The Dodge Challenger
First produced in 1970, was the quintessential American muscle car. Sporty, compact, and affordable, Dodge's contestant in the pony car market was considered to be one of the more deluxe models available at the time. It was one of two cars marketed by Chrysler using the rear-wheel drive E-platform (the other was the less expensive Plymouth Barracuda).
Dodge anticipated its main competitors would be the Pontiac Firebird and Mercury Cougar. The longer wheel base (110 inches) and luxurious interior were expected to appeal to young, more affluent consumers. Carl Cameron, whose last project for the company had been designing the extremely successful 1966 Dodge Charger, designed the exterior.
About 165,500 Challengers were sold during the model's initial production period, which ran from 1970 to 1974. Four models were manufactured in the first generation of the Challenger: the Challenger Six, Challenger V8, T/A Challenger (1970 only), and Challenger R/T were all available with a hard top. In '70 and '71, the R/T was also available as a convertible. The R/T (Road/Track) was the performance model, and featured a 383 CID Magnum V8 capable of achieving 335 horsepower.
The T/A (Trans/Am) model manufactured in 1970 was designed as a racing homologation car. A street version was built to qualify the T/A for the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Championship, and the 340 Six Pack Engine created for it rated 320 horsepower. It scored several top three finishes in the series, but left the Championship by the end of the year. In 1972 the horsepower was downgraded to 240 to comply with the Society of American Engineers revised net calculation, and by mid-1974 production was halted due to the slumping pony car market.
The second generation began with a revival of the model in 1978, when the Mitsubishi Galant became a captive import for Dodge and was marketed as the new Challenger. Showcased were a turbocharged 2 liter 4G63T engine and an independent rear suspension. It also featured a "Jet Valve", a small secondary intake valve which improved emissions by permitting more air to swirl in the combustion chamber. This allowed the car to burn a leaner fuel mixture. Variable assist power steering and electronic fuel injection were also introduced in this model. Discontinued in 1984, approximately 52,000 of them were sold in the U.S.
The third generation Challenger debuted in February of 2008. Longer and taller than its forerunners, it still shared many design elements with them. The chassis is based on the one used in the current Dodge Charger. Initially, only the STR8 model was available, which featured a 370 cubic inch 425 horsepower Hemi V8. All 6,400 manufactured in 2008 were pre-sold (almost all at above MSRP). For 2009, a full line of Challengers was unveiled.
The STR8 was still available, but Dodge added the new SE and SXT. These both featured a 250 horsepower 3.5-Liter V6, while the new R/T offered a 370 horsepower 5.7 liter Hemi. For 2010, Dodge introduced a limited edition Mopar '10 Challenger R/T. Only 500 were made, and they featured both an aftermarket interior makeover and a Mopar cold air intake that increased horsepower. Dodge outfitted the base model Challenger with the Pentastar V6 engine for 2011, which raised the horsepower to 305. Cylinder deactivation and dual variable valve timing made this version extremely fuel efficient. The 2011 STR8 featured a 392-cubic-inch 6.4 liter Hemi V8, capable of getting 470 horsepower.
The early Challenger designers probably never imagined it would still be so popular after forty years, and are certainly thrilled to see the advances made in the amount of power it's capable of producing. The classic Challenger and its modern incarnation are both highly sought after, as a collectible and a high-performance car; in fact, sales have doubled each year since the it was re-introduced in 2008. Combining power and pedigree, the Challenger has become a must-have for the muscle car enthusiast.