Model Evolution: Dodge Charger

By James Bradbury

February 10, 2012


1966-1967 Dodge Charger (B-body): The 1966 Dodge Charger was little more than a fastback Coronet in concept, meant to bridge the gap between “pony” and “personal luxury” cars. The introduction of a 7.0-liter Hemi V-8 option half a model year in gave Chrysler an excuse to run the Charger in NASCAR, but the lift created by the fastback body style made it dangerous at speeds above 150 mph. Within the first year of production, the Charger became the first American production vehicle to offer a spoiler.

1968-1970 Dodge Charger (B-body): 1968 saw a full redesign for the Charger and a divergence from its “near luxury” roots. Gone were the fancy electroluminescent gauges, fully rotating hidden headlights, carpeted trunk, folding rear seats, and standard tachometer. The base engine changed from a 5.2-liter V-8, to a 3.7-liter slant six, but it wasn’t all bad news, as 1968 marked the introduction of the R/T trim level, which came standard with a 7.2-liter “Magnum” V-8. Hundreds of this generation were purchased and crashed on The Dukes of Hazard.


1971-1974 Dodge Charger (B-body): In 1971, the Charger was completely restyled. Higher insurance premiums and tighter regulation on emissions meant it also marked the last year for the 426 7.0-liter “Elephant engine” along with the high output “six-pack” version of the 7.2-liter. This generation went on to win NASCAR events all the way until 1977.


1975-1978 Dodge Charger (B-body): For 1975 the Charger got blocky again, so much so that NASCAR teams were forced to rely upon the 1974 sheet metal until the new Dodge Magnum became ready for race use. A modified 1976 Dodge Charger stock car, driven by Herschel and Doug McGriff, competed in the 1976 24 Hours Of Le Mans.


1983-1987 Dodge Charger (L-body): The Charger was on hiatus from 1978 until 1983, but what came back in 1983 was an entirely different beast. Gone were the Hemi V-8s and rear-wheel-drive layout; in their place was a front-wheel-drive hatchback with a French four-banger as the base engine. Maybe the use Charger name wasn’t entirely appropriate, but in many ways this generation served as a precursor to one of our favorite little hell-raisers, the Neon SRT4. More of a hot hatch than a muscle car, turbo versions of this Charger tuned by none other than Caroll Shelby can still be considered pocket rockets even by today’s standards.


2006-present Dodge Charger (LX): The 2006 revival of the Charger marked a return to form. Big Hemi V-8s turning the rear wheels hadn’t been part of the Charger experience since 1978, and the name hadn’t even been used since 1987. A borrowed Mercedes chassis meant it could take turns better than its muscle car forebears, and the 2011 refresh only made it better.

1966-1967 1971-1974 1975-1978 1983-1987 2006-present

The Charger has been a lot of things over the years, from a firebreathing V-8 muscle monster, to a torque-steer-tastic Omni spin off, and back to a V-8 muscle monster. From a fastback coronet, to an Americanized E-Class, let’s take a look back at how the Charger got where it is today.