was coming to a close, and the 1975 Dodge Charger would be the final nail in the coffin.
The 1975 Dodge Charger would be nothing more than a rebadged Chrysler Cordoba. The Charger SE (Special Edition) was the only model offered. It came with a wide variety engines from the 225 in³ (3.7 L) "Slant Six" to the 400 in³ (6.6 L) big block. The standard engine was the 360 in³ (5.9 L) small block. Sales in 1975 amounted to 30,812.
In 1976 the model range was expanded to four models — base, Charger Sport, Charger SE and the Charger Daytona. The base and Sport models used a different body than the SE and Daytona, and were essentially a rebadging of what had been the 1975 Dodge Coronet 2-door models. The Charger Daytona was introduced in hopes or rekindling the performance fire, but it amounted to little more than a tape/stripe package. It did offer either the 360 small block or the 400 big block. Sales did go up slighty to 65,900 in 1976 but would quickly plummet after that.
In 1977 the base Charger and Charger Sport were dropped (as this body style became part of the newly named B-body Monaco line) and only the Charger SE and Charger Daytona were offered. Sales dropped to 36,204. In 1978 the Charger sold only about 2,800 units and was replaced by a much better seller, the Dodge Magnum.
The Dodge Charger – one of the biggest, well-known names from the muscle car era – has powered its way back to streets and racetracks across America, paying homage to the muscle cars of the ’60s, and adding 21st century performance and functionality.
Available with a 250 horse power High-Output V-6 engine or the legenday 340 horsepower HEMI V-8 engine, the all new 2006 Dodge Charger races into the car market with contemporary, provocative styling and substance with all the convenience of a modern sedan.
With powerful world-class hardware and software beneath the Charger’s skin, Dodge designers sculptured a car that celebrates all that is good about American cars in a thoroughly modern way. The all-new 2006 Dodge Charger has a long character line that defines the front corners, runs back to the rear door and makes way for a huge rear fender that gives notice that the car is rear-wheel-drive powered.
The 2006 Dodge Charger is offered in several versions designed specifically for all levels and desires of modern muscle-car enthusiasts. The Dodge Charger SE, SXT, R/T and the Dodge Charger Daytona R/T are all available in the first year of production.
The Dodge Charger had a great success movies also. It`s bad boy looks and rebel reputation made it wanted by a lot of directors and film producers.
It`s first important role was in the movie Bullit were it was diriven by the bad guys. The chase featuring Steve McQueen driving a Ford Mustang and the bad guys in a Dodge Charger was one of the best car chases ever made. But unfortunately for the Charger , it ended badly.
The modern day "rebirth" of the legend was in the first part of the Fast and Furious film, where a 1970 supped up Charger was presented as the ultimate car. With 900 Hp, the car was a monster on wheels and Dominic (Vin DIesel) was terrified but that car. Of course, in the purest Hollywood style, the car was completly destroied at the end.
In 2005 another legendary Charger was brought to life: General Lee , the car that the two brothers, The Dukes of Hazard drove in 1969 Charger. "The General" had the Confederate flag painted on the roof and the words "GENERAL LEE" over each door. The windows were always open, as the doors were (allegedly) welded shut. The number "01" is painted on both doors. Also, when the horn is pressed, it plays the first 12 notes from the de facto Confederate States anthem "Dixie". The muscle car performed spectacular jumps in almost every episode, and the show’s popularity drove a surging interest in the car. The show itself purchased hundreds of Chargers for stunts, as they generally destroyed at least one car per episode. (Real Chargers stopped being used for jumps at the end of the show’s sixth season, and were grudgingly replaced with miniatures.)
Other movies that featured the Charger:
- Speedway (1968)
- Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
- Truck Turner (1974)
- Cannonball (1976)
- Bad Georgia Road (1977)
- Christine (1983)
- The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)
- Blue Velvet (1986)
- Forever Young (1992)
- Unlawful Entry (1992)
- The Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
- Spy Hard (1996)
- Vanishing Point Remake (1997)
- Blade (1998)
- ED TV (1999)
- Best Laid Plans (1999)
- Payback (1999)
- The Forsaken (2001)
- The Mexican (2001)
- Blade II (2002)
- Big Fish (2003)
- Blade: Trinity (2004)
- Man on Fire (2004)
- Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
- House of Wax (2005)
- Banshee (2006)