The Dodge Charger arrived late in the 1966 model year although it was in the planning stages since the early ’60s with a prototype displayed throughout 1965 to test the public’s response to a new mid-sized personal luxury car. The Charger is on the Chrysler “B” platform with the Coronet, and they also shared the same chassis and front end sheet metal, but the Charger looked unlike anything else in the Dodge fleet. The new Charger sported an eye-catching fastback roofline, a departure from the ordinary for Dodge, but it did appear similar to the earlier released Rambler Marlin, on the outside.
It was luxuriously equipped with an entry level price of $3,100, substantially more than a Coronet and about $250 more than the Marlin with a similar fastback roofline. These two vehicles looked almost identical, and the press compared them with each other, with the late arrival surprise by Dodge being called a “nice looking Marlin.” The Rose Bowl Parade opened with a 1966 Charger, and Dodge introduced it as the new leader in the Dodge Rebellion that year. The 1966 and the ’67 were the only two years to have the triangular Fratzog emblem displayed on the grille as well as the trunk latch.
The ’66 Charger had hidden headlights, the first time a Chrysler product used this feature since the 1942 DeSoto. The lights rotate a full 180 degrees so whether open or closed, they looked like one continuous piece with the electric razor-style grille. The six-lamp, full-width taillight configuration began where the roofline ends and the name Charger had chromed lettering emblazoned across the lamps.
The sporty Charger was practical, and the upscale sedan has four bucket seats with a full-length center console. The buckets in the rear fold down and the console pad folded forward, offering the storage area of a station wagon. The driver had a simulated wood-grain steering wheel, 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer, a 6000 rpm tachometer, and a shift stick mounted in the console. The dash had a full complement of gauges for fuel, alternator, and temperature in all units, but air conditioning or a clock were only available as options. The four, round, chrome-edged dash pods for the Charger didn't have regular bulbs; they were electroluminescence ones.
The first Charger wasn’t marketed as a high-performance muscle car, but the base came with the 318-cubic-inch (5.2L) two-barrel, or you could option the 361-cubic-inch (5.9L) two-barrel, or the 383-cubic-inch (6.3L) with a four-barrel. The 426 (7.0L) street Hemi made its cameo appearance just a few months before the Dodge introduced the Charger, and the owner could order this engine in 1966.
There were 37,344 Chargers made in ’66, with only 468 of those powered by the 426 Hemi. The base transmission is the three-speed mounted on the column, but a four-speed standard transmission or the three-speed automatic options were in the console.
For 1967, the Charger signals are now in the fender and the easiest way to tell the two years appart on the outside. Inside, a regular-sized console replaced the full-length console, and if chosen, the center part doubled as a third front seat but the column shift was optional. Another new item for ’67 was a vinyl roof, and as for power, the 440 Magnum rounded out the options list. The sales dropped to 15,788 units in ’67 with only 27 of those equipped with the 426.
The letter series Chrysler models are full sized personnel luxury cars focused on performance and built from 1955 through 1965. The letter designations are in many minds the beginning of the muscle car age. The new Hemi 392 (6.4 L) engine was available for the 1957 model year and there was a 390 cu in (6.5 L) engine putting out 390 hp (290 kW) on the table as well, but this is a rarely chosen option with only 18 units factory assembled. There were 1,918 coupes leave the assembly plant and for the first time, there are also 474 letter series convertibles, produced in 1957.
Our thanks to Gateway Classic Cars for these images