The 1966-1967 Dodge Charger is the star car in this edition of the Muscle Car Showcase. This sleek coupe was born from the 1965 Charger II concept car and released the following year as a production model. The first generation Dodge Charger shares the concept’s distinctive fastback styling, long hood, and short rear deck. Its look is totally unmistakable. And yet, it was fairly practical. Part luxury car, part muscle car, the Dodge Charger was the kind of car for the family man as well as those geared for performance. Let’s see what makes this often overlooked Charger worthy of a second look.
“Driving the Dodge Hemi/Charger is like quarterbacking the Green Bay Packers. Call the play, and the job gets done with great speed, strength, and agility.” Car Life Magazine, February 1967
A walk around the Charger reveals a sleek fastback with plenty of chrome and bright work. If you feel a sense of déjà vu when checking out the Charger, maybe that’s because it’s based on the Coronet. The Charger shares several of the Coronet’s features such as its hideaway headlamps and grille. Out back, the Charger features full-width tail lamps, backup lamps, and bumper guards. Its look is distinctively different from any other product from Dodge.
Climb inside and you’ll find an interior with a surprising amount of standard equipment. One of the first things you’ll notice when climbing inside are the bucket seats, both front and rear, along with a full-length console. A full set of gauges, including tachometer, are easily readable thanks to their glare-free luminescence. You’ll also find standard amenities such as a three-spoke wood-grained steering wheel, internal hood release, and tinted rear window. Equipped, not stripped, is a good way to describe the cockpit of the Dodge Charger.
Drivers could opt for a variety of power under the hood. Surprisingly, there was not a single six-cylinder engine to be found on the options list. The Charger’s standard engine is a 318 cubic-inch V8 good for 245 horsepower. Next up is a 361 cubic-inch V8 with 265 horsepower. Those craving a bit more performance could opt for the 383 four-barrel V8 rated at 325 horsepower. Car and Driver put the 383-equipped Charger to the test for their February 1966 issue. They realized a respectable 0 to 60 time of 7.8 seconds and distanced the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds running 88 miles per hour. Drivers that were really serious about performance stepped up to the 426 Hemi. Dodge conservatively advertised the Hemi with 425 horsepower but those in the know swear it’s really closer to 500.
Hemi Chargers are somewhat rare with only 468 rolling off the assembly line in 1966. There’s a couple reasons why this figure is so low. For starters, the factory warranty only covered the Hemi for one year. Dodge probably assumed most takers were going to race Hemi cars and didn’t want to foot the bill for the repairs. Second, the price of the 426 Hemi dug deep into the driver’s wallet. The 426 Hemi added $880 to the price of a Charger. That’s $6,600 in today’s dollars!
The Dodge Charger may have been a little late to the race but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ready to take on the competition. After all, the Pontiac GTO and the Ford Fairlane had been slugging it out with each other for the last couple years and now it was time for Dodge to get in on the action. The 426 Hemi Charger was a potent adversary to competitors such as the GTO and Fairlane. The Hemi Charger could sprint from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds and run the quarter mile in 14.16 seconds at 96 miles per hour. Compared to the GTO with the 389 tri-power, the Charger was 0.4 seconds quicker from 0 to 60 and 1.34 seconds quicker in the quarter. Compared to the Ford Fairlane GTA 390, the Charger was 2.2 seconds quicker from 0 to 60 and 1.24 seconds faster in the quarter.
Dodge produced 37,300 Chargers for the 1966 model year. Only 468 of those were Hemi powered.
Not much changed for the 1967 model year. One of the few exterior differences is that turn signal signals indicators were mounted to the front fenders. On the interior, the center console was redesigned to allow easier entry and exit for rear seat passengers.
Engine choices were slightly reshuffled and included a standard 318 cubic inch V8, a 383 V8 in two and four-barrel configurations, a new 440 Magnum, and the 426 Hemi. The 361 cubic-inch V8 was no longer offered.
Motor Trend in their May 1967 issue pitted the Charger against the AMC Marlin in a fastback shootout. The Marlin came to the duel packing a 289 horsepower 343 cubic-inch V8. The Charger came loaded with a 383 cubic-inch V8 with 325 horsepower. The Charger went from 0 to 60 in 8.9 seconds versus the Marlin’s time of 9.6 seconds. The Charger could run the quarter mile in 16.5 seconds where the Marlin crossed the line in 17.6 seconds. Motor Trend praised the Charger stating “the best feature of the Charger is that it offers stages of performance geared to attract the largest number of buyers”.
Sales took a nosedive compared to 1966. Only 15,788 Chargers rolled off the assembly line this year. Hemi sales were also way down with only 118 takers for 1967.
The first generation Charger was part luxury car, part sports car. It had something that could appeal to a wide variety of buyers. It could be a stylish boulevard cruiser or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe that’s part of the reason Cars magazine named it their “Top Performance Car of the Year”. However you look at it, the original Dodge Charger is worth checking out again.
Specifications for 1967 Dodge Charger Hemi – Car Life Magazine, February 1967
Body & Frame
Frame type: unitized
Powerplant: OHV, 90 degree, V8
Displacement: 425.3696 cubic-inches
Horsepower: 425 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 490 @ 4,000 rpm
Estimated normal range: 10-13 mpg
Cruising range: 190-247 miles
Oil capacity: 4 quarts
Valve operation: mechanical lifters, pushrods, overhead rocker arms
Bore x stroke: 4.25 x 3.75
Compression ratio: 10.25
Carburetion: Carter, 2×4
Electrical supply: alternator
Exhaust: dual reverse-flow mufflers
Transmission (as tested)
Type: automatic with torque converter and planetary gearbox
Differential type: hypoid with torque bias limited-slip
Axle ratio: 3.23
Type: integral power assisted recirculating ball, parallelogram linkage with trailing, parallel Pitman and idler arms
Overall ratio: 19.12
Turning circle, curb to curb: 40.9 feet
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.5
Type: two-circuit hydraulic, with 4-piston caliper, vented cast iron rotors, front; duo-servo shoes in composite drums, rear
Front rotor diameter: 11.04 inches
Rear drum diameter x width: 10 x 2.5