The Challenger is described in a book about 1960s American cars as Dodge’s "answer to the Mustang and Camaro. It was one of two Chrysler E-body cars, the other being the slightly smaller Plymouth Barracuda. "Both the Challenger and Barracuda were available in a staggering number of trim and option levels" and were intended "to compete against cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, and to do it while offering virtually every engine in Chrysler's inventory." However they were "a rather late response to the ponycar wave the Ford Mustang had started. The author of a book about "Hemi"-powered muscle cars says that the Challenger was conceived in the late 1960s as Dodge’s equivalent of the Plymouth Barracuda, and that the Barracuda was designed to compete against the Mustang and Camaro. He adds that Chrysler intended the new Dodge as "the most potent ponycar ever," and positioned it "to compete against the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird." Similarly, the author of a book about the Chrysler pony-cars notes that "[t]he Barracuda was intended to compete in the marketplace with the Mustang and Camaro/Firebird, while the Dodge was to be positioned against the Cougar" and other more luxury-type musclecars.
The Challenger's longer wheelbase, larger dimensions and more luxurious interior were prompted by the launch of the 1967 Mercury Cougar, likewise a bigger, more luxurious and more expensive pony car aimed at affluent young American buyers. The wheelbase, at , was two inches longer than the Barracuda, and the Dodge differed substantially from the Plymouth in its outer sheetmetal, much as the Cougar differed from the shorter-wheelbase Ford Mustang.
Exterior design was done by Carl Cameron, who also did the exterior for the 1966 Dodge Charger. Cameron based the 1970 Challenger grille off an older sketch of his 1966 Charger prototype that was to have a turbine engine. The Charger never got the turbine, but the Challenger got that car's grille. Although the Challenger was well-received by the public (with 76,935 produced for the 1970 model year), it was criticized by the press, and the pony car segment was already declining by the time the Challenger arrived. Sales fell dramatically after 1970, and Challenger production ceased midway through the 1974 model year. About 165,500 Challengers were sold over this model's lifespan.
The performance model was the R/T (Road/Track), with a 383 CID Magnum V8, rated at . Standard transmission was a 3-speed manual. Optional R/T engines were the 440 CID Magnum, the Six-Pack and the Hemi. The R/T was available in all three body styles; both standard and R/T hardtops could be ordered as the more luxurious SE specification, which included leather seats, a vinyl roof, a smaller 'formal' rear window, and an overhead interior console that contained three warning lights (door ajar, low fuel, and seatbelts). The Challenger R/T came with a Rallye instrument cluster which included a speedometer, an 8,000 rpm tachometer, and an oil pressure gauge. The convertible Challenger was available with any engine, as well as in the R/T and SE trim levels. In 1973, Dodge dropped the R/T badging and now called it the "Rallye", although it was never badged as such. The shaker hood scoop was not an option for 1972.
A 1970-only model was the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am) racing homologation car. In order to race in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship, it built a street version of its race car (just like Plymouth with its Plymouth 'Cuda AAR) which it called the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am). Although the race cars ran a destroked version of the 340, street versions took the 340 and added a trio of two-barrel carburetors atop an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, creating the 340 Six Pack. Dodge rated the 340 Six Pack at , only 15 bhp more than the original 340 engine (and mysteriously the same rating as the Camaro Z/28 and Ford Boss 302 Mustang), it actually made about . It breathed air through a suitcase sized air scoop molded into the pinned down, hinged matte-black fiberglass hood. Low-restriction dual exhausts ran to the stock muffler location under the trunk, then reversed direction to exit in chrome tipped "megaphone" outlets in front of the rear wheels. Options included a TorqueFlite automatic or pistol-grip Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission, 3.55:1 or 3.90:1 gears, as well as manual or power steering. Front disc brakes were standard. The special Rallye suspension used heavy duty parts and increased the camber of the rear springs. The T/A was among the first production vehicles to use different size tires front and rear: E60x15 fronts, and G60x15 in back. The modified camber elevated the tail enough to clear the rear rubber and its side exhaust outlets, thick side stripes, bold ID graphics, a fiberglass ducktail rear spoiler, as well as a fiberglass front spoiler added to the image. The interior was strictly stock Challenger. Unfortunately, the race Challenger T/A was not competitive and the street version suffered from severe understeer in fast corners. It could turn mid 14s in the quarter mile, which would do any small block muscle car proud. The T/A would only be available for 1970 as Dodge pulled out of Trans Am racing. Only 2,142 T/As were made. A 1971 model using the 340 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor was planned and appeared in period advertising, but was not produced.
