Dodge is one of the gods in the firmament of muscle car history. Not only did Dodge produce some of the most iconic muscle cars of the 1970s, it produced cars with such dramatic style that they continue to influence how cars are built and styled to this day. Back in the 1970s, Chrysler didn't need its SRT division, because it had Dodge. The 1970s saw a proliferation of muscle cars. Just about every American car brand had a muscle car. Ford had the Mustang. Chevy had the Camaro. Some brands that disappeared, like AMC and Plymouth, produced muscle cars so iconic that, aside from the serious enthusiast, no one remembers their regular cars, and who would be an AMC enthusiast anyway? Dodge didn't have that problem because if you squint a little, the Dodge of the 1970s only made muscle cars.
Today's Dodge is evidence of the brand's past glories. Dodge's 21st century cars are to the Dodges of the 1970s what a Led Zeppelin tribute band is to the real thing. Sure, new Dodges can be obtained with 700 horsepower, airbags and air conditioning that works, but part of the joy of the old muscle cars was the vague sense that they wanted to kill you, the care that went into the painted-on racing stripes, and the carelessness that went into the design of their seat belts. Today, Dodge skates by on its laurels. So kick back in your leather bucket seat, because now's your chance to prove that when it comes to 1970s Dodge muscle, you put Smokey and The Dukes to shame. Take the quiz and see how you do!
Dodge's Warlock started out in life as a straight-up concept car, but the pickup was eventually made as a production vehicle for the late 1970s. In 1978, you could have one in any color, so long as that color was black.
Lowered, overpowered, and red. That was the Lil' Red Express, ancestor of the Warlock, and the first pickup designed for looking cool, doing burnouts and showing off mad stacks.
Despite its name, the Macho Power Wagon was in fact, a D-series pickup just like most of the cars traditionally made by Dodge. It was however, also macho, and powerful.
The second generation of Dodge Charger was built from 1968 to 1970, and represented the very first generation of 1970s Chargers, even though it originally came into being in the 1960s.
"Design language" might be too sophisticated a term for the way cars were built back then, but the style of the second generation Chargers is indeed called Coke bottle styling, which makes sense. Just look at it!
The 440 Six Pack engine, which was only available in 1970, and boasted some pretty serious horsepower for its time. While you can get 310 horsepower in a standard Toyota Tundra today, 390 was astronomical in 1970, as was the sheer amount of chrome applied to Chargers in 1970.
Chrysler's E-body platform was used across several cars, starting with the 1970-1974 Dodge Charger and the Plymouth Barracuda of those same years. Chrysler was one of the masters of using the same parts to make multiple cars, even if that meant the individual models had more to do with branding than capability. The major change? Two more inches of wheelbase for the Dodge, for leg room.
The 426 Hemi is perhaps the best known engine name in the world. It refers to Chrysler's design choice to make the engine with hemispherically-shaped combustion chambers. Was it powerful? Hell yes. It was powerful by 21st century standards, cranking out a staggering 425 horsepower. Was it expensive? It cost $1,228. Not the whole car, just the engine. Considering that the average American car went for $3,520 in 1972, that was one expensive engine.
That's right! Firedome, Firepower and Red Ram were all silly names used by Chrysler brands that made use of the Hemi way back when it first hit the road in the 1950s. By the 1970s, the Silly Names Committee had moved on to naming the Macho Power Wagon Top Hand, Superbird, etc.
The Dodge Coronet of the late 1960s and early 1970s spawned a mutant sibling that stands as one of the best known muscle cars of the era, the Super Bee. Another accomplishment of the Dodge Department of Insane Names, the Super Bee, so named because its new grille "looked like bumble bee wings" (it was the 1970s) did not sell well. In fact, it was one of the worst selling cars Dodge made in the era.
The Super Bee is valuable to collectors because of its scarcity. Very few were produced, since the whole idea of the special edition was to gin up interest in the flagging Coronet. How many convertibles are there? Four. Where are they? Doctor Evil must have them, because no one else knows where they are. If you find one abandoned in a barn, pay whatever the farmer asks for it. These are priceless.
