On top of its versatility, the 1966 Dodge Charger's cabin was expensively trimmed, giving the fastback a definite edge in styling.
The sculpted surfaces of the door trim and rear quarter panels were vacuum-formed foam-filled ABS plastic. Recessed into the doors just above the lower carpeted areas was a horizontal brushed-finish aluminum appliqué, onto which was mounted a floating armrest incorporating the door handle. This same treatment was extravagantly repeated on the rear quarters. Just aft of the rear quarter windows, on each side, a large courtesy lamp was designed to be a continuation of the side windows.
With all this cosseting of the passengers and their luggage, the driver wasn't left out. "Want something without idiot lights or tacked-on tach?" queried one Dodge ad. With the 1966 Dodge Charger, you got it.
The cluster display featured four large circular pods with full instrumentation, the speedometer and 6,000-rpm electric tach in the middle. The elaborate pods had raised spun centers that originally came to a point, but these were soon truncated, presumably for safety.
Distinctions between the 1966 Dodge Charger and
Coronet included a special four-dial instrument
cluster with electroluminescent lighting.
Best of all, the four pods were illuminated by the glare-free, bulbless glow of electroluminescent lighting, a concept company engineers pioneered on the 1960-1962 Chryslers with their elaborate "gumball machine" instrument panel.
Soft EL lighting was abandoned due to high cost, but the fact that it enjoyed a brief return engagement on the first Dodge Charger demonstrates the willingness on the part of Product Planning to spend the money necessary to make the car unique and differentiate it from the Coronet.
The rest of the instrument panel was carryover Coronet, featuring a basic linear section carried cross-car to maximize the width, and a high crash pad then favored by the company's interior stylists. An inside hood release was standard.
Charger drivers sat behind a "sports-type" tri-spoke steering wheel with a simulated woodgrain rim and padded, circular hub. Overhead was a new, exclusive, one-piece fiberglass headlining, covered by a special non-woven nylon fabric that allowed interior noise to pass through and be absorbed instead of reflecting back into the passenger cabin.
What kind of a car was the Dodge fastback? Said Car and Driver in its February 1966 issue, "The Charger is a good automobile, no mistake about it, but we had somehow expected more when we first got behind the wheel. Maybe it's because the sporty styling conjured up the fantasy of all sorts of exotic engineering underneath. At any rate, we failed to get terribly turned on with the car during our initial tests. It wasn't that we didn't like it, it was just the fact that we've been here before -- in an ordinary Coronet."
True enough. The Charger was first of all a styling statement. All the mechanicals -- brakes, suspension, etc., both in standard and heavy duty iterations -- were picked from the B-body parts bin. The all-V-8 engine family was pure Coronet, which meant that the Charger was a much faster fastback than the Barracuda.
Standard was the 230-horsepower, 318-cube engine with a two-barrel carb and single exhaust. Upgrades included two "low block" engines -- a 265-horsepower, 361-cid version, again with a two-pot carburetor and single exhaust, plus the 383-cid variant with four-barrel carb and dual exhausts putting out 325 horses.
The optional 1966 Dodge Charger Street Hemi
was nominally rated at 425 horses.
At the top of the food chain was the high-performance version of the all-new "raised block" engine, the legendary 426-cube "Hemi," good for 425 horsepower -- at least. In the hip prose of the Charger catalog, with one of these you could just "Turn up the wick and you're gone, man, gone."
Despite this marketing, just 3,629 street and racing Hemis
were built in 1966 and 1,258 in 1967, distributed among Dodge and
Plymouth intermediates, including Charger. Transmission choices
included a three-on-the-tree manual (318 only); a four-speed manual
with a short-throw shift pattern (except for the 318); and Chrysler's
best-in-class three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
How many 1966 Dodge Chargers were produced? Continue to the next page to find out, as well as get details about the Charger's first full model year.
For more information on cars, see: