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How Dodge Works


Dodge Dart Facelift and Dodge Charger
The 1970 Dodge Challenger attracted buyers with its powerful Hemi option, but sales dropped quickly beore the end of the year.

A midyear salvo in the division's 1966 "Dodge Rebellion" was Charger, essentially a fastback Coronet hardtop coupe with hidden-headlamp grille, full-width taillights, and a sporty four-seat interior with full-length center console and individual fold-down rear buckets. A mild 318 V-8 was standard, but you could order a mighty 425-bhp "Street Hemi," a new regular production option for all '66 Chrysler intermediates. Also on the Charger option sheet: manual transmission, "Rallye" suspension, and numerous luxury items.

In all, 1966 was a great year for Dodge. After easing to 489,000 units for '65, volume shot up to its aforementioned decade high, good for fifth in the industry. Dodge wouldn't rank as high again until '88.

For 1967, the Dart got an all-new unit structure on the existing wheelbase and lost its wagons. Styling was a bit curvier and more "important," though still pretty, if rather mainstream. Polara/Monaco also got a new structure: a full-size body/frame platform shared with that year's Chryslers and Plymouth Furys. Styling here was somewhat more contrived: lower and sleeker but with rear decks longer than hoods, plus a complex grille comprising a square vertical-bar section between openings split by horizontal bars. A belated facelift made Coronets look more like the Charger, which continued its '66 appearance but added two 383 V-8 options with 270 and 325 horsepower.

Continuing its performance push, Dodge issued a sportier Coronet for '67. Called R/T, for "Road/Track", it came as a convertible and hardtop coupe with a tuned 375-bhp 440 "Magnum" V-8, heavy-duty suspension, wide tires, and oversize brakes -- Dodge's entry in the burgeoning "muscle-car" market uncovered by the Pontiac GTO. A similar package was devised the following year for a new Charger R/T. The 426 Hemi remained optional for intermediates, still on a limited basis. Despite its appealing '67 line, Dodge fell back to seventh place on model-year volume of nearly 466,000 units.

Dart and full-size Dodges were face-lifted for '68, as it was time for Coronet and Charger to be fully revised. The result was the best-looking midsize Dodges yet: long and low, with rounded "fuselage" lines and pleasingly simple grilles. Charger again featured hidden headlamps, but was now a notchback hardtop with a semifastback "flying buttress" roofline.

Sporty models continued multiplying. Dart added a plush GTS hardtop and convertible with standard 340-cid V-8, an enlarged 273 with 275 horsepower. A big 300-bhp 383 was optional -- and bordered on overkill in a compact. Coronet offered the new budget-priced Super Bee, a no-frills two-door muscle coupe with special 335-bhp "Magnum" 383. These and the Coronet and Charger R/Ts made up what Dodge called the "Scat Pack." All wore "bumble-bee" tape stripes on their tails, and ranked among 1968's quickest and most-roadable performance machines.

Along with Chrysler and Plymouth Fury, the 1969 Polara/Monaco got "fuselage" styling of its own, but remained on a 122-inch wheelbase. Dart, Coronet, and Charger wore minor facelifts. Dart GTS was joined by a Swinger, a two-door hardtop with special trim, bright grille, and choice of 318 or 340 V-8s.

But the pride of Dodge's '69 fleet was unquestionably the Charger Daytona. Conceived for long-distance NASCAR races like the Daytona 500, it was an exercise in aerodynamics, marked by a unique bullet nose with hidden headlights and "bib" spoiler, plus a flush-window fastback roof and a huge trunk lid wing on towering twin stabilizers. All this made the Daytona about 20-percent more "slippery" than previous racing Chargers, which gave it an advantage of 500 yards per lap. Dodge built only 505 -- just enough to qualify as "production" under NASCAR rules.

­A Daytona won the Talladega 500 in September 1969, though that was partly because the Ford contingent didn't show. In 1970, the Daytona's and Plymouth's similar Superbirds won 38 of 48 major NASCAR races. For shorter races, Dodge also had a wingless, blunt-nose Charger 500.

Appearing with Plymouth's third-generation Barracuda for 1970 was a Dodge relative, the division's belated reply to the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and other ponycars. Fittingly named Challenger, it was offered with a Slant-Six as standard power, plus V-8 options of 318, 383, 440, and even the Hemi. Models comprised hardtop coupe and convertible in plain and sporty R/T trim. The hardtop could also be ordered as a Special Edition with padded vinyl roof and a smaller "formal" rear window. Priced attractively in the $3,000-$3,500 range and cataloging a broad list of options, Challenger sold very well its first year, but then tailed off rapidly. In 1970 sales, sixes outpaced V-8s, while hardtops outsold convertibles. Only about 10,000 SE coupes were built.

Specifications and dimensions for other 1970 Dodges were largely as for '69, but Coronets, Chargers, and Polara/Monaco received large "loop" bumper/grilles; Coronet's divided affair looked a bit swollen. More-massive rear bumpers also adorned the big cars, as well as Darts.

Charger offered a six for the first time, while the exotic Daytona, having proven its point, was dropped (leaving Plymouth to carry the colors with its similar Superbird). Ignition/steering-column locks, fiberglass-belted tires, dual-action wagon tailgates, and a long list of federally mandated safety equipment completed the 1970 story. As in 1969, Dodge remained seventh in industry output, though volume fell from 611,000 to 543,000 for the model year.

For more on the all-American Dodge, see:

  • Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices

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