2 months ago

In 1967 “Pony Cars” accounted for 13% of the new car market in the United States - an unprecedented (at that time) growth in a specialty segment only four years old. Plymouth was fortunate to get in early with the original Barracuda and Dodge dealers clamored for their own version of the fastback A-body. Instead the Dodge boys got the Charger - a big premium car in it's first generation that largely missed the mark, but a much more successful machine in its second "coke bottle" form. But the Charger was still a bigger and heavier car than the Barracuda, Camaro, or Mustang and Dodge dealers still wanted in. When it came time to refresh the Barracuda for 1970, Dodge would at last get its Pony car - but the new car would a shorter version of the B-body Charger/Coronet. That way it could accommodate the very largest and heaviest V8s and utilizes the most heavy duty components. That made the Challenger and the new ‘Cuda the very potent, but it also made them much larger and heavier than the outgoing A-body Barracuda and much of their competition, many of whom had also bulked up since 1964. Still, everything about the Carl Cameron-styled Challenger screamed "muscle car!" It offered 18 wild colors, a huge array of engine choices right up to the Street Hemi, different axles, whatever you wanted to spec. The best Challenger, arguably, was the Challenger T/A with its breathed-on 340 V8, free-breathing exhaust, and other mods. T/A stood for "Trans Am" and the model was aimed at homologating the car for the SCCA Trans-Am series, just like the similar AAR (All American Racers) 'Cuda. The 340 was Dodge’s “small block” option, which is less storied than the king-kong Street Hemi; but it’s lighter weight made the T/A, nearly as quick as the Hemi and 440 versions and a much better handler. Rated at 290hp, the “Six Pack” 340, with it’s triple carb setup, was actually appreciably more powerful than the regular 340. To stop, they also had standard front disc brakes - often a rarely ticked option on big muscle cars but one which makes them much more tractable. They were not subtle cars, decked out in those bold colors and stripes and sporting fiberglass hoods with massive air scoops. Being homologations cars, retail sales of the T/A and the AAR (All American Racers) ‘Cuda were somewhat limited - just 2,400 T/As were built and the package was only offered in 1970. This particular car is a tribute '72 (sorry folks!). The Challenger itself came too late for the peak of pony cars and big muscle - which began to lose favor to personal/luxury cars and lose ground to emissions regs and insurance issues. It never lived up to sales expectations and limped into 1974 - but those first couple of years were glorious.