RE: The History of the Vintage Dodge Charger R/T
The 1968 Dodge Charger R/T retained some styling cues from the ’66 and ’67 models, but it was still a whole different car, aimed completely at the performance car market. The R/T moniker had been adopted by the Dodge performance lineup a few years earlier, and these ‘Road and Track’ models had quickly made a name for themselves, and the Charger R/T only secured that spot among the top movers on the street and strip. The styling of the 1968 R/T, like the other Chargers sold that year had a far more aggressive stance with a low front end and wide muscular sides blending into the sweeping rear roofline. The Charger still had the hide-away headlights, but overall far less chrome was found on the 1968 Chargers than before. The R/T package, as in the previous year started with the 440cu big block, but the 426 Hemi was offered. 17,665 1968 Charger R/Ts were sold with the 440, and just 475 were fitted with the Hemi. The R/Ts also came with heavy duty swap bars, shocks, springs, and brakes, along with optional differential ratios to optimize your Chargers performance. This began the era of the Charger that remains the most well known and most sought after of the name and in some opinion, the greatest Mopars ever made. Overall sales of the 1968 Charger were around 92,500 units, which was more than six times as many Charger that were sold in 1967.
The Rise of the Charger
1969 continued the popularity of the Charger, as only slight changes were made, mostly to the grille area and the tail lights. Even though still aimed at performance, the Special Edition (SE) package was offered in conjunction with the R/T package, and that added leather seats and wood grain treatments to the dash and steering wheel. These SE models were named Charger RT/SE, with the SE badging placed on the C-pillar. Dodge added two more performance models in 1969, with the Charger 500 and the Charger Daytona, and those two models received the bulk of the performance attention in ’69, but the Charger R/T was still the most commonly chosen of the three, as the price of the 500 was quite a bit higher, and some viewed the unique shape of the Charger Daytona impractical for street use. The base engine for the Charger R/T was still the 440 making 375 horsepower, and the 425 horsepower Hemi still stood atop the engine option list. By the end of the year, 20,057 Charger R/Ts were sold.
1970 brought about more slight styling changes, but more importantly it brought the R/T a new engine option. The base engine remained the 440 4-barrell engine making 375 horsepower, but Dodge now offered the 440 Six-Pack. Topped with 3 2-barrell Holley carburetors, this variant of the 440 offered 390 horsepower and 490 lb-ft or torque, allowing this engine to compete with the Hemi at lower speeds, but the 426 remained the king of power. Sales, however, was a different story. Rising fuel costs and insurance expenses began causing people to shy from the huge Hemi engines, and tuning issues kept some away from the 440 Six-Pack, so only 116 Six-Pack cars were sold and just 42 Charger R/Ts left the factory with the 426 under the hood. Overall sales of the R/T for 1970 were 10,337 in what would be the final year for the popular second generation of the Dodge Charger.
The New Design Begins the End.
When the 1971 Charger was introduced, it was to mixed opinions. The styling was very different from the previous generation, although the flow of the Charger remained similar from generation to generation. The R/T package was back, and for this model year there was a great deal more emphasis on making the appearance of the Charger R/T stand apart from the other trimlines. Front and rear spoilers gave the car a more sporty look, and a combination of black side stripes and a black hood treatment gave the car a sinister look. One of the most interesting features of the 1971 Charger R/T was the Air Grabber hood, which had a small hood scoop mounted in the center of the hood, and it could be opened or closed by means of a switch inside the drivers compartment. The base engine for the R/T was still the 440 4-barrell engine, still making 370 horsepower, and although the 440 Six-Pack was back, it got a decrease of 5 horsepower; now to 385. The Hemi returned for its final year in the Charger. Looming emissions regulations were causing new restrictions, and this was causing companies to “water down” their engines but Chrysler decided that they would not do that to the legendary Hemi so it would be dropped after 1971. Based on the steep decline in the sales of performance models and trimlines, Dodge began preparing for sweeping market trends away from high performance, so 1971 would also mark the final year for the Road & Track package on the Dodge Charger.
The Continuation of the Charger without the R/T
1972 gave us a Charger very similar to the previous year, but as mentioned, there was no R/T option. The new performance trimline was the Charger Rallye, which was equipped with a heavily detuned 440, making just 280 horsepower (under the new rating system). There would be another drop in 1974, but through the remainder of its run, there would be no Dodge Charger R/Ts made.
1975-1978 gave us a new Charger, based off of the Chrysler Cordoba and it was clear from styling and power numbers that performance was becoming less of a concern.
The 1980s gave the world a completely different Charger, based on a Mitsubishi front-wheel-drive platform, getting its power from a variety of 4-cylinder engines, but still there was no R/T. The “Omni-Charger” would be discontinued in 1987, and it was assumed that the Charger name was gone forever, but rumors surfaced almost 9 years later about the possible return of the Charger. Those rumors were supported by Mopar lovers and performance enthusiasts alike, as they collectively hoped for the return of one of the most dominating performance cars of all time.