What began as a simple post on our Facebook page snowballed into something larger than I had planned. All I did was ask our Facebook followers to let us know what they thought was the best Mopar muscle car. I got such an overwhelming response that I thought I would also ask our print readers the same question. So in my editorial in the Aug. '12 issue, I asked the same question so we could get an unscientifically accurate response from a large group of people. Sure, we could have come up with a list ourselves and told you what we thought the best cars are, but that's no fun, and since opinions vary, we needed to gather a large consensus. We got a lot more responses than we thought we would, but that also affords us a greater degree of accuracy when our popular vote is tallied.
What we got from both groups was an eclectic list, and since we have no input into what should be on it, we had no way to know what would end up on the list. Now, with the suggestions tallied, we thought we would show you the Top 10 Mopar muscle cars that you guys chose. Don't yell at us! We're just the messenger.
A Great Package
10 Coming in at number 10 is the '69 A12 Road Runner. In our unscientific test, the Runner got more than twice as many votes as its brother the A12 Superbee did, and we're not going to speculate the reason for that difference. We think that the "lift off" hood car gained a lot of the votes due to it being built in limited numbers, and its reputation as a proven track performer.
'69-1/2 A-12 Road Runner
The option code A12 replaced the 383 with a 440 Six Barrel. This gave you an Edelbrock aluminum intake and three Holley carburetors. A Hemi four-speed transmission was standard, and the 727 automatic was an option. The drivetrain upgrade also included a 26-inch radiator with a seven-blade clutch fan. Also included is the Dana with a 4.10 gear ratio, and four-wheel 11-inch drum brakes. A black fiberglass hood sans hinges was pinned at each corner, and a functional air scoop was part of the package. Because of the large air breather assembly, a smaller three-speed wiper motor was also included. 15x6-inch rims with 15-inch red-streak tires were the only tire and wheel combination available.
Sold as a $462.80 option on the base $2,945 Road Runner, the A12 was a popular choice. Production of the A12 Road Runner finished after 615 were built. 227 were built with automatics and 388 with a four-speed.
'68 Hemi 'Cuda
09 A surprise for us was the fact that the '68 Hemi Barracuda only came in at number nine. Given the history of these cars, we thought it would leap to the front of the group. Putting a Hemi in an A-Body isn't easy. Consider the flexible lines on the master cylinder of these cars. The wide Hemi valve cover almost touches the master cylinder, so the flexible lines allowed the master cylinder to be removed from the firewall and laid on the fender if the valve cover needed to be removed. The fenders and hood were made of fiberglass, while the bumpers and doors were either acid-dipped or stamped from lighter gauge material. These cars were all shipped in primer, and the front ends toned with Gel-coat.
The Hurst plant in the Detroit region did the conversions, using incomplete 383-equipped cars as the starting point. The factory did two short production runs of the cars in February and May of that year that resulted in 70 Barracudas and around 80 Darts for what was then SS/B drag racing.
MSRP: Free if you were good at racing
It's 1970, and it's Groovy
08 In eighth place is the '70 Barracuda. The redesign in 1970 removed all commonality the previous year had with the Valiant. The original fastback design was deleted from the line, and the Barracuda now consisted of a coupe and convertible model. The new E-Body had three versions offered for 1970: the base Barracuda, the luxury oriented Gran Coupe, and the sport model 'Cuda. The E-Body's engine bay was larger than the previous A-Body Barracuda, affording more room for the 426 Hemi. The Barracuda had two six-cylinder engines available, a new 198-inch version, and the 225. If you needed more, three different V-8s were available in the Barracuda: the 318, the 383 with a two-barrel, and the 383 with a four-barrel carburetor. The 'Cuda moniker meant the owner could get a 340 or a 383 with 335 hp as the standard engine, the 440 four-barrel Super Commando, the 440 Six-Barrel Super Commando, and the 426 Hemi. The 440 and Hemi equipped cars also got upgraded suspension components and structural bracing.
