The seventies were a tumultuous time for the fan of the classic American muscle car. As the early seventies came into focus we saw the first oil embargo hit North America, and with it came the ultimate demise of the era. Detroit was desperate to maintain the image of producing the finest hot rods, but a public faced with rising insurance and gas prices suddenly lost its appetite. This harkened in an era where the cars were styled to resemble the muscle cars of the sixties, but lacked in the performance that once saw American cars as kings of the highway and drag strip. Thankfully, this wasn’t the harbinger of doom for muscle cars.
I believe this is a 1972 Dodge Charger Limited Edition. While certainly not the most desirable to collectors, when we came across this beauty it made me stop in my tracks. Simply put, this is a car you are likely to never see in person in your life.
Still exhibiting the wide and low stance that made these cars so famous, it creates a striking subject. We still find plenty of chrome trim, and by this juncture in the seventies the stylization cues for the times were really coming into their own.
The thing that really made this car truly stand out is the 440 cubic inch engine option it originally came with. As evidenced by the thick flat black stripes, a carryover from the famous ‘Cudas, Challengers and Chargers of the late sixties, this car was designed to really put you back in your seat. For this model year, the 440 big block engine platform was seeing itself greatly reduced in terms of power output, and 3 configurations of this particular engine were available as an option ranging from 225-330hp. I could find no cues that this particular car had the fabled six-pack carburetor setup, likely making it one of the 280hp editions of this platform.
As the seventies continued, we saw further drastic reductions in the performance offerings from Detroit. Many of the once mighty muscle cars were found to have 6 cylinder engines that were rather anemic to drive, all to favor the consumer who was faced with rising fuel costs. The ability to shred a set of tires at one sitting at a light was taking a back seat to the need for a utilitarian vehicle that could transport people and goods safely and with the least amount of fuel possible. This 440 Dodge Charger was not one of these cars. Although it had far less power than its predecessors it would still get the groceries in a quick hurry, putting a smile on the driver’s face for the entire trip.
In a time before complex engineering, the only way to get power down to the pavement was with a wide footprint. One glance at this car from this perspective immediately tells you this baby means business.
At the end of the seventies a second embargo came to pass, and by this time the once fabled muscle car was barely a memory. To put this into clear perspective, the Ford Mustang by 1980 had a single V8 engine option, the 4.6L, that produced a paltry 120hp. This was a low point in muscle car history, making this the least powerful Mustang V8 ever produced. In comparison, many of today’s 4 cylinder engines have well over 200hp and are able to deliver some pretty incredible gas mileage figures. Thankfully the embargo soon passed and with it we saw once again a resurgence of the muscle car.
Many collectors would likely pass on a car like this Dodge Charger. Many see this as an example of the downturn of the seventies in terms of performance cars, with excessive styling that represented the times. I see something entirely different. I see a beautiful example of classic American car design, one of the very last of its kind.
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