For anyone that didn’t already know, there was no Challenger R/T after 1971. For 1972, the sporty trim level of the E-Body Challenger range was known as the Rallye. It wasn’t the only change that would occur for 1972, as you can see even on this not exactly period-correct Challenger spotted on a dealership forecourt.
All 1972 Challengers received revised front and rear fasciae. The front was dominated by a gaping grille that dipped below the bumper. At the back, there were now four individual tail lights, their rounded rectangle shape echoing the new grille. Rallye models were available with fender louvers and bold tape stripes that trailed away from the vents, as if the vents were in motion.
The revised exterior perhaps wasn’t as conventionally handsome as the ’70-71 models, but the biggest change was in the performance department. Standard on base Challengers was the 225 cubic inch Slant Six, while the base powerplant for the Rallye was the 318 V8. There was only one optional V8, the 340 with a four-barrel carburetor. In one fell swoop, the 383, 440 and 426 V8s were all gone. Rising insurance premiums and unexpectedly slow E-Body sales had seen to that.
Dropping half the engine lineup (the smaller 198-cu.-in six was also axed) had a negligible impact on sales: 1971 saw 29,883 Challengers produced, with 4,630 of those being the R/T. The production tallies for 1972 totalled 26,658, with a total of 8,123 Rallyes. It seems big-block performance had become much less of a draw, and if insurance premiums didn’t completely kill it, the looming oil crisis and emissions standards would do the job.
Dodge realized this, and promoted the new Rallye model as a car that represented a “well-proportioned balance between acceleration, road-holding and braking.” It was said to speak softly but give you a big kick. A four-speed manual with a Hurst pistol-grip shifter was available with the 340 V8, as was a performance axle package with a 3.55:1 Sure Grip rear axle and a larger radiator. By 1974, the 340 was replaced with a 360-cu.-in V8. Sales would rise slightly for 1973, but by 1974 the Challenger’s death warrant was signed. Dodge’s pony car was dead.
As rare, early R/T Convertibles and 440 Six Packs rose and rose tremendously in value, the last three years of Challenger production remained somewhat stagnant. Lacking the convertible variant and the hi-po engines, the 1972-74 Challenger is simply less collectible. Sadly, like many pony car owners, this Challenger’s previous owner wanted it to look like one of the more valuable and flashy models. There was no R/T for 1972, but that didn’t stop this owner from applying the decals, the hood clips and a garish rear spoiler.
I’ve said before that non-stock modifications can be tasteful, but I don’t much care for this trend towards dressing up one’s pony car as its more expensive sibling. After all, not every Camaro was an SS396 and not every Mustang was a Shelby. There are enough of those that survived, thanks to their higher value and desirability, that the automotive world doesn’t need a bunch of pretenders. I’d be more likely to stop and gawk at a pony car if it was a humble, low-spec model, like this beautiful and original Camaro I saw in Griffith Park. Of course, that’s just my two cents and I’m sure there are some owners out there who may never be able to spare a million bucks for a numbers-matching Camaro ZL1 but want to feel like a million bucks driving their Camaro. Different strokes for different folks.
As for this particular Challenger, if any Brisbane Curbsiders were interested, it is gone now. The day I spotted this Challenger, I also saw the Firebird I previously covered as well as a beautiful Plymouth Satellite and a Plymouth Roadrunner. Thinking this dealership would continue to get more exotic metal, I made an effort to drive past there on occasion to see what they had. Alas, this must have been a fluke, as everything else there has been late-model. It may have been modified in a way I didn’t care for, but I was just happy to see any Dodge Challenger in Australia!