There are a variety of Dodge vehicles, on three different levels, all bearing the Charger nameplate. The name “Dodge” is connected with a performance model but has also been given to ordinary sedans, hatchbacks and a personal luxury coupe. The name was also given to a 1999 concept car that was very different from the average Charger and was set to be put into production for the 2006 model year.
In 1966 Dodge officially introduced the Charger as competition to the Ford Mustang and the Plymouth Barracuda. The famous Dodge Charger’s interior was state of the art for that time, especially with its four-bucket seats, two in the front and two at the back. The console was also innovative, instead of just being in the front it went full length from front to back. A total of 37,344 Dodge Chargers were produced in 1966.
The model was such a success that in 1967 only minor changes was made, like the adding of turn signals on top of the fenders and the full-length console replaced with a normal-sized console. But the time soon came for change to take place when only half the number of sales for 1966 was sold in 1967.
The 1968, a newly designed Dodge Charger had what is called a “coke bottle” styling which means that the front fenders and the back quarter panels had curves that resembled a coke bottle. The full-length taillights were replaced with taillights similar to a Corvette; these are just some of the differences that changed the 1968 Charger. A year later there was not much difference in the car from an aesthetic point, just slight modifications to the outside of the car. Aside from the R/T version there was also a Special Edition version, which focused on luxury and gave a unique option of a sunroof, which was rare for that time.
The end of muscle cars came in 1971 due to the strict emission standards and the high insurance costs that were put in place. Since then Chargers and Coronets have shared the same body style but the Charger is only a two door whereas the Coronet is a four door. Between 1972 and 1974, the Charger was moved from performance category to a luxury car.
The very first Ford Mustang came off the assembly line in Michigan, in 1964. The public that attended the New York World Fair, caught their first glimpse of the Mustang, and it was viewed on television networks on 19 April 1964. The automotive industry would never see another product launch like this. Within the first 18 months, over a million Mustangs had been sold, and after revisions over the years, the Mustang is still in production today.
The years 1969 and 1970, saw the birth of the Ford Mustang Boss 302. Ford had attempted to combine the brute power of muscle cars, with the comfortable handling capabilities of a sports car. The press loved the Boss 302 Mustang, and even said that this car was everything that the GT-350 should have been. The Ford Mustang Boss 302 featured a 5.0 L V8 engine and cylinder heads that were used on 5.8 L engines. The combination of these parts, together with its manual four-speed gearbox,elevated the Boss 302 Mustang 290 hp into a class of its own. The Boss 302 Mustang was originally going to be named Trans Am, but that already applied to the Firebird by Pontiac.
Ford’s most competitive rival against their Mustang, was the Chevrolet Camaro. Ford had the lead in the “pony car” division, which was largely created by Ford, when they first introduced their Mustang in 1964. Unfortunately, the Mustang could not compete with the Camaro with regard to performance, which led to the development of the 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and the design and production of the Boss 302 Ford.
The Boss 302 Mustang is also well known at drag racing venues. Ford made a Drag Pack option available, which was free of charge. All that was needed was to order the 4.3:1 rear axle ratio car. The conversion can be seen under the hood, with an oil cooler mounted in front of the vehicle’s radiator.
The Ford Mustang Boss 302 is still very popular with the reproduction of muscle cars, and can be seen in the diecast model toys available in the Matchbox, ERTL American Muscle and Hot Wheels ranges. The “hockey” side stripe on the car, the chin spoiler and the rear louvers distinguish this muscle car which is still popular and much loved.
Plymouth is a division of Chrysler Corporation, and were responsible for the productin of the two-door Plymouth Barracuda between 1964 and 1974. Originally, the Barracuda was constructed on an A-body chassis. This chassis was extremely common in the vehicles that were being manufactured by Chrysler, which included the Dodge Dart. It had the characteristics of the Valiant. The Valiant is believed to be the very first pony car, to reach the market, as it was available two weeks before the Ford Mustang.
The Plymouth Barracuda was made famous by the massive fastback rear window, that basically wrapped around, and was the largest automotive glass part that was ever installed at that time. The Barracuda’s performance was at first extremely modest, with a 180 horse power V8 engine, that would improve over the years, but also stood out due to its push button shifter that was mounted in the dashboard. All 1964 automatic Barracudas were fitted with this feature.
The year 1965 was an interesting year for the Plymouth Barracuda as two new options were introduced. The 4.5L Commando, which was a 235hp V8 engine, and the performance package that was called Formula ‘S’, and included the engine together with a standard tachometer, and upgraded wheels, tires and suspension. Over the following years, the Plymouth Barracuda would undergo various facelifts and engine changes, to remain competitive in the changing market. The 1966 model is considered unique, with the Barracuda Fish emblem being added, new grills and redesigned, chiseled features. The Plymouth Barracuda was completely redesigned in 1967. The models that followed had convertible options and notchbacks.
Engine options were improved as the competition grew. With the 7.2 L RB single four barrel carbureted engine being available, on the floors of the showrooms. In 1969 the limited addition 80 Super-Stock was released. It was a Hemi-powered Barracuda, built in 1968, that was not street legal, as it was built for racing and was often used in drag racing. A few Savage GT’s were also manufactured, that came off the second generation Plymouth Barracudas. The 1971 Hemi-powered Plymouth Barracuda and the 426 Hemi are considered extremely rare and almost priceless amongst collectors. There were only 14 Hemicuda’s manufactured in 1970, and at an auction in 2006, one was sold for US$2.16.