The "Western Special" was a version available only to west coast dealers. It came with a rear-exit exhaust system and Western Special identification on the rear decklid. Some examples came with a vacuum-operated trunk release. Another late production version was the low-priced "Deputy", stripped of some of the base car's trim and with fixed rear side glass.
By 1972, the convertible version and all the big-block engine options were gone. Maximum power was also downgraded to to reflect the more accurate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) net hp calculations. The 1972 models also received a new grille that extended beneath the front bumper.
The 1973 models were no longer available with a six-cylinder engine. For 1974, the engine was replaced by a version, but the pony car market had deteriorated and production of Challengers ceased in mid-1974.
Although the body style remained the same throughout the Challenger's five year run, there were two notable changes to the front grille. The 1971 models had a "split" grille, while 1972 introduced a design that extended the grille beneath the front bumper. With this change to the front end, 1972 through 1974 models had little to no variation. The only way to properly distinguish them is that the 1972s had flush mounted bumpers with no bumper guards, (small bumper guards were optional), while both the 1973 and 1974 models had the protruding "" bumpers (with a rubber type filler behind them) in conjunction with large bumper guards. These changes were made to meet U.S. regulations regarding crash test safety.
The 1970 taillights went all the way across the back of the car, with the backup light in the middle of the rear. In 1971, the backup lights were on the left and right instead of the middle. The taillight array also changed for 1972 onwards, with the Challenger now having four individual rectangular lamps.
Original "numbers matching" high-performance 1970-71 Challengers are now among the most sought-after collector cars. The rarity of specific models with big engines is the result of low buyer interest and sales with the correspondingly low production when new. The 440 and the 426 Hemi engines nowadays command sizable premiums over the smaller engines (with the exception of the limited edition Challenger T/A with its 340 six-pack).
The 1970 and 1971 models tend to generate more attention as performance and style options were still available to the public. However, with the popularity of these vehicles increasing, and the number of usable and restorable Challengers falling, many collectors now search for later models. Many "clones" of the 1970 and 1971 Challengers with high-performance drivetrains have been created by using low-end 6 cylinder and 318 powered non-R/T or T/A cars and installing one of the "Magnum" performance engine combinations (340, 383, 440 or 426 Hemi) and adding the specific badging and hoods.
Chrysler exported Dodge Challengers officially to France as well through their Chrysler France Simca operation, since Ford sold the Mustang in France successfully in small numbers. However, only a few Challengers were exported and Chrysler finally gave up the idea of selling them in France. A few French Challengers still exist today.
(145 bhp) 1970-1972
(230 bhp) 1970-1974
(275 bhp) 1970-1973
(290 bhp) 1970 *T/A
(245 bhp) 1974
(290 bhp and 330 bhp) 1970-1971
(335 bhp) 1970-1971
Available in Magnum 4-barrel carbureted form (375 bhp) 1970-1971
(3 × 2-barrel carburetors and /) 1970-1971
(425 bhp) (317 kW)/, costing an extra US$1,228, and very few sold. 1970-1971
Light Gold Metallic-FY4, Plum Crazy (purple)-FC7, Sublime (green)-FJ5, Go-Mango(orange)-EK2, Hemi Orange-EV2, Banana (yellow)-FY1, Light Blue Metallic-EB3, Bright Blue Metallic-EB5, Dark Blue Metallic-EB7, Rallye Red-FE5, Light Green Metallic-FF4, Dark Green Metallic-EF8, Dark Burnt Orange-FK5, Beige-BL1, Dark Tan Metallic-FT6, White-EW1, Black-TX9, Cream-DY3, Panther Pink-FM3
Light Gunmetal Metallic-GA4, Light Blue Metallic-GB2, Bright Blue Metallic-GB5, Dark Blue Metallic-GB7, Dark Green Metallic-GF7, Light Green Metallic-GF3, Gold Metallic-GY8, Dark Gold Metallic-GY9, Dark Bronze Metallic-GK6, Tan Metallic-GT5, Bright Red-FE5, Bright White-GW3, Black-TX9, Butterscotch-EL5, Citron Yella-GY3, Hemi Orange-EV2, Green Go-FJ6, Plum Crazy-FC7, Top Banana-FY1
Light Blue-HB1, Bright Blue Metallic-HB5, Bright Red-FE5, Light Green Metallic-GF3, Dark Green Metallic-GF7, Eggshell White-GW1, Black-TX9, Light Gold-GY5, Gold Metallic-GY8, Dark Gold Metallic-GY9, Dark Tan Metallic-GT8, Light Gunmetal Metallic-GA4, Medium Tan Metallic-GA4, Super Blue-GB3, Hemi Orange-EV2, Top Banana-FY1
Black-TX9, Dark Silver Metallic-JA5, Eggshell White-EW1, Parchment-HL4, Light Gold-JY3, Dark Gold Metallic-JY9, Gold Metallic-JY6, Bronze Metallic-GK6, Pale Green-JF1, Dark Green Metallic-JF8, Light Blue-HB1, Super Blue-TB3, Bright Blue Metallic-GB5, Bright Red-FE5, Top Banana-FY1, Light Green Metallic-GF3
Yellow Blaze-KY5, Golden Fawn-KY4, Parchment-HL4, Bright Red-FE5, Deep Sherwood Metallic (Green)-KG8, Eggshell White-EW1, Black-TX9, Light Blue-HB1
The Challenger name was revived in 1978 for a version of the early Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe, known overseas as the Mitsubishi Sapporo and sold through Dodge dealers as a captive import, identical except in color and minor trim to the Plymouth Sapporo. Although mechanically identical, the Dodge version emphasized sportiness, with bright colors and tape stripes, and the Plymouth on luxury with more subdued trim. Both cars were sold until 1983 , until being replaced by the Conquest and Daytona.
