Challenger Evolution In 40 Pictures
It’s been around since Lyndon B. Johnson was in office, and it seems to get better through time. The Dodge Challenger has been a favorite of so many people (car enthusiasts and not) for so long, that it’s hard to see how exactly it has changed over the years. Well, that’s what we’re here for. Click through to the end to see the amazing transformation of the Dodge Challenger since its inception.
1967 Clay Dodge Challenger
GM planned to roll out the Camaro and Firebird in 1967. These vehicles emphasized performance with engines ranging from 396 and 400 cubic inches. In response, Ford released the Mercury Cougar, which could hold a 390ci engine and was an up-market version of the Mustang. Chrysler also had Plymouth revamp the design of the Barracuda. In 1968, they released the popular Road Runner. Chrysler, however, wanted an upmarket version of the Barracuda to compete and commissioned Dodge. The new car had a long wheelbase E-Body. The exterior of the vehicle was designed by Carl Cameron, who also came up with the 1966 Dodge Charger. Chrysler picked Bill Brownlie’s skin proposal. By 1967 clay models for the new “pony car” were created, and by the end of 1968, mockups resembled close to what was released. Chrysler was about to give birth to the Dodge Challenger.
1970 Dodge Challenger S
The first generation began in 1969 with the 1970 Dodge Challenger. Two series were available, the base Challenger and the Challenger R/T (Road/Track). There were eight models on the market. The one in the picture, for instance, is a Special Edition (SE) two-door hardtop. These vehicles had a 110-inch wheelbase and a track width of 59.7 inches (F)/ 60.7 inches. W. The base Challenger came with an inline-6 or V8 engine. The 1970 models also had the largest selection of engine sizes you could choose ranging from 198 cu in to 440 cu in. As for the SE, this was the only model year in the first generation that Dodge produced the vehicle. It came with “SE” labeling, an interior console, a smaller rear window, bucket seats, leather, and the classic vinyl roof. The SE hardtops were available for both the R/T and the base.
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T
As for the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T (Road/Track), it was the performance model. It had a 383 cu in (6.3L) Magnum V8, which had a 335 horsepower (hp) rating. Dodge offered other engine options such as the 426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi with a staggering 425 hp rating. The R/T had a bulge hood fixed by hood pins and included two air intakes. A shaker hood mounted on the engine intake was also an available option for customers. We consider this car a classic and worthy for any car enthusiast. Even Hollywood could not deny its greatness.
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T In Vanishing Point
The 1971 car action film Vanishing Point put the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T center stage. Director Richard Sarafian said that executive Richard Zanuck wanted to offer a token of gratitude to Chrysler for letting 20th Century Fox rent their cars for a dollar a day by making the main character’s vehicle a Chrysler. He chose the Challenger R/T because of its impressive horsepower and torsion bar suspension. Chrysler lent five Alpine White Dodge Challengers R/Ts with 440 engines for the film’s production. Barry Newman, the lead, said the cars were so powerful to drive.
1970 Challenger Deputy
The 1970 Challenger Deputy was a mid-year low priced model. It came out March 1970 and differed from the base model in multiple ways such as the exclusion of rear window winder, fixed rear quarter windows, cheaper Barracuda seats only in black and white, as well as the option to pay for additional features such as cigar lighters. The standard engine was a 198 6 cyl, though Chrysler offered other engine selections.
1970 Dodge Challenger T/A
Another specialty model available between March to May 1970 was the 1970 Challenger T/A (Trans Am). Dodge built the car as a racing homologation vehicle. It had a rear spoiler, fiberglass hood, side-exit exhaust, and a four-speed box. The interior remained mostly the same as the other Challenger models. It was also fitted with a 340 engine with 3 x 2 v carbs. Dodge designed the Challenger T/A to compete in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans American Sedan Championship. Racers such as Sam Posey, Ronnie Bucknum, and Tony Adamowicz drove the car. As for the street version, Dodge only manufactured 2,399 units, and they had a reputation for understeer on fast corners because of the small front tires.
1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible
In the 1971 model year, Chrysler cut many model options available from the 1970 Challenger, such as the S.E., R.T. /S.E., T/A (though some speculate one exists) and the R/T convertible. However, the convertible addition was available for the base coupe. The base model had fixed rear quarter windows with a black steering wheel. There were no radical changes to the bodywork minus a new rear panel and the new twin-inlet grille. The rear lights and grille were split. All models received a now-standard “power bulge” hood. A shaker hood option was also available. The bumpers remained the same as the predecessor until Feb. 1971 due to new government safety regulations.
