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1966 Dodge Charger 426 Hemi


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Dodge refitted a Coronet with a fastback roof, hidden-head grille, and jet-age interior to create the Charger. See more muscle car pictures.

Plymouth's 1964 Barracuda was America's first modern fastback, beating Ford's '65 Mustang 2+2 to market by about two weeks. Dodge waited until 1966 to join the fray, and then leaped in with the Charger 426 Hemi -- a muscle car other fastbacks could only dream of.

Plymouth's 1964 Barracuda was America's first modern fastback, beating Ford's '65 Mustang 2+2 to market by about two weeks. Dodge waited until 1966 to join the fray, and then leaped in with the Charger 426 Hemi -- a muscle car other fastbacks could only dream of.

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To create the first Charger, Dodge basically added to its midsize Coronet two-door hardtop a rather graceless fastback roofline, hidden headlamps, and full-width taillamps. With a base price of $3,122, Charger cost $417 more than a Coronet 500 hardtop. Part of the deal was a state-of-the-art '60s interior: lots of chrome, four bucket seats (the rears folded down), available center consoles fore and aft, and full gauges.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The Charger 426 Hemi's cabin featured full instrumentation with a 150-mph speedometer and 600 rpm full-length console.

A 318-cid V-8 was standard. The most-common performance upgrade was the optional 325-bhp 383 four-barrel, which would push a Charger through the quarter in the low 16s at 85 mph. But 1966 was also the year Chrysler's 426-cid Hemi V-8 came to the streets, and it made for the ultimate Charger.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The Charger's rear seatbacks folded to cargo bay seven feet long.

Actual horsepower was near 500, but Dodge advertised its Street Hemi at 425 bhp on a 10.25:1 compression. A detuned version of the 12.5:l-compression race Hemi, the new customer version retained solid lifters but had a milder cam for smoother low-rpm running and a heat chamber so it could warm up properly. It also mounted its dual quads inline rather than on a cross-ram manifold. The engine added $1,000 to the price of a Coronet, or $880 to a Charger, and included stiffer springs and bigger (11-inch) brakes. Front discs were optional.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The new Street Hemi engine was special-order option installed in just 468 '66 Chargers.

"Beauty and the beast," was how Dodge pitched its new Charger with the hot 426. "The Hemi was never in better shape," it boasted. Of 37,344 Chargers built for '66, however, only 468 got the Hemi. Maybe that's because Hemi buyers got a one-year/12,000 warranty instead of Dodge's usual 5/50,000. Even that, Chrysler warned, would be voided if the car was "subjected to any extreme operation (i.e., drag racing)." Heaven forbid.

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