The Early Years Of The Dodge Charger
The Dodge Charger debuted in mid-1966 as a B-body car based on the Dodge Coronet. Chrysler needed a car to take on the AMC Rambler Marlin, and while it might have been better looking and built with powerful engines (the 440 V8 and 426 Hemi were options), it was also more expensive, averaging around $3,000. Sales for the first year were 37,344, but sales had plummeted to less than half the following year.
The second generation is when the Charger came into its own with a redesign and upgrade. The new Coke-bottle body of the Charger differentiated it from the Coronet, with a flying buttress roofline similar to the GTO and fewer amenities in the interior, with more straightforward lines and materials. The 3.7 slant six replaced one of the V8 options mid-year, while Mopar continued with the 383 V8s. The R/T trim was added, and these special Chargers were built with the 440 V8 (the 426 Hemi was optional). With the addition of the R/T trim, Mopar had officially entered the muscle car era, and Americans responded by purchasing 96k units, with over 17k being R/T models.
Many consumers got their first exposure to the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T when it flashed across the silver screen in Bullitt. The movie pitted the Charger against a Ford Mustang GT 390 racing through the streets of San Francisco in one of the most iconic car chase scenes ever filmed. While the outcome didn’t end well for the black Charger, Americans instantly fell in love with the car.
A few changes were made for 1969, including adding an SE trim (although it didn’t sell well). There were five engine choices, with the 225 cu slant six standard on non-RT models, the 440 V8 as the standard, and the 426 Hemi optional once again. Total production was slightly under the previous year at 89k, of which 19k were R/Ts. It is worth noting that Dodge made a couple of special edition Chargers that year, the 500 and the Daytona. The Dodge Charger Daytona was the first car to achieve over 200 mph on July 20, 1969. A 426 Hemi motor powered it).
The 1969 Dodge Charger Vs. 2023 Dodge Charger
While any comparison between the iconic Dodge Charger of yesteryear and the new one is probably unfair, based on the technological improvements, we are going to do it anyway. Here are some primary comparisons we’ve drawn between the two muscle cars.
Design And Dimensions
The 1969 Dodge Charger was a classic design with simple body lines, wide grille, and aggressive styling. When Dodge reintroduced the Charger in 2005 (with some help from Mercedes), the designers drew their inspiration from the classic Charger models. The retro-styled Charger has grown through the years until its last gasp in 2023, but it has retained the styling cues introduced almost 20 years ago.
The 1969 Charger R/T had unique torsion bars, firm ride shock absorbers, heavy-duty rear springs, and an enhanced front sway bar. The 2023 Charger continues that tradition with a sports-tuned suspension that includes Bilstein shocks, heavy-duty springs, struts, and sway bars. While the tires are much improved over the 1969 F70x14s, the 245/45R20 provides excellent grip and takeoff.
The 2023 Charger is 198.4 inches in length, with a 75-inch width, and 57.8 inches tall. By contrast, the 1969 Charger R/T was 208 inches long and 76.6 inches wide, but it wasn’t as tall at 53.5 inches. The classic Charger sits lower to the ground at 4.9 inches compared to the newer version at 5.2 inches.
Power and Performance
The 1969 Dodge Charger RT had a standard 440 cu Magnum V8 engine. The motor produced a hefty 375 hp with 480 lb-ft of torque at a 10.1:1 compression. Even though only 430 were equipped with the 426 Hemi (out of 19k R/Ts), the Hemi motor cranked out 425 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque.
By contrast, the 2023 Dodge Charger R/T has a 5.7 Hemi, producing 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. Scat Pack models receive the 6.4L V8 with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. The 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Redeye Jailbreak Widebody (the Last Call version) has a 6.2L Hemi engine producing 807 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque.
For the Last Call, Dodge decided to pay tribute to the past with a limited number of Special Edition models. The Dodge Charger King Daytona is based on the ‘69 Charger Daytona that broke the speed record during the summer of ‘69. (The 6.2L Hemi powers it, and saddled with a turbocharger, it produces 807 hp). The SuperBee is an homage to the classic Super Bees of old, powered with the 6.4L Hemi. In addition, Dodge is offering the Swinger Special Edition (6.4L Hemi) and a Black Top Special Edition in SXT and GT configurations as both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive units (5.7L V8).
If you are interested in how the cars compare on the race track, the ‘69 Charger R/T with the 440 V8 in 6.0 seconds, while the 426 Hemi ran it a full second faster (4.9 - 5.0). The top speed for the Charger was 132 mph.
The ‘23 Dodge Charger R/T with its base 5.7L Hemi has a top speed of 149 mph with a 5.5 second 0 - 60 mph time. The Scat Pack is rated at 175 mph with a 4.5-second time, and the SRT Hellcat posts a 3.8-second finish, with 196 mph as its top speed. (The SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody pushes the 203 mph mark).
Cost and Value
If you lived in 1969 and wanted to purchase a Charger R/T, it would have cost you $3.600. (The Hemi upgrade was about $700 extra). This equates to a price of around $29k in today’s dollars. Considering that the price of a fully restored ‘69 Charger is likely to fetch six figures, it wouldn’t have been a bad investment in 1969.
The 2023 Dodge Charger R/T starts at $44,470 and goes up depending on the options. The special edition models are priced in the high sixties (they have already been ordered, so if you want one, you are out of luck). While no one knows what these last-call cars will be worth fifty years from now, we suspect they will match the hefty values of the classic models.
While there is nothing like the feel of a 426 Hemi rumbling under the hood, the Hemi engines offered in the new Charger are nothing to dismiss.
It remains to be seen what impact electrifying a muscle car like the Charger will have on the American psyche. However, if the newly revealed concept car is any indication, muscle car lovers will still be in good hands for a long time.