On January 1, 1966, the Leader of the Dodge Rebellion (and eventually the entire muscle car segment) was launched. Based upon the Charger II Show Car that debuted the previous year at the 1965 North American International Auto Show, the 66 Dodge Charger was the brands first purpose-built muscle car. While it wasnt the first such vehicle to hit the scene, its menacing proportions and enormous engine quickly placed it at the top of the performance charts. The optional 426 Hemi V8 pumped out a staggering 425-hp @ 5000 rpm and 490 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm, beating out the GTO, Chevelle, and 442 by a solid 50-horsepower margin. While those numbers certainly look good on paper, its not uncommon for assumed segment killers to fall flat in a real-world application. The Charger, however, did not.
During the same year as its launch, the bone-stock Charger made its inaugural debut on the NASCAR track and promptly tore it up. Powered by the 426 Hemi (or elephant engine, as it was affectionately dubbed) and equipped with a subtle rear lip spoiler to improve traction, the Dodge team was confident that the fastbacks styling would perform well on the steep embankments. They just didnt know how well. Under legend David Pearsons expert tutelage, by the close of 1966 the Charger had earned 14 first-place finishes as well as the big win at the 66 NASCAR Grand National championship.
Adhering to the old idiom If it aint broke, dont fix it, the 67 Charger retained nearly all of the styling cues of its predecessor. The only distinguishing features between the two model years were largely concentrated inside as the only exterior modification was the addition of fender-mounted indicators. For ease of egress, the full-length console was swapped for a standard-sized unit and an optional folding front armrest was added to accommodate a third, middle passenger.
In 1968 the styling changed dramatically, inadvertently making the 66 Charger (and by default, the 67) an even rarer item. Today, if you happen upon a 66 Charger in the flesh you are gazing upon a living piece of crucial history. Not only did the 66 launch a legacy of its own that remains just as strong today, but it also warmed Chrysler engineers to the idea of building blindingly fast B-Body cars. Just two years after the Chargers initial emergence, the Plymouth Road Runner rocketed onto the scene and turned the sluggish reputation of street legal on its ear. The rest, as they say, is history.