2011 Charger styling: Days of Future Passed

It was the summer of 1967. Music was in the air at Monterey Pop, and lots of things were new – the first Super Bowl, the television show Sesame Street, and Rolling Stone magazine all debuted that year. On the streets of Detroit, Dodge prepared to unveil one of the most iconic designs of the muscle car era, the 1968 Charger.

Prior to 1968, the Charger had been an attempt at restyling the Coronet with wedge-shaped body panels and a fastback roofline. It worked; David Pearson won the Grand National title with one the year it arrived on the scene, 1966. The car was marketed as a sports model, available with Hemi power if desired, four bucket seats, and a futuristic dash layout. However, the stylist team had other ideas for Charger when it returned in 1968; indeed, with Detroit’s muscle car fire burning brightly, 1967 Charger sales fell to just over 15, 000 units. What showed out that summer to replace the first-generation Charger indeed ‘far out, ’ as they might of said on the well-remembered Smothers Brothers show.

A survivor 1968 Hemi Charger graphically displays why it was a popular car; less than 500 Hemi R/T Chargers were sold in 1968, making it quite rare today. However, the redesigned body sold 96, 000 examples total that year. Photo by John Stunkard, car owned by Steve Fox

The hard refined lines of the Coronet origins were replaced by a double-diamond ‘Coke bottle’ design, swelling slightly outward from the front wheel openings and again at the rear. Styling insets were laid into the body and door panels, adding ‘speed’ cues to the sheet metal itself. The covered headlight motif that had identified the first-gen models, though the grille, was now deeply inset into the front end styling. Round taillight and side marker lights finished off the look, which was augmented by a flip-top racing-inspired gas cap on the driver’s side rear quarter panel and a rear window that fell steeply down to recess into the fastback.

Did it work? How about 96, 000 units sold, a 460% increase in sales? How about appearing on the cover of magazines like Look? The factory reworked minor styling cues during the next two years, but the basic street design remained the same. For NASCAR racing, the inset grille and rear window that styling had used to such great success proved to be problematic at speeds over 170 mph, so the factory released two special models, the Charger 500 in late 1968 and the radical high-wing Daytona the following summer, to alleviate those issue and return to the winner’s circle. The desire to create a more aerodynamic basic package meant a completely redesigned package for 1971, but when people think ‘Charger’ from a historical standpoint, the design flying in the movie Bullitt, jumping in the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, and crashing in the more recent film The Fast and the Furious is what comes to mind.

The Dukes of Hazzard was one of several shows that used the 1968-1970 Charger design. However, the inset grille and rear window mounting proved problematic at speed. This is during the Labor Day Mopar Thunder weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

A change came in late 1968 for the 1969 Daytona 500; named Charger 500 for the number of production examples needed to be legal in racing. The Charger 500 was modified with a flush grille and flush back window. However, the Fords were still a little faster so…

…they released an even more radical version in the early summer of 1969 called the Charger Daytona. It has a pointed nose and high deck wing with wide upright pylons. The height of the wing was determined by the need to open the deck lid. After running for a season, NASCAR required them to run a small 305” engine. Despite the lack of cubic inches, a small-block powered Daytona was in the running to win the 1971 Daytona 500 until it got tangled up in a multi-car piled up midway during the race.

It is now 2011, and for this year, Dodge has taken a page from the past with the newest Charger. Indeed, perhaps its best testimony came from noted Charger collector Tim Wellborn of Alabama. When the model arrived at his muscle car museum in Alexander City as part of the redletterdodge.com tour, he was pretty succinct on his assessment of the rework design.

“The best thing was that these cars, the Charger especially, looks right at home with the classics; it’s finally a Charger that looks like a Charger, ” Wellborn remarked.

Later, after driving it as part of a road test we did for Amos Auto Enthusiast magazine, he went even further in his accolades.  “All I can say is – it’s a Charger! I’m all about the styling, because the first thing anybody does is look at your car.  With the right color and stripes, this one will get attention coming and going.”