MSRP: $3,164* (Base)
07 In 1969, the Road Runner kept the same basic look as its prior year brother, but there were some slight cosmetic changes. For 1969, Plymouth added a convertible option with 2,128 drop-top models produced that year (ten of them with the Hemi). Six of those Hemi convertibles were automatics; only the remaining four were fitted with four-speed manual transmissions.
'69 Road Runner
The Air Grabber option (N96 code), which consisted of an air "box" assembly bolted to the underside of the hood connected to twin scoops in the hood was added. When the hood was closed, a rubber seal fitted over a large-oval air cleaner that directed air into the engine. The scoops in the hood could be opened and closed via a lever under the dashboard. When it came to engines, joining the existing 383 was the 426 Hemi. Road Runner sales almost doubled from 1968 to 82,109.
MSRP: $2,896.00* (Base)
On a Wing and a Prayer
06 It's 1970, and the Superbird, a modified Road Runner, stepped up for high speed with its nosecone that used retractable headlights and added 19 inche to the Road Runner's original length. For years, it was believed that a mathematic formula was used to determine the exact height of the enormous wing. Some years ago, though, a retired Chrysler engineer admitted that the height was determined solely to provide clearance for the trunk lid when opened. The rear-facing scoops on the fenders were not to facilitate brake cooling, but to hide cutouts in the fender tops that allow wheel clearance when the car was lowered for NASCAR.
NASCAR's homologation requirement demanded that vehicles must be available to the general public and sold through dealerships in minimum numbers to be eligible for racing. For 1970 NASCAR raised the production requirement from 500 to one for every two dealers in the United States. We've heard that Chrysler memos from 1969 show that they were getting ready to work with 1,920 Superbirds, but published figures say as many as 2,783 were actually built. With that being said, the current figure generally accepted is that 1,935 Superbirds were built and shipped to dealers in the U.S. If that is correct, that leaves anywhere from 34 to 47 allegedly going to Canada. When it comes to the engines, the most frequently seen numbers say that 135 got the Hemi, 716 440 Six-Barrel editions were built, and the remainder were powered by the 440 with a four-barrel.
On the street, the nose cone and wing were very distinctive, but the aerodynamic improvements hardly made a difference there or on the dragstrip. Only at speeds greater than 90 mph did the nose and wing show any benefit.
A Fine Fish for 1971
'71 Hemi 'Cuda
05 Our number five position holder needs no introduction, and the '71 Hemi 'Cuda has a distinct style that is unforgettable. In 1971 the Barracuda got a new grille that many refer to as the cheese grater, but it was actually designed to suggest Barracuda fish teeth. The chrome louvers on the front fenders suggest the fish gills. The flat-back decals (billboards) covering most of the rear quarter-panels and doors were optional. The Shaker scoop was available on all 'Cuda models ('Cuda was the name used for high-performance versions of the Barracuda). 1971 ended up being the last year for the Barracuda convertible, with just 1,385 convertibles sold. Production fell from 1970's 54,800 to 18,690.
1971 was the last year of the "performance years," and in 1972 the horsepower ratings fell and the various B engines were no longer available. The 318 became the standard engine on all models with the 340 being optional. Electronic ignition became available as an option as well.
MSRP: $4,035.45* (Hardtop)
MSRP: $4,314.45* (Convertible)
04 In 1968 the Charger retained its full-width hidden headlight grille from 1967, but the rotating electric headlight assemblies were replaced by vacuum operated covers. The rear end also featured distinctive twin circular taillights.
The standard engine was the 318 until mid-year when a 225 Slant Six became available. The R/T came standard with the 440 Magnum, and the 426 Hemi was optional. The Hemi (package) would set the buyer back an extra $1,000. Quite a bit, considering the base price was $3,122. Only 468 of the Hemi option were purchased.
In 1968 Chrysler Corporation unveiled a new ad campaign featuring a Bee with an engine on its back. These cars were part of the Scat Pack. The Charger R/T received the "bumble-bee" stripes. The 1968 model year saw Charger sales increase to 96,100, with 17,000 of them being R/Ts.
