The 1972 and 1973 Challenger mirrored the new market realities. Convertibles were gone, along with the Scat Pack and all the big-block engines, and there were now just two offerings, a standard hardtop and a sportier version called the Rallye, a replacement for the R/T. Appearance was altered with a "sad mouth" eggcrate grille and four smaller, rectangular tail-lamps, with the backup lights mounted in the inboard units.
“Sad mouth” grille marked 1972 Challenger styling.
The standard hardtop is shown here.
The base hardtop now listed at $2,790, with the Rallye about $300 upstream. The latter was really a "cosmetic muscle car," sporting simulated air extractors on the front fenders, from which black tape stripes flowed rearward, plus F70 X 14 tires and a "performance" hood with NACA-style air ducts.
The tame 318 was standard for the Rallye, and the only option was a new low-compression 340, with dual exhausts wearing bright tips. The bigger engine could be ordered with four-speed manual and a Performance Axle option comprising 3.55:1 final drive, Sure-Grip differential, and increased cooling capacity.
Dodge seemed almost apologetic in advertising the Rallye: "The way things are today, maybe what you need is not the world's hottest car. Maybe what you need is a well-balanced, thoroughly instrumented road machine." Maybe we did, but not many buyers thought this was it.
Now looking more obviously like a child of the 1960s than ever, the Challenger was fading, and Dodge tacitly acknowledged the fact by giving it scant promotion. Despite all this, model year sales held almost steady, at 26,663 units.
"Quiet good taste" was the Challenger's billing for 1973, but there was little progress toward that end. The only visual change was the addition of large solid-rubber pads to the 1972 front bumper to meet this year's government-ordered 5-mph impact standard. The Rallye was downgraded to option status, but retained most of its previous features.
Interiors boasted new thin-shell bucket seats, and upholstery was now more fire-resistant, again per Washington edict. Tighter emissions standards continued to wreak havoc on both compression and horsepower. They proved too much for the veteran slant six, which was dropped as the base engine in favor of the 318, in hindsight a curious move on the eve of the Middle East oil crisis.
The four-barrel 340 with dual exhausts returned as the lone option. Now rated at 240 horsepower (SAE net), it could propel a Challenger with Torqueflite over the quarter-mile in 16.3 seconds at 85 mph, fair going for the day.
Rallye replaced R/T as the sporty model for 1972.
Performance was still quite good.
Color choices numbered 16, but Top Banana was the only High-Impact hue left. Sales managed to improve this year despite the general gloom and doom, topping 32,000 units. Still, that was pretty thin volume -- too thin, really, to be profitable.
And though pony-cars seemed to be rebounding a bit as they returned to the "sporty/personal" concept, their sales prospects seemed anything but bright.
Learn about the end of the line for this car -- the 1974 Dodge Challenger.
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