At the Wellborn Muscle car Museum, a vintage Charger Daytona advertisement is on a display billboard. The new Charger has been redesigned to take in some of the styling cues that helped make the second-generation Charger a classic. Note the body indentations.

What impressed Wellborn and the others who have seen it as an entire package. The ‘speed’ styling cues that defined the body and hood lines in 1968-1970 have returned in 21st century form on this car, which remains in a four-door format for practicality in the present age. A new taillight treatment using LED lighting harkens back to the 1970 models, while the front end design retains a notable connection to the present styling cues Dodge has refined over the past decade. One thing that did not return was the notchback roof line, which should let the guys who go really really fast at places like Daytona and Talladega, breath a little easier in traffic.

Here is the LED taillight design, which harkens back to the 1969-70 design.

Beauty is more than skin-deep. The car has set new standards for interior layout and comfort, as well as similar real-world improvements in suspension and braking. Power comes from the most recent incarnation of the 5.7L HEMI engine in the R/T version. Even the economy minded will appreciate the horsepower increase that has arrived with the Pentastar V6, which can deliver 27 mpg on the highway.

Styling has been a hallmark of the Charger during its most legendary appearances in the Dodge line-up. The people who desire a two door model now have Challenger choices; for the midsize car buyer, the latest version of Charger is indeed ‘Days of Future Passed.’


  • Dave
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Great post! Although, you should know that you are just asking for the “a Charger shouldn’t have 4 doors!” guys to come out of the woodwork again.
    I like the retro cues of the 2011. But, I don’t think the Chargers of the last few years did anything to diminish the legacy of the name. I love my 2010 TorRed Rallye – yeah, I wish I had the HEMI. But, this car is my daily driver. And, because it has those dreaded 2 extra doors, I can get my kid to-and-from daycare with ease in a bad-ass looking car. I am in my 30’s. I want a Sedan, and don’t want to settle for a Camry, Taurus, or some other car my mom would drive. So, I am grateful for the modern-day Chargers. I am going to baby my V-6, pay it off, and get a Plum Crazy Challenger R/T for fun.
    Keep up the good work Dodge! Don’t let the nay-sayers stuck in 70’s get to you!

  • moparman
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    For the record, I was never IN the woodwork.

    Telling people who want a two door charger to go buy a challenger……..YEAAAHHH…you just lost some sales.

    That’s almost as bad as when one of your execs told people if they want a ’69 charger they should go buy one.

    I think I’ll start re-posting that chrysler interview video all over the place.  You know, the one where the engineers admit they would have built it differently if they had known it was gonna carry the charegr name….

  • moparman
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Best thing you guys have said in years:

    “Styling has been a hallmark of the Charger during its most legendary appearances in the Dodge line-up.”

    Worst thing you guys have said in years:

    “The people who desire a two door model now have Challenger choices”

    Way to alienate your customers.  I guess mustang and camaro sales will pick up a bit now.

  • GeoffTN
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take the hit for making the statements, guys. The reality is this – we all have thought a two-door Charger in the 21st century would be a killer package. The realities of the modern car marketplace have made that something unlikely to happen. If you need a two-door model for its own sake, Challenger fits the need. If you need a midsize sedan, Charger is it. While there will always be people who would like to see Charger return in a two-door format, marketing-wise Charger today is oriented toward the midsize, family-type buyer with a performance twist. Telling your wife to get the baby seats out of that two door model is not going to make you happy. In my opinion, Mustang and Camaro are both SMOKED by the Challenger in the brute-force styling and interior size departments. The two models cover all the bases, and they both look GREAT… – Stunkard

  • moparman
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    This whole argument has been beat to death, but I’ll just say this.  I don’t ever buy a muscle car (or performance car, whatever you want to call it) with the idea that it will be a daily driver.

    Even if Dodge ever built a 2 door retro charger, I wouldn’t buy it as a daily driver to haul a wife and kids or groceries or whatever.  I would buy it because it was a Dodge Charger, a muscle car, a car to take to car shows and cruise ins and generally have fun with.

