Home Cars Legendary: Remembering The Most Notorious Dodge Chargers Of All Time

Legendary: Remembering The Most Notorious Dodge Chargers Of All Time

Vukasin Herbez November 29, 2023

For decades, multiple Dodge Chargers have demanded the attention and pocketbooks of muscle cars around the world. One of the muscle car segment’s biggest legends has always been the ultra-powerful and popular Charger. But now it’s going away – at least for the time being.

With a nameplate as iconic as the Charger, true muscle car fans know they simply must commemorate its extraordinary life. So with that said, the Charger undoubtedly deserves a full list ranking the best and most exciting models released over the years. The transformation this model has experienced over its lifetime is highly unique in the muscle car world. We chronicled that rich history with an in-depth look at the greatest, fastest, and most well-known models that tore up the roads. Look back at the greatest Chargers ever made right here.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger Concept (1964)

The Charger nameplate first appeared at a 1964 show car as just a re-bodied Dodge Polara with a roadster look and a powerful 426 Wedge engine. However, the name gained some attention with the rising popularity of muscle cars. For example, the Pontiac GTO was grabbing all the headlines at the time (via Supercars).

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge knew it needed a new, exciting model to attract customers looking for quick and sporty models. As we all know, Dodge got the message and in 1966, presented the first Charger production model. This concept was the one that started this legendary nameplate that muscle car gearheads have loved for decades.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Original Dodge Charger (1966)

As we mentioned above, the Charger name first appeared at a 1964 show car as just a re-bodied Dodge Polara. However, Dodge knew that it needed a completely new car for performance-minded buyers. So, in 1966, the brand-new Charger was released as a mid-year introduction. It became the latest model in the muscle car class. The original Charger was based on the Chrysler B-Body platform and shared much of its mechanics and chassis components with other less attractive Dodge models like the Coronet (via Auto Evolution).

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However, it came with fresh new sheet metal and a cool-looking fastback roofline. The design of the 1966 Charger also had hideaway headlights and an enormous chrome grille, The interior was modern, with a slick dashboard and four bucket seats. Under the hood, Dodge offered various engines. They began with a modest 318 V8 unit. The step-up from that intro V8 was the 383 which boasted up to 325 hp. However, the best and most potent option was the mighty 426 Hemi. This was the first year for Street 426 Hemi, and one of the selected models to receive this legendary powerplant was the Charger. It had 425 hp and just under 500 cars left the factory with it in 1966.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Dodge Charger (1968)

Dodge wanted to give its premium muscle car unique looks and several features that would distinguish it from its competitors. So in 1968, muscle car fans were wowed by the fantastic lines of the brand-new Charger featuring the famous “Coke bottle” styling. It had a prominent grille, muscular shape, recessed rear glass, and four round rear lights. In those days of crazy designs and aggressive muscle car styling, the 1968 Charger was in a league of its own. No other model could compete with this coupe at the time. The interior was also new, featuring full instrumentation and a decent amount of space. Finally, trunk space was also generous since the 1968 Charger was one of the biggest muscle car coupes on sale (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Mecum

Despite its unique design, the Charger was still based on the Coronet but added new engine choices like the 440 V8 and one new trim package – the R/T (Road and Track). The R/T package was a popular option featuring graphics, beefier suspension and steering, and a 440 engine as standard. If you wanted full power in your 1968 Charger, you could choose the Hemi, which was significantly more expensive. The 1968 Charger proved to be a massive success for Dodge and over 96,000 cars left the factory in that year alone.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger III (1968)

The success of the Charger inspired Chrysler designers to develop the idea of a Dodge performance model. The original Charger had power, performance, and countless racetrack wins. But it was still a big, heavy, and not very aerodynamic muscle machine. The 1968 Charger III concept was something very different (via Supercars).

