The original Dodge Challenger, produced from 1970-1974, was Dodge’s attempt at entering the popular pony car market, epitomized by the Ford Mustang. The Challenger shared its Chrysler E-body platform with the Plymouth Barracuda, although it was slightly larger. Chrysler-Dodge intended the Challenger to compete with the more luxurious pony cars of the time. Unfortunately for the company, by the time the Challenger’s design was complete, it was a bit late and the pony car wave was already beginning to fade. For this reason, it did not have nearly the success that the Chrysler brain trust had hoped for.
The Challenger came with a slew of engine options over the course of its production; ranging from a base-level 225 cubic inch 3.7-liter, to a 426 cubic inch 7-liter Hemi V8, rated at 425 bhp. Hardtop, sports hardtop, and convertible models were all offered in 1970. In 1971 only hardtop and convertible Challengers were available, while from ’72-’74 they only produced the hardtop.
The basic E-Body style remained throughout the Challenger’s production, with only minor cosmetic changes made. 1971 and 1972 both marked changes to the grille, with 1971 models receiving a “split” grille, and 1972 models receiving a pronounced grille which protruded past the front bumper. From 1972 through 1974 the body style was nearly unchanged.
1970 was by far the most successful year for the Challenger, with nearly half of the total sales of the car taking place that year (over 70,000 Challengers were sold in 1970, while 165,500 were sold in total). 1970 is also largely considered by auto enthusiasts to be the best year for Challenger production in terms of quality, with 1971 a close second. 1972-74 Challengers are generally considered to be inferior to earlier models.
Despite the bad timing of the original release of the Challenger, over the years it has gained extreme popularity among collectors. 1970 and 1971 models in particular are highly sought after collector cars. As many engine options were offered and fewer cars were built with the more powerful and expensive engines, Challengers built with the 440 V8 engine and the 426 Hemi are all the more rare and valuable. As more and more of the early models are being bought up, even ’72-’74 Challengers are now becoming increasingly popular among collectors.
Contributed By Fossil Cars Staff Writer