Despite its unnecessarily long hiatus from 1983 until 2008, the Dodge Challenger remains one of the most iconic muscle cars in all of automotive history. The model owes a lot of its fame and gearhead support to its very first generation, which is often touted as the best—the 1970 through 1974 Dodge Challenger. Immediately after it hit the market, it became one of the most recognized and emblematic cars of all time, courtesy of pop culture and enthusiast media. The famous 426-ci Hemi V8 boasting 425 horsepower that was offered in the Challenger R/T made it one of the most powerful cars on the road, further perpetuating the image of power and competence associated with the nameplate.
Of course, much like today, the Challenger found itself facing equally popular contenders on the market, not excluding the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Camaro, and even the Dodge Charger. Here are 10 muscle cars from the ’70s that we would prefer over the 1970 Challenger.
10 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
The Ford Mustang was redesigned and grew in size for 1971. That year marked the one and only year for the speedy Boss 351. Though that’s a great car, we prefer a Mach 1 with a 429 CJ-R.
Moreover, it certainly helps that the car was featured in the Fast and Furious franchise, lending the car some Hollywood prominence. And while it couldn’t beat the Challenger in terms of raw power (offering 370 hp), it did offer better handling for those who wanted more than a straight-line rocket.
9 1977 Chevy Camaro Z28
The Chevy Camaro Z28 returned in 1977 after a two-year absence. Even though this time around it wasn’t the most powerful Camaro, it certainly was the best-handling Camaro to date. Featuring tuned shocks, stiffer springs, and beefy stabilizer bars, the ’77 Z28 easily out-maneuvered all the Camaros that had preceded it.
Moreover, it was quite the looker, too. All of this contributed to making the 1977 Camaro Z28 a bestseller. In fact, this was the first model year when the Chevy Camaro managed to outsell the Ford Mustang, which has certainly not been the trend this past half-century. The 1970s were rifled with muscle car history as it was being written, and the ’77 Camaro Z28 is a testament to the same.
8th 1973 Pontiac TransAm SD-455
The muscle car market didn’t have just the big three of Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. Pontiac rolled an instant classic off the assembly line with the 1973 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455. Outfitted with that optional, higher-output 455-cubic-inch V8 engine, this Trans Am could rip off sub-14-second quarter mile times. It also boasted handling that was considered the best of any American performance car of the time, and as such the Pontiac Trans Am is something most driving enthusiasts would recognize and prefer over a ’70 Challenger.
Coming to the market at a time when performance cars were receding in popularity and performance, GM almost never brought the car to fruition. However, it was the fans who clamored for the car, encouraging GM to go ahead and bring it to the market, and it was a hit.
7 1970 Plymouth Barracuda
1970 saw Plymouth’s Barracuda models undergo a complete design overhaul. This was the first time that Chrysler built the Barracuda on their new E-platform which was shared with the Dodge Challenger though the Dodge had a longer wheelbase. The exterior style was second to none, with the sleek design making the Barracuda a head-turner that could break necks. Moreover, its wide engine bay ensured that it could come outfitted with absolutely every possible engine, including the 426 Hemi, that Plymouth produced.
Most popular among the buyers and enthusiasts was the 383 Super Commando V8, which ran with 335 horses rare under the hood. This was plenty for most folks. If you’re looking for a worthy and enjoyable car for collecting, you can’t miss with the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda.
6 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS454
The 1970 Chevy Chevelle stands out in muscle car history for a very special reason. Up until 1970, GM strictly ensured that no car of theirs would come with an engine larger than 400 cubic inches. However, to keep up with the changing times, they dropped that restriction and made it possible to outfit the 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS with a monstrous V8 big block engine that was 454 cubic inches.
With the V8 came either 360 horsepower in the base version or an incredible 450 hp in the top-dog “LS6” version. A Chevelle SS 454 LS6 was one of the quickest cars of its time, with a quarter-mile performance of around 13.5 seconds. Moreover, it wasn’t just the power figures that impressed buyers- the bulging fenders, and the overall sporty styling made it a go-to choice that went head-to-head with the 1970 Challenger.
5 1970 Buick Gran Sport 455
This one comes on this list as an absolute no-brainer. After all, who wouldn’t want to bring home the epitome of high-performance muscle cars? The Buick Gran Sport 455 Stage I was often regarded as ‘the Hemi killer’, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why- the underated 360-horsepower engine that gave 510 lb-ft of torque was answer enough.
The 1970 edition of the Gran Sport 455 was special because it was the last year GM outfitted the lineup with high-compression engines. Afterward, compression and power dropped in an effort to meet tougher emissions standards and allow low-lead and lower octane fuel to be used. At the time, the Gran Sport 455 housed the domestic engine with the most amount of torque, and it wasn’t until 1992 that Dodge took that crown away from it with the Viper. Picking this over a 1970 Challenger almost comes without a second thought.
4 1970 Ford Torino GT
Ford already had the iconic pony car, the Mustang dominating its market. However, their desire to birth a sporty, two-door coupe edition of the Fairlane resulted in the Torino GT, which hit the market with improved luxury and design.
Safe to say, Ford managed to lock down and deliver on both fronts. Not only did the 1970 Ford Torino GT look very impressive and sporty, while remaining distinct from the Mustang, it could also chase down a quarter-mile in 13.99 seconds in bone-stock configuration. The Torino is just as much a piece of American muscle car history as its contemporary Challenger.
3 1970 Mercury Cyclone spoiler 429
The Mercury division birthed the Cyclone to compete against the muscle cars of GM and Plymouth/Dodge. It came packing serious heat, as the top engine option was the same potent 429 CJ-R offered in the Mustang and Torino.
That massive engine produced 450 lb-ft of torque, and could launch the 1970 Cyclone Spoiler to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. With that sort of power and heritage, the 1970 Mercury Cyclone is definitely worth buying.
2 1971 Dodge Demon 340
Based on its compact dart platform, the sporty Demon 340 was a dynamite performer with its 340 ci V8 able to power it to a 14.3-second quarter mile.
The top end for the 1971 Dodge Demon was 127 mph, which was respectable for the time. Moreover, it’s downright impossible to find a Dodge Challenger from 1970 under the $30,000 mark, either.
1 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda
The classic of classics, the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda is a car most collectors dream of having. In fact, a convertible version of the 1971 Hemi Cuda went for $3.5 million in an auction, so it’s not meant for every collector’s garage.
With a 426 cubic-inch, Hemi V-8 powering it, the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda chased down the 60 mph mark in just six seconds, munching down a quarter-mile in thirteen seconds and change. Moreover, it looked absolutely fantastic while doing it, so if the choice ever came down between the 1971 Hemi Cuda and a 1970 Hemi Challenger, we’re racing down the tarmac in the former.
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