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Dodge Chargers

Mo' Money for Mopars?

Eric Lawrence - October 17, 2013 10:00 AM

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Popularity of the Dodge Charger could have been helped with the selection of the car for the iconic General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. 

Image: Geoff Stunkard
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The 1968 Charger started a three-year run on the nameplate that would see an estimated 225,000 sold.

Image: Greg Rager
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The R/T Charger saw most equipped with the 440 four-barrel with a six-barrel option added in 1970. 

Image: Ross Clark
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Featured elsewhere on these pages, John Schofield’s Daytona is a rare find, since few were made.

Image: John Carollo
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This is a 1970 Charger 500. Though a nice car, it doesn’t carry the attraction of the 1969 model. There were fewer than 400 1969 Charger 500s sold. 

Image: Tracy Stocker
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The 1971 Super Bee represented a switch to the Charger body style from the Coronet.

Image: Geoff Stunkard
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Tim Wellborn’s Museum in Alabama is the resting place for many fine 1971 Chargers.

Image: Geoff Stunkard
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The muscle car landscape was starting to change when the 1973 Charger made the scene. 

Image: Steve Statham

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The Charger was redesigned for 1968 and the “second generation” would be produced until 1970. This body style is the most popular with collectors.

The Dodge Charger is one of the most popular muscle cars ever produced.

How much of that is a result of the weekly exposure it got from co-starring as the bright orange, rebel flag-wearing General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard television series as the car that neither the police nor assorted bad guys could ever catch is a great topic for discussion, but regardless of how it achieved its reputation, its status is above debate.

The Charger was introduced in 1966, essentially a fastback version of the Coronet. Legend has it that Dodge dealers wanted a pony car to compete with Plymouth’s hot selling Barracuda, but the powers that be didn’t want to cannibalize sales from another division, so while they agreed to give the Dodge dealers a fastback, it had to be based on the larger B-body.

The standard engine in the new Charger was the 318 cubic inch V-8. A two-barrel 361 was optional, as was a four-barrel 383. Those with a need for serious speed could step up to the 426 Hemi. The 361 was replaced with a two-barrel version of the 383 for 1967 and a 440 four-barrel was added as well. Since 1967 would be the last year of this initial body style, these years of Charger production are considered the “first generation”. There were over 50,000 cars produced during this period, so finding one should not be a problem. There were roughly 17,500 318-powered cars, about 10,000 361/383 two-barrel cars, and 17,000 383 four-barrel cars, but there were only about 650 440 four-barrels and 585 426 Hemis produced.

Expect to pay about $10,000 for a nice 318 powered Charger and up to $20,000 for an excellent example. Add $1,000 to $1,500 for the 361/383 two-barrel; $2,500 to $3,000 for the 383 four-barrel; and $5,000 for the 440 four-barrel. First generation Hemi cars typically run from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on condition.

 

1968-1970

The Charger was redesigned for 1968 and the “second generation” would be produced until 1970. This body style is the most popular with collectors. Over 225,000 were sold over its three year run. The 318 cubic inch was once again standard, accounting for about 85,000 sales. A couple of thousand people chose to step down to the 225 cubic inch six cylinder – seems like an odd thing to do, but I’m sure they had their reasons! About 100,000 buyers moved up to the 383, with the split between two- and four-barrel being pretty much even.

The big news was the introduction of a new model, the Charger R/T, the high performance version which came standard with the fire-breathing 440 four-barrel. The 426 Hemi was optional on the R/T, and a six-barrel version of the 440 joined the party in 1970. Over the second generation’s R/T’s three-tier run, about 50,000 buyers chose 440 four-barrel, 684 went for the six-barrel, and just about 1,000 stepped up the Hemi.

We said earlier that the 1968-’70 models were the most sought-after by collectors and this is reflected in their market values. Base 318 cars in nice condition are currently trading in the $11,500 to $13,000 range, with really nice ones up around $22,500 to $25,000. There are not a lot of six cylinder cars left out there, but if you come across one, you can knock about $2,500 off the price tag. If equipped with the 383 two-barrel, expect to pay $13,000 to $16,000 for a nice car and around $30,000 for a top notch example. If it has the 383 four-barrel, tack on another $2,500 or so.

While the 383 Chargers are no slouches, the real performance starts with the R/T models, where nice cars start at about $25,000 with the standard 440 four-barrel and can hit $45,000 to $50,000 if they have been restored to excellent condition. The 440 six-barrel, which was only available in 1970, starts at $45,000 to $47,500 for nice driver quality cars and can easily reach $85,000 for the really good ones. Hemicars, available all three years, typically run about $10,000 to $15,000 more than the440 six-barrels.

In an effort to be more competitive with the more aerodynamic Ford Talladegas and Mercury Cyclone Spoilers on the NASCAR tracks, Dodge introduced a more streamlined version of the Charger in 1969 called the Charger 500. Engineers had discovered that the swept back C-pillars with the recessed rear window of the second generation models, while very attractive, was actually creating an unacceptable amount of drag – slowing the cars down, especially on the faster ovals. They fabricated a smoother rear window design, pushing the rear glass outward, and substituted a flush-mounted Coronet grille up front.

The car was faster, but still not getting the job done, so they went back to the drawing board and let their imaginations run wild, the result of which was the Daytona. With its 18-inch rocket ship-looking nosecone and two-foot-tall rear wing, the Daytona made quite an impression and instantly became the iconic poster child of the muscle car generation. There were 392 Charger 500s sold to the public; fewer than 100 were 426 Hemis and the rest were 440 four-barrels. 503 Daytonas were produced, with 70 being Hemis and the rest 440 four-barrels. These cars come up for sale on a fairly regular basis, usually at one of the high-profile collectible car auctions.

Let’s start at the top, the Daytona Hemi. Values spiked several years ago, then fell precipitously, but have stabilized over the past several years. Nice cars are currently selling in the $140,000 to $160,000 range, with the very best up around $300,000. Daytonas with the 440 four-barrel generally go for about half of those numbers. The much more ordinary looking Charger 500s sell for between 50 to 60 percent of a similarly powered Daytona. Please be aware that Dodge reused the name Charger 500 in 1970 and 1971 to denote one of the available trim levels and these cars do not have the same performance pedigree, or higher values, as the 1969 models.

 

1971-1974

The Charger was completely restyled once again for 1971, and this “third generation” would run until 1974. This look was also very popular with buyers with over 275,000 sold. The muscle car era was drawing to a close and 1971 would be the final year for the R/T. Optional higher performance engines, including detuned versions of the 440 four-barrel, would continue to be offered until the end, but 1971 would also be the final year of availability of the Hemi and 440 six-barrel. The 318 V-8 would continue to be the standard powerplant through 1974, but the 383s were replaced by a pair of 400s (two- and four-barrel) beginning in 1972. The high performance small-block 340 four-barrel also joined the line-up in 1972 and was replaced by the 360 four-barrel in 1974.

As usual, the 318 accounted for most of the sales during the third generation. Just over 4,000 buyers chose the 440 four-barrel and another 25,000 or so stepped up to the big- blocks, not too bad given the shift away from powerful engines toward more fuel-efficient ones. Over on the Charger R/T side, built in 1971 only, there were 2,500 440/fours, 63 Hemis, and 178 440/sixes.

The third generation cars are not quite as popular with collectors as the 1968-’70 second generation models, but their values are fairly close. 318 cars will generally sell for $8,500 to $10,000 in nice condition, with well restored ones bringing $17,500 to $19,000. The two-barrel versions of the 383s and 400s will add $1,500 to $2,500 to the car’s price, with the four-barrels adding $2,500 to $3,750. The 440 four-barrel in the non-R/T cars pushes the price up by about $5,000. As stated earlier, the R/T was only available in 1971 in the third generation production numbers. 440 four-barrel R/Ts in nice condition sell for roughly $20,000 to $22,500, and generally top out around $40,000. Six-barrel cars run from $40,000 to $75,000 or so depending on condition, and Hemi cars once again trump the six-barrels by $10,000 to $15,000.

The Super Bee, traditionally based on the Coronet, was moved to the Charger for its final year, 1971. The base engine was the usual 383 four-barrel, which accounted for about 4,000 sales. The Hemi, 440/4, and 440/6 were optional, and accounted for 22, 26, and 99 sales, respectively. For reference, there were 45,000 383 four-barrels, 3,175 440 six-barrel, and 335 Hemi Super Bees built between 1968 and 1970. The 1971 Super Bees with the 383 four-barrel are currently in the $15,500 to $17,000 range for nice cars, with the best ones up around $33,500 to $35,000. The ones with the optional 440s and Hemis will run about the same money as the similarly equipped 1971 R/Ts. As a side note, 1968-’70 Coronet-based Super Bees in nice driving condition with the 383 are worth about $17,000 to $18,500, and very nice examples can easily reach $35,000. 440 6 six barrels and Hemi Super Bees will typically trail the 1968-’70 Charger R/T models with the same engines by about 10 to 15 percent.

Most collectors have historically viewed the 1974 Charger as the last of the breed, but considering the growing trend towards cars from the mid-to-late 1970s becoming more and more popular, let’s take a quick look at the 1975-’78 models … which were essentially Dodge versions of the hot selling Chrysler Cordobas (and seriously, who can forget Ricardo Montalban’s “soft Corinthian leather”). These cars were Mopar’s entry to the mid-sized “personal luxury” segment that was dominated by the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Ford Thunderbird. Decent Chargers of this vintage can be picked up pretty easily for about $2,500, and $5,000 to $6,000 should be enough to get you one of the best.

You will probably have noticed that I tended to talk about production figures in round numbers in this article. Most of my sources showed different totals, although they were generally pretty close to each other. The goal was to let you know about their relative production numbers. When compared to Ford and General Motors products, Mopars are notoriously more difficult to track down accurate historical information on, especially with regard to optional equipment and production numbers.

As always, please use this article the way it was intended, as a guide, and don’t make any bar bets using the information I’ve provided … I think it’s pretty accurate, but I’ve also got three books sitting in front of me by three highly respected Mopar historians that don’t agree on all of the details. On top of that, there are countless variables that can affect a particular car’s value … anything from originality, ownership history, documentation, selling venue, and even color, so please use the values as a starting point for your research if you are considering buying or selling a vintage Charger.

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