Dodge's path through the '70s was strewn with the same obstacles that made life difficult for all U.S. automakers in those years: a growing number of ever-stricter government regulations and a dramatically altered business climate stemming from the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74. The division was ill-prepared for both, its early-decade lines heavy with cars motivated by thirsty V-8s and wallowing on too-soft suspensions. Worse, Chrysler's steadily declining fortunes allowed most of these dinosaurs to hang on too long.
Indifferent workmanship only further dampened sales, which culminated in the corporation's near-demise during 1980. But by that point, Dodge was through its trial by fire and building nothing remotely like its early-'70s dinosaurs, save the 118.5-inch-wheelbase St. Regis sedan and the Mirada personal-luxury coupe.
It didn't take much corporate contemplation to dispose of the poor Challenger: clumsy, poorly built, and never a serious sales threat to Camaro/Firebird or even Mustang II (if you call that one a pony car). The overweight latecomer was put out to pasture after 1974, when only about 16,000 were sold. Collectors noted the rarity and desirability of convertibles, R/Ts, and big-inch engines after '71, and have been bidding up prices at auctions.
With the dawn of the first energy crisis, the brontosaurus-like Polara/Monaco also seemed headed for the automotive tar pits, but Dodge tried hard to save them via discounts and cash rebates beginning in 1974, Polara vanished after '73. A blocky new Monaco arrived for '74, similar to that year's redesigned Chrysler but still on a 122-inch wheelbase. In 1977, it became the Royal Monaco -- selling in decent numbers only by dint of police and taxi orders -- while the Monaco name replaced Coronet on midsize cars.
Given such disappointments, it's no surprise that Dodge increasingly depended on Dart sales through mid-decade. Giving the compact line new appeal for '71 was the fastback Demon, a double to Plymouth's new-for-'70 Valiant Duster with the same 108-inch wheelbase and choice of Slant Six, 318 V-8, and optional 340 V-8. The last was reserved for a sporty Demon 340 decked out with bodyside tape stripes, matte-black hood with dual dummy scoops, and wide tires on special wheels as part of a specially beefed-up chassis.
With its trim size and 275 horsepower, the Demon 340 was nimble yet spirited -- really the Dart GTS idea remade for changing times. But the name bothered some people, so Demon was prosaically retitled Dart Sport for '73, when all Darts gained a latticework grille and modest center hood bulge. The Sport 340 became a 360 for 1974-75, Dodge enlarging its small-block V-8 in deference to easier emissions tuning.
A memorable Sport option was the "Convertriple," which actually meant two separate extras: fold-down rear seat and sliding-steel sunroof. Ordered together, they made for something vaguely like a "three-way" car. Also making Dart more than just basic transportation were the plush Special Edition sedans and coupes of 1974-76. These offered vinyl tops, special emblems, velour interiors, and other extras for about $3,800.
For more on the all-American Dodge, see:
- Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
- Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices