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1970-1974 Dodge Challenger

1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 Dodge Challenger Styling

Though the Dodge Challenger shared much with the Barracuda inside, it was quite different outside, and little sheet metal was interchangeable.

Bill Brownlie's crew etched in a distinctive bodyside crease line, missing on the Barracuda and hopped up at the rear to match the fender curvature. It nicely accented the markedly tucked under lower bodysides, a characteristic of Chrysler's "fuselage" styling in these years that made its cars look quite aerodynamic.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T front view
Here, a rare R/T convertible with “shaker” hood,
the big 440 “Six Pak” engine, and wild
“Panther Pink” paint.

Body surfaces were extremely clean, with flush door handles, hidden windshield wipers, and ventless side glass. The Challenger was also set apart from the Barracuda in having four headlamps instead of two, a set-back "venturi" grille instead of the Plymouth's split affair, wide horizontal taillamps instead of square ones, and a less abruptly cut off back panel.

Motor Trend magazine's initial impression was "quite a hunk of car." Said Brownlie of the styling at the Challenger's press introduction: "We call it 'road appearance' " -- adding in a remark indicative of the times: "The anticipatory thinking of a stylist is predicated on market research and sound engineering -- coupled with some hallucinatory trips."

The prevailing psychedelic trendiness of the era was most evident on the chip chart, where the 18 color choices included five "High-Impact" hues bearing very "mod" names: Plum Crazy, Sub Lime, Go-Mango, Hemi Orange, and Top Banana. Added later were Panther Pink and Green-Go.

Both hardtop and convertible were offered in two versions, standard and R/T (the latter denoting "Road/Track") for a four-model lineup. Base models had all-vinyl upholstery, three-spoke steering wheel with simulated-walnut rim, and bright wheelhouse moldings among their accoutrements, along with Chrysler's workhorse 225-cubic-inch slant-six engine, rated at 145 horsepower. Standard gearbox was a fully synchronized three-speed manual with floorshift.

Torqueflite automatic was optional, and the base V-8 was the equally familiar 318-cid unit, packing 230 horsepower.

The cheapest 1970 Challenger was the six-cylinder standard coupe, priced at $2,851. R/Ts carried about a $300 price premium, but you got a lot for the extra outlay: a 335-horsepower 383 Magnum V-8, heavy-duty Rallye suspension, F70 X 14 raised-white-letter blackwall tires, heavy-duty brakes, and a Rallye instrument cluster with a 150-mph speedometer, trip odometer, 8,000-rpm tachometer, oil pressure gauge, and clock, plus windshield washers.

A rear "bumblebee" stripe, a trademark of Dodge's sportier models since the mid 1960s, could be specified on R/Ts at no charge. Alternatively, you could get bodyside stripes, which were fluorescent when mated with the "High-Impact" colors -- and quite an attention-grabber at night.

Both hardtops could be ordered with a Special Edition package, a luxury option that recalled the design studio's original GT concept. It included a vinyl roof with a smaller "formal" backlight and "SE" emblems on the sail panels.

Inside were leather seat facings, woodgrain dash trim, and an overhead console with warning lights for "door ajar," "seat belts," and "low fuel."

Considering the Challenger was intended as a plusher ponycar, its cockpit came off as surprisingly severe and plain. Occupants were surrounded by dunes of molded ABS plastic, and even standard bucket seats and deep-pile carpeting couldn't completely counteract the austere atmosphere.

As with other ponycars, the seats were set low relative to dash and windowsills, and the back seat area was cramped for adults, though there was adequate room in front. The interior's overall effect was either comforting or claustrophobic, depending on your sensibilities. The Challenger perpetuated another ponycar shortcoming that was literally that: a small trunk.

Learn about the wide array of options available on the Dodge Challenger in the next section.

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