The 1970s were an interesting time at the Dodge Marketing Department. The Coronet was on its way out, the Super Bee wasn't selling well, and with the Coronet moonlighting as a station wagon, the two cars were starting to part ways. This is when the Super Bee went from being a hopped up Coronet to being a bad Charger. As of 1971, the Dodge Charger was to the Dodge Super Bee was the Porsche 911 is to the Boxster today; the Charger was the fancy one, and the Super Bee was the less desirable, "budget muscle car" with the silly name. Soon thereafter the Super Bee died, only to return as a trim level of the Dodge Charger in 2007.
What do you get when you put a big manufacturer in a place like 1970s Mexico, make certain manufacturing processes too expensive, and tell them they can do whatever it takes to sell cars? The Mexican Super Bee. Based on the A-Body platform, this insane car came with a 270 horsepower engine mated to either a 3- or 4-speed gearbox, when it was introduced. Soon, that engine would swell to 300 horsepower. What was the Mexican Super Bee? It was a Plymouth Duster on steroids.
The R/T designation is a trim level available on some Dodge products. In the 1970s, this was the hardcore trim level, allowing buyers to specify their cars with the biggest engines. The Challenger R/T, for example, could have a Hemi so massive that it protruded through the hood of the car, ruining outward visibility, but looking totally awesome in the process.
The 1970s were part of a time in history when car makers still fudged a lot of performance figures. The sophisticated and relatively inexpensive equipment available today wasn't around, so they could say almost whatever they liked when it came to power. That said, the official Dodge figures for the 1970 Coronet R/T 440 were 375/480.
According to Edmunds's tests, the 2018 Dodge Demon has lower than advertised but still irresponsibly nuts 808 horsepower. The 1971 version had a totally respectable for its era and its weight class 275 horsepower. Assuming the latter number is correct, the difference is a crazy 533 horses.
Consider the restraint at the Dodge marketing department. They named a truck the Macho Power Wagon. When given the body of the Plymouth Valiant and tasked with making a crazy muscle car version, they briefly considered naming if the Dodge Beaver. One can only imagine the innuendo the young market for this car would have come up with in the early 1970s if they'd stuck with "Beaver" instead of "Demon".
The T/A designation refers to the Trans American Sedan Championship, a competition run by the Sports Car Club of America. To enter, manufacturers have to have a production version of their race car. Dodge entered with the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A. The race car version had 440 horsepower, but the street version was about a hundred horsepower short of that figure.
The hood scoop was a key styling detail of muscle cars of the 1970s. They were, however, not much else. In order for a hood scoop to force enough air into the engine that it would affect performance, the car would have to travel at speeds much faster than any car is capable of. Side scoops, designed to cool brakes, on the other hand, are very effective at their job.
The 1973 oil crisis was a shock to the whole auto industry, but to Dodge, a brand that had shifted from family cars and pickups to muscle cars large and small, it was devastating. Sales of Dodge muscle cars fell, which of course makes Dodge muscle cars from 1973 a bit rarer.
The "racetrack tail lamps" design was introduced in the 1971-1974 model year of the Dodge Charger, and it appears on all contemporary Dodge cars and SUVs (although not on Ram trucks, as that brand has been pared away from the Dodge brand). The design is supposed to evoke the shape of a NASCAR race track and, we suppose, the indent on the bottom is meant to be the pits.
The 1971 Dodge Charger saw a dip in sales of the version with the Hemi. This was probably due to a combination of competition from other brands and, quite possibly, competition from other engines available for the Charger that were just as much fun, but far less expensive.
Dodge made a lot of small modifications to the 1972 Chargers of the sporty kind, and changed the trim designation so as not to be accused of a bait and switch. While power was down on a lot of their newer engines, the addition of hardened valve seats allowed drivers to use regular leaded or regular unleaded gas, unlike the older models which only took leaded premium gas.
