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 Mercury line-up only uses a 410 (6.7 L) FE engine from 1966 through ’67. The 410 combines the 4.05 inch bore of the 390 with the 3.98 inch (101.09 mm) stroke and a 10.5:1 compression ratio of the 428 which comes into production for 1966 as well.
The 427 cu in (7.0 L) FE engine was a top pick from its introduction in 1963 at race tracks and enthusiasts followed by a host of performance enhancing equipment to help make them quicker. The 390 and the 427 have the same 3.78 inch (96.01 mm) stroke and the 427 bore size is 4.23 inches (107.442 mm). After you do the math this 427's firing chamber is actually rounded up from 425 cubes for whatever reason. All of the 427 engines have a crankshaft balanced internally and solid lifters are used for every year other than 1968 when hydraulic lifters are installed at the factory. The iron castings for the 427 engine block are thicker down the walls of each cylinder and on the deck to take the pressure plus the heat created in the firing chamber. The first 427 engines in ’63 are all top oiler to send cooling lubrication to the top end first, A side oiler system is available in 1965 which puts oil to the crankshaft first, much like the older “Y” block. These engines can be bolted to low, medium and high riser (heads) intake, but the cast iron manifold can also be upgraded to an aluminum one that could be mounted with a single four barrel carburetor or two four barrel units for a quicker ride. Ford never actually published specs on these engines, but this FE 427 will develop 400 hp (298.28 kW) or more with ease. Tunnel-port heads with matching intake ports were produced by Ford and these units do not cram the intake port between a pair of sleeved push rods that partly block the passage. The FE 427 engine had been designed with racing in mind and there was lots of other factory produced high performance equipment and a large quantity of aftermarket speed parts are still widely available.
The valvetrain 427 side oiler Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) or the Cammer is Fords answer to the 426 Chrysler Hemi “elephant”. This engine is meant to assert Ford as the dominant player in NASCAR events from the start in the ’64 race season. The block is smaller and lighter than the earlier 427 with dimensions closer to the 392 FE. The deck height of this FE427 block is 10.17 inches (258.3 mm) more than a half inch less than the Chrysler 392 and the 4.63 inch (117.6 mm) bore spacing is less than the 426 Hemi’s 4.8 inch (121.9 mm). The Cammer has a lot going for it and durability of this side oiler FE427 block is proven time and again at NASCAR events. This engine uses an idler shaft to replace the camshaft and the camshaft bearing holes were plugged to complete the modification. This idler shaft is used to drive the distributer and the oil pump in the traditional manner, but the shaft also drive a six foot (1.8 Meter) long timing chain which powers the SOHC in each of the heads. The timing chain can be an issue to set properly-particularly when the engine is run in its highest range. The two single overhead camshafts are relocated above each of the heads to trigger the roller rocker arms mounted on a shaft or valvetrain. The cast iron heads have hemispherical combustion chambers-or Hemi-but this word is patented by Chrysler. The valvetrain has larger valves than on the Ford wedge heads engines and the exhaust valves are made of hollow stainless steel filled with sodium to prevent the valves from burning. The valves have dual springs and the SOHC system is highly rated for volumetric efficiency in the top rpm range. The high output ignition coil passes current to a dual-point distributor with an ignition amplifier that is transistorized to guarantee complete combustion. The 427 Cammer is a hand built engine, but Ford strongly recommends blueprinting them if it is to be used on the race track. The FE 427 Cammer with a four barrel carburetor (4V) will generate 616 hp (459 kW) @ 7000 rpm and a torque peak of 515 lb-ft. (698 Nm) @ 3800 rpm, but with two 4V carburetors the rating is upped to 657 hp (490 kW) @ 7500 rpm with torque peaking @ 575 lb-ft. (780 kW). The engine weights 680 lbs (308 kg) with the duel carbs and would have retailed for $2350.00 as a crate engine in 1968.