Our Next Challenger
03 Available as a coupe and convertible, the coupe version of the '70 Challenger lands in our number three spot. The Challenger was available with everything from a Slant Six to V-8 performance versions wearing the familiar R/T label. Standard R/T power came from the 335hp 383, and two 440s were offered. The first was the four-barrel Magnum with 375 hp, and then the Six Pack with 390. The 426 Hemi option cost an extra $1,228 with required heavy-duty equipment.
Of 19,938 Challenger R/Ts built for 1970, just 356 got Hemis, and 2,035 were fitted with 440 Six Packs. The 440 and the Hemi came standard with a TorqueFlite automatic. Ordering the four-speed got you a Pistol-Grip Hurst shifter and a Dana 60 axle. Gear ratios climbed from 3.23:1 to 4.10:1, with the Sure Grip as an extra-cost item. All R/Ts got a beefed suspension, and 440 and Hemi cars got 15-inch 60-series tires. Essentials like power steering and front disc brakes were optional.
The Shaker scoop was available as a $97 option. Full gauges, including a tachometer, were standard, and R/Ts could also be ordered in SE trim, which included leather seats and a vinyl roof with a smaller rear window.
Total production was 83,032 cars, a number the Challenger wouldn't come close to repeating for the rest of its short life before being discontinued in 1974.
- MSRP: Coupe (six-cylinder) $2,851.00*
- Convertible $3,120.00*
- MSRP: Coupe (eight-cylinder) $2,953.00*
- Convertible $3,222.00*
Super Stock All the Way
'68 Hemi Dart
02 Somewhere in an office in 1967, somebody had an idea of how to win races, and the 1968 Hemi Dart was born. There were approximately 80 Darts that were sent to Hurst Corporation, modified and fitted with the 426 Hemi. They weren't built for the street, and they featured a fiberglass hood and front fenders, a front bumper and doors stamped out of a lighter gauge steel, and special Corning Glass was used (which did not meet DOT standards for use on public roads). Inside, there was no rear seat, radio, or other creature comforts. The front seats were from an A100 van/truck van and were mounted on custom-fabricated, non-adjustable aluminum brackets. The Hemi featured a pair of Holley carburetors on a magnesium cross-ram intake, and a heavy-duty cooling package was standard, as well as headers. The cars were delivered with no paint on them, just primer and bare, gel-coated fiberglass from the cowl forward. Final cost per car was around $4,500. They definitely performed on the track and would hit 10s in the quarter-mile with minimal modification.
MSRP: Really? You think it had one!?
The Winner Charges On
01 Here we are--our number one Mopar muscle car as chosen by you guys is the '69 Dodge Charger. We figure that a famous orange one with an 01 on the door has something to do with it, but that's OK. 1969 saw little change for the Charger, but new styling touches for base and R/T Chargers included a vertical center divider in the grille and horizontal taillights. But this year presented perhaps the most option choices in the history of the nameplate. There was a base model, an available SE option, a hot-performing R/T version, and two wild race-bred iterations: the 500 and the Daytona. Engine selections started with Chrysler's trusty 225 Slant Six, but also included five V-8s, the 318 with 230 hp, a 383 with 335 hp, a 440 with 375 hp, and the Hemi with 425 hp. Depending on the model, available transmissions were three- and four-speed manuals, or the three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
When it comes to numbers, there are believed to be 542 non-R/Ts built with a six-cylinder, 65,840 non-R/Ts built with a V-8, and 19,298 R/Ts with a V-8. That's a total production of 85,680 '69 Chargers.
- 1- '69 Charger
- 2- '68 Hemi Dart
- 3- '70 Challenger
- 4- '68 Charger
- 5- '71 Hemi 'Cuda
- 6- '70 Superbird
- 7- '69 Road Runner
- 8- '70 'Cuda
- 9- '68 Hemi 'Cuda
- 10- '69-1/2 A-12 Road Runner