Dodge Challenger Overview
From the E-body Challengers of old to the 707 hp Challenger Hellcat, we’re digging into the history of the Dodge Challenger through the years. Despite periods of hibernation and years of poor sales, the Dodge Challenger is a piece of American muscle that has stood the test of time and it’s seeing incredible success today. Arguably, no car has blended retro and modern styling better than the Challenger has.
Dodge Challenger Through the Years
1st Generation (1970 – 1974)
- The 1970 Dodge Challenger debuted in fall of 1969.
- This muscle car shared Chrysler’s “E-body” long-hood, short deck platform with the 3rd gen Plymouth Barracuda.
- 1st gen Challengers were available as a 2-door hardtop or convertible.
- The original lineup of engines was huge (9 powertrain choices), ranging from a base I-6 engine that produced 145 hp, to a 426 cubic inch HEMI V8 that produced 425 hp.
- Transmission options included Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic, or a 3 or 4-speed manual.
- Customizations included enticing colors like “Plum Crazy” and “HEMI Orange”, rear deck wings, “shaker” hoods, twin-scooped hoods, and more.
- In film, the 1970 Challenger R/T was featured in Vanishing Point (1971), a cult favorite of muscle car fans.
- Over 83,000 Dodge Challengers were sold in the 1970 model year.
- 1971 brought about minor exterior changes, like dual tail lights and a refreshed grille.
- The 1971 powertrain lineup evolved to fit new EPA emissions standards, detuning the 383 cubic inch Magnum engine to 300 hp. Dodge also dropped the 375 hp 440 cubic inch V8 engine and the 340 cubic inch V8.
- In 1972, SAE changed the torque and horsepower ranking tests from “gross” to “net”, reducing all ratings by as much as 30%. Because of this, new ratings were not comparable to previous Challengers.
- For the 1972 model year, Dodge slimmed down to only 3 engines for the Challenger: a 225 cubic inch Slant 6 with 110hp, a 318 cubic inch V8 with 150 hp, and a 340 cubic inch V8 with 240 hp.
- Visually, the biggest change in 1972 Challengers was a more rounded, open-face grille.
- The convertible option was eliminated in 1972.
- In 1973, Dodge added 5 mph bumpers with large rubber guards to comply with federal safety mandates.
- The 6-cylinder engine was eliminated, leaving only 2 engine options: a 150 hp 318 cubic inch V8 was standard, and a 240 hp 340 cubic inch V8 was optional.
- Safety regulations and high insurance rates for performance cars affected the ’74 Challenger greatly.
- Lap and shoulder belts with inertia reels were added.
- Seat-belt/ignition interlock was also added, preventing the vehicle from starting if the driver or passenger weren’t buckled.
- Challenger production stopped in 1974, after almost 189,000 were sold.
2nd Generation (1978 – 1984)
- In 1978, the Dodge Challenger 2-door coupe was re-introduced, heavily influenced by the S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard.
- This Challenger was imported from Mitsubishi.
- The exterior design was quite different, with boxy sculpting, 4 square headlamps, and a less-muscular road presence.
- The standard engine was a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine that produced 77 hp, and a 2.6L 4-cylinder engine that produced 105 hp was optional.
- After 6 years, the imported Challenger was far less successful, selling around 12,000 – 14,000 cars each year.
3rd Generation (2008 – )
- At NAIAS 2006, Chrysler revealed a Dodge Challenger concept, and everyone started begging for a production model.
- In 2008, fans rejoiced as the Dodge Challenger returned with a handful of 2008 limited edition models, and full-production of 2009 models.
- The latest generation speaks strongly to its classic roots, while possessing a variety of modern styling cue.
- This car is big, heavy, unashamedly powerful, and comfortable, defining modern American muscle.
- In 2008, Dodge offered just over 6000 ’08 Dodge Challenger SRT8s to the US, powered by a 6.1L HEMI V8 with an automatic transmission.
- In 2009, engine options included a base 3.5L V6 that produced 250 hp, a 5.7L HEMI V8 that produced 370 hp, and a 6.1L HEMI V8 that produced 425 hp.
- 2011 offered changes to the steering, suspension, and brakes, improving overall handling to previous models.
- Also in 2011, there was a new 3.6L base engine that produced 305 hp, up 55 hp from the previous base engine.
- Dodge added optional paddle shifters to the auto transmission in 2012.
- The Challenger shook the automotive world in 2015 with the addition of the SRT Hellcat trim, with a 6.2L V8 engine that produces an insane 707 hp with a base price of $58,295.
- Below the Hellcat in 2015, Dodge offered an SRT 392, R/T Scat Pack, SXT Plus, R/T Plus, SXT, or R/T.
- While the Challenger focuses on performance, it can be equipped with comfort and tech features like an 8.4-in touchscreen with Uconnect, a customizable digital cluster display, WiFi, live weather updates, hands-free calling, electronic shifter, Harmon Kardon Audio, and much more.
