Dodge was the final entrant in the Detroit pony car wars in 1970, but the Challenger was worth the wait. Pundits declared the Challengers clean, elegant styling the best of the breed, and they raved about the wide variety of available powerplants, from Slant Six to 426 Hemi.
Like all pony cars, the Challenger was based on modified compact/intermediate architecture, which in Dodges case it also shared with its pony car sibling at Chrysler, the Plymouth Barracuda. Dodge designer Carl Cameron styled the taut sheetmetal with a high, muscular character line that kicked up over the rear wheel, then adapted a grille hed originally designed for a turbine-powered concept car.
The Challengers internal structure was devised from the start to accommodate Dodges widest and most powerful engines, including the 383 and 440 Magnums, the 440 Six Pack, and even the mighty 426 Street Hemi. Today the Hemi-powered Challengers are among the most coveted cars of the Detroit muscle era, with selected examples selling at auction in the million-dollar range.
The first-generation Challenger was offered through the 1974 model year, receiving mild annual facelifts. Sales started on a promising note with 75,000 units for 1970, then gradually declined as gasoline and insurance costs rose and the Challengers baby-boomer audience sought more family-friendly transportation. The long-hood, short-deck pony car formula had run its course for now. Dodge would return in 1978 with a new and totally different car bearing the Challenger name.