1966 Hemi Charger: Part of the ‘Dodge Rebellion’

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Fastback styling was back in vogue in the mid-1960s and the Dodge Charger was a participant in the “Dodge Rebellion,” an advertising and promotional campaign that pushed high-performance motoring. The Charger was really based on the Coronet platform and had essentially the same lower body styling, but with a more streamlined look and rich interior appointments and trimmings. With its low and wide roof line, the Charger showcased a drastic interpretation of fastback styling. Its “electric razor” grille was also quite distinctive looking.

Soon after the Charger arrived on the scene, almost every car enthusiast magazine rushed to take a test drive and publish the results. The Charger was new and exciting and having the car featured on the cover of a magazine was a sure way to pump up circulation and newsstand sales.

Most magazines tested Chargers with the 383-cid V-8, a big-block engine that cranked out 325 hp at 4800 rpm. This combination was actually quite fast, with Car and Driver registering a 7.8-second 0-to-60 time and doing the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds at 88 mph. With the same engine and tranny, Motor Trend reported an 8.9-second 0-to-60 time and 16.3 seconds for the quarter-mile at 85 mph. The huffing-and-puffing Hemi could shave 2 seconds or more off acceleration times like those.

Though the car itself was large, lush and heavy, the availability of the optional 426-cid Hemi V-8 engine made the Charger a genuine contender for the hottest niche in the muscle car market. The 425-hp big-block V-8 featured a pair of four-barrel carburetors, extra-wide dual exhausts and all sorts of heavy-duty performance hardware. The Hemi package also included engine call-out badges, a heavy-duty suspension, larger brakes and 7.75 x 14 Blue Streak racing tires. The use of either a four-speed manual gear box or a TorqueFlite automatic transmission was mandatory. Dodge specified that the Hemi’s short 12-month or 12,000 miles warranty would be invalidated by “extreme operation” or driveline modifications.

Total production of 1966 Chargers hit 37,300 cars. Of these, only 468 had Hemis, of which a mere 218 featured TorqueFlite. NASCAR drivers thought the fastback roof would enhance the Charger’s aerodynamics in Grand National stock car racing. However, they actually tended to lift at the rear, a problem that the race car builders solved by adding a small rear deck lid spoiler. After that, the Chargers won 18 races.

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The 1966 Charger showed off a distinctive fastback roofline and “electric razor” grille, but it was the 426 Hemi that made it a great car.

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