Although Dodge was already well-established as a manufacturer of cars and trucks, it was its record-breaking achievements on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1950s that really got America sitting up and taking notice. Beneath a scorching sun the company smashed no fewer than 196 speed records in a single year, but it was the 1968 launch of the awesome, V8-engined Dodge Charger that really got things moving for the marque.
BY OFFERING BUYERS of an otherwise standard production car a choice of several powerful V8s including the near-legendary 426 Chrysler Hemi, Dodge dealers found themselves with a fast yet eminently practical machine that appealed to ordinary customers.
Already a street racing legend, with its signature, semi-fastback styling, the Charger’s role as the General Lee in the hit US TV series, Dukes of Hazzard, secured the Dodge’s place in pop-culture history. The R/T (Road/Track) version gave Dodge the halo model it needed to succeed in the increasingly competitive muscle market, and formed the basis of the more aerodynamic, race-winning Dodge Charger Daytona.
|Dodge Charger, 1967-70
|5,211-7,206 cc, V8
|3- or 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
|Front torsion bars, rear leaf springs
|Drum with optional front discs
|126-150 mph (203-241 km/h)
Clean, swept lines, dynamic styling, pillarless window apertures, and a sleek, complex profile gave the semi-fastback Charger a dominating presence, and made a powerful statement about the direction in which Dodge was heading.
The Charger was from an era when Dodge models tended not to carry a corporate emblem, their identity being individually designed for each model; hence the dramatic typography and meaningless graphic motifs on the Charger.
ON THE ROAD
With only modest sales outside North America, it is easy to underestimate the significance of Dodge and to ignore the many highlights of its century-long history.
Huge, fast, and with a brutal personality, for lovers of Americana there is little to beat the appeal of the muscle car. None could rival the sophistication and charisma of a European thoroughbred, but the US cars were just as fast (at least in a straight line), and still offered quite extraordinary levels of bang for your buck.
Large and lazy V8s drink fuel but they are durable and relatively easy to maintain. Mammoth sales at the time, and components shared with lesser models, also mean that Charger spares are usually readily obtained from US suppliers.
Retractable plastic headlight covers
Styling details on bonnet
Sporty hubcaps featuring Dodge logo
Rear roof buttress covered in black vinyl
Ornamented chrome fuel filler cap
Purposeful black and chrome dashboard
Auto-shifter is centre-mounted
Head-restraints are an unusual safety feature for the time
It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016