1970 Dodge Challenger
When the Dodge Challenger was released in 1970, people believed it would be able to compete with the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. However, this was a widespread rumor, created by an author about American muscle cars. Chrysler never believed the Challenger would compete with them, because Dodge could already do that with the Barracuda. However, the Dodge Challenger would focus its attention on the Mercury Cougar and the Pontiac Firebird.
Most people considered the Dodge Challenger as a muscle car with a little luxury. It was bigger than the Plymouth Barracuda, and the outer design brought on a whole new appeal to the industry. During 1970, potential buyers could choose one of the four hardtop models available:
* Challenger 6
* Challenger 8
* Challenger T/A
* Challenger V8
Throughout 1970, the Dodge Challenger was being bought from thousands of people around the country. By the end of the year, Dodge had sold almost 77,000 units. The Challenger R/T was also available in 1970. It offered a standard hardtop design, or you could purchase a convertible version.
The 1970 Dodge Challenger was one of only two vehicles Chrysler used with an E-body (the Barracuda being the other). The Challenger offered a 110 inch wheelbase, which was two inches more than its Plymouth counterpart. You would also find a 225 cu in six cylinders as the standard engine the Challengers. Then again: if you purchased a V8 you would enjoy 230bhp, even though there were other options available. A lot of owners looking to compete would upgrade to the 383 cu in V8.
Other muscle cars had already seen a loss in production by the end of 1970. New insurance policies on muscle cars created a huge concern, because muscle car owners started dealing with higher premiums. The added expense was so severe; the muscle car era was quickly coming to an end. The good news for Chrysler was that they sold 76,935 Dodge Challengers in 1970.
Even though insurance rates were on the rise, it wasn't the only reason the Dodge Challenger was dealing with sales issues. The newspapers and magazine journalist were printing negative things about the Challenger, and the muscle car era as a whole. The impact of word of mouth was so big, not nearly as many buyers were interested in the Challenger by 1971. Overall, Chrysler saw their sales drop with this car alone by over 66%. In all, only 26,000+ Challengers were sold. While it was still a formidable number, Dodge was aware that the production would be on the decline as well.
One of the major criticisms about the Chrysler and the Challenger is that they came too late to the party. While Ford and Chevy already had their classic pony cars, Chrysler released the Challenger after the Mustang and Camaro were well known within the muscle car community. Oddly enough, Chrysler did have the opportunity to push Dodge and Plymouth to rival Ford and Chevy early on, but the Road Runner and Charger came first respectively.
Consumers also found it a bit confusing with 4 different versions to choose from, not to mention the Challenger T/A (Trans Am). The Trans Am was only available in 1970, but in 1971, buyers had too many options when it came to the "muscle" underneath the hood. Critics tried to fault Chrysler for this, but due to insurance surcharges, it was actually a smart idea.
In 1970, potential owners could choose between a 225 cu in, 318, 340 LA V8, 383 (B V8 and V8 Magnum), 440 (Magnum and Six-Pack), as well as the 426 Hemi. Buyers could keep costs down by sticking with detuned street versions, or spend upwards of $1,300 to drop a 426 in its place.
By 1971 the Dodge Challenger wouldn't offer the 383 B V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, or the 340 LA V8 with the 3 x 2 barrel carburetor.
Regardless of your opinion of the Dodge Challenger from 1970-1971, no one could debate the performance of the Challenger R/T. Offering 335bhp with a 383 cu in, the standard engine was enough to be noticeable when driving through town. However, owners also had the opportunity to drop a 440 cu in at 375 bhp. The 426 Hemi provided 425bhp, but was rarely used by street owners.
Today, the 1971 Hemi Challenger R/T is one of the biggest collectors in its class. In fact, there was a rumor for nearly 35 years that someone purchased a redefined Challenger and kept it in storage. In 2006 the vehicle resurfaced with only 5,400 miles on it and valued near $500,000. Definitely a collector's dream, but something that muscle car lovers enjoyed seeing.
If you were around during 1970 and 1971, the Dodge Challenger definitely held its own in the NASCAR and drag racing world. Even though the majority of the publicity came from racing, we saw a surge in popularity the first year it was released. The Challenger's production ran all the way through 1974, but it was the first two years that the Dodge Challenger truly made an impact on the muscle car era.