The Charger has always been a performance car for the everyman – that's meant different things at different times.
We're big fans of the Cars Evolution series of videos that show, well, the evolution of cars. This installment follows the unusual trajectory of the Dodge Charger, from a two-door, rear-wheel-drive musclecar, to a personal luxury car, to a front-wheel-drive hatchback, and, finally, its most recent outing as a rear-wheel drive (sometimes all-wheel-drive), four-door sedan.
Unlike the Mustang or Corvette Cars Evolution videos, the Charger jumps around a lot. That's in part due to the large gaps in the car's history, and also thanks to various attempts by Dodge to make the car suit the needs of its time.
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The first iteration of the Dodge Charger bowed in 1966 as a sleek fastback, but the version we all known and love – the classic two-door hardtop – showed up in 1968 and ran through 1970. That car has become an icon, featured in classic car films like Bullitt (the bad guys drove a '68 in the famous chase scene), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (most of the film is spent in a bright lime green '69), and The Fast and the Furious (Dom's car is a 1970 model).
These models were also competitive in NASCAR, where the unusual, winged 1969 Charger Daytona utilized its effective, albeit bizarre-looking, aerodynamic aids to great effect.
As the musclecar era waned and the fuel crisis loomed large, the Charger changed body styles again in 1971, offering one last hurrah for the 426 Hemi engine and the Hi-Impact colors Dodge was so famous for. With smaller engines and less power, the Charger bravely held on in this guise until 1974.
From 1975 through 1978, the Charger would transform into a large, personal luxury car, as was the style in Detroit in those days. During the fuel crisis, high-performance cars were simply not in style. While the Charger grew more comfortable and luxurious, it also grew less powerful.
After a brief hiatus, the Charger returned as a new kind of performance car for the 1980s. Seeing the Charger name on a front-wheel-drive hatchback raised some eyebrows. When Carroll Shelby came along and worked his magic on them, he dubbed them GLH (and later GLHS) for "Goes Like Hell." And they did. For the performance-starved and fuel-conscious '80s, they were the right cars at the right time.
The current Charger showed up as a four-door sedan in 2006 built on Chyrsler's LX platform. Updated in 2011 as the closely-related-but-all-new LD platform, the Charger has soldiered on up to the present day. Even with slightly dated underpinnings, Chargers can be some of the fastest cars available, with the Hellcat producing an amazing 707 horsepower. That's more than enough to make the lucky owners of any of the original Hemi Chargers jealous.
Source: Cars Evolution on YouTube