The car retained the frameless hardtop styling of the old Challenger, but had only a four-cylinder engine and was a long way in performance from its namesake. Nevertheless, it acquired a reputation as a reasonably brisk performer of its type, not least because of its available 2.6 L engine, exceptionally large for a four-cylinder. Four-cylinder engines of this size had not usually been built due to inherent vibration, but Mitsubishi pioneered the use of balance shafts to help damp this out, and the Challenger was one of the first vehicles to bring this technology to the American market; it has since been licensed to many other manufacturers.
On December 3, 2007, Chrysler started taking deposits for the third-generation Dodge Challenger, which debuted on February 6, 2008 simultaneously at the Chicago Auto Show and Philadelphia International Auto Show. Listing at US$40,095, the new version is a 2-door coupe which shares common design elements with the first generation Challenger, despite being significantly longer and taller. The chassis is a modified (shortened wheelbase) version of the LX platform that underpins the 2006-Current Dodge Charger, 2005-2008 Dodge Magnum, and the 2005-Current Chrysler 300. It is equipped with the SRT8 Hemi and a 5-speed AutoStick automatic transmission, and outperforms the legendary 1970 Hemi Challenger. The entire 2008 run of 6,400 cars were pre-sold (many of which for above MSRP), and production commenced on May 8, 2008. Chrysler of Mexico is offering only 100 of this car for that country with a 6.1 liter engine and (SAE); the version is SRT/8.
Chrysler has auctioned off two 2008 SRT8 for charity. 2008 Challenger SRT8 #1 has been auctioned off for $400,000.00 to benefit the notMYkid non-profit org, and a 'B5' Blue Challenger SRT8 #43 with a winning bid of $228,143.43 with the proceeds going to Victory Junction Gang Camp.
At the 2008 New York Auto Show, Chrysler debuted the full Dodge Challenger line for 2009, with three different trims (SE, R/T, and SRT8) to choose from:
The base model Challenger is powered by a SOHC V6 producing (SAE) and torque which is coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Several different exterior colors, and either cloth or leather interiors are available. Standard features include air conditioning; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, sunroof, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and a premium audio system are available as options, as are ABS, and stability and traction control. The Canadian market also sports the SXT trim, similar to the SE, however is even more generous in terms of standard features. Some of these features being ESP, and alarm system, and 18 inch wheels.
The mid-level Challenger is powered by a HEMI V8 producing and coupled to either a 5-speed auto or 6-speed manual transmission. With the 6-speed manual, the Multi-Displacement System option is deleted, but the engine produces (SAE) and torque, whereas the V8 with automatic transmission makes only (SAE) and torque.
The brochure of the 2009 Challenger shows a "classic" version of the Dodge Challenger R/T, with the HEMI, and retro aspects such as script "Challenger" badges on the front panels and black "R/T" stripes. It will be produced in B5 Blue only, and will be late availability.
The '09 SRT8 is virtually identical to its '08 counterpart, with the main difference being the choice of either a 5-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. Standard features include big Brembo brakes, a special suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, heated leather sport seats, keyless go, Sirius satellite radio, and 20-inch forged aluminum wheels in addition to most amenities offered on the lower R/T and SE grades like air conditioning and cruise control. In addition, the 2009 will have a true "limited slip" differential.
A convertible version of the Challenger is rumored to be headed for production for 2010.
Drive, The Beverly Hillbillies (1970-71)