1966 Dodge Charger: The Insurrection Begins

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 brand’s first purpose-built muscle car. While it wasn’t 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, it’s 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 fastback’s styling would perform well on the steep embankments. They just didn’t know how well. Under legend David Pearson’s 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 ain’t broke, don’t 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 Charger’s 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.


  • Michael Foley
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Awesome design and engineering.Turned the muscle car world on its head.I can just imagine how worried the guys at Ford and GM must’ve been when they realised that this thing was the real deal.

  • Delavan Whitenight Jr.
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I love that car, I have a 1966 sitting in the garage with a 383. Don’t get it out much, it has not been out of the garage for 2 years. Hoping to get it out soon and take it for a cruise.

  • IndyRider
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    425hp, repeat that number 425hp.

    For the SRT8 owners in the house, you know you love that number.
    For the original charger owners, you already knew it was a great three digit combo.
    Dodge Rocks!

  • Sumark21
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Its a realy awesome car , a legend too…..

  • Rolf Casparius
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    What was it about that “tucked under” look with tiny wheels and narrow track… The bodies are BEAUTIFUL!! But they looked like they were rolling around on casters!! I guess rubber was alot less money back then.
    You just can’t argue with the lines though can you…

  • moparman
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Well, I don’t know about the “tucked under” look, but huge wheels with teeny tiny tires have never, and will never, look good on a muscle car.

    I don’t care how much you can talk about performance, half the fun of owning/driving a car like that it how it looks. These cars were direct relatives to NASCAR not INDY.

    Tuners can have the tiny tires, I’ll keep my big BFGoodrich Radial T/A white letters.

  • 440
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Rolf Casparius,

    Yes, back then they had skiny 14 or 15 inch tires…look at the 0-60 and 1/4 mile performance and the slow times are because these cars spun nearly half of the 1/4 mile !! Slowing the times down..A old hemi,old 440 were 11-12 second 1/4 mile cars,stock !! My old man is in his 70’s owned a new Hemi 4 speed car and the whole track when he shifted it would lose traction,go a bit sideways,and from the first 60 feet you were going sideways,as I even owned and own a few bone stock 440 cars and they spin from a 20 mph roll with an automatic even with 295-60- 15 tires !! So you could imagine the stock skiny tires,bias ply of the day..these cars should of recorded high 3 – 4 second 0-60’s and 11-12 second 1/4 miles if they had traction..By the way he ran high 11’s with a bone stock hemi E Body with slicks..It makes me sick when the internet or journelist records a time of 14 second 1/4 for an old Hemi car,and do not say they spin pretty much 1/2 the way down…My old man is/was an avid racer with many Mopars,a 72 400-4 bbl low comp.Plymouth Road Runner would tick off high 13’s and those were the slowest big block Mopars around !! I believe a mag even recorded 14’s with those..

    In the 90’s we knew people who bought new Viper’s,and the first ansd second generation could not beat a 440 or Hemi car…The 3rd generation Viper you need a Hemi with good traction/slicks..the fourth generation Viper you need an old HEMI with a race cam to stomp them !! 9-10 second 1/4 !! though faster than my 345 hp 15.10 sec…1/4 mile daily driver RAM HEMI,but I have a few of 12 second ,street tire,440 cars to make me feel happy !!

  • 440
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The old 426 hemi engine was underated in power…some say it was closer to 550 h.p…

    The 440 is closer to 420 hp…

    And heck for the fun of it, any 70’s -80’s Chrysler product with the lean burn ignition ,they called it many things over the years,electronic spark control ect..replace that with a Mopar orange box ecu and change the carb (non smog carb) and these cars/trucks/vans really wake up and move..I am not sure what the h.p gain is but it goes from a slug to a hotrod in a hour !!
    EG,We changed over a 78 318 4bbl Cordoba and before it couldnt move,my sisters 90 2.5 Daytona turbo automatic (15 sec car in the 1/4) would leave that car standing still 6-7 lengths by the time 70 came up !! Changed it over and the Cordoba was 1 lenght ahead by 70 !! We changed many cars over during the years,my old man still owns a 78 400-4 bbl Magnum…

    I know people who raced these new HEMI/440,own low mile copies and I bought many throughout the years..and when you have a good one you know it..many people buy one with the engine half dead..they run smooth and powerful when running on 6-7 cylinders,they have a slight slight tick,people pass it off as an exhaust leak..its not..and a puff of smoke,your big block is shot !! Plus over the years many people rebuild these engines with lower compression to run lower octane gas and this lowers your h.p and torque..My buddy had a 69 charger R/T with a 440 rebuilt and it couldnt out run a stock 1974 Cuda with a bone stock 360 4bbl (14 sec car) ..Gotta run,I need to hear my 440 !!

  • tr4petty
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The best thing about the old 426 hemi was not the factory hp but the engine’s POTENTIAL! With a few mods, it was an absolute monster! That’s why, even today, the funny cars, top fuelers, modified tractor and truck pullers, etc. still run copies of the engine. If you look under the fiberglass bodies of John Force’s funny cars, you won’t see a FORD design under there; you’ll see a copy of Chrysler’s famous HEMI!

  • Posted May 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    And so the dream began and it lives on today.

