One of the most iconic muscle cars in the past five decades, the Dodge Charger has been into a plethora of incarnations starting from the 60s. It was born out of the brilliant minds of the now discontinued DaimlerChrysler as a show car on 1964. Then in the years after, its iconic styling was seared into pop history by starring in the hit television series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Steve McQueen’s nemesis in “Bullitt,” and burning rubber in America’s largest spectator sport: NASCAR. Now entering its sixth generation, the Charger looks to charge into the new horizon.
1966-1967: The “anti-mustang”
In the 60s, America dominated pop culture with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis, and Neil Armstrong. In the automobile industry, there wasn’t much difference at all. The Big Three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) owned car sales; with 93% of cars in the U.S. bearing their badges. By that time, the “Baby Boomers” controlled the market and they wanted a car that showed their youth. One of their choice cars was the Ford Mustang, which skyrocketed into fame due to its striking look, affordability, and superior performance. Dodge needed to address this; hence, the Charger was born. Even with the esteemed “Hemi” trim rated at 425hp, it did not make any believers. Chrysler only managed to sell just 37,344 units in the 1966 and a measly 15,788 in 1967. However, it was poised for a comeback.
1968-1970: “Back with a vengeance”
Perhaps the most memorable among the line-up, the second generation Charger became a household figure by appearing on the legendary Steve McQueen movie: “Bullitt.” Chrysler made bold changes to its body, showing off its “coke bottle” design that is both sleek and brawny. The interior was met with praises for having aggressive tones mixed with flashy elegance. The engine was no slouch either. The introduction of the V8 R/T variant handled 375 horses that churned a 6.5 second 0-to-60 run. 96,100 pieces were sold during its 1968 run. The next year, however, was a mixed era of triumph and disaster, mainly on the circles of NASCAR. Dodge’s attempt to outpace the Ford Torino with the Charger 500 only met defeat. But with the Daytona, the Charger was back into contention being the first stock car to go over 200 mph.
1971-1974: “Final bid at the top”
After a storied run of the second gen, Chrysler sought to use the success as a springboard in the launch of the third. In 1971, it had several models and trims under its name: a hardtop, coupe, the 500, 500 Super Bee and R/T. The Charger was completely remodeled from the headlights to the semi-fastback rear window. The shorter but wider body still drove people to its charm, selling 82,681 cars. However, by 1972, only three models remained in its roster: 500, Super Bee, and R/T. The new Rallye model debuted in this generation, sporting a V8 280hp engine. It still managed to sell almost 76,000 pieces. But in 1973, sales bubbled to 119,318 cars. The 1973 and 1974 models didn’t have much difference. Even with the triumphant sales of the third, the Charger was about to see its final glory days.
1975-1978 fourth gen & 1983-1987 fifth gen: “A taste of mediocrity”
The mid-70s was famous for the financial downfall of America’s economy and the fuel crisis. Couple that with tough emission regulations and it was only a matter of time until the muscle car era was declared done. In 1975, only one variant was offered: the SE. And despite the heavy engine (5.9 liter V8), it only produced 200hp at best. Only 30,812 units were sold. Nevertheless, it was about to get uglier. The fifth resurrection of the Charger was a not a flamboyant hardtop or a streaking coupe. It was a three-door 2.2-liter 84hp hatchback. The Omni 024, as it was known in the 80s, was a 180-degree turnaround from the legend and lore of the Charger three generations back. It was reduced to being an ordinary car trying to cope with the times. Rightfully so, the economic model sold 14,420 units. But this doesn’t mean it didn’t have any highlights. In 1983, Shelby decided to develop a better performing Charger. The Shelby Charger had 107hp, a revamped suspension, and 15-inch aluminum wheels. This significant improvement was widely accepted but never celebrated. The executioner’s axe fell on the Charger on 1987, when Chrysler decided to mercifully cut-off production.
2006-present: “The rebirth of a classic”
After 19 years of limbo, the muscle car movement was resuscitated with the re-emergence of the Camaro, Mustang, and the Charger. The rebirth of the Charger was received positively, though with mixed reactions still. This generation was technically the most balanced Charger yet with the base SE model bringing in 250hp, 17-inch wheels, and cruise control. On the other hand, the performance-level R/T had 340 hp, 18-inch wheels, and an SXT package for creature comforts. To appease car junkies, a Daytona package was produced with 10 added horsepower and racing specs. To cap off the resurgence of the Charger, the Super Bee version, 30 years removed from existence, has seen yet another run in 2009.