1971 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 1971 Challenger R/T differed slightly from the 1970 model. On the front of the rear wheel arches, the R/T had dummy air duct scoops. The grille was also painted black with R/T decals. Like the base model, the R/T had an option for vinyl stripe. The stripe would lead to the letters “R/T.” As for what’s under the hood, the 383 sized option was only available to the R/T model with a detuned horsepower rating of 300. The 440 six-pack was also five hp slower. Pressed for money? Chrysler also offered a 340 R/T look-alike with most of the R/T paraphernalia available. Unfortunately, Chrysler only produced 30,000 units with the R/T only selling 4,630 units. They were becoming outpaced by the older models of their own cars, such as the Dodge Charger and the Dodge Dart.
1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car
The Indianapolis 500, selected the Dodge Challenger 383-4V as the 1971 pace car from four local Indianapolis-based Dodge Dealers. General Motors, Ford, nor Chrysler wanted to supply vehicles to the race due to slowing interest in muscle cars. Eldon Palmer, a Dodge dealer, organized the suppliers and was chosen to drive the car. Allegedly he had a marker placed on the tracks letting him know when to start breaking. When the actual race started, the tag was gone, and Palmer did not know when to start slowing down. By the time he started hitting the brakes, Palmer had lost control and swerved into a photographer stand injuring 29 people. Luckily no one perished. Palmer eventually restored the car and sold it in 2006 to businessman Steven Cage who now has it on display at his RPM Collection in Fishers, Indiana.
1972 Dodge Challenger Rallye
For the 1972 Dodge Challenger, Chrysler cut many features and types, including the convertible option and the Deputy model. Custom interior options were all pretty much dropped too. The R/T series was rebranded as the Rallye series. The grille and tail section saw a redesign. The grille, for example, was extended beneath the front bumper, and the rear had new taillights. As for the Rallye, the 1972 model included dummy air extractors fitted to the front fenders. The 255c cu in (3.7L) slant-6, two-barrel 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8, and four-barrel 340 cu in (5.6L) V8 were the three remaining engines. The highest horsepower rating came from the 318 with 240hp. All engines had to lower compression ratios to imitate the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) calculations. Sales continued sliding. Dodge sold 26, 2658 Challengers.
1973 Dodge Challenger
The 1973 Challengers were largely carryovers from the 1972 model. The most significant additions included an electronic ignition as well as 5mph rubber bumperettes to meet additional safety regulations. Furthermore, the Rallye series was no longer its own model, but an optional package and the 255 cu in (3.7L) six-cylinder engine was cut.
1974 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 1974 Challenger remained mostly unchanged from its predecessor. Most notably, Dodge replaced the 340 cu in (5.6 L) engines with a 360 cu in (5.9 L) version. Sales fell sharply, and this was the last of the first generation Challenger with Chrysler ending manufacturing for the vehicle in April 1974. All in all, over 165,000 Dodge Challengers were sold between 1970 and 1974, with 80,000 of those sold in the first year. Today, many consider these cars masterpieces.
1978 Dodge Challenger
Alright, honestly, we are hesitant in discussing the second-generation of the Dodge Challenger. Many car enthusiasts do not even consider these “true” successors, mostly “Challenger” in-name-only. So here is the story, due to crude oil, Chrysler did not have a compact car to compete on the market in the early 1970s and partnered with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors where they imported vehicles and rebranded them.
The first was a Mitsubishi Galant, which Chrysler rebranded as the Dodge Colt. In 1978, they did the same for the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe, marketing it as the Dodge Challenger (formerly the “Dodge Colt Challenger”).
1979 Dodge Challenger
Chrysler also labeled the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda as the Plymouth Sapporo. The Challenger was pitched as more sporty, while the Chrysler marketed the Sapporo for luxury. They had 1.6-liter (97.5-cu.in.) 4G32 14 and an optional 2.6-liter (156-cu.in) 4G54 14 engines. The 1.6 L engine had a measly rating of 77 horsepower, and the 2.6-liter had a 105 hp rating, a far cry from the first-gen Challengers. We should note both cars had MacPherson strut and coil spring front suspension as well as live rear axle hung by coil springs and shock absorbers. The Challenger frameless hardtop was also the only option available in terms of styling.