Photo Credit: Dodge

The Charger III was no longer a muscle car but a pure two-seater sports machine. It was lightweight. It also had compact dimensions, a low profile, and several unusual features. There were no conventional doors, but the whole top of the car opened and allowed access to the interior. The steering column tilted along with the steering wheel to make entry more comfortable. There were massive airbrakes on the back of the vehicle, similar to the ones on the airplanes, which deployed under heavy braking. The whole car was highly futuristic, which doomed it from actual production.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Charger 500 (1969)

Most muscle car fans know the Charger lineup well, including the wild Charger Daytona from 1969. But Daytona’s predecessor, the Charger 500, was far less known and less successful. In the late ’60s, Dodge was desperate to race in NASCAR and the Charger was the perfect candidate. However, since NASCAR cars already approached high speeds of almost 200 mph on newly constructed superspeedway tracks, aerodynamics played a vital role in a car’s performance and results (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Hagerty

With a deep grille and concave rear glass, the standard Charger could have been more aerodynamic. And despite powerful engines and sound drivers, it just couldn’t achieve the speeds required to reach the top. Dodge decided to introduce a limited-edition Charger 500 (named the 500 because it was produced in that many examples). It had a flushed grille, fixed headlights, and regular rear glass to improve aerodynamics. The Charger 500 had two engines, a standard 440 and the optional 426 Hemi. Since the Daytona was much more successful and exciting, the Charger 500 was soon forgotten by everyone except hardcore Mopar muscle guys.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Charger Daytona (1969)

The NASCAR races were one of the most crucial battle arenas of the muscle car wars. Back in the late ’60s, superspeedways were the place of many fierce clashes between Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Plymouth, and Pontiac. The most exciting period was the late ’60s when NASCAR rules allowed modifications to make cars more aerodynamic. Of course, the condition was to apply those changes to regular production examples. They sold a limited number of these vehicles to the general public. Most manufacturers jumped at this opportunity and created aero racers or specially designed cars homologated for the races (via SMM).

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One of the most famous and influential was the 1969 Charger Daytona. It was produced in just 504 examples as a homologation special. Despite winning some races, the Charger 500 wasn’t good enough. So Dodge decided to go all out and create a racing car with a unique front end, flush rear glass, and a prominent rear spoiler. The Charger Daytona proved to be very successful on the track. It managed to hit a record 217 mph run in almost stock configuration. That only showed how good the design and engineering behind this project were. The standard engine was 440 V8 and only 70 cars featured the legendary 426 Hemi.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger R/T (1971)

After the highly successful second-generation Charger produced from 1968 to 1970, Dodge introduced a fresh new model in 1971. The car received a new design following the classic lines but with more curvy styling. The 1971 model arguably didn’t look as good as the model it replaced. But it was a classic Dodge muscle car with a prominent grille, hideaway headlights, and a sleek coupe appearance (via Hagerty).

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The end for original muscle cars was in sight. Yet Dodge kept the Charger fully stocked with the 440 and Hemi engines were still available. The R/T package was a popular choice for performance-loving muscle car enthusiasts and the best thing for them was a six-pack option for the 440 Magnum engine. It delivered 385 hp and came with a unique hood scoop and graphics. The Hemi was in just 63 cars. Dodge also presented the SE (Special Edition) package, a more luxurious version showing that the Charger will soon become a personal luxury car.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Charger Super Bee (1971)

Dodge managers decided to merge the Coronet and Charger lineups for 1971 and offer B-Body models in two distinctive flavors. From 1971, all four-door models were Coronets and all two-door models were Chargers. This meant the Coronet Super Bee was now a Charger, which caused some confusion with buyers (via Hemmings).

Dodge Charger (B-body) - Dodge Super Bee
Photo Credit: Hemmings

The Charger Super Bee was a one-year-only model, which was kind of an entry-level muscle car. Selling at lower prices but packing good equipment, wild graphics, and a 440 engine as standard, the Super Bee was relatively popular. It appealed to drivers looking for a classic performance machine in vivid colors and tire-shredding performance. The base 440 delivered 370 hp and the Six Pack option featured 385 hp. The Hemi was the only engine option but it was scarce. Only 22 cars received that top-of-the-line engine.

