After an impressive start-up in 1966, sales of the dramatic fastback Charger slipped in its second season. What to do? Unleash a restyled edition -- the 1968-1969 Dodge Charger models -- with an even tougher stance and extra muscle.
Many considered the revised 1968-1969 Dodge Charger models to be some of the best-looking mid-size cars around, though the original fastback roofline was replaced by a notchback semi-fastback profile with "flying buttress" sail panels.
To satisfy the muscle-car crowd, Dodge released a Charger R/T (for Road/Track) as part of its "Scat Pack," which also included the Coronet R/T and Dart GTS. Each wore bumblebee stripes around its tail and carried an engine appropriate for its title.
Ads for "The Clean Machine" (Charger R/T) noted that it was "not built for the common car crowd." For many, that's all it took to induce an insatiable craving for a 440-Magnum V-8 and hit 'em hard suspension.
Though aimed at "a rugged type of individual," however, Charger ads further noted that the likely buyer was a person "who likes it soft inside." So which was it, ruffian or softy?
Actually, the Charger benefited from a dual personality and qualified on both counts. Vinyl-trimmed bucket seats and posh amenities lured comfort seekers, with a cushion available to position an extra passenger between the buckets.
An aggressive exterior with power to match was enough to pull in the performance boys -- especially when abetted by a pair of pipes blaring out the back, and brawny red-sidewall rubber hitting the pavement.
Hemi and Magnum engines were only part of the story, after all. Standard Charger fittings included a mild-mannered 318-cid V-8 with an adequate, if uninspiring, 230 horsepower. Next step up: Chrysler's 383, with 290 or 330 bhp. Only by ordering an R/T or checking off the 375-bhp Magnum or 425-bhp Hemi did the Charger turn from pussycat into mean machine.
Copywriters for muscle-car ads evidently had a nasty streak, pushing their products' potential antisocial tendencies with forthright abandon. A Charger's suspension, they reported, "treats an angled grade crossing in the rain with studied insolence," while this "Beautiful Screamer" with an "impertinent flip of the spoiler on the rear deck" contained "440 cubes of mean."
Continue reading to find out more about the "antisocial" car of choice for driving enthusiasts.
For more information on cars, see:
The imaginative copy continued to emphasize the 1968-1969 Dodge Charger's ability to blow away the competition. Manual-shift fans were encouraged to imagine how the "four-speed box changes cogs with the precision of a sharp ax striking soft pine."
In other words, Dodge ads proclaimed exactly what America's sneering adolescents wanted to hear. "American guts" were promised, in a car "shaped like a Mach 2 jet on wheels."
Action matched the aggressive stance, too. A 440-Magnum Charger R/T could reach 60 in six and a half seconds or less. A Hemi might actually beat the five-second barrier, earning its $604.75 cost for those who appreciated such skills.
Front-disc brakes were still a $73 option, as was a tachometer at $48.70. Like some other muscle cars, Charger became a movie star, chased by Steve McQueen in Bullitt and playing against Elvis in Speedway.
A minor face-lift with split full-width grille wasn't the biggest news for 1969. More exciting was the emergence of the Charger name on two special models: the Hemi-powered Charger 500, built for competition; and the bullet-nosed Daytona with its far-above-the-crowd wing stabilizers, aimed at NASCAR racing.
A 500 sold for $3,860, the Daytona an even four grand. Most ordinary folks settled for a garden-variety Charger, an R/T, or new SE (Special Edition) with "leather-vinyl" front buckets and a sports-type steering wheel.
Take your R/T "to the strip where the men are," the ads suggested, where the Hurst shifter could be used to greatest advantage directing the power produced by either a Magnum or Hemi engine. Stepping downhill in scope, Chargers also came with six-cylinder engines in 1969.
Certainly, the restyled Charger ranked as one of the best-looking mid-size cars of the late 1960s: long and low, pleasingly rounded, headlights hidden again behind a simple grille. Car and Driver claimed that only the restyled Corvette challenged the Charger in the styling department, even pointing out rear-view similarities between the two.
Shoppers evidently flocked to the second generation in droves, too. Sales streaked to new heights, with 96,108 Chargers hitting the showrooms in 1968 and only 7,000 less in 1969. For sheer drama even when standing still, however, this notch-back hardtop with its semi-fastback roofline, even if NASCAR-inspired, lacked the panache of the initial fastback Charger.
But either example ranks as memorable American muscle today.
Continue reading to find out more about the 1968-1969 Dodge Charger specifications.
For more information on cars, see:
1968-1969 Dodge Charger Specifications
The 1968-1969 Dodge Charger specifications leaned heavily in favor of performance, which suited its lean and mean design ethos.
Engines: all ohv V-8: 318 cid (3.91 x 3.31), 230 bhp; 383 cid (4.25 x 3.38), 290/330 bhp Charger R/T 426 cid (4.25 x 3.75), 425 bhp; 440 cid (4.32 x 3.75), 375 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual (318-cid only); optional 4-speed manual and 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic (TorqueFlite standard on R/T)
Suspension, front: short/long arms, torsion bars, sway bar
Suspension, rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums (front discs optional)
Wheelbase (in.): 117.0
Weight (lbs.): 3,100-3,646
Top speed (mph): Hemi 142-156 R/T 113+
0-60 mph (sec): Hemi 4.8 R/T 6.0-7.2