1982 Dodge Challenger
In 1981, the Sapporo and Challenger saw a redesign. The bodywork was revised to have a larger trunk as well as more head and foot room. Sound-proofing was also reworked. The second-generation of the Dodge Challenger lasted for six years, with the final model being in 1983. Following that year, Chrysler changed focus and marketed the higher-performance Mitsubishi-manufactured Conquest. Within the decade, Chrysler further altered its relationship with Mitsubishi and let the company sell directly to U.S. customers.
Only 160,000 Challenger and Sapporo units sold. Today, not many exist, with former owners scrapping them for money. So, if you see one, it’s extremely rare, but why would you put yourself through that?
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT-8
Now that we discussed the dark age of the Challengers let move on to the vehicle’s renaissance. The year was 2005; murmurs and images were circulating that Chrysler was doing something big. Come 2006, at the North American International Auto Show, Chrysler unveiled the third generation of Dodge Challenger. The design was gorgeous taking many cues from the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. It was a 2-door notchback coupe with an LC chassis and a 6.1 L (370 cu in) Hemi V8 with a 5-speed AutoStick automatic transmission. Chrysler allowed deposits on December 3, 2007, with the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 releasing February 6, 2008. The cost was listed at $40,095. The Canadian manufacturers made a total run of 6,400 US market cars that were pre-sold with production taking place on May 8, 2008. Though the 2008 model was limited, it was a good indicator of things to come.
2009 Dodge Challenger SE
Production expanded for the 2009 line-up of the Dodge Challenger with four different trims, including the SRT-8 from the previous year. The 2009 Dodge Challenger SE was the base model that contained a 3.5-Liter V6, which rated about 250 hp. The vehicle had 17-inch wheels with high-profile 215/65 tires and a black interior color scheme. The price started at $21,995 for the car.
2009 Dodge SE Rallye
For the SE model, Chrysler offered a Rallye package, which included, most notably, dual body stripes on the trunk and hood. Additionally, it came with 18-inch aluminum wheels, chromed fuel cap, decklid spoiler plus Micro Carbon interior accents.
2009 Dodge Challenger R/T
The R/T insignia returned with 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. The vehicle had fog lamps, 18-inch aluminum wheels with 235/55 tire, as well as a fuel-filler cap under the driver’s side C-pillar and a body-color rear spoiler. Under the hood, the R/T had a 5.7 L (345 cu in) Hemi V8. The horsepower rates 372 when the engine is connected to a 5-speed automatic transmission. With the optional 6-speed manual transmission, on the other hand, the horsepower is rated at 375. The automatic models also came with an Intelligent Deceleration Fuel shut-off feature. Lastly, Chrysler offered a “Track Pak,” which added a Tremec manual transmission.
2009 Dodge Challenger SXT
Not much to say here, but the 2009 Dodge Challenger SXT model was a Canadian exclusive. It pretty much had all the same components of the Challenger SE.
2010 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic
Production for the Challenger R/T Classic began in February 2009. These editions included black or white “R/T” Stripes as well as “Challenger” decals. The R/T Classic came in a variety of colors, including Detonator Yellow and Toxic orange, to name a couple. Outside of this edition, Chrysler offered a Super Track Pack for the 2010 R/T model, which included self-leveling shock absorbers, 3.06 rear axle ratio, and “ESC-off” stability control off switch as well as a bigger stabilizer bar in the rear.
2010 Mopar ’10 Challenger R/T
A limited-edition of the 2010 Challenger R/T released known as the Mopar’10 Challenger R/T. It had a black body with three color stripes to choose from: red, blue, silver. In the U.S., 155 had red stripes, 255 had blue stripes, and 130 had silver stripes. The cars were built and completed at Brampton Assembly and Mopar Upfit Center in Windsor, Ontario. They had black R/T Classic-style wheels, Katzkin-sourced aftermarket interior as well as custom badging. The most significant addition was the Mopar cold air intake, which gave the car a ten horsepower increase.
