Monday, May 25, 2015

Dodge's Forgotten First Charger

I lack survey data to support the claim in this post's title, but I'm pretty sure that the 1966-1967 Dodge Charger is little known to most people under age 60 unless they are serious car nuts or rabid Dodge fans.

My strongest memory is of an almost-new silver-painted Charger that had caught on fire a few blocks from the Penn campus early in my grad school days there.  After the flames and dark smoke dissipated, all that remained to be seen was the rusted body shell that lingered for a few days until it could be hauled away.  Not an exact metaphor for the market fate of the model, but it never sold well, as this Wikipedia entry indicates.

That aside, it was an attractive car fated to compete with other attractive entries in the hot late-1960s American sporty car / muscle car / pony car market segment.  My guess as to why it was a comparative failure is that (1) it was too large, (2) and its styling didn't proclaim that it was a gutsy machine.  A redesigned Charger was launched for the 1968 model year.


A year before production Chargers appeared, Chrysler displayed its Charger II concept car that was a 1966 Charger with a few extra styling touches.  Differences included the grille, hood and, as shown above, extended fender tips.  Standing beside the car is Chrysler styling boss Elwood Engel.

The views of a 1967 Charger.  A noteworthy feature was hidden headlights, something found on 1936-37 Cords and 1942 DeSotos, and reintroduced in the USA on the 1965 Buick Riviera.  But the most striking feature was the fastback roof.  A nice touch is the backlight / C-pillar ensemble that includes a concave-convex-concave backlight profile.  My main complaint is the grille, which seems a bit flat and not inset far enough -- though a different headlight area design would have been required were that done.

A 1966 brochure spread showing the Charger in profile; click to enlarge.

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