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The 1970 Dodge Challenger

Beetween the falloff in the market, hot competition from the company’s own Duster and Road Runner, and criticism of the cars’ dynamics, 1970 Challenger sales were disappointing. There was a tremendous irony there, because two alternative approaches to the same project succeeded wildly, on far smaller budgets.

The Valiant Charger, Australia’s low-budget project which also combined A and B body components, was a wild success, albeit in a smaller market. Valiant Charger may not have worked in the US: the hottest engine was a hemispherical-head, triple-two-barrel carb six. But the other ironic success was a more modest project even than the Valiant Charger: the 1970 Plymouth Duster was merely a fastback Valiant, and with its 340, it was the performance bargain of the year. Challenger and Valiant Charger were both made by combining A and B bodies; Duster was still a pure A-body, with the same semi-formal Valiant front end, yet sales were in the hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, in 1970, Chrysler sold 53,337 standard Challengers; 6,584 SEs; 3,173 convertibles; a bit over 1,000 T/As; and 19,938 R/Ts (including convertibles and SEs). In all, 83,032 Challengers were sold; 60% had the base V8, and nearly 90% had automatics. Styled wheels were more popular than big engines; and the slant six seems to have outsold Hemi and 440 Six-Pack combined, easily. As Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

the compact specialty car market leveled off below 1,000,000 cars per year and our E body sales never hit even 100,000 per year. We lost money (unhappy management) and we did not build the cars well (unhappy customers). 1970-1974 Barracudas and Challengers are admired and collected today but 35 years ago they were seen as problems..

And how did the ironic companion to the Challenger/Barracuda fare? Plymouth sold 217,192 Dusters in 1970, their first year. Though Duster fell somewhat in 1971, sales would then rise every year to a peak in 1974 with 250,000 sold (in 1975 and 1976, the Volare/Aspen cut Duster sales dramatically — but even in 1975 it outsold Challenger’s peak).

 

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