2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 Inaugural Edition
One change in the 2011 model year was losing the “Ram” emblem, which Dodge spun off into its own truck brand. Next, the biggest addition was the debut of the SRT8 392 to the model lineup. The chin spoiler or the SR8 was expanded to create more downforce, and Dodge gave the vehicle a new 6.4-liter Hemi V8. The engine gave the 392 45 more horsepower and 90 lb.-ft. more torque for a total of 470 for each. Engineers for Dodge sacrificed horsepower for low-end torque. Along with the engine, the 392 had a front splitter, a decklid spoiler, white leather interior, and 20-inch wheels. With the special 2011 392 Inaugural Edition, only 1492 units were available, which in came blue or white with contrasting stripes.
The term “392” is a reference to the 392-inch Hemi of 1957 and 58’ through the Hemi in this vehicle is actually 391 cubic inches; go figure.
2012 Dodge Challenger SXT
For the 2012 model year, the base “SE” title was dropped in favor of “SXT.” The purpose behind the change was to remain consistent across the rest of Dodge’s lineup of vehicles. Other optional features became available for the first time this year such as 900-watt, 18 speakers Harman/Kardon audio system, heated steering, new sports seats as well as zinc steering-wheel paddle shifters for the SXT Plus and R/T.
2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
The SRT8 392 received a 2-mode adjustable suspension-damping system that allowed for Auto & Sports mode. Choosing the mode will shift various inputs on the vehicle, including speed, throttle position, and acceleration. Additionally, you could purchase a heated steering wheel for this model too.
2013 Dodge Challenger R/T Redline
The Dodge Challenger coupe had minimal changes for the 2013 model year; however, Chrysler offered a newer Rallye Redline edition for a variety of trims. This edition was based on SXT Plus trim, including performance suspension and brakes. In terms of the exterior, it featured black chrome 20-inch wheels and Redline Red Accents. Also, an Electronic Vehicle Tracking System (EVTS) became available this year.
2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
For the first time, the 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 included selectable suspension settings. Also new was a standard launch control, which took full advantage of the acceleration by maximizing it.
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker
The 2014 Dodge Challenger went virtually unchanged. Chrysler did offer some new packages, though. One of those was the R/T Shaker, which the company unveiled at the SEMA show. On the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, the Satin Black engine-mounted hood scoop will shake as cold air comes through the engine with a custom induction system. Obviously, this is trying to capitalize on the 1970 Challenger R/T’s shaker hood. Performance could be further enhanced on these vehicles with one of three new “Scat Package” performance kit such as the Super Track Pack that provides high-performance suspension. The R/T Shaker also has a driver-selectable sport-mode powertrain calibration.
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T 100th Anniversary Edition
Dodge unveiled the 100th Anniversary Edition of the 2014 Dodge Challenger at the 2013 LA Auto Show. There were two versions: The Challenger SXT Plus with the Pentastar V6 engine and the R/T Plus with the Hemi V8 engine.
The Anniversary Edition has a granite crystal grille as well as distinctive badging and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. The interior has embroidered floor mats, Molten Red or Foundry Black Nappa leather seats as well as liquid graphite accents. Eight body colors were available for this edition, including High Octane Red-pearl, as seen in the picture. The 100th Anniversary Editions retailed for $2500 more than the standard versions; if we had the cash, we might consider it.
2014 Dodge Challenger Rallye Redline
Dodge Challenger Rallye Redline was a special edition offered once again for V6 models. Like its predecessor, Dodge built the new Redline on the Challenger SXT Plus. Further, however, was the inclusion of the SuperSport Group performance package, which improved handling, upgraded suspension, and provided heftier breaking from the R/T model. The SuperSport Group package was optional for any V6 Challenger.
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat RWD
A major addition to the Challenger lineup was Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. It officially replaced the standard SRT-8. This SRT came equipped with a high-performance supercharged Hemi engine variant called the Hellcat, which was 6.L (376 cu in) with an incredible 707 hp rating and 650 lb-ft of torque. The vehicle boasted 20-inch aluminum wheels and two separate key fops to control the output capacity. The SRT Hellcat can reach a quarter-mile of 10.85 seconds; whew!
2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
Outside the Hellcat, the rest of the 2015 Challenger models also saw an overhaul. They received a new grille, nose, and quad-LED “Halo Ring” headlights as well as a restyled tail with new LED taillights. The interior was also modernized with a 7-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display and 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen radio with GPS. If you are a fan of automatic driving, Dodge replaced the 5-speed transmission with 8-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission. Other than 1970, it was a no better time to be a Dodge Challenger fan. The 2015 Challenger is one of our favorite model years for sure.
