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1970-1974 Dodge Challenger

1974 Dodge Challenger

Reluctant to spend any more money on it than absolutely necessary, Dodge did little to the 1974 Dodge Challenger. Rear bumpers were strengthened to withstand 5-mph shunts as the government said they must, and the Rallye package was revised with a black-painted grille and "strobe" stripes emanating from the fake front fender vents.

Substituting for the 340 as the "performance" option was a new 360-cid V-8 rated at 245 horsepower net. The 1974 model was on the market only a few months before Dodge suddenly pulled the plug on the Challenger, and only 16,437 units made it to the end of the assembly line.

1974 Dodge Challenger Rallye front view
The Rallye for 1974, the Challenger’s farewell model year.

The Challenger was not so much a weak entry in the ponycar field as a late one. It appeared just as demand for such cars was starting to evaporate, which clearly diluted whatever impact it might have had.

Of course, Dodge couldn't have predicted this market switch when it planned the Challenger back in 1967. And that's a pity, because the car certainly seemed like a good idea at the time: lots of engines, plenty of performance and dress-up options, smooth styling on a wheelbase long enough to make it look fast standing still.

The SE was quite plush for its $3,500 asking price, and truly hairy performance was as close as the option book. Yet the Challenger didn't present much of a challenge to its rivals, either on the showroom floor or on the tracks.

And Dodge compounded the problem by apparently giving up on both performance and luxury, carrying the Challenger almost as an afterthought for 1972-1974.

Today, only the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird remain to carry on the ponycar tradition, which they inherited largely by default. They were the only ones left after 1974, the others either vanishing like the Challenger or becoming something entirely different.

Yet ironically, the Camaro/Firebird survived the ups and downs of the 1970s not just because of General Motors' superior financial strength but because they were packaged as personal, affordable, semi-sporting GTs -- exactly the concept behind the Challenger.

Learn about the appeal of the Dodge Challenger on the collectible car scene in the next section.

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