A Brief History of the 1st Generation Dodge Challenger
The “pony car”... a term fashioned after Ford’s first-generation Mustang blew open the automotive scene with a small, sporty, fun, and yet functional car. After 680,000 cars were sold, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and the pony car segment of the automotive industry was born. Chrysler’s iteration? The Barracuda. Sales? Just over 65,000. Not quite the same potency to be sure. Even though Chrysler made a car with a fastback rear and very close specs to the Ford, it couldn’t replicate the overwhelming success of the Mustang (or the Chevrolet Corvette).
As 1970 approached, the Barracuda was showing its design age and was to be redesigned. Dodge, however, wanted in on the segment and the two cars were re-designed/designed for 1970. They shared the same E-Body platform and most options Chrysler offered, but the two cars had differing styles altogether. The Challenger was born. Named after a late-’50s options package, the car’s name eventually became synonymous with style and performance.
The Challenger did have serious performance options ranging from the 235hp, 318ci (5.2 Liter) all the way up to the 425hp, 426 Hemi (7.0 Liter). On top of engine options, there were gearing, transmissions, suspensions, and tire options to make the experience even more exhilarating. That isn’t to say that the Challenger wasn’t a good everyday car, but the strategy of Dodge and the main use for these cars were in straight-line performance - and the Challenger was fully up to the task from day one.
The Challenger burnt out like a small, hot candle - with some 170,000 copies sold in its 4-year run. It came in selling 80,000+ copies, to selling just over 16,000 its final year. The gas-guzzling days were coming to a close and emission restrictions completely doomed the Challenger’s muscular existence. Its look went from the one that begged to drag race, to the one that you would feel comfortable putting safety markers on. The R/T badges were gone; the bumpers were strengthened; engines were de-tuned; and the legend was, indeed, dead. But, like most candles, it did burn bright for its time!