    That said, my ’69 has plenty of room for my family to go with me to car shows and cruise ins, and in fact has hauled groceris a couple times when the daily driver was in the shop.  (that trunk is HUGE!).

    So, I think the proper way of putting what you tried to explain above, is that instead of building a muscle car, your building a family car with a muscle car name (because people want a family car AND a v-8…), and since you do actually make one muscle car, your not willing to make another. 

    I don’t play baseball, but maybe you should change the rules and add another base….

    I don’t think the mustang or camaro are as good as the challenger either, but with comments like the one in this article, people will just say “screw chrysler” and settle for one of those cars even thought the challenger is better. (or they just won’t buy anything right now, and will wait and see what happens in the future)

    As a suggestion, you could always drop the challenger (sorry challenger lovers), and offer two models of charger (since basically it’s a lot of the same udnerneath guts) or you could introduce a new “midsize sedan”, a la Coronet, and make the charger the muscle car.  (by the way, I thought the car your calling charger was a FULL size sedan, did I miss something?) (notice, this is a constructive suggestion, I’m trying very hard not to be hateful here…)

    After seeing some interviews and videos with Ralph Gilles, my impression is that he really is a car guy.  I think deep down he would love to see a modern retro inspired charger coupe, and I think if Chrysler would let him, he’d build one that would be one sweet machine.  Come on Ralph, hook us up.

  • Dave
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    moparman – the only reason the 4-door thing has been beat to death is because guys like you, who are perpetually stuck in the past, won’t let it go. You do realize that the “car show, cruising” culture is a fringe minority of car buyers, right? How many people in this economy have the income to have a daily driver, and a car to just cruise around in?
    And based on what you are saying, because I can’t afford to have a “cruising car” I should just settle for a Fusion or Impala because god forbid someone gets a little performance and style out of their daily driver!

    Posted March 31, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    This whole daily driver issue is a non issue.  I bought my plum crazy challenger for a daily driver and for show and it does quite well.  I have a Superbird and a 1971 440 6-pack road runner that sit in the garage because I am afraid to scratch them or drive them so I had to have a daily driver that looked good.  The new Challenger has plenty of leg room in the back and the trunk is big enough for most things. The rear seats easily fold down so you can store a lot in the trunk. I wish the seat belts were built into the seats so you don’t have to move them over for people to climb in the back, but there is plenty of head and leg room back there.  I know the Camaros and Mustangs front seats touch the rear seats when you push them back all the way (zero leg room). The Challenger just looks solid and tough compared to the little Mustang and Camaro.  It drives real well and gets a lot of compliments.  You learn to live with a two door and find out that it really isn’t that much of an inconvenience.  My kids can’t run off whenever I stop somewhere and I can keep a better eye on them.  My kids do not mind the two doors because everytime I drop them off to school or to visit their friends they get a lot of compliments about the car.  Great car, although I would trade it in for a two door Charger because the trunk and rear seat would be a little bigger so everyone would be happy. They would also have to make the Charger look more like a Charger.  Retro is good.

  • moparman
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Dave, I can’t be stuck in something I wasn’t part of.  I was born in 1970.  Didn’t know what a mopar was until I was 9 or 10 years old, and didn’t get my ’69 charger until 2004.

    I am not telling you or anyone else what to buy or why.  I’m just saying that using the excuse that people want a family car isn’t an accurate argument for naming this car “charger”.

    I’m not saying that the 2006-2010 sedan or the 2011 are “bad” cars per se, just that if I was going to buy a daily driver/family hauler, I would not be looking for a muscle car or a muscle car name.  Maybe you would, good for you.  If Dodge had called this car “coronet”, you could buy one of those, and I could buy a charger, and we would all be happy instead of arguing on silly website.

    I am also not saying that any of the cars discussed would not work as a daily driver or family hauler.

    People try to use the “I couldn’t get a baby seat in there” argument to justify this car having this name.  If I was going to buy a car named charger, it would not be the family truckster.  Thus, arguing that the “charger” needs to be or has to be a family car is just not a feasable argument. 