Photo Credit: Drivers Magazine

Chrysler Valiant Charger VH (1972)

Not all Chargers were produced in America and the Chrysler Motor Company also wanted to participate in the Australian muscle car class. So in 1971, it introduced the Valiant Charger. Based on the regular Valiant platform but with a sporty new two-door body, the Valiant Charger got its name from its American cousin, the Dodge Charger (via Car Scoops).

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

The Valiant Charger could be had with several performance engines to keep up with mighty Falcon GTs, Monaros, and Toranas. These started with the hot version of Chrysler’s six-cylinder engine, which featured new cylinder heads and better intake systems. In the R/T version. The 4.3-liter six delivered over 240 hp, but the most potent version was the Charger 770 SE E55. Under the hood was a well-known Mopar 340 V8 with 285 hp.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Charger R/T (1972)

You probably know what the Dodge Charger looks like since you’re reading this article and it is one of the world’s most popular and classic muscle cars. But you may not know this version. So right here, we’ll show you the Brazilian version, which is different even though it carries the same name and model designation (via Hagerty).

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In the late ’60s after the demise of Simca operation, Chrysler decided to introduce Dodge Dart built locally. The car was modern and considered among the most prestigious Brazilian models. But in 1972, Chrysler surprised Brazilian performance enthusiasts with a brand-new model called Charger R/T, a dressed-up two-door Dart with a new front design, graphics, vinyl roof, and a 318 V8 engine with 215 hp. The new Charger R/T was one of Brazil’s most desirable cars. It was also highly modern for the time, with optional air conditioning, a plush interior, and front disc brakes. Its high price meant it was rare but also highly sought after.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger (1975-1978)

In a desperate attempt to regain some semblance of popularity in the dying muscle car market, Dodge introduced the Charger as a personal luxury car in 1975. The design was identical to Chrysler’s Cordoba and was big, heavy, and slow (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Dodge

The engine choices consisted of three V8 motors; the 318, 360, and 400 CID. But power levels were pretty embarrassing. Dodge concentrated on the luxury aspects and Chargers could be had with leather interiors, T-Top roofs, and a host of other upgrades. First-year sales were pretty good at around 30,000 examples, but by 1978, sales dropped to just about 2000 automobiles.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger Daytona (1976-1977)

You may be familiar with the original Dodge Charger Daytona from 1969. It was a big coupe based on the Charger with a pointy nose and massive rear wing. It was also designed for racing in NASCAR and produced in only 500 examples. The Daytona, with its cousin the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, is still one of the craziest muscle cars ever left the factory. Less than 10 years after the memorable Daytona, in a terrible case of self-reinventing, Dodge decided to use that glorious name again (via Automobile Catalog).

Photo Credit: Dodge

This time, it was on a Dodge Charger, which was basically a Chrysler Cordoba, a big two-door personal luxury coupe with no muscle car credentials whatsoever. The move was not well received since the Cordoba had a lame 145 hp V8 engine. It was more focused on luxury and having a well-appointed interior than performance, and driving dynamics. Fortunately, buyers punished Dodge for using the precious Daytona nameplate for a not-so-special car. In the end, only 250 examples left the factory. And this Daytona’s reincarnation was on the margins of muscle car history.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger (1983-1987)

The Charger of the late ’70s was a slow car that threatened to kill the muscle car reputation of the glorious late ’60s and early ’70s. Dodge felt that the name deserved another chance. In those days, Chrysler Corporation was all about K-platform front-wheel drive cars. Dodge introduced the Charger as an option for the compact and bland Omni in 1981. The appearance package proved somewhat popular. It was enough to convince Dodge to try it as a separate model for 1983, and that’s how the L-Body Charger was born (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Wiki

Despite the famous name, the 1983 to 1987 Charger was just a sportier version of Chrysler compact models. With four-cylinder power, front-wheel drive, and no particular performance, the Charger was just the car to fight import compacts.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dodge Shelby Charger

As we said before, the L-Body Charger was a forgettable car that wasn’t especially popular or fast. But when Carroll Shelby, who was involved with Chrysler in those days, introduced the Shelby Charger, the car finally earned some respect (via Car and Driver).