    Posted May 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I know you guys will get mad at me, however, the 1966-1967 Charger looked like a bad copy of the 1965 AMC Marlin. When the body lines went in and looked flat, it just wasn’t really aesthetically appealing. This is why the 1968-1970 Charger sold so well. The body lines puffed out and flowed. The 1966-1967 Chargers looked like a Coronet with an extra fast back welded on. They weren’t there own unique car. The cheap hubcaps and the skinny tires even made it worse. I do prefer the taillights and headlights of this Charger to the Marlin any day, however, the Marlin didn’t have the side bends that went in and looked like the sheet metal was being sucked in. The back is out of proportion to the rest of the car just like the Sebring is today. Both cars have good features, however, they are just not balanced. It was a good start and paved the way to the 1968-1970 Chargers so who cares. It is a love or hate car so for those who love it, more power to you. Its a Mopar and it had the 426 HEMI so that is all that really matters. I bet you had to buy new skinny tires every weekend. At any rate, that is why they make cars all different sizes and shapes so everyone will be happy. If not, we would all be driving Mustangs or Camaros.

  • 68sportfury
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I had a set of the very similar (center button instead of simulated knock-off hubs) ’66-’67 Polara/Monaco wheel covers on my first ’67 Fury, and they were definitely not “cheap.” They were multi-piece items using both stamped and die-cast parts and they were heavy. They also required a deep-dish wheel.

    The ’66-’67 Charger may not get the love the ’68-’70 does, but it has its fans. It does share some sheetmetal with the Coronet (fenders, doors, hood), but it has a lot to differentiate it, too. Love that full-width taillight, the 2+2 interior, the Charger-only dash and door panels…think of it as positioned to compete with Buick’s Riviera, Ford’s Thunderbird and Pontiac’s Catalina 2+2.

  • 440
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Yep,the 66-67 Charger isnt on my Mopar top 10,but when I see a nice one I consider buying one..It’s like the Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge C-body cars until you see them/drive them most people dont think twice about them but once you see a nice one you will fall in love..it’s like a drug !!

    As,I just seen a beautiful black/black one today and it looks sharp !! I love the interiors on those cars,front and back consoles,4 bucket seats !! Dang,a black 67 with a 440 Magnum I must have one day !! It’s just one of those cars I cant even say love them or hate them,because most people who hate them actually look at them, start to like them..Its odd to explain.. and those hubcaps were not cheap,they had alot of detail and weighed a ton !! They look like mags,they have spinners ect,they do look sharp at least the black beast I saw today,black with those hubcaps as pictured it was a 66 383 four barrel,four speed car !! Make mine 440 and lets roll !! Yes, I asked and he said it wasnt for sale !!

    Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    440, I loved all of the chrome inside and out on those cars and yes the hubcaps were probably the most expensive ones ever made, its just that they looked cheap because they stuck out further than the thickness of the tire. The hubcaps stuck out like those knife spinners on the charriots in Ben Hur. I saw a 66 Charger that was tubbed with some super wide tires on it and it had a prostock hood scoop on it and it looked really sharp. Now four bucket seats is a really nice touch. They are different and a guy close by is selling one in decent shape for three grand. If you want a nostalgic looking mopar at a bargain price then these are the cars to buy.

  • 440
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Sublime, Hmm…I had a 66 Monaco with the same hubcaps, and the hubcap spinner stick out no further than the center caps on Magnum 500 wheels….either way a wheel change is simple..I prefer mag wheels anyways !! Nothing can be worse than the 68-newer hubcaps that were slapped on many Mopars,Charger’s and especially the wire wheel covers on the Cuda and Challenger’s !! When I was a kid a guy down the block had a 71 383 Cuda with white walls and factory wire hubcaps !! That is ugly as all hell !!

    Posted May 18, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    440, you got me there. Those wire wheel covers were something else. I guess they sold because I saw a lot of them.

  • mopar5150
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    All top fuel cars run 2 valve, pushrod hemis. It is the dominant engine design…..period. It may say Ford or Toyota on the body but it has a hemi inside.
    I had a ’66 383 4-speed charger in high school and loved it.

  • 440
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink


    Yep,top fuel uses Chrysler Hemi’s…the body is a GM,Ford,Toyota or any other but its heart is MOPAR !! I used to hate going to the drags and never see any Mopar top fuel cars all were Ford and GM.. look at the engine it was a Chrysler Hemi…I always bug my GM/Ford friends about that !! The GM and ford guys were to stupid to realize that…still are !

  • Duane Hughes
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    As to the wheels & tires, you just have to remember the big ones that are common today were unknown in the ’60’s (and 70’s, and 80’s). When you see the occasional retro test of an old muscle car, you will invariably read comments about the sloppy handling. Well why not? Those little wheels & tires were roller skates compared to what we have today. Put a good set of 50 series tires on wide rims on the old muscle car and you will find they could handle very well.
    I recently saw a beautiful ’66 Charger; I must admit I like the later ones better, but the first edition has its charm.

  • 1972
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    The first car I bought was a 1966 CHARGER, and I LOVED that car!!!!!!!!!! The new CHARGER, just isn’t as great, but the CHALLENGER has it all!!!!!

  • earl fennell
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    my dad bought a 66 Charger in dec of 65, but could not take delivery of it till after jan 3 of 66 because of the superbowl intro. we still have that 66 and it looks as great and shiny as it did when we first got it! it’s color is ruby red and you can see yourself in the paint reflection. those hubcaps are one of the most beautiful creations that Chrysler has made. the car has about 50,000 original miles on it and has been garage kept since new and not driven in the winter. it is one beautiful piece !

  • A100 guy
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I love my light blue 67 Charger…. even if it does have the 318 2bbl.

  • ozzy
    Posted July 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Dis. Car. Is. Tap line never like befor

  • Brett
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Question, I have a 66 charger with a 318 and would like to put in a larger engine in it, possibly a big block. Does anyone know if it [383,400,440] will slide right in or am I going to have to change the sub frame setup in any way? Any input would be greatly appreciated. I have consider a 360 as I would then not have to change the transmission too.

  • james
    Posted March 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    i love my 66 charger

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