    The car itself needs to be what it is to “cover a base” for chrysler.  But that car could do it and not carry this name, see what I’m saying?  And there are ways to accomplish that, without having two cars in the same “segment”, but chrysler is taking the “screw you guys” approach, and that is never good for business.
    You may not want to admit it, but the reason the new  challenger exists is because of guys like me voicing our opinions back in 2006 (and 2007 and 2008……).  They had three designs to choose from, and they were not going to pick the retro one, until the guy presenting the retro version showed him a copy of a magazine that slammed the 2006 sedan.  After that, chrysler went with the retro challenger.  They could have at that time just renamed the sedan and made the challenger concept into a retro charger.  Just a thought.

    Again, I am trying to be decent and diplomatic, but when I see responses like yours, Dave, it makes it very difficult.

    P.S.: I had to wait 24 years to get a ’69 charger.  Couldn’t afford it before that.   If you can’t afford something, then you probably should not buy it.  Credit is a killer, and too many of us are too far in debt.  I am not advocating having to buy separate cars, just saying that buying a muscle car with the intention of using it to haul the family around and go to the grocery store is probably not a very practical way of thinking.  (especially if you can only afford one car, and with today’s gas prices)

  • chargershed
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    @moparman, your utter stupidity is amazing… first you insult all of us CHARGER owners, then you proceed to tell people how they should spend their money. You have absolutely no clue about why the new Challenger exsists, or how it came to be, other than your own delusional fantasies.

     I own a 2006 CHARGER and I love my car. It is night and day better than ANY old ( or classic) MOPAR in terms of driving dynamics, safety, quality and, dare I say it, STYLE. You don’t like my car, I DON’T CARE! The fact of the matter is, it is now 2011, and your ’69 is a relic of a bygone era, much like you. It’s “guys like you” who I’ve met at car shows, who turn their noses up at my car, who think they know better, you all have run plenty of car companies, right? of course you know what the american public wants, because, after all, you own a 1969 Charger and Chargers shouldn’t have 4 doors, who cares how good the car is. What a load! We just had our anual modern MOPAR spring festival, and out of over 830 vehicles present, over 600 of them HAD FOUR DOORS! Times are changing moparman. My car, unlike your 69, is extremely practical for what I use it for, which is everything. I have over 90,000 HARD DAILY Driven miles, its been to the track, run hard on the strip and on the road course. It runs mid 13 second quarters, all night long, then gets me 25 mpg on the way home. I’ve hauled my family, my friends, my tools. I’ve seen 160 mph and run bumper to bumper with ‘vettes at willow springs. I’ve owned plenty of muscle cars, from ’67 GTOs to Impala SS’ to Ford Torino GT 390s and 351 merc cougars, I’ve had olds cutlass’ and even a dodge dart swinger, and you know what? I wouldn’t trade my Charger for any of them, it is the best muscle car I’ve ever owned, period. Enjoy your 69 moparman, but, you won’t be having as much fun as me, because your mind is closed to the possibillity of what a muscle car can be. Oh and by the way, My Charger will ALWAYS have 2 more doors than yours… good night now!

  • Posted April 1, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    OK, if you lip stick on a pig…it’s still a pig.

  • moparman
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I won’t even address most of your hatefull post, but I read the interview about the challenger on either the allpar website or one of the charger forums 2 or 3 years ago.

    It was an interview with the man who presented the retro challenger concept to chrysler.  And indeed, it was because of poor feedback about the 2006 sedan that the current challenger exists in it’s current form.

    I don’t make this stuff up.  I’ve been following the situation since 2005 when I first heard there might be a new charger coming.

    And I have not insulted anyone, nor told anyone what to do with their money.  If you feel insulted because I made the broad statement that people should not buy something they can’t afford, then you need a lesson in common sense (or english).  have a good weekend, I’ll be working.

