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Dodge Challenger Through the Years

Jesse McGraw

Dodge Challenger Overview

From the E-body Challengers of old to the 717 hp Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, 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.

1st Generation (1970 – 1974)

1970 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
1970 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
  • 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 Slant-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.
1973 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
1973 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
  • 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)

1978 Dodge Challenger - car.info
1978 Dodge Challenger - car.info
  • In 1978, the Dodge Challenger 2-door coupe was re-introduced, heavily influenced by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard.
  • This Challenger was a rebadged variant of the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda.
  • 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 I4 engine that produced 77 hp, and a 2.6L I4 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 – Present)

2008 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
2008 Dodge Challenger - carsforsale.com
  • 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 cues.
  • 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 from 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.
  • While the Challenger focuses on performance, it can be equipped with comfort and tech features like a touchscreen with Uconnect, a customizable digital cluster display, WiFi, live weather updates, hands-free calling, electronic shifter, Harmon Kardon Audio, and much more.
  • 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.
  • All 2015 designs were enhanced with the addition of a new front grille that resembled the 1971 models, four halo LED headlights, and LED taillights.
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat - carsforsale.com
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat - carsforsale.com
  • In 2017, the AWD Challenger GT with a suspension based off the Dodge Charger Pursuit.
  • Dodge also introduced the 5.7L V8 T/A and 6.4L V8 T/A. The T/A models took strong design cues from the 1970s with a black painted hood, large hood intake, black decals, and most performance upgrades found in the SRT Hellcat.
  • At the 2017 New York Auto Show, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was introduced as a limited edition, widebody, and drag race level performance variant of the SRT Hellcat. The design would be discontinued in May of the following year.
2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon - carsforsale.com
2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon - carsforsale.com
  • In 2019, Dodge reduced the trim lineup of the Challenger to just six including the SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat, and SRT Hellcat Redeye.
  • The SRT Hellcat rose to 717 hp and added a new dual snorkel hood.
  • The SRT Hellcat Redeye was added to the lineup to fill the high-performance void left by the discontinued SRT Demon. The modified SRT Hellcat trim includes a supercharged 6.2L V8 that reaches 797 hp, 8 speed automatic transmission, track ready suspension, SRT Power Chiller and After-Run Chiller.
  • The new Scat Pack 1320 package offered a 6.4L Chrysler Hemi reaching 485 hp, 20” X 9.5” Black Drag Wheels, 275/40R20 102W drag tires, SRT-tuned drag suspension, and deleted passenger seats all allowing the car to be modified for NHRA competition.
  • Dodge also introduced new Widebody packages for the Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat, and the SRT Hellcat Redeye. In addition to the specific trim performance upgrades, the package provided widebody fender flares, 20” X 11” wheels, 305/35ZR20 Pirelli 3-season performance tires, and Bilstein competition suspension.
  • In 2020, Dodge celebrated 50 years of the Challenger with the 50th Anniversary Edition which brought back some 70’s nostalgia with the blacked out shaker hood and retro styled interior.
2020 Dodge Challenger 50th Anniversary Editions - fcagroup.com
2020 Dodge Challenger 50th Anniversary Editions - fcagroup.com

4th Generation?

Plymouth Barracuda design concept by Igor Alekseev on artstation.com
Plymouth Barracuda design concept by Igor Alekseev on artstation.com
  • Currently, Dodge has been pretty confident in the 3rd generation Challenger and plans to continue the design into the 2023 production year.
  • Dodge has also been rumored to be testing new Challenger designs alongside the current generation, but there is some speculation that they could be badging the new model as a Barracuda.

Want your own Challenger? Search Dodge Challengers for sale near you on Carsforsale.com.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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