Dodge Charger 1966-1967

Article by Mark Trotta

After Ford's successful debut of the Mustang in 1964, other car manufacturers scrambled to bring out sporty new models. At Chrysler Corporation, Plymouth had just introduced their new pony-car, the Barracuda. To avoid competing with their sister company, the Dodge boys based their new fastback on a mid-sized car platform, which would provide plenty of room under the hood for their biggest and most powerful motors.

first year Dodge Charger

Charger Concept Car

Partly inspired by the 1949 Cadillac, Carl Cameron designed the stretched roofline concept car, built around the intermediate-sized Dodge Coronet. The concept car was displayed at car shows in 1965 and received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Dodge Charger was put into production shortly after. Similarity to the Rambler Marlin was coincidental.

1966 Dodge Charger

Sharing the B-body platform with the Coronet (which had became Dodge's intermediate-sized car in 1965), the Charger's long body rode on a 117-inch wheelbase. Front sheet metal resembled the Coronet slightly, but the Charger's grille was wider, smoother, and featured fully rotating, electrically-operated retractable headlights.

original Dodge Charger

Helping the 3,600 pound car look sporty was the wide fastback which stretched all the way to the rear bumper. Chrome block letters spaced across the tail-lights spelled "CHARGER".

original Dodge Charger


With a six-foot-wide body, there was plenty of room inside. Four individual bucket seats shared a full-length console. The rear seats and console pad folded forward, and with the trunk divider dropped back, seven feet of cargo space was available. Interior carpeting extended into the trunk.

Four round pods housed the tachometer, speedometer, alternator, and fuel/temperature gauges. High-clarity electro-luminescent back-lighting, previously used on other Chrysler models, lit up the dashboard at night. Considering its mid-year introduction, the 37,344 Chargers sold in 1966 was impressive.

Engine Choices

With nothing but V-8's under the hood, a two-barrel, 230 horsepower 318ci engine was standard. Optional was a 265 horsepower 361 motor, a 325 horsepower 383 engine, and a street version of Chrysler's 426 Hemi race engine.

The Charger's base transmission was a column-shifted three speed manual. Optional was a four-on-the-floor manual or three-speed automatic.

426 Hemi Engine

The 426 cubic-inch Hemi motor was first seen in 1964 on the race track and offered in street trim in 1966. With a 4.25 inch bore and 3.75 stroke, the seven-litre OHV V-8 is based on an iron block with four-bolt-main, cross-bolted caps. The crankshaft is made of forged-steel, as are the connecting rods. Compression ratio for the street Hemi is 10.25:1.

Cylinder heads with hemispherical, or hemi-shaped, combustion chambers are a good choice where power at high rpm is desired. The advantage is that valves can be angled away from each other and larger valves may be fitted. Additionally, a straighter, less restrictive path can then be provided for the air/fuel mixture, improving engine breathing.

cut-away illustation of the 426 Hemi-head

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Placing spark plugs near the center of the chambers helps achieve more complete combustion of the air/fuel mixture. However, because the intake and exhaust valve stems point in different directions, cylinder heads need to be larger, which makes rocker-arm geometry more complicated than other OHV V-8s.

For induction, the Street Hemi had an aluminum dual-plane dual-carb manifold with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors mounted in-line. With a solid-lifter camshaft, 425 horsepower was advertised, but actual output was closer to 500 horsepower. Torque was listed at 490 ft/lb at 4000 rpm.

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Huge by any standards, the 426 Street Hemi was nicknamed "Elephant Engine" not only for its cubic capacity and power, but for its 800-plus pound weight. Records indicate 468 Chargers were equipped with the Hemi in 1966, which cost the buyer an additional $880. Stiffer front springs and bigger 11-inch drum brakes were included.

Chrysler was one of the first automotive companies to offer a 5 year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty, but it did not apply when the Hemi option was chosen. Instead, buyers got a one-year/12,000 warranty, with a strict clause prohibiting any racing. Chrysler was quite serious about this; there are reports of company representatives visiting race tracks all over the United States, recording license plates and vehicle identification numbers.

1967 Dodge Charger

As for many second-year car models, changes were minor. Fender-mounted turn signals were the main visual difference between the 1966 and 1967 Charger. Inside, the full-length console was replaced by a shorter version, due in part to customer complaints about entry and exit from the back seats. Front buckets were still standard, but a folding armrest/seat and column shifter was now offered to allow three people to sit up front.

Dodge musclecar

Read: Muscle Car History

Options for 1967 included a vinyl roof, heavy duty suspension, towing package, and front disc brakes. As for engines, the 361-cid motor was replaced by the 383 V-8, in either 270 and 325 horsepower ratings.

The 440ci Magnum, Mopar's largest-ever production motor, became available this year. Based on the 383 RB engine block, bore size was 4.32" and its tall deck height allowed a 3.75" stroke length. In the Charger, it was offered with a single 4-barrel and rated at 375 horsepower.

original Dodge Charger

Facing strong competition from the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet's new Camaro, only 15,788 Chargers sold in 1967. Dodge executives decided a major redesign was in order, and a second-generation Charger would debut in 1968.


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