Dodge Challenger (1970-1974)
In the fall of 1969, five years after the first pony cars hit the streets, Dodge introduced the Challenger. Under the hood, engines choices included the 340 Six-Pack, 383 Magnum, 440 Magnum, 440 Six-Pack and the mighty 426 Hemi. Exterior options included a plethora of wild colors and graphics, and along with hood scoops and pistol-grip shifters, the Dodge Challenger was a worthy component to the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro.
Chrysler Corporation's first pony car was the A-body Plymouth Barracuda, which was introduced in 1964. In 1968, a second-generation Barracuda was marketed. Sales were lukewarm, with Plymouth building just 31,987 examples.
The 1970 Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Cuda had little in common with the A-body cars from which previous Barracudas were based. Using components from both the compact A-body and midsize B-body cars, the E-body design featured long hoods and short rear decks. They were wider than the previous Barracuda, with the Challenger getting two more inches of wheelbase at 110-inches wheelbase. Total length was 192 inches.
The outer shell of the Challenger was designed by Carl 'Cam' Cameron, who also designed the 1966 Dodge Charger. The grille was inspired by one of Cameron's earlier designs for the Charger. The taillamps ran across the back of the car with one backup light in the center. Two body styles were available, coupe or convertible.
There were many trim and option levels on the base Challenger, Challenger SE and Challenger R/T models. Many stripe and option packages were offered. Challenger's SE package added a vinyl top with a smaller rear window. The Gran Coupe model added body sill, wheel lip, and beltline moldings. Color options included bright green, bright yellow, and plum crazy purple.
Dodge Challenger Engine Options
Upon introduction, there were nine different engines available for the Challenger, including the base 145-hp, 225-cubic-inch Slant Six, a 318-cubic-inch V8 with a two-barrel carburetor could be had or, a 340-cubic-inch V8 with a four-barrel at 275-hp.
Three versions of the 383-cubic-inch V8 were offered; 290, 330 or 335 horsepower. The 440 four-barrel motor produced 375-hp, and the 440 Six-Pack was rated at 390-hp. The 426 Hemi was underrated at 425 horsepower.
Base Challengers had a three-speed manual transmission standard, with four-speed manual or three-speed automatic optional on all models. Mid-year, a tenth engine, a 340 topped by the Six-Pack induction (making 290-hp) debuted in the limited-edition AAR and T/A models.
1970 Challenger T/A
With a tuned three-carb 340ci engine and megaphone side exhaust outlets, the Challenger T/A was created to compete in the SCCA Trans Am racing venue. A functional hood scoop was mounted on a fiberglass hood, and front and rear sway bars helped handling. The T/A was a one-year only model, with less than 2,200 built.
1970 Challenger AAR
Like the T/A, the Challenger AAR (All American Racers) featured the side-exhausted 340ci V-8 topped with three 2-bbl Holley carburetors. Horsepower was 290 and was backed by either a four-speed manual or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. About 1,000 AAR Challengers were produced. In all, Dodge sold 76,935 Challengers for the 1970 model year.
A mild restyle was seen in 1971 as the Challenger got a new split grille and restyled back-up lamps. Industry-wide emissions regulations brought lower compression ratios, which lowered engine outputs. There were now eight engines offered, starting with the 198-cubic-inch version of the Slant Six, up to the unchanged 426 Hemi V8, still rated at 425 gross hp (but only about 350 net). The 440 with a four-barrel carb was gone from the lineup, as was the 340 Six-Pack.
A total of 29,883 Challengers were built during the 1971 model year. A Challenger convertible paced the Indy 500, but no replicas were made for the public.
The convertible was gone, just the Challenger and Challenger Rallye hardtop remained. The grille was redesigned again, now resembling a wide horse collar and extending beneath the front bumper. The tail was also redesigned. Engine choices were down to three, the base 225ci six, a 150-horsepower, two-barrel 318 and 240-horsepower, four-barrel 340. Sales continued to slide, with Dodge selling 26,658 Challengers.
Aside from the discontinued six-cylinder engine, the 1973 Challengers were carryovers from '72. Minor differences between the two years was the adoption of rubber bumperettes to meet new safety regulations, and electronic ignition added. Despite higher insurance premiums and a fuel crisis, sales increased slightly from 1972, with 32,596 Challengers sold.
Sales fell sharply during the 1974 model year, with just 16,437 Challengers produced. The biggest change from 1973 was the substitution of a 245-hp, 360-cubic-inch four-barrel V8 in place of the 340ci motor.
Original numbers-matching 426 and 440-equipped Challengers are now among the most sought-after collector cars. Because of their value, clone cars have started appearing. These are usually lower-end six-cylinder or 318-powered non-R/T or non-T/A models, fitted with one of the high-performance engines, with corresponding hoods and badging added.
Vehicle identification numbers on first-gen Challengers can be found on the radiator support, cowl, dash, and fender tag. Challenger VIN's are JS for an R/T, JH for a standard Challenger, and JP for an S.E.
Like many American-made cars of the day, common rust areas on Challengers include trunk floor, quarter panels, and other typical spots. Also look for rust in the cowl area, near the brake master cylinder and at the hood hinges.
From 1970 to 1974, over 165,000 Challengers were sold, with over 80,000 units sold in the first year alone. The rarest of these first-gen Challengers were the Hemi-powered convertibles, followed by the Hemi-powered coupes. These rare models have sold from $200,000 to over $1 million in excellent condition.
Vanishing Point Car
Filmed throughout the American Southwest, the 1971 movie "Vanishing Point" starred Barry Newman driving a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. Five Alpine White Challengers were lent to the studio by Chrysler for promotional consideration. Four cars had 440 engines equipped with four-speeds, and the fifth car was a 383 with an automatic. All five were returned upon completion of filming.
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