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).