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Car Lust--1971-1974 Dodge Charger

71charger1_2  I'm featuring the 1971-1974 Dodge Charger today, but, after a lot of thought, I'm not dubbing it a poseur muscle car. This edition of the Charger, with its macho looks and fading power, would seem like a perfect companion for overstuffed luminaries such as the Ford Gran Torino and the Chevy Monte Carlo SS. But at the risk of offending those who are concerned with trivial concepts such as "consistency," "fairness," and "rational thinking" I'm going to hold up the Charger and laud it on its own merits. Heck, everybody already knows I'm inconsistent, unfair, and irrational.

So, let's break down the Charger's qualifications for poseur muscle car status.

71charger2Looks

I have alway thought the '71-'74 Charger was one of the handsomest cars of its time. It took the timeless styling cues of the classic, lean 1968 Charger and added some visual bulk and more aggressive front and rear treatments. The effect is like adding 40 pounds of upper-body muscle to a marathon runner.

Visual horsepower is the name of the game for both poseur and bona fide muscle cars, and on this score the 1971-1974 Charger comes up big. The twist here is that the Charger also adds some elegance to the mix.

Muscle

While the look was excellent, the changes under the pretty sheetmetal were a little less exciting. Detroit's early-1970s struggles with emissions standards and the fuel shortage have been well-documented, and the Charger was not immune to the effects.

71charger3 The previous Charger was an all-time muscle car great, and the 1971 Charger came out of the blocks strong, with the Hemi and 440 Six Pack available. However, this was at the trailing edge of the muscle car boom, and by 1972 both the Hemi and the Six Pack had been discontinued. The regular 440 carried on, but with more and more restrictions, resulting in less and less power. Meanwhile, Dodge counteracted with style and trim packages--including, horribly, a Brougham.

The whole effect conspired to make the Charger less war horse and more show pony.

The Summary

So, if the Charger was more sizzle than steak, why isn't a poseur muscle car? Well, the Charger, while muscular, was still somewhat subtle and never resorted to the ostentation of the poseurs. And unlike the poseurs, this generation of Charger could actually boast some real muscle at some point in its history.

Besides, and here's the clincher for me, Dodge didn't try to pass off the weaker Chargers as something they weren't. Unlike the Mustang II Cobra II or the '79 AMC AMX, Dodge didn't try to cynically play off of former glory. Instead, as the nature of the Charger changed, Dodge changed the marketing to fit. The Dodge was billed as a stylish cruiser, similar (but infinitely preferable) to the Chevelle Laguna S-3 454.

71charger4_2  Besides, the Charger still made its mark on the NASCAR circuit. Somehow, those classic early 1970s Charger lines looked just right in STP day-glo blue and red. I still consider the Charger the definitive Richard Petty mount--its brutal looks were somehow the perfect complement to Petty's dominance.

The 1971 Super Bee on top is a photo from user TorqueOmata (a fantastic user name) at Autocult.com.au. The pretty black coupe comes from a South Dakota student's gallery of "sweet cars," and the advertisement comes from a delicious collection of ads from 1971-1974 Dodge Charger.com. As you'd expect from the name, it's an excellent source of photos and advice. The Petty photo is courtesy of Serious Wheels and is only one of several photos from a Petty appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed--a glorious vintage racing event in the UK.

The video below is pretty nondescript--the Charger just idles around the parking lot--but man, does that lumpy idle get my blood pumping.

--Chris H.

Comments

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You make a good case for finding the Charger not guilty of first-degree muscle-car impersonation with a "poseur" specification. I would just add that the styling is nicely understated by 1970s standards--even the vinyl roof in the ad is rather restrained.

This is a nice looking car. Graceful lines. I especially like the NASCAR version. Very aggressive looking. Totally agree about the one in the video - that V8 sounds really nice.

I have no major quarrel with the Gen3 Charger, other than to note that its build quality was no better than anything else that bore the pentastar during that era. As to the styling, I still favor the 68-70 body, even though it could have used an injection of "wide track" from rival Pontiac.

I should note, too, that from the front the early-seventies Charger looked very much like the Coronets that prowled NYC as taxis and cop cars. To me, this takes away much of the Charger's appeal. If I wanted a "stylish cruiser" from that era, the Charger wouldn't even make the short list. Give me a boat-tailed Riviera any day!

Cookie the Dog's Owner: "even the vinyl roof in the ad is rather restrained."

