Flex your biceps and leap into a 1966 Dodge Charger. It wasn’t the first muscle car on the block, but rather a hasty midyear introduction to compete in a market crowded with performance cars like the Pontiac GTO, Chevelle SS 396, Buick Gran Sport, Olds 442, Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Mustang.
A concept car had been presented at auto shows in 1965, which Dodge claimed would only be built if interest was high. But that was a gimmick — production was already approved and, having been slow away, Dodge was soon up to top speed.
The wide, low Charger with its sweeping fastback had a beautiful state-of-the-art interior with bucket seats front and back and a console that reached to the back seat, plus a choice of V8s going all the way up to the 7 litre Chrysler 426 Street Hemi plant developed for NASCAR racing. This connection was no accident — national stock car racing was (and is) the premier American motorsport.
The Charger was the first production car to boast a rear ‘spoiler’, added to make it competitive — race cars had to be based on production models which were so streamlined that they acted like an aircraft wing and lifted at speed. It worked — a Charger secured a NASCAR win in 1966. This made it a big seller — success on the track immediately translating into brisk sales that topped 37,000.
Few changes were made for 1967, but competition was always cut-throat in America and the plethora of existing muscle cars were soon joined by the Chevrolet Camaro. Novelty value exhausted, Charger sales started to slide and a major revamp was ordered fog 1968. This produced the ‘Coke bottle’ Charger whose sinuous lines replicated the famous beverage container, and the Charger series would continue through numerous modifications until 1978.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
First generation 1966 (until 1967)
Ranged from 5.2 – 7.0 I (318 – 426 cid) V8
NASCAR versions top speed around 150 mph (241 km/h); 6.3 I road car – 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Charger wasn’t just a boy racer’s dream – despite the high-quality interior finish this was also a very practical vehicle, with rear seats that would fold flat to create a long load space.