Pennsylvania-based Hurst Performance made the four-speed manual that could be installed on the performance Chargers of 1972.
The Dodge Charger disappeared after the B-body was retired in 1979, with the final production year Chargers essentially using up the previous year's parts. The next Charger arrived as a trim level of the tragic 1982 Dodge Omni, which was Dodge's rebadged Volkswagen Scirocco (a cousin of the Golf). The Omni Charger or "Charger 2.2" came with the usual muscle car styling cues like a hood scoop, but put those to lie with its 84 horsepower engine. That's right, it had an 84 horsepower engine. By comparison, today's Smart Fortwo has an 89 horsepower engine, and no hood scoops.
All of these cars were built on the B-body platform. In fact, 18 models made by Chrysler and its sub brands used the B-body platform. One of the things legendary executive Lee Iacocca took full advantage of at both Ford and, in 1979, Chrysler, was to use the platforms to make essentially the same cars with slightly different emphases. Do you want luxury? Buy the Chrysler B-body, the Chrysler Cordoba. Performance? The Dodge B-body, Dodge Magnum. Performance and luxury? The Chrysler B-body, Chrysler 300.
1976 saw the introduction of the SE, Daytona, and the Sport trim levels for the Charger. Of course, the Challenger Sport was just a rebranded Coronet coupe that existed the year before.
The Chrysler Cordoba put on a mask and pretended to be a Dodge in 1975. Insurance prices were through the roof, gas was expensive, and muscle cars were going the way of the dodo, for the 1970s at least. With the small, fun BMWs of the 1980s waiting to take over as the car du jour, Chrysler sent its Cordoba to Dodge, who made what can be best described as a terrible, cheap version that didn't sell well, calling it the Charger SE.
Richard Sias was a young designer at Chrysler whose design for the Charger was put into production for the late 1960s and 1970. After this groundbreaking work, he left the car business, working instead for Boeing, making airplanes. Given how the Charger performed on the track (it had problems with lift) it isn't a shocking career change.
In 1977, Dodge decided to stop selling the base model Charger as well as the Charger Sport, in an effort to make Dodge less of a muscle car company and more of a working man's luxury brand. It didn't work so well. In 1976, Dodge sold 65,900 Chargers. In 1977, Dodge sold 36,204 Chargers. That's a difference of 29,696 units.
Starting in 1970 (the 1971 model year) Dodge rebadged the Mitsubishi Galant AKA the Mitsubishi Lancer AKA the Plymouth Champ AKA the Plymouth Colt as the Dodge Colt, giving the brand a subcompact car to satisfy that market segment. Its tiny inline 4 made 95 horsepower, which for the size of the car, was enough.
Dodge created the Challenger for one reason: to take on the Mustang and the Camaro. The Challenger was (and is) a muscular, two-door car designed to make you feel the kick of the engine on straight lines, and then terrify you in corners.
Every Dodge Charger owner must have thanked God for under-steer, because if the Charger rolled as much as it did in shallow turns, just imagine how much it would move in a tight one. The Charger, like most American "sports cars" of the time, had terrible body roll issues, where the whole body of the car would slosh around on the suspension like a bobble head doll of Reggie Jackson. Was it comfortable in a straight line? Yep! Did you want to puke every time you turned the wheel? Yes to that too.
In the 1971 release, the Challenger went from a single, centered pseudo-hood scoop to two snorkels situated on the sides of the hood. These air intakes were of course, totally cosmetic, but they were a subtle evolution of the style of the car.
Consider this. In 1972, Hemi-powered cars would get about 10 miles per gallon. Today you can get cars with twice the power and twice the miles per gallon. Our modern, fancy engines didn't exist in the early 1970s , so they looked at their big block V8s that weren't selling because of oil prices, and then they looked at their little, efficient engines that did sell well, and they did the capitalist thing. It was probably the right decision, even if it meant the end of the muscle car era at Dodge.