4th Generation (2018?)
- Rumor has it a new generation Challenger is coming in the year 2018.
- This Challenger will sit on an all-new platform.
- We expect the currently large Challenger to lose weight, as many competitors have improved performance by doing so.
- While the current Challenger is packed with retro styling cues, expect an extra dash of modern styling in the 4th generation car to help the car stay relevant.
Expert Interview – Matt Maranowski
YouTube auto reviewer Matt, AKA subaruwrxfan, has spent time with a variety of Challengers, most notably the 2015 and 2016 Challenger SRT Hellcat. You can see a couple of those videos below. For in-depth video reviews and other quality automotive content, check out the subarwrxfan Youtube page.
Describe your experience on the track with the Challenger Hellcat.
The Hellcat is a blast on the track. I was surprised at just how well it handled. It doesn’t feel like a lean sports car but for its weight and size, it’ll surprise you.
How does Challenger Hellcat handle daily driving situations?
In daily driving situations it’s remarkable how docile and ordinary it actually feels. Even the manual transmission version has a fairly light clutch and easy to use gearbox that anyone could drive. You would think for 707hp that it would be hard to handle, but that’s not the case at all.
Does the Hellcat deserve it’s popularity, or is it mostly hype?
I think the Hellcat has absolutely earned the popularity it has and is worth the hype. 707hp in a production car for roughly 60k is the best bargain out there and is worthy of all the praise it receives for that simple fact alone. Add in the rather luxurious interior, great driving manners all around and awesome looks, and you have a car that feels well worth its asking price, even if it didn’t have as much horsepower as it does.
From your experience, how does the 2016 Challenger stack up to a Camaro or Mustang?
In my experience, the Camaro and Mustang both feel lighter, smaller and handle better than the Challenger for sure. But I think their missions are different. They’re trying to be sports cars now, where the Challenger is a plain and simple muscle car and it’s comfortable with that identity. It handles respectably but it’s still clearly targeted as a straight line speed missile and comfortable cruiser and that’s totally okay.
If you were to buy a Challenger today, would you buy a manual or auto, why?
If I were to buy a Challenger today I would definitely get it in a manual. The automatic is well done and shifts quickly, but I’ve always loved manuals and the extra control and engagement they provide. Plus the manual in the Challenger is so easy to use and well done, it makes it easy to pick for me
I own a 2010 570 SMS Dodge Challenger, Black Label, modified, serialized, and hand signed by Steve Saleen. What I love about my ride is the 500 horses to the rear, the power I get from handling the 6 speed manual trans, and the unique butterfly hood design. – April Vi, 2010 570 SMS Dodge Challenger
First let’s start off by saying who wouldn’t want to own a piece of America muscle! It all started back in 06 when I was in the 6th grade in the computer room, I was searching the web for the dodge charger 4door sedan looking for my dream car when I came. Across the dodge challenger as a concept car! Printed out a pic and kept it in my folder all year long! A few years later on 09 the dodge challenger was put to production and I saw it on the streets for the first time! I was in love and would tell everyone one day I will own one! And it will be a 09 all black! I finally got into car sales in 2015 and a few months later was shopping for my Dodge Challenger! I looked all over, and finally I found one the black R/T 5.7 HEMI and to top it off it was a 2009 with only 2,464 miles!
Every time I park it I look back and give a grin! I wouldn’t change cars for anything! – Prince Ramires, 2009 Challenger R/T 5.7 HEMI
I am 58 and have waited over 35 years to afford a car just for fun. Love the style of the Challenger and the performance options as well as the comforts for the older car enthusiast. Bought a TORRED and love the attractive color and the cleanness of no stripes or decals. I enjoy the turned heads in traffic and the pure beauty of this machine just sitting in the driveway. I bought a 2014 Dodge Avenger RT as a work car so I could enjoy the newness of my Challenger for years to come. Early retirement gift to myself. – Bill Thomson, 2015 Challenger SXT Plus
This is my 2010 Challenger R/T 6 speed. It’s rebuilt which shows the quality work of our shop, Dalo Motoring. Full bolt on car to maintain a good daily driver. Car is also lowered on Viper replica wheels with a Hellcat hood. This is the first car I’ve ever bought on my own and I’m 21. From the track to driving to work it’s perfect. – Phillip Pennell 2010 Challenger R/T
Love the new models so much we haven’t got rid of any we now have 3. A 09 RT, 13SXT, AND 15 RT PLUS. They all have favorite qualities but probably the ‘15 is favorite to drive. It has less mods than the others but it’s a work in progress. The 09 and 13 we take to shows regularly with plenty of success and great responses and interaction from spectators and the competition. – David Morgan, 2009 R/T, 2013 SXT, and 2015 R/T Plus