The Challenger was first introduced to the Dodge product line in 1970 as a sister car to the Plymouth Barracuda and as competition to the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird. Notice how I said the Cougar and Firebird; yes, the Challenger was supposed to be bigger and more luxurious in order to position it to capture the young affluent American buyers. Where as, the Camaro, Mustang and Barracuda were smaller and went after the sports compact or “pony car” market. The Dodge Challenger had a lot going for it in the ‘70s with a long list of options and packages, however with the downward slide of the muscle car market during this decade the model only lasted from 1970 to 1974. The most well known models were the Challenger V8 and Challenger RT.

1970 Dodge Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger

2010 Dodge Challenger Furious Fuchsia

2010 Dodge Challenger Furious Fuchsia

The standard V8 came with a 230 hp 381 cubic inch V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor. The RT had a host of engine options including the base 335 hp 383 Magnum V8, 375 hp 440 Magnum V8, 390 hp 440 Magnum Six-Pack V8 and the 425 hp 426 cubic inch Hemi V8. The RT model stood for Road/Track and is probably one of the most recognized designations of Dodge across all of their performance models. With engines like the 440 Six-Pack and the 426 Hemi, these cars could really move in a straight line. The 440 Six-Pack could turn a quarter mile in 13.4 seconds at 107 mph and the 426 Hemi could do the same distance in 13.1 seconds at 107 mph. However, these cars did suffer significant understeer in high-speed corners and despite having disc brakes you could terrify your passengers trying to come to a halt after your blistering quarter mile run.

How does today’s Dodge Challenger compare to those of the past? Well, I have to say that this time Dodge got it right, at least compared to the last revival in 1978, which was actually a Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe re-badged. Yes, the new Dodge Challenger looks the part and as a throw back design is done very well. One of the biggest differences (thanks to modern manufacturing and production) of today’s Challenger is the front clip that is basically one piece instead of having multiple pieces and a bolt on front chrome bumper. Something else you will notice if you do a side-by-side comparison of the old and new is that the present Challenger seems taller and squarer overall. It also has much bigger wheels with 17 in. rims being standard and 18 in. and 20 in. rims optional.

The present Dodge Challenger is also no slouch in the performance department and should make any past Challenger fan proud. The 2008 and newer Dodge Challenger can be optioned in SE, RT, RT Classic and SRT8 trim levels. The SE carries the base V6, not unlike the original base charger model with its straight-6. The RT and RT Classic are available with 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (somewhere along the way Hemi gets changed to all-caps in between 1970 and today). Something that is very different is that the 5-speed, 6-speed and Automatic transmission all put out different horsepower. In order they produce, 375 hp, 376 hp and 372 hp. Then you get the SRT8 which comes with a 425 hp 6.1-liter HEMI V-8.

Now for the real comparison—the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 will run 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and the ¼ mile in 13.2 seconds at 107.5 mph (according to Edmunds.com tests). This compares to the 1970 Challenger 426 Hemi that would do 0-60 in 6.3 seconds and the ¼ mile in 13.1 seconds at 107.1 mph (Car Craft 1969).  So in the end, if you are looking for a new car with a warranty and maybe a future collectors item then go get a new Challenger. If you are looking for a collectible and the original then find yourself a 1970 or 1971 Challenger 426 Hemi. Chances are the 2009/10 is going to be more affordable though.