The Always Iconic Charger: A 1968 Redesign Was The Greatest Idea Ever

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And then came the aero mods.

When the Dodge Charger debuted in 1966 there was a very good chance absolutely no one within Chrysler figured it'd become an icon of American muscle. Still though, the original Charger, as we discussed yesterday, was something special. Dodge wisely made it different enough from its Coronet base with that wicked awesome fastback body style. Thing was, that look wasn't for everyone and by its second year on the market sales took a nosedive.

But Dodge didn't give up on the nameplate and it returned for 1968 as an all-new model. That's because Chrysler's entire B-Body lineup, which also consisted of the Coronet and Plymouth Belvedere (its high-performance version was the GTX), received a complete redesign.

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And hence arrived the second generation Charger, perhaps the most famous of all. Exterior appearance wise, this new Charger had what Chrysler called a double-diamond coke bottle profile because of the curves around the front fenders as well as the rear quarter panels. That big fastback look? Gone completely, replaced with something more conventional and yet ridiculously cool. What Dodge carried over from before was the hidden headlight grille, which very much became one of the car's signature traits. The interior was all-new too, but this time around it came with a conventional rear seat as opposed to the previous fold down design.

Basically, Dodge simplified the design inside and out to make it more appealing and far less polarizing. It worked phenomenally well. In 1968 alone more than 96,000 Chargers were sold and of those over 17,000 were R/Ts. Oh, and speaking of which, the Charger R/T was the trim you'd want. While the standard engine remained the 318 V8, which was soon replaced in the middle of '68 with a 3.7-liter slant-six, the optional engines were the 383 and 383 two- and four-barrel carb V8s, as well as the 440 Magnum V8 and 426 Hemi. The latter two were reserved solely for the R/T. Also helping sales that year was the introduction of the Scat Pack, featuring that cartoon bee.

Even the Charger R/T received bumble-bee stripes as a no-cost option. Why bees? Why stripes? Because why not and cool was cool. But it was in 1969 when the Charger truly made its mark. Aside from a few changes to the 383 V8s, a revised front grille featuring a new center divider, a wood grain steering wheel, and an optional sunroof (of which only 260 examples had one), the '69 Charger was essentially a carry-over from the previous year. Makes sense considering the design was still new. Although it was still a decade away from its TV debut, it was the '69 Charger that was called to duty as the Duke boys' chariot, The General Lee on "The Dukes of Hazzard."

That car (well, all 309 of them) basically got the shit kicked out of it every week but still managed to show up looking just fine in the next episode. Actually, the show's producers used any Charger built from 1968-1970 and made them all look like '69s. And like with the previous Charger, Dodge fully intended for it to compete in NASCAR, hence the Charger R/T. Actually, the '68 Charger R/T didn't do so well in competition against the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II. After conducting some wind tunnel testing, it was discovered that the rear window caused too much lift and the large grille induced drag. To combat this, Dodge slapped on the Coronet's grille and fixed the rear window.

The result was the Charger 500, of which only 500 were made in accordance with homologation rules. And then there was the Charger Daytona. This car, to be honest, deserves its own article, but we'll address the basics here. Because the Charger 500 simply wasn't good enough for NASCAR, mainly because it was lacking some required aerodynamics, Dodge wanted to take another crack at it. The Charger Daytona, after several months of development, was the result. Its aero improvements are, to say the least, quite noticeable. First off, there was that nose cone, which added some 18-inches in length. The other aero bit was that huge rear wing, which was bolted through the rear quarter panels and into the frame.

Under the hood was the 440 Magnum with 375 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, which was standard. The optional choice was, again, the 426 Hemi, now pumping out 425 hp and 490 lb-ft. All told, just 503 Charger Daytonas were built, of which 433 had the 440 Magnum and the remaining 70 had the Hemi. All surviving ones are extremely rare and expensive today. Oh, and the Daytona kicked ass on the NASCAR circuit; it was the Plymouth Superbird that replaced it after the 1970 season. 1970 was the final model year for the second-gen Charger. Changes, once again, were minimal. There were a few noticeable styling updates, such as a wraparound chrome bumper and new taillights.

This was also the year when all of those wonderful nuts exterior color options became available, such as Burnt Orange, Go Mango, Plum Crazy, Top Banana, and Pink Panther. The interior was equipped with new bucket seats and the ignition was moved from the dashboard to the steering column. That also famous pistol grip shifter became optional. There was also a new V8, the 440 Six Pack with three two-barrel carburetors, rated at 390 hp. Combined with that pistol grip shifter, this combo was truly something special. As cool as all of this was, Charger sales once again began to take a hit. The reason? The new Challenger and increasing insurance rates for owners certainly didn't help much.

But the 1970 Charger also had more wins than all other cars competing in NASCAR that year. Not a bad way to end the life of this generation Charger. And because it developed a reputation and a loyal following, a redesigned Charger launched in 1971 to anxious fans.

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