For some, the utterance of “Dodge Charger” stirs up images of the bright orange sedan launching off ramps in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The car, called the “General Lee,” was a second-generation charger and this generation is now considered by some to be the best muscle cars ever made. In this article, let’s take a look at the journey that the Charger has traveled – from its origins as a concept car to today as a highly sought-after modern muscle cars.
The First One
In 1946, the first Charger was simply a concept car built by Dodge with the new 426 HEMI engine installed. While this hot rod did get noticed by the press, it didn’t grab the public’s imagination.
The First Generation
In 1964, the Ford Mustang was released and it was a big success. Even though Plymouth had introduced the Valiant-based Barracuda just weeks before the Mustang was released, the industry shockwaves produced by the Mustang stunned everyone. Mustangs were flying out the doors of Ford dealerships nation-wide. Going to work quickly, in 1966, Dodge had their answer to the Mustang: the new Charger. Based on a Dodge Coronet frame, the Charger came out of the gate with four different V8 engine options, including the new 426 Street Hemi. It was a muscle car with attitude.
The Second Generation
Although they retained all the mechanics of the first-generation Chargers, the second generation, released in 1968, was a complete redesign with a more sculpted body and an integrated trunk spoiler. The design was a huge success. By 1968, muscle cars were in hot demand and Dodge provided plenty of choice for all buyers. Chargers could now be optioned with no less than four different big block V8s, ranging from the two-barrel 383, to the 426 “Elephant” Hemi. Plus a wide variety of paints and trims.
The Charger Softens
With the early 1970s rising gas prices and slow economy, sales of performance cars began to get sluggish. By 1975, the Charger had been repositioned as a luxury car, available with just two low-performance engines: either a two-barrel or four-barrel 360ci V8. After 1977, Dodge decided to pull the plug on the Charger brand altogether.
The Charger Resurfaces
In 1981, Dodge sought to inject some juice into the Omni economy car by reviving the Charger name as a performance package. Called the Charger 2.2, the package included special gear ratios and a new 84 horsepower four-cylinder motor along with a handful of trim enhancements. Despite this, the Charger nameplate would once again go blank after 1987.
The Sixth Generation – A New Hope
Nineteen years after putting the nameplate to rest, Dodge reintroduced the Charger as an all-new model for the 2006 model year. This rear-drive, full-sized sedan offered excellent performance with the debut of the Charger SRT8. Powered by a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 putting out 425 horsepower, the SRT model boasted forged aluminum wheels, Brembo brakes, upgraded interior appointments, and aggressive bodywork.
The Amazing Seventh Generation
When the seventh generation Charger was introduced in 2011, things started to turn around. First big change: The Seventh Gen Chargers features body style borrowing styling cues from the second-generation Chargers. This was a smart marketing move and is said to be driven from considerable feedback from dealers like our friends at Fred Martin Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram of Barberton, OH.
In 2015, the automotive world was shaken when the Charger SRT Hellcat was released. Powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 that cranked out 707 horsepower, the Hellcat was declared as the fastest sedan money could buy when it debuted. The performance car buying market was stunned and sales were massive.
For model-year 2018, the Dodge Charger has nine trims to its name. A wide spectrum of engines and 2018 model year Chargers could be ordered in spectrum of paint colors, some of which are from the original late 60s High-Impact Paint (HIP) collection – Plum Crazy, Go Mango, Yellow Jacket, Top Banana, Hemi Orange and Citron Yella.