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Classic Muscle Cars

Updated on June 15, 2016

All of the major car manufacturers built muscle cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ford had the Mustang Mach 1, Chevy had the Camaro Z28 and Chrysler Corporation had the Plymouth ‘Cuda and Dodge Challenger.

The Dodge Challenger was built with an engine compartment big enough to handle any Mopar engine of the day. When you coupled a small car like the Challenger with one of the biggest engines built by Chrysler, you had something that for some people might require a change of underwear after a real test drive.

Please see below for some thoughts, photos and videos of three of Chrysler’s coolest Mopar muscle cars of the day; the Dodge Charger RT, Dodge Challenger RT and the Dodge Coronet RT.

Dodge Charger R/T

Classic Muscle Car Dodge Charger R/T
Classic Muscle Car Dodge Charger R/T

Dodge Charger RT

Even though the Dodge Charger itself didn't start off as a "muscle car", the Dodge Charger RT became one of the largest muscle cars available in the 1970s.

However, it was the second generation Dodge Charger RT, built from 1968–1970, that were among my favorites. Engine choices ranged from a 225 cu .in. Slant Six with a 1-barrel carburetor, or a 318 cu. in 2 barrel, a 383 cu. in. or 440 cu. in. with a 2 or 4-barrel carburetor or a 426 cu. in. Hemi engine. Transmissions ranged from 3-speed automatic to 3 or 4 speed manual. The cars rode on a 117-inch wheelbase.

In an effort to boost the Charger's muscle car image, a new high-performance package was added called the R/T, which stood for "Road/Track" and became the badge worn by Dodge's high performance cars.

Chrysler came up with a new ad campaign featuring a bee with an engine on its back. These cars were called the "Scat Pack" and included the Dodge Coronet R/T, Dodge Super Bee, Dart GTS and Charger R/T.

Dodge didn't change much on the 1969 Charger. The exterior changes did include a new grille and new longitudinal taillights. Dodge also came up with a new trim line, called the Special Edition or SE. A buyer ordering the SE package would get leather front seat inserts, a wood grain steering wheel and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel along with the option of a sunroof. A buyer could get this package alone or with the R/T package, thus making their car an R/T-SE.

The Dodge Charger was changed only slightly in 1970, however, this would be the last and rarest year of the 2nd generation Chargers. It featured a large wraparound chrome bumper, new electric headlight doors, which replaced the old vacuum, style and the Charger 500 and R/T models came with a new more attractive taillight panel. Interior changes included new high-back bucket seats and an all-new pistol grip shifter was introduced.

One of the most famous Dodge Chargers of all time was the car featured on the television series, The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979–1985. The "General Lee" as it was known had a Confederate flag painted on the roof and the words "GENERAL LEE" painted over each door. The number "01" was painted on both doors and when the horn was pressed, it played the first 12 notes from the Confederate States anthem "Dixie". At the height of the TV series, this Dodge Charger became one of the most recognized cars in the world and the show's popularity produced an increased interest in the car.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T

A Tribute to the "General Lee" Dodge Charger

Dodge Challenger R/T

Classic Muscle Car Dodge Challenger R/T
Classic Muscle Car Dodge Challenger R/T

Dodge Challenger RT

The Dodge Challenger is the name of three different automobile models marketed by the Dodge division of Chrysler. The first generation was built from 1970 to 1974 on the Chrysler "E" platform and shared many of of its major components with the Plymouth Barracuda.

The second generation was built from 1978 to 1983 and was basically a Mitsubishi Galant and the third generation, introduced in 2008, more closely resembles the first generation Challengers and was built to rival the new generation of Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros.

Although I love the newest generation of Dodge Challengers that came out in 2008, the first generation designed by Carl Cameron and built from 1970-1974 will always hold a special place in my heart. This first generation, built as a 2-door convertible or 2-door hardtop, had engine choices ranging from the 198 cu. in. Slant 6, to the following V8 choices; 318 cu. in., 340 cu. in., 360 cu. in., 383 cu. in., 426 cu. in. Hemi, or 440 cu. in. Tranmissions were either a 3 or 4-speed manual or 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic. The Dodge Challenger rode on a 110-inch wheelbase. The Dodge Challenger and its sister car, the slightly smaller Plymouth Barracuda, were built to compete with the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.

Designer Carl Cameron, who also designed the 1966 Dodge Charger, based the 1970 Challenger grille from an older sketch of a 1966 Charger prototype. The body style of the first generation Dodge Challenger stayed virtually the same throughout those five years, but there were two significant changes to the front grille.

The 1971 models had a "split" grille, while 1972 introduced a design that extended the grille beneath the front bumper. Also, the taillights on the 1970 version went all the way across the back of the car, with the backup light in the middle. In 1971, the backup lights were on the left and right instead of the middle. The taillight design changed again from 1972 forward, with the Challenger now having four individual rectangular lamps.

The passage of time has created legends of both the Challenger and the Barracuda. (and in particular the 'Cuda) Original "numbers matching" high-performance early year Dodge Challengers are very sought-after collector cars.

1969 Dodge Coronet R/T

Classic Muscle Car 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T
Classic Muscle Car 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T

Dodge Coronet RT

The Dodge Coronet R/T was the first Dodge to combine traditional muscle car elements under one nameplate starting in 1967. Sales topped 10,000 for its first two years but dropped to 7,200 for the 1969 version. The Dodge Coronet R/T ranked high in performance, but low in sales. In 1970, the Coronet R/T saw its sales fall to 2,600 units.

Dodge continued to make changes to its gentleman's muscle car for 1969 with revised grille and taillights and optional 15-inch cast-aluminum road wheels. Again standard was the 375 HP, 440 Magnum four-barrel with the sole engine option being a 425 HP 426 Hemi. Most all Coronet R/Ts came with the base 440 engine. A Ramcharger fresh-air induction package that added two hood scoops was a new option with the 440 and was standard with the Hemi, but it didn't change engine power.

The Dodge Coronet base was used to build the original Dodge Super Bee. The Dodge Coronet R/t held and occasionally dominated the middle ground between the budget muscle car Super Bee and the glamour muscle car Dodge Charger.

The 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T rode on a 117-inch wheelbase and had an original base price of $3,442. The standard engine was a 440 cu. in. 4-barrel carburetor that developed 375 HP and could run the 1/4-mile in 14.6 seconds.

Dodge Coronet Burnout

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    • Juggergnost profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I love the 2012 Challenger R/T also! Congrats on having one.

    • Leaderofmany profile image


      6 years ago from Back Home in Indiana

      I have a 2012 Challenger R/T and I love it. I would love to have a classic Challenger or Cheville SS. I am a Grandma who loves cars.

    • AllSuretyBonds profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Hub. Muscle cars are great! They are so different and each of them has a story to tell.


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