The 1966 Dodge Charger: Chrysler Shows Its Muscle

One of the key turning points in automotive history came when cars went from a one-size-fits-all product to a variety of designs aimed at appealing to different ages, tastes, and budgets.  By the 1960s, buyers had their pick of basic, sport, and luxury vehicles. However, the folks at Chrysler were latecomers to the specialized car world.  To catch up to their rivals, they chose Dodge to introduce their entry into the fast-growing muscle car market of the 1960s.  From their efforts came the Charger; one of the great vehicles to come out of that turbulent decade.

Built on the legendary B-body, the Dodge Charger made its debut at the 1966 Rose Bowl.  Everything about the new car suggested speed; from its fastback shape, to its grill that resembled the teeth of an electric razor (or, to some observers, the jaws of a shark).  Four engines were available for the ’66, from the relatively tame 318 cubic inch to the 426 hemi, which had been toned down from its racing version for street use.  The next year, a 440 cubic inch monster was added as an option.

One of the questions asked in the early days was, “where are its headlights?”  The ’66 featured the first flip-up lamps on a Chrysler vehicle since 1942 De Soto. When folded down, the absence of visible lights gave the Charger the look of a streamlined beast– sleek and strong and on the hunt for fresh prey.

The interior had bucket seats, top-grade trim and upholstery (as top-of-the- line as vinyl gets, anyway), and a dash equipped with a 6000 RPM tachometer.  A clock or air conditioner would set the buyer back a few more bucks.  Otherwise, a ’66 Charger with a 318 cubic inch power plant could be bought for $3,122.  It was a giveaway price, but one that put a lot of Chargers on the street, and told the world that Chrysler was in the muscle car business to win.

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