  • Dave
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    moparman – now you are simply talking out of both sides of your mouth.
    In your mind, the Dodge LX platform Sedan doesn’t qualify as a muscle car because it has 4-doors and therefore shouldn’t bare the “Charger” name. Yet, you then criticize people like myself for buying the car and using it as my daily driver. And the desire to live within my means is the whole reason I bought a V-6, and now have to listen to people like you “crap” all over it because it’s not a Hemi.

  • moparman
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t criticize anyone.  I could care less if you or anyone else uses Dodge’s LX platform to go to the moon.  The fact that you like the car and that it works for you, doesn’t mean it HAS to be called a “charger”.  

    I simply stated that noone, as in me, you, the guy living down the street, noone SHOULD buy something they can’t afford, weather it be a house, a car, or a race horse.

    If every single person in the U.S. resisted getting into so much credit debt we would all be better off.

    I know that if I personally could only afford one vehicle, it would not be the 2006 to 2010 nor the 2011 sedan, EVEN IF it had a different name.  Why?  Because if I can only afford one car, then most of my money is probably going to things like food, clothing for my kids, a place to live for my family, thus, I’d probably want to minimise my car payment a much a possibe.  There are other cars out there that cost less, and still get the job done.

    Sure, we’re all free to make the choice of making that “one car” a “insert v-8 car here”, but we all have to live with the payment and the gas charges.  Using the fact that someone wants to make that choice as a reason to name a car “charger” is just not a good argument.

    Look at it this way.  If they had called it something else, like Coronet, I think you and most of the others who bought it, would still have bought it, based on the merits of the car, not it’s name.  On the other hand, a lot of people have intentionally NOT bought it because it got named Charger.  Some took the “bait” of the challenger.  Most have not.

    Oh, and personally, I don’t care what you drive, and I have never “crapped all over” you or anyone else about their car having a v-6.  ’69 chargers had a 6 cylinder option.  I own a v-6 car as a daily driver (a fake, front wheel drive “impala” (I feel your pain, chevy guys…)).

    I personally would like to see a modern 440, kind of tired of hearing “hemi” everywhere.  Specially since technically it’s not as “hemi-spherical” as a real hemi was.

    I doubt very much that will happen, since so many people jumped on the “hemi” bandwagon.

    Got a littel bit of sun out here in Oregon for a change.  Hopefully it will stick around.  We set new records for days straight with rain recently, and I need to mow my lawn. 

  • moparman
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink


    An insightful video interview with chrysler spokespersons, specifically an engineer who states that they had the car built before they were told what the name would be, and that it would have been much different had they know it would be called charger.

    This video aired february 2011 online and on tv.

  • moparman
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Found it.  It was at allpar.  This was posted about the original 2006-2007 new challenger concept car:

    “Mike Castiglione, a 15-year Chrysler veteran, was charged with exterior design, and it was no easy task. He was up against two other competing designs, both of which were more “sports car than muscle car,” and he was, in fact, told it was his design that wasn’t going to go forward. As he related the story, he procured a copy of Popular Hot Rodding that covered the upcoming Charger but strongly lamented the four-door design. He presented his case to Trevor Creed, demonstrating that Chrysler’s best fans wanted something resembling his ideas and Creed agreed. Thanks Mike. We all love ya for it.”

  • IndyRider
    Posted April 3, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Gotta weigh in here, as the challenger billboard in the background of the first pic caught my attention. 😉

    Applaud Dodge for continuing to refine the charger. I still don’t like the four doors but that’s my opinion. Offering multiple two door muscle cars in today’s economy is a stretch so the charger is a cool 4 door alternative for buyers. I’ve seen some customized chargers that really look great, so the additional potential is definitely there.

    To the haters slamming on the posts, I bought my new challenger because I wanted retro styling with modern convenience. Two doors, no sunroof, manual 6 speed. If I was stuck in the past, I would have paid for a vintage muscle car not a new model. Dodge would have missed a car sale as well.