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Shelby’s recipe was simple. Turbocharge the existing 2.2-liter four-cylinder to deliver 175 hp, equip it with a close ratio five-speed manual gearbox, stiffen the suspension, and improve braking. All those changes turned the boring Charger into the Shelby Charger. It had some vivid performance and could outrun most production muscle cars of the period. The Shelby Charger was sold along with the regular models in Dodge dealerships. The last 1000 examples were bought by Shelby and turned into the Charger GHLS. The model was similar to the Shelby Omni GHLS built with the same engine and on the same platform.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger SRT8 LX (2006-2010)

Even though the Charger went away in the late ’80s and Chrysler retired the nameplate, the legend of the glorious muscle car never really disappeared. Dodge presented several concepts that kept muscle car fans hopeful that their favorite car would be reincarnated. It finally was in 2005, with a thumping V8 under the hood and rear-wheel drive. But it was in four-door guise, which raised a few eyebrows. The brand-new Charger sedan debuted in 2005 as an actual American four-door. With a rear-wheel drive platform (AWD was optional), a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine as a top engine choice, and an aggressive muscular design, which reminded the buyers of Charger’s heritage and history (via Car Buzz).

Photo Credit: Dodge

Immediately, this was a fantastic success since it combined modern technology with retro styling and Hemi power in a great package. It wasn’t what the muscle car fans asked for, but it was a proper performance car they needed. The engine choices started with a 3.6-liter V6. Buyers could then get the newly introduced 350 hp 5.7-liter Hemi. However, Dodge remembered the burning muscle car market. And soon after introducing the regular model, the Charger SRT-8 was released. Under the hood was a 6.1-liter Hemi with 425 hp and fantastic performance, which connected it with the Hemi Chargers of the past.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Dodge Magnum R/T (2006)

Dodge never built a Charger station wagon or factory Charger convertible, it was always a two or four-door car throughout its history. However, if you have an irresistible urge for a station wagon Charger, there is a way to enjoy the power of the Hemi engine with the practicality of a long roof body. Look for a Dodge Magnum R/T (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

Equipped with a 6.1-liter V8 Hemi engine pumping out 425 hp and a glorious soundtrack through twin tailpipes, the SRT-8 was a fast and capable long roof. The design was typical Dodge, and since the rest of the mechanics were identical, the Magnum was practically a station wagon Charger.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger Hellcat (2014 )

Since the four-door Charger was released, it has become a famous model that law enforcement agencies use. 2011, the second generation was introduced, featuring fresh design options but mostly unchanged platform and engine choices (via Dodge).

Photo Credit: Canadian Auto Review

Dodge kept the SRT model and several interesting performance versions in the lineup. But everyone knew the Charger could do much more. Finally, in 2014, the Hellcat arrived and the car community went wild when Dodge released the Hellcat Charger and Challenger models. After all, the reaction was expected since the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 707 horsepower is a proper muscle car monster. It almost shouldn’t be released on the streets. But Dodge did just that, allowing the general public to buy one of the fastest and most powerful muscle cars and sedans ever built. Despite its massive power, Dodge Charger Hellcats are surprisingly good to drive and can even be docile at low speeds.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Charger Pursuit

After decades of using Chevrolet Impalas or Ford Crown Victorias, various law enforcement agencies in America turned to Dodge Charger in 2006. For over 12 years, this has been one of the most popular police cars in America. Yes, we know that you see this car daily. But it’s undeniable that this is one of the best and most excellent police cars in the world (via Stellantis).

Photo Credit: Dodge

The specs of the latest models are simply unbelievable. Fleet buyers can choose a 3.6-liter V6 engine or a fantastic 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Chargers can have rear or all-wheel drive for tough road conditions. All cars have special chassis reinforcements, front bull bars, and heavy-duty components, including suspension, braking, cooling, and electrical systems for running communication equipment and computers. Also, this is very important; Chargers Pursuit comes with bullet-resistant front door panels, which can save officers’ lives on the job. The Charger Pursuit comes painted in various liveries of local law enforcement agencies. Still, the ones you should be most afraid of are undercover in plain colors without any visible signs.

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