Dodge Charger (1969-1970)
Article by Mark Trotta
Second-year, second-generation Chargers received only minor exterior changes. A revised grille had a center divider, and taillights became rectangular and recessed into the rear panel. The base Dodge Charger and Charger R/T were joined by three new models, the SE, 500, and Daytona.
Standard engine for 1969 was a 230-horsepower 318 cubic-inch V-8. For the first time in a Charger, a six-cylinder motor was available, but less than 500 were so equipped. The 383 V-8 was offered in both two or four-barrel versions, producing 290 and 330 horsepower, respectively. On the top of the engine option list was the 375 horsepower 440 Magnum and 425 horsepower 426 Hemi.
Dodge Charger SE
The SE (Special Edition) package featured leather bucket seats, wood-grain steering wheel, and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel. Chrome rocker moldings, deluxe wheel covers, and hood-mounted turn-signal indicators were also included. The SE package could be had by itself or with the R/T package, making an R/T-SE.
Dodge Charger 500
The Charger 500 model was purpose-built to help Dodge be more competitive on the big tracks of NASCAR. Whereas the standard Charger featured hidden headlights in a recessed grille, the 500 had a flatter grille with fixed headlights to improve aerodynamics. The flying buttress roof design, found to create drag at high speeds, was changed to a flush-mounted rear window.
Standard drivetrain for the Charger 500 was the 440 Magnum motor and three-speed Torqueflite automatic. The suspension package included heavy-duty torsion bars, stiffer shocks and rear springs.
The new grille and rear window provided an aerodynamic advantage over the standard Chargers, and the 500 was successful on the shorter NASCAR tracks. Unfortunately, it did not get the results expected on super-speedways. Chrysler engineers went back to the wind tunnel and came out with the winged Charger Daytona, which would quickly dominate stock car racing.
Read: Dodge Charger Daytona
With NASCAR rules requiring a minimum of 500 examples made available to the public, slightly more than 500 each of the Charger 500 and Daytona were built. In all, 69,000 Chargers were sold in 1969.
This year saw a new wrap-around chrome front bumper framing the grille. Gone was the winged Daytona, with the R/T once again the top Charger. The SE edition continued and could be combined with other models, making a 500-SE or R/T-SE.
The 500 was no longer a high-performance model, instead it became an upgraded Charger with bucket seats, wheel-opening moldings, and 500 medallions in the front grille and rear taillight recess.
As with all Chrysler products this year, the ignition key was moved from the dash to the steering column. The glove box was now hinged at the bottom ('68 and '69 models were hinged on the top). Interior changes saw a front bench seat standard on the base Charger, with other models having new high-back bucket seats. Replacing the old manual-shift gear-knob was a vertical pistol-grip shifter.
Popular options included air conditioning, cruise control, front center cushion with fold-down armrest (for bucket seats) AM/FM radio, and a stereo 8-track player with three speakers in the instrument panel. A six-way manually adjustable driver's bucket seat was offered, and new for 1970 was an electrically-operated steel sun roof.
New exterior colors included Plum Crazy, Sublime, Panther Pink, Top Banana, and Hemi Orange. Midyear options included dual color-keyed mirrors and a rear spoiler. A new hood cutout made the option list for this year only, with "440" or "Hemi" spelled out in block letters with reflective silver tape. On the R/T, new rear-facing scoops with the R/T logo were mounted on the front doors.
440 Six Pack
With three two-barrel carburetors and a horsepower rating of 390, the new 440 Six Pack option was known to beat even a Hemi-powered Charger in the quarter-mile. All cars ordered with the Six Pack came equipped with a Dana 60 rear axle in a choice of 3.54 or 4.10 gearing.
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The original Six Pack option was offered on 1969 Dodge Super Bees and Plymouth Road Runners, with a high-rise intake manifold made from aluminum. 1970 and later manifolds were cast-iron. Holley 2300-series carbs were used, and when kept in proper tune, performed as well as they looked.
The 426 Hemi was still available and rated at 425 horsepower.
Dodge Charger sales started slipping in 1970, largely due to higher insurance premiums placed on cars with motors over 400-cid, as well as the introduction of the new Dodge Challenger. Production for 1970 was 49,768 vehicles, of which 10,337 were Charger R/Ts.
General Lee Charger
Performing spectacular jumps in nearly every episode, a 1969 Charger R/T was featured in the TV series 'The Dukes of Hazzard' which aired from 1979 to 1985. Named 'General Lee', it was painted Hemi-Orange with a Confederate flag on the roof.
The car is mainly driven by Bo Duke (played by John Schneider), whose character was an ex-stock car driver. The orange Charger, complete with roll bar and hot-rodded motor, was his old race car. The windows were (with few exceptions) always open, and the doors were (allegedly) welded shut.
The TV show's popularity produced a surge of interest in the Dodge Charger. CBS alone purchased about 300 of 1969 Chargers for stunts, destroying at least one or two cars per episode. Since 1968 Chargers shared the same sheet metal, they were also used, with grilles and taillight panels changed to the 1969 style, and the round side marker lights removed.
By the end of the show's sixth season, with Chargers becoming harder and more expensive to find, producers began to use 1/8th scale miniatures, as well as stock jump footage from previous episodes.
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