Production of the Plymouth Barracuda ended after a successful, ten year run, during the 1973 oil crisis. The third generation was a failure in the market, and after hanging on until 1974, the Plymouth Barracuda was discontinued. The rarity of some of the Plymouth Barracuda models is due to the public not being interested, sales being low, and therefore, not many were produced. Today, it is a classic muscle car, with many collectors just waiting for the opportunity to find one.
The Plymouth Road Runner was a muscle car built by Plymouth to be the crowning glory over the following cars by the same manufacturer: the Satellite, the Fury, the Belvedere and the Volare. These cars were all coupes, and it was the opinion of many, that muscle cars had been improving, but also losing the true muscle car feel and characteristics. Plymouth had already built the GTX, which was a high performance car, but they decided to go back to the basics of a muscle car, and bring the original muscle car back to life. They envisioned an affordable car that can also hit the 14 seconds mark in the quarter mile, and the Plymouth Road Runner was all they had aimed for, and its success in the market outranked the GTX.
Plymouth had to pay Warner Brothers $50,000, to enable them to use the Warner Bothers’ Road Runner name and cartoon character. The Plymouth Road Runner would have increased handling and performance abilities, and all the little luxuries that had crept in over the years, and that were not essential to the car, were left out of the design. Even the carpets were left out, which left the car with a Spartan interior. The standard engine for the Road Runner, would be a 383 CID, or 6.3 L, Roadrunner V8. This engine had 425ft-lb of torque and 335 bhp. If you were prepared to pay an additional fee, you could have a 426 CID Hemi engine fitted, which had 490ft-lb torque and 425 bhp. This engine would prove to be the best in the era of muscle cars, and could run a 13.4 second time in a quarter mile, at 105 miles per hour. Plymouth estimated their Plymouth Road Runner sales to be approximately 2,000, but to their delight, sales numbers soared to about 45,000.
In 1969, a few cosmetic changes were made, and a convertible Road Runner added, of which only 2,000 were manufactured in a year. And even more rare, is the fact that only nine convertibles were fitted with a Hemi engine. The standard engine for the Road Runner would remain the 383, but the 440 Six Barrel (440 CID engine that has three two-barrel carburetors) was released specifically for the drag racing class. Six Barrel Road Runners did not feature any hubcaps or wheel covers. Plymouth was slingshot to dragstrip icons, thanks to the 440 6-BBL and the 426 Hemi.
After “Motor Trend” magazine named the Road Runner as the Car of the Year, in 1969, the vehicle sales sky rocketed to 82,109 units. In 1970, the Road Runner underwent a facelift to the front and rear, and together with the GTX, both cars remained very popular. In the following years, the Plymouth Road Runner would go through cosmetic and engine changes, the convertible would be cancelled in 1971, and the 426 Hemi era would come to an end in 1972. The Road Runner would eventually become part of the Volare line, until it own discontinuation in 1980.
Mention the Pontiac Firebird to virtually any person and they’ll know that it was one of the most memorable cars ever to roll off the manufacturer’s line – even if they know nothing more about it. The car has defined the lives of so many car lovers and it is truly one of the most spectacular muscle cars ever. The Pontiac Firebird emerged quite unpretentiously halfway through 1967 only to get heads turning and people talking. Before long, the motor industry was abuzz with excitement. The car was produced by the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors and it was designed and marketed as a pony car – an affordable, compact and stylish sporty car. Were it not for the Ford Mustang and the Mercury Cougar released that same year, the Pontiac Firebird would have completely dominated the scene.
The original model was built on GM’s F-body platform and it had a more likeable rendition of the Pontiac nose. A twin-scoop hood and nice curves further added to its sporty appeal. The Firebird also had a solid, rear axle – a feature which continued to be incorporated into future versions of the car. In 1969, the car had a major facelift. The entire front end was redesigned, making use of an Endura bumper to house the headlights and grilles. Even the instrument panel, steering wheel and ignition switch were changed and updated. For a bit of extra money, buyers could have the Trans Am Performance and Appearance Package which was a little bit more buff than the newly remodelled Firebird and which was named after the Trans-Am Series without permission. In the first year just 697 Trans-Ams were built – only eight of which were convertibles. The Trans-Am cars could be standard or beefed up but they only came in polar white with blue stripes. Today these are highly prized collectors’ cars.
The 1970s Firebird was a completely remodelled version of the classic. This second generation car featured a more sweeping body styling as opposed to the classic ‘coke bottle’ shape. The twin-scoops were made smaller and positioned closer to the front of the bonnet while the double-grille was split further apart and positioned between a single, functional headlight on either side of the car. The remodelling was a complete success and the car enjoyed massive sales. Ironically, the Firebird Trans-Am that emerged at this time were actually more boxy in shape with a protruding Pontiac nose and more angular shapes. Between 1982 and 1992, the third generation of Pontiac Firebirds emerged. The new models were lighter than older cars and incorporated GM’s CCC engine control system. They benefited from improved performance and better fuel economy and had a lower emission rate than previous models. The styling also changed somewhat, with two pop-up lights becoming the most prominent feature on the beautifully restyled front end. By 1984 the unique T-top styling also became a feature.
The fourth and most recent generation of Pontiac Firebird emerged in 1993 and ended in 2002. These beautifully sleek, aerodynamic cars have kept in line with the Firebird tradition of producing fast, stylish and affordable little cars. Truly, not enough can be said about the Firebird’s contribution to the world of muscle cars – but they continue to live on as a most memorable motor vehicle.