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- Info About my Challenger - Challenger Pic Page 1- 2 - 3 - 4 - Links to Other Challenger Sites -
--- In this section you will find pictures of many Challengers, pictures of my Challenger, info about my Challenger, General info about Challengers, the history of Challengers, and informative links of or about Challengers. And the same for the Plymouth Barracuda/Cuda'
On December 19, 1998 i drove my 1970 Dodge Challenger home for the first time. It was amazing. That day it was raining; I got to experince all of the handeling skills of this massive beast my very first time driving it.
DETAILED HISTORY AND INTRODUCTION
Barracuda & Challenger 1970-74
In the sixties the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda had been changed from small sporty cars into larger "muscle" cars and the emphasis had changed from good handling to straight line performance.
The Barracuda was still too small for the big block engines and so a third generation car was planned that would be able to handle any engine Plymouth managers wanted, from the smallest straight six, to the big 440 wedge and 426 hemi V8s.
To achieve this, the cowl from larger B-body cars like the Road Runner was worked into the design. Advanced styling at Plymouth were responsible for the basic platform which was to be called the E-body. Once the layout of the car had been approved by management it was passed on to Plymouth Styling to design the outer skin.
Plymouth had wanted a full urethane front end on the car like GM had developed. However neither the budget or the technology were available to Chrysler so a more conventional design was chosen with body coloured urethane bumpers as an option.
It was at this point that Chrysler management decided to offer the platform to Dodge. Chrysler wanted an upscale version of the Barracuda, in the same way that the Mercury Cougar was an upscale Mustang, and so Dodge started work on a longer wheelbase E-body that would become the Challenger.
This early drawing by Carl Cameron (who had designed the Charger) is dated 4th Feb. 1967.
These early clay models show how the car was to compete with the Cougar. In fact you can see a Cougar parked behind the model as it takes shape.
Dodge felt it had missed out on the "ponycar" market so, even though the end was in sight for this type of car, they wanted to market it as a performance model. Dodge realized that by using the Plymouth platform they could reduce their own development costs enabling them to recover their investment with fewer cars sold.
As the deadline approached for the outer skin proposal Chief Designer Bill Brownlie contributed his own concept. In the end it was his design that was chosen. The body was given a more pronounced "coke bottle" effect in the rear quarter and it flared out into a character line that ran the length of the body reflecting the upper beltline.
Originally the wheelbase was to be 3 inches longer than the Barracudas at 111 inches. This made it the same as the Dodge Dart. Remembering that Plymouth had been criticized for using the Valiant platform in 1964, Carl Cameron suggested that the Challenger wheelbase be reduced, by one inch to 110 inches, just to make it different. Bill Brownlie liked the idea and got it changed.
At first glance the new Barracuda and Dodge Challenger looks very similar. However no body parts on the cars interchange. Under the skin everything was traditional Chrysler unibody, with torsion bar front suspension and semi-elliptical leaf live rear axle. The driver and passenger doors featured side impact beams and the steering column was collapsible in the event of a crash. Nine different engines were available in the two cars and all could accommodate things like air con., power brakes and steering - even with the biggest engines (although some multi-carb. engines could not have air con.).
The Challenger used more chrome and brightwork than the Barracuda for a more upscale look and used dual headlights instead of the Plymouths larger single units.
Both companies offered their cars in EIGHT body styles, including performance versions of the hardtop, sports hardtop and convertible. Plymouths performance badge was again the 'Cuda and Dodge used the R/T (Road & Track) name from its other model lines. These cars were not just base models with badges and stripes. The 'Cuda and R/T had body re-enforcement in key areas and beefed-up suspension and drivetrains to take the power and weight of the big blocks. The Hemi hardtop cars were in fact convertibles (which had a stronger chassis) with a roof welded on!!
The Plymouth Formula S model was gone but Plymouth and Dodge had entered the SCCA Trans-Am Racing Series so, in order to homologate the race cars, a certain number of street versions had to be built. This worked out to be 2,800 cars for Plymouth and 2,500 for Dodge.
These cars were called the AAR 'Cuda and the Challenger T/A.
Both had side exit exhausts, fiberglass hoods with air scoops and were powered by special 340 blocks, heads and triple carbs (called the six-pack). The racing cars used de-stroked versions of the same block and heads but with a single 4bbl carb.
It was the big block R/T and 'Cuda models that got the attention of the motoring press though. The 390hp 440ci six-pack and 426hp 426ci Hemi cars could run the quarter mile in the mid 13 second range which gave them a very powerful reputation on the street.
However the expected large increase in Barracuda sales never happened. They only sold 22,877 units more than in 1969. This was very disappointing for Plymouth. Dodge, on the other hand, had good news and bad news. For their small investment they had sold 80,000 cars. Unfortunately their Charger sales were down by 40,000 units, which makes one suspect that a large number of people traded their Chargers for the newer looking Challenger. On top of this, the development of the next generation of cars was not going well.
The decision was made by management at this point to kill off the two cars within a few years.
Pressure was now being brought to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. This process started with the 1971 line up where the 383 received a drop in compression and the 440 4bbl engine was dropped completely. Although the 440 six-pack and Hemi engines remained untouched, this was to be their last year in an E-body.
For 1972 the largest engine you could order was a 340ci. Dodge dropped the R/T and replaced it with the Rallye though this was now not much more than a dress up package for the base model.
In 1973 the 340 was replaced with the new 360ci engine. Sales actually picked up slightly this year but the '74 model was short lived. The last Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda were made in March 1974 as the Arab oil embargo hit the final nail in the coffin.
New 1975 models had been designed when work on the 1970 had finished.
This clay Barracuda by "Matty" Matsurra gives the car a mid-engine look and is dated April 14th 1969.
This one is by Don Hood and preserves many of the lines of the '70-'74 Barracuda.
This next one became known as the "Cincinati car" as it was taken there to a consumer survey group.
Cincinati was a complete disaster. They hated it. It became obvious that the muscle car was dead. As a last resort it was decided to try a "nose job" on the existing car.
This photo was taken on October 30th 1969, just a few weeks after the "Cincinati Massacre". The aerodynamic ideas were taken from Don Hood's clay and grafted onto a production 'Cuda. This was also turned down.
The other car companies carried on with their "muscle cars" although the muscle had now long gone out of them. The late '70s and early '80s produced some of the worst cars ever in the US. However performance is back and Chrysler is playing the field again. This time they have been very bold and released cars like the Dodge Viper and Plymouth Prowler. Their turbo 2.2L cars are as fast as the big blocks were and the styling of their new cars is again ahead of the rest.
I do not think, though, that the reputation of those 1970-71 cars will ever be beaten. If you ever see a 426 hemi or 440+6 E-body, prowling the street, give it a lot of respect.
All graphics copyrighted by Larry