I agree. There is a lot of wince potential with that ad--"we topped it ourselves with a free vinyl roof"--but even with the vinyl top the car really isn't bad.

David Drucker: "I should note, too, that from the front the early-seventies Charger looked very much like the Coronets that prowled NYC as taxis and cop cars. To me, this takes away much of the Charger's appeal."

Ah, there's where we differ. I'm a Coronet fan as well.

David Drucker: "Give me a boat-tailed Riviera any day!"

... but here, we're back on the same page.

Eh, not a big fan of this gen. I like the front, but the back just kind of bulges out aimlessly.

My parents almost bought a Coronet, but in the end couldn't get over their GM fixation (they bought a Buick Wildcat instead), which is the only real connection I have to the Coronet/Charger. IIRC, one of those car restoration shows on TV took a Coronet and basically turned it into a Charger. Apparently, except for a few options they were identical. I think they dropped in a new Hemi motor.

What I find awe inspiring are the overhangs. Just amazing. I'm not saying I want to run out and get one, and I agree that the earlier chargers were superior. I'm just saying that the cantilevered front and rear ends on this car are something equivalent to Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright. Then you throw in those curves and sweeps. Its a nice piece of styling.

As to the boat-tailed Riviera, no complaints, its truly something to behold.

It's okay, but like Anthony said, I dislike the back end. The front was rather muscular and puposeful, but the back end just kinda sags together without any real tension. I feel the same way about the Chevelle. Front half= good. Back half= wimpy crap styling.

Anyway, I love chargers a lot, my first car was a 1968 Charger with a 383 hurst 4spd, back in 1996. I saved up for 2 years to get it, and although it was a piece of crap, it was still a fun car. I miss it. Here's an old picture:

http://members.aol.com/cash68/red1.jpg

WOW! - You hit a soft spot. I owned a 1974 Charger.....Bright red with white top and interior.

Never got so much attention in my life on the road (well, OK, my 69 Z-28 302 garnered as much, but it WAS a muscle car)...

While not a true racer, it looked fast...even while sitting still.

Great stuff!

WOW! - You hit a soft spot. I owned a 1974 Charger.....Bright red with white top and interior.

Never got so much attention in my life on the road (well, OK, my 69 Z-28 302 garnered as much, but it WAS a muscle car)...

While not a true racer, it looked fast...even while sitting still.

Great stuff!

I had a '73 Dodge Charger SE (opera windows). 318ci with headers, glasspaks, Keystone Rogue wheels and a bitchin' Panasonic FM/cassette player. That baby rumbled.

Drove it from Great Lakes (chicago) to Key West in 1977, where it promptly rusted out in less than 18 months.

Still, great car.

I had a '73 Dodge Charger SE (opera windows). 318ci with headers, glasspaks, Keystone Rogue wheels and a bitchin' Panasonic FM/cassette player. That baby rumbled.

Drove it from Great Lakes (chicago) to Key West in 1977, where it promptly rusted out in less than 18 months.

Still, great car.

I owned a '73 Dodge Charger SE and can't imagine why anyone would lust after it. It is undoubtedly the worst car I ever owned. With a 400 Cu. in. engine and 4 barrel plastic carburetor, it barely managed 8 miles a gallon. A full tank would only go 200 miles. The carb was troublesome and practically unserviceable. As for handling, the first time I had to brake hard on the freeway, the front end nosedived so severely the front grill almost scraped the asphalt. The power windows went out at 15,000 miles, just out of warranty, and the air conditioning went out twice. At 40,000 miles I had the carburetor replaced - it finally was able to get out of it's own way - and traded it in for a 280 Z. Returning to the dealership two days later, the dealer raced over and screamed "what was wrong with the car?" I told him nothing. It seems one of the salesmen decided to hotrod it and blew the head gasket.

Based on my experience with that clunker I decided Chrysler Corporation deserved bankruptcy.

I'd say you sold that heap just in time!

A friend of mine had the Plymouth version of this car - the Super Bee. 383 Magnum engine. Had crazy rear end gears - like 5.85 or something like that. The oil pickup tube cracked and we were trying to put a new one in. Had the most difficult time finding one. Apparently the "Magnum" version was extra-special and had more curvy sections in the tube. Finally got one ordered and put it in. He (wisely) got rid of that car after having owned it for about a year. Good thing gas was cheap back then. Like thirty cents a gallon. Great times.

It was red with a blacked-out hood with awesome macho graphics on it. And a scoop of some sort too. Gotta have one of those.