    And for what its really worth, post up which srt car handled the best during your SRT Experience. I thought the Jeep SRT handled better than the challenger, charger, and 300 so that kind of puts things in perspective for me.

    Dodge is back in the game, offering some great cars in the lineup in two door and four door offerings.

  • 440
    Posted April 3, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Nothing wrong with using the Charger name,it grabbed the attention and it worked !

    Plus the CHARGER name has to be the best car name ever !!

    Rear Drive, Hemi,after many decades of no rear drive performance Dodge cars (not including the Viper) that an avererage working  man could buy,I have no problems with them calling it a Charger !!

    You want a 2 door,buy a Challenger !!

    If they did make a 2 door Charger it would not look like a 68-70 .. 

     Who knows maybe the next  generation Charger will look like a carbon copy of a 1969 !!

    Until then its too late to call the new Charger anything but a Charger !! 

    Until the next generation in 5years,restyle it and have a new name for the 4 door,and make a carbon copy of a 69 Charger R/T !!

    I wonder if it is possible with the “government  regulations ” they put on new cars today,are the 69’s chrome bumper’s pedestrian friendly ? I personally dont give a $#*! 

    All this complaining about the use of 4 doors on the Charger…Why doesnt anyone complain about a 4 door Chrysler 300 C,the letter cars were always 2 doors !!

    Furthermore, the Magnum wagon (r.i.p) should of been a 2 door as the sweet looking 78-79 Magnum was a 2 door and a B-body like the original Charger !!

    But,they will tell you and sales numbers back it up 4 doors sell better than 2,in a nutshell thats why we are bombarded with 4 doors..Hey my Ram has 4 doors !! Never thought I would want a 4 door truck,after owning 2 door ClubCabs,but who knew !! I would fall in love with Ram QuadCabs….

  • GeoffTN
    Posted April 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Indyrider – If you were addressing me about the SRT Experience, they only had the two cars on the redletterdodge.com Hemi Highway tour when I wrote the story, not all of the models. That said, I rode shotgun with Tim Wellborn and he hammered that 2011 SRT8 Chally 392 pretty good on a stretch of Alabama backroad; the new suspension on the 2011 was a BIG deal to him, as he has a 2009 SRT8 and has driven everything from NASCAR stcokers to ACR Vipers to vintage T/A and AARs. He said it was a very impressive improvement, so Im guessing the latest shock/spring changes have made a real difference. Hmmm, wonder why they wouldn’t let ME drive it?… – Stunkard

  • Carl
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    In the past i’ve hated the “4dr” Chargers, After i saw the 2011 in person and stared it down I started to notice every bodyline and styleing que. Extreme improvement on the 06-10 models, Only thing i Didn’t like about the car is that the Fuel door is still there.. I’d rather the “Fuel Door” Be a Chrome Cap ontop of the quarter panel like a ’69 or ’70 because it doesn’t ruin the bodylines…

  • Steve Furlong
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I absolutely love the new 2011 Charger! I want to get a 2012 SRT8. My neighbor, and fellow car guy, got the first 2011 Charger R/T from the local Dodge dealer. He traded in his 2009 Charger, which he got from trading in his 2007 Charger R\T. HE KNOWS CHARGERS!   You know, when the Dodge Charger first came out in 2005, everyone complained about it being a 4 door. Early Dodge Chargers didn’t have 4 doors, it’ll never sell as a 4 door. Well you know what I’ve been driving since 1997? A 1994 Impala SS. Yup, a 4 DOOR. As I remember correctly, NO Impala SS ever had 4 doors! We call it our 4 door Vette. I still get compliments (and trophies) to this day. Nothing wrong with 4 doors. I wouldn’t trade away my Impala SS, but I would park a Charger SRT8 next to it proudly!

  • Gordon Gant
    Posted June 10, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I used to Have a 3-d Postcard of the plum crazy Challenger in the back ground of the first pic. I might still have it some where. I was in love with that car and always thought of it when I would hear Highway Star by Deep Purple.

  • Posted October 16, 2011 at 2:14 am | Permalink

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