Image credit: Highway Patrol Images
A star of the big screen as the baddie’s car of choice in Bullitt and the anti-heroes’ choice in The Dukes of Hazzard, there are few examples of Americana muscle car more iconic, and more desirable than the Dodge Charger. With the burble of a V8 adding to its menacing appeal, when most people think of a muscle car, it's the Charger that comes to mind.
As with so many iconic American cars from the late 60’s onwards, models had a tendency to grow in size and weight as the 70’s progressed. Unlike the series three and four models, the earlier incarnations, with slick styling, Coke-bottle profile, and lack of adornments, are probably the sweet spot of the model’s line.
As a car designed with performance in mind, only V8 engines were available. For those that wanted a less focused performance car, the entry level was ‘just’ a 318 cu (5.2litre) V8, with a single carburettor. For those that wanted the ultimate in performance however, there was the Charger R/T.
Named after the popular Road and Track car magazine of the time, the R/T was a purely performance-focused model. Powered by a vast 440 Magnum V8 engine of 7.2 litres, running with a vast four-barrel carburettor, the 1968 pushed out a 435bhp, which is impressive by today’s standards but was devastating for quarter-mile drag races and general street use.
Where the Charger lost out to competitors, however, was the lack of aerodynamics at higher speeds, and with the repeated inability to beat the Ford Torino at NASCAR proving galling to the management of Dodge, a limited edition was created to solve the problem.
The Dodge Charger Daytona sported a dart-like 18-inch nosecone to eliminate front-end lift and reduce drag while at the rear, an incredible 23-inch tall spoiler kept the car on the ground and helped with high speed stability.
Subtle, it was not, but effective, it was. When the car was clocked in testing at 205mph, it was clear that the changes had been worthwhile, and when the limited order book of 1000 Daytona Chargers was filled almost immediately, it was clear that the American public agreed.
Today, Dodge Chargers are increasingly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. When the model became one of the stars of the Fast and Furious Hollywood franchise, it awakened a wave of interest in a whole new generation of fans. Interestingly, it is the Charger R/T that is repeatedly victorious in street races against more modern supercars. Whether Bullitt, The Dukes of Hazzard or the Fast and the Furious, the end result is always the same – it wins - and has allowed this venerable muscle car to reign supreme in the kudos stakes.
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