...the 1971 Charger came out of the blocks strong, with the Hemi 440 Six Pack available."
Ummm...sorry, but there was never a 440 Hemi, Six-Pack or not. There were at various times, a 426 Hemi with 2-4's or a single 4(
"Street Hemi"), and 440's with either the 3-2's or a single 4.
A Super Bee was a Dodge, not a Plymouth.

I OWNED A 71, 73, AND NOW OWN 74 U CODE SPECIAL FACTORY ORDER440 LESS THAN 100 MADE, ALL ORIGONAL 52000 MILES LIKE NEW SE CHARGER

I have a '73 Charger SE with a Big Block 400 that I am currently fixing up. I love this car. I know it's not a 68-70, but it is it's own thing. If I wanted one of those, I would have bought one.

I JUST GOT MY FIRST CHARGER ITS A 1973 SE PUTTING A 440 IN IT SOON. IM A 72 SAT/RR NUT I HAD (2) 1972 400 4SP ROAD RUNNERS, BUT ANY 71-74 B-BODY IS COOL WITH ME. IM LOOKING FOR A CAR MY BROTHER HAD BACK IN THE 80S IT WAS A 1972 RR 400 4SP N-96 CAR ORIG GREEN LAST SEEN IT WAS RED IN THE 90S. I WOULD PAY $GOOD MONEY$ IF ANYONE CAN FIND THIS CAR FOR ME WILL EVEN PAY FOR ANY INFO ABOUT THE CARS WHERE ABOUTS, CAR WAS LAST SEEN IN ALLINTOWN/BUCKS CO. PA. ANYONE LIKE TO HELP PLEASE CALL ME @ 717-755-0058 THANKS SKIP

PLEASE HELP OUT A MOPAR BROTHER

Hello Seller,
I am interested in buying your car listed for sale on net
moreover, the detailed description in the advert really fits my choice
if item. i will like to know the present condition and last offered
price before we proceed on the transaction. Sorry if this gets to you
rudely,am aware of the scam lately and due to these am taking
necessary measure in dealing online. however,if i may ask is this your
personal property? cos i don't want to involve myself with illegal
properties for sale Kindly get back to me if it is still available, and let me know your last asking price
for sale.lucasfor_real@yahoo.com
expect your reply asap
lucas

Hello Seller,
I am interested in buying your car listed for sale on net
moreover, the detailed description in the advert really fits my choice
if item. i will like to know the present condition and last offered
price before we proceed on the transaction. Sorry if this gets to you
rudely,am aware of the scam lately and due to these am taking
necessary measure in dealing online. however,if i may ask is this your
personal property? cos i don't want to involve myself with illegal
properties for sale Kindly get back to me if it is still available, and let me know your last asking price
for sale.lucasfor_real@yahoo.com
expect your reply asap
lucas

Hello Seller,
I am interested in buying your car listed for sale on net
moreover, the detailed description in the advert really fits my choice
if item. i will like to know the present condition and last offered
price before we proceed on the transaction. Sorry if this gets to you
rudely,am aware of the scam lately and due to these am taking
necessary measure in dealing online. however,if i may ask is this your
personal property? cos i don't want to involve myself with illegal
properties for sale Kindly get back to me if it is still available, and let me know your last asking price
for sale.lucasfor_real@yahoo.com
expect your reply asap
lucas

Hello Seller,
I am interested in buying your car listed for sale on net
moreover, the detailed description in the advert really fits my choice
if item. i will like to know the present condition and last offered
price before we proceed on the transaction. Sorry if this gets to you
rudely,am aware of the scam lately and due to these am taking
necessary measure in dealing online. however,if i may ask is this your
personal property? cos i don't want to involve myself with illegal
properties for sale Kindly get back to me if it is still available, and let me know your last asking price
for sale.lucasfor_real@yahoo.com
expect your reply asap
lucas

i was bron in 1980. my first car was 1973 charger it had 318 block big cam 360 heads 340 intake with big mags on the back. i miss my baby she kill 5.0 mustang all the time. i am looking for her she was prime gray. sold it back in 2002 from 1170 slvan rd. atlanta ga if you have let me know. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

quite interesting....thanks for sharing..i just love cars and hope to buy one for my own.do check my shop for classical and used cars http://www.deal-autos.co.uk

this is shitty itsuck my weing

I have a 71 Dodge Hemi Charger RT for sale - asking $80,000.
Beautiful B5 blue with black interior. Great muscle car.
Anyone know if someone is looking to buy this great car?

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