Dodge Challenger is the name of three different automobile models marketed by the Dodge division of the Chrysler Corporation since the 1970s
First generation (1970-74) Challenger
The first Challenger was the division's late entrant to the pony car market segment in the United States, launched for the 1970 model year. It was based on the similar Plymouth Barracuda's new E-body, though the wheelbase, at 110" was two inches longer and had substantially different outer sheetmetal than its Plymouth cousin. Exterior design was done by Carl "CAM'" Cameron, whom also did the exterior for the 1966 Dodge Charger. For the 1970 Challenger grille, CAM' based it off of an older sketch of his of a 1966 Charger prototype that was designed to have a turbine engine. The Charger never got the turbine, but the Challenger got that car's grille. Although the Challenger was well-received by the public (with 80,000 sales in 1970 alone), it was criticized by the press, and the pony car segment was already declining by the time the Challenger arrived. Challenger production ceased after the 1974 model year, only having lasted five years; performance dropped off dramatically after the 1971 models. About 165,500 Challengers were sold over this model's lifespan.
Three models were offered: Challenger Six, Challenger V-8 and Challenger R/T. Challengers could either be hardtops, coupes, or convertibles (through 1971 only). The standard engine on the base model was the 225ci. six-cylinder. Standard engine on the V-8 was the 230 hp 318ci 2 barrel (2v) carburetor. Optional engines were the 340ci, 383ci, 2v and 4v, all with a 3 speed manual transmission, except for the 290hp 383ci 2v, which was available only in the torqueflight automatic transmission. The 4 speed manual was optional on all engines except the 225ci six cyl and 383 ci 2v V-8.
The performance model was the R/T (Road/Track), with a 335 hp 383ci Magnum. Standard transmission was a 3 speed manual. Optional R/T engines were the 375 hp 440ci Magnum, the 390hp 440ci Six-pack (3x2v) and the 425 hp 426 Hemi. available in both body styles; both standard and R/T hardtops could be ordered as the more luxurious SE specification, which included leather seats, a vinyl roof, a smaller 'formal' rear window, and an overhead interior cosole that contained three warning lights (door ajar, low fuel and seatbelts). The R/T Challengers came with a Rallye instrument cluster which included a 150 mph speedometer, an 8000 rpm tachometer and an oil pressure gauge. The convertible Challenger was available with any powerplant except for the 340-6, as well as in the R/T and SE trim levels. In 1972, Dodge dropped the R/T badging and now called it the "Rallye". Other options, as well as engines and a manual transmission, included steeper rear axle ratios, a limited-slip differential, and a shaker hood scoop were gone for 1972.
A 1970-only model was the Dodge Challenger T/A (Trans Am) racing homologation car, which used a specially tuned 290 hp Six-Pack version of the 340 in³ (5.6 L) engine, topped with a giant hood scoop on a fiberglass hood. 'Megaphone' exhaust outlets were fitted in front of the rear wheels. These cars came standard with front and rear sway bars to enhance handling. Different-sized tires were fitted front and back, with very fat rubber (G60-15) on the rear and power font disc brakes. The T/A came standard with a rear ducktail spoiler and could be fitted with a front spoiler as well.
The "Western Special" was version available to west coast dealers. It came with a rear-exit exhaust system and Western Special identification on the rear deck lid. Some examples came with a vacuum operated trunk release. Another late production version was the Challenger "Deputy".
By 1972, all big-block engines were gone, maximum power was down to 240 hp, and production ceased in mid-1974.
For obvious reasons, the 440 and the 426 Hemi engines were considered the most desirable, and nowadays command sizeable premiums over the smaller engines.
Although the body style remained the same throughout the 5 year run, there were two notable changes to the front grille. 1971 models had a more stylized "split" grille, and the final manipulation coming in 1972, with the incorporation of the "sad-mouth" design. With this change to the front end, 1972 through 1974 models had little to no variation. The only way to properly distinguish said models is by the front and rear "bumperettes" which exponentially increased in size during each consecutive year. These changes were made to meet US regulations regarding crash test safety.
The 1970 taillights went all the way across the back of the car, with the backup light in the middle of the rear. In 1971, the backup lights were on the left and right instead of the middle. The taillight array also changed for 1972 onwards, with the Challenger now having four individual lamps similar to the mid-size Mercurys of the time.
Second generation (1978-1983) Challenger
The Challenger name was revived in 1978 for a version of the early Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe, known overseas as the Mitsubishi Sapporo and sold through Dodge dealers as a captive import, identical except in color and minor trim to the Plymouth Sapporo. Although mechanically identical, the Dodge version emphasized sportiness, with bright colors and tape stripes, and the Plymouth on luxury with more subdued trim. Both cars were sold until 1983, until being replaced by the Conquest and [[Dodge Daytona|Daytona]].
The car retained the frameless hardtop styling of the old Challenger, but had only a four-cylinder engine and was a long way in performance from its namesake. Nevertheless, it acquired a reputation as a reasonably brisk performer of its type, not least because of its available 2.6 L engine, exceptionally large for a four-cylinder. Four-cylinder engines of this size had not usually been built due to inherent vibration, but Mitsubishi pioneered the use of [[balance shaft]]s to help damp this out, and the Challenger was one of the first vehicles to bring this technology to the American market; it has since been licensed to many other manufacturers.
Third generation (2008 - ) Challenger
- A new "retro" Dodge Challenger concept car was shown at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. The concept uses a shortened LX platform, has the 6.1 L Hemi V8 coupled to a manual transmission, and borrows many styling cues from the original 1970 model. On July 1, 2006, prior to the Pepsi 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, Dodge announced that this concept would, in fact, be made for the 2008 model year. It will be built on the Chrysler LC platform, which is the shortened version of the Chrysler LX platform in 2008, similar to the concepts platform. The rear-wheel drive performance coupe will be a direct competitor to the hugely-successful Ford Mustang, as well as to the potential future Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac GTO muscle cars. The Challenger will be made in limited numbers on the same line as the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, and Dodge Magnum in Brampton, Ontario, Canada , as the same flexible manufacturing system that allows the Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee to be built on the same line, as well as the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot, one after the other (instead of in batches). The SRT-8 Challenger will feature the 6.1 L Hemi V8 as standard equipment. Both manual and automatic transmissions will be offered. There will be no other model for 2008, others may be added in 2009.
Unlike all other U.S. domestic sport coupes, the new Challenger is a true two-door hardtop, with no B-pillar.
Appearances in pop culture
- Vanishing Point (1971) : 1970 Challenger R/T
- The Dukes of Hazzard (1971) : 1971 Dodge Challenger
- Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) : 1973 Dodge Challenger (fictitious R/T w/bumblebee stripe, both unavailable since 1970)
- Natural Born Killers (1994) : 1970 Challenger R/T convertible
- Terminal Velocity (1994) : 1970 Challenger R/T
- Drive (1997) : 1970 Challenger
- Vanishing Point Remake (1997) : 1970 Challenger R/T
- 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) : 1970 Challenger R/T
- Just Married (2003) : 1970 Challenger
- Viper (TV series) (1996) : 1972 Challenger
- Cars (film) (2006 film) : Snotrod was a modified 1970's Challenger.
- Grindhouse (film) (2007) : 1970 Challenger
- Mannix (1973) : 1973 Dodge Challenger Rallye
- American Dreams (1990s) : 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T
- Audioslave - "Show Me How To Live" : 1970 Challenger R/T
- Iron Maiden - "The Wicker Man" : 1970 Challenger R/T
- Need For Speed: Carbon (2006) : 2008 Challenger and 1971 Challenger
- Gran Turismo 5 (2006) : 1971 Dodge Challenger and 2008 Dodge Challenger Concept
- Gran Turismo 2 (1999) : 1971 Dodge Challenger
- Forza Motorsport (2005) : 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi 1970
- Flatout 2 (2006) : 1971 Challenger inspired Bullet from Race and Street class.
- Needful Things (1991) : A modified lime-green Dodge Challenger from the 1970s appears as the car driven by notorious hood John "Ace" Merrill.