2017 Dodge Challenger GT
There was nothing substantially different from the 2016 model, the 2017 model year, on the other hand, introduced some new trims. One new addition included the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT. The GT was a version of the SXT Plus and was the first Challenger ever to have an all-wheel-drive (AWD). In fact, it was the only American performance coupe to use the AWD system’s all-weather traction benefits. The ADW system and suspension are the same as the Dodge Charger Pursuit. The AWD System has an active transfer case as well as a front-axle disconnect system which can automatically transition between AWD and rear-wheel drive (RWD).
2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392
Also new for the 2017 model year was the return of the Trans Am (T/A) Challenger. These models came equipped with 5.7-liter V8 or a 6.4-liter V8 for the T/A 392. You can easily distinguish them from other Challengers by the black painted hood and roof. Additionally, the T/A 392 came with six-piston front Brembo Brakes, and four pistons rear Brembo brakes, as well as a two-piece 15.4-inch vented rotors.
2018 Dodge Challenger R/T
For the 2018 Dodge Challenger, minimal changes were made. The SXT and R/T models received the 3.6-liter V6 and the 5.7-liter V8. There was also a variety of new colors you could select. A standard backup camera came in all models as well. Lastly, a new Performance Handling Group package was available, which came with 4-piston black Brembo Brakes as well as upgraded steering and Bilstein performance suspension. The SXT Plus and R/T Plus trims also came with the Super Trak package.
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
Okay, race fans. Chrysler was not messing around on the 2018 model year. They launched the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, a special edition built for drag racing. At the April 2017 New York Auto Show, the company touted it as the quickest and most powerful production car in the world. The Demon has a new 6.2-liter V8 engine furnished with a 2.7-liter supercharger. The engine has a mind-boggling 808 horsepower rating using 91 octanes. With 100 octane fuel or higher, we are talking 840 hp rating!
Along with the engine, Dodge equipped the Demon with NT05R consumer tires and a transbrake system. If you purchase this vehicle, you are really only getting the racing essentials. For example, the engineers removed the passenger seats and replaced the back seats with rear roll bars. The loss of these items cut the weight of the car by 215 pounds compared to the Hellcat. With a car like this, you can go from 0-100mph in 5.1 seconds; wow! Unfortunately, Dodge discontinued it in 2018, with the last Demon rolling off the assembly line on May 31, 2018. Another piece of trivia, the NHRA banned the Demon from their competitions for not having an NHRA approved roll cage.
2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye
After the Demon discontinued, the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye stepped up to fix our broken hearts. The Redeye came equipped with a supercharged 6.2L V8 with a 797hp rating. While slightly less than the Demon, it is substantially more than the standard Hellcat’s 717 Horsepower. Some other enhancements include track-tuned suspension, reinforced ZF8 speed automatic transmission, and SRT Power Chiller/ After Run Chiller.
2019 Dodge Challenger R/T
Several options and trim upgrades were available on the 2019 Challenger line up. With the R/T model, you could get a wide-body version. The R/T Scat Pack models also came with a new power-bulge aluminum hood, which is also on the Hellcat. Lastly, you could request Chrysler delete the seats for only $1 in return for net weight savings of 55 Lbs.
2019 888HP Dodge Hellcat XR
The AEC (Auto Export Corporation) is headquartered in Canada but has locations throughout Belgium and Germany. They import Dodge & Ram vehicles. For 2019, a special edition AEC Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat XR was developed. The edition was limited to 50 units and was built to push the road-legal boundaries of drag and race track performance in Europe. The car came with a 6.2 L cast-iron Hemi block combined with a 2.4 L twin-screw supercharger pushing a ludicrous 888 peak hp rating! To control the vehicle’s power on turns, the Challenger supported the top of the line performance brakes, tires, and tuned suspension.
2020 Dodge Challenger 50th Anniversary Edition R/T
The first Dodge Challenger model year was 1970. To celebrate the vehicle’s legacy, Chrysler is releasing a 50th Anniversary Edition available on every trim minus the Hellcat. It will come equipped with 20-inch wheels, unique badging, and a satin black painted hood with a wrapped roof. Only 70 units are available per color. That takes us to the end of the road from start to finish with Dodge Challenger.
We look forward to seeing the next exciting redesigns that Chrysler will come up with for this classic vehicle in the coming years; stay tuned.