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 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 the first muscle car to hit the market out of the ‘Big Three’—the Camaro, the Charger, and the Mustang itself. In 1971, it received a major upgrade, getting an entirely new body. In fact, its major selling point became the fact that it was able to compete with cars with much bigger displacements.
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 270 hp), there are certainly other pull factors for a buyer if straight-out drag isn’t the only thing that matters to them.
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 stabilizer bars that were thicker, 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 rife with muscle car history as it was being written, and the ’77 Camaro Z28 is a testament to the same.
8 1973 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455
The muscle car market didn’t have just the big three of Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. Pontiac rolled an instant classic of the assembly line with the 1973 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455. Outfitted with a monstrous 455-cubic-inch V8 engine that could have belonged on the racetrack, the Pontiac Trans Am is something any true muscle enthusiast would recognize and prefer over a ’70 Challenger.
Coming to the market at a time when performance cars were receding in popularity, 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. The exteriors were second to none, with the sleek design making the Barracuda a head-turner that could break necks. Moreover, its wide size ensured that it could come outfitted with absolutely every possible engine trim that Plymouth produced.
Most popular among the buyers and enthusiasts was definitely the 383 Super Commando V8, which ran with 335 horses raring under the hood. This was the same power figure as the 1970 Dodge Challenger, and in case you’re looking for a worthy competitor for collecting, you can’t miss with the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda.
6 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454
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 over a 6.6-liter engine. However, to keep up with the changing times, they had to outfit the 1970 Chevy Chevelle with a monstrous V8 big block engine that was 7.4 liters.
With the V8 came 360 horsepower, and a top end of about 110 miles per hour. 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 400 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, it adopted the lower-lead fuel standards of 1972. 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 the muscle car market. However, their desire to birth a sport, 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 looks very imposing and sporty, while remaining distinct from the Mustang, it could also chase down a quarter-mile in 13.99 seconds on 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 Boss 429
The Mercury division birthed the Cyclone to compete against the Ford’s Mustang and Falcon. Initially, it was simply a high-performance variant of the Mercury Comet. However, the 1970 Cyclone hit the ground running a real speed demon with the Boss 429 engