The Dodge Challenger - Classic Muscle Car 2020 Review - Muscle Car

The Dodge Challenger – Classic Muscle Car 2020 Review

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Written by Elise

18th March 2019

The Dodge Challenger – Classic Muscle Car 2020 Review
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The Dodge Challenger – Classic Muscle Car 2020 Review

The Dodge Challenger. A legendary automobile whose lifespan stretches over three generations. The first one spanned 1970-1974, the second generation 1978-1983, and the latest from 2008 to the present day. Its models have had powerful engines, the good looks of a classic American muscle car, and a staunch following since its release.

So, why the mixed opinions and cheap price point?

To try and answer that, this review will focus on the first generation (1970-1974), when this car was nothing short of legendary.

A Pioneer Among Muscle Cars

//Muscle car: n. American term for high-performance coupes, usually but not limited to rear-wheel drives, originating from 1960s and early 1970s special editions of mass-production cars designed for drag racing.

Muscle Cars have a light body and a powerful engine. They were popular in the 1950s due to their speed, performance, and roaring capacity. However, in 1957 the Automobile Industry Association (AIF) put in place a ban on the muscle car craze. The ban was self-imposed, for two reasons. First was the accident during the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race, when a car crashed into the stands and exploded into flames, killing eighty-four people. The second reason was a fear for strict government regulations (eg: tightening limits on tailpipe emissions and higher minimum-mpg targets). These regularly tightened regulations caused sales disasters for automakers globally, including fellow muscle cars Chevrolet Chevelle and Pontiac GTO

Finally, the ban was lifted in 1963 and the Ford Mustang was released in 1964. It had all the glamour of muscle cars but comparatively lacked power. This opened a new market for pony cars. These were affordable, compact and highly-styled cars coupled with a performance-oriented image.

This newly created market craze for pony cars paved the way for the release of Dodge Challenger in late 1969 for the model year of 1970. A ‘lite’ version of the Dodge Charger in many ways, it remained in production for five model years from 1970 to 1974.

Five Legendary Years

1970 Dodge Challenger

A cousin of the Dodge Charger, the Dodge Challenger was introduced in 1970 as the first model year. Classified as both a muscle car and a pony, it was the new two-door sensation in the craze of pony cars. Released in two body styles, coupe and convertible, its engine choices were the 340 Six-Pack, 383 Magnum, 440 Magnum, 440 Six-Pack and 426 Hemi. The exterior was designed by Carl Cameron, who also designed the 1966 Dodge Charger.

The original MRSP base price for 1970 Dodge Challenger Hardtop was $3,023.

1970 Dodge Challenger outshone competitors, quite literally: the cars rolled off the assembly line in wild colours like Bright Green, Bright Yellow and Plum Crazy Purple.

It had hood scoops and pistol grip shifters. It had a Charger’s inspired grill. The tail lamps were stretched across the back of the car coupled with one backup light in the centre. It was offered in SE (Special Edition) T/A (Trans-Am) trim and R/T (Road/Track).

The Dodge Challenger 1970 starred in various films and TV Shows. A Challenger R/T was filmed in a movie named Vanishing Point. The plot revolved around a high-speed pursuit and was a cult favourite film among the muscle car fanbase. Remade in 1997 for television, it shone a spotlight on the original film, re-sparking interest in the car. The Challenger was also used in movies like Natural Born Killers, Phantasm I, Phantasm II, Used Cars, and a popular TV show called Mod Squad.

The Dodge Challenger went into racing in its first year and a T/A model was released for streets as well.

In other words, the 1970 Challenger won the hearts of the American public.

A list of model types:

1970 Dodge Challenger – I6 1970 Dodge Challenger – V8
  • Hardtop
  • Sports Hardtop
  • Convertible
  • Hardtop
  • Sports Hardtop
  • Convertible
  • Hardtop T/A
  • Hardtop R/T
  • Specia Addition Hardtop R/T
  • Convertible R/T

1971 Dodge Challenger

The model year of 1971 witnessed a restyle in the Dodge Challenger. It got new split grille and restyled back-up lamps. The grille was painted in silver for standard models and in black for R/Ts. The tail lamp design was changed into two remarkable lights. Above all, an additional coupe model was introduced that had fixed quarter windows and leather seats.

The original MRSP base price for 1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible was $3,278.

It only has a backdrop of lowered engine outputs that happened due to industry-wide emissions regulations. However, eight engines options were offered in 1971. Despite new emissions regulations, it still managed to outperform competitors and was still competitive at a quarter-mile drag race.

1972 Dodge Challenger

The 1972 Dodge Challenger came into the market during tough times. The insurance premiums were rising for customers, directly hitting the affordability and maintenance of targeted customers. Another factor was yet more emission regulations, limiting those capabilities of Challenger which were cherished by their owners.

The original MRSP base price for 1972 Dodge Challenger Hardtop was $3,082.  

In spite of all these challenges, the 1972 model Challenger remained in the market. The convertible option was discontinued but the Challenger and Challenger Rallye hardtop were still being produced.

The grill and tail were redesigned again in this model year. The grill was now stretched below front bumper like a horse collar, and it was painted argent for Standard and black for Challenger Rallye. Only three engine choices were available in this model year, which diminished customer interest.

1973 Dodge Challenger

The 1973 Dodge Challenger managed to show a little comeback in terms of business performance when compared to the 1972 model, despite increased regulations and fuel crises.

The original MRSP base price for 1973 Dodge Challenger Hardtop was $3,011.

There were minor changes in the design of the model year 1973 from the model year 1972. New bumpers equipped with large rubber guards were introduced to meet the new bumper impact standards. Another noticeable change was the new electronic ignition. In this model year, the six-cylinder engine was discontinued, a 150 horsepower V8 engine was set as standard and a 240 horsepower V8 engine was set as option two. The Rallye was also discontinued as a separate model.

1974 Dodge Challenger

The year 1974 was sadly the last model year for the beloved Challenger. Market conditions were getting tougher with each passing day. Skyrocketing insurance rates coupled with safety regulations crippled the space for introducing major changes in design.

The original MRSP base price for 1974 Dodge Challenger Hardtop was $3,141.

In this model year, lap and shoulder belts were a new feature. Seatbelt-ignition interlock was introduced for safety, a measure to prevent the car from starting if the driver didn’t buckle up before engaging the ignition. The only major change was the placement of a 245 horsepower engine in place of the 340ci motor.

At last, in April 1974, production of the Dodge Challenger stopped.       

Production and Sales of Challenger from 1970 to 1974

Production and sales of the 1970 Dodge Challenger kept falling during its five-year span.

Nowadays, opinions are mixed. Ask the internet “Is the Dodge Challenger as good car?”, and the overwhelming answer is “Yes.” It’s a fine car. However, there are factors that have heavily messed up the way market consumers saw it, as seen above. Added to that, the maintenance of such cars is not easy. Aptly named “the cancer of cars”, rust is a major concern for car owners in the present day. Car materials used in the second half of the twentieth century, from metal parts to body paint, were a far cry from the technologies and chemical expertise enjoyed today.

However, this car is now very much a valuable collector’s piece. Its troubled history and nostalgic factor has increased its value manyfold.

A value estimate for 1970 Dodge Challenger:

Date   Estimated Price
1970   78,000
1971   26,000
1972   22,000
1973   29,000
1974   10,500


To conclude, the Dodge Challenger first generation (1970 to 1974) remains a legendary classic car and is still loved by muscle and pony car lovers. Are you one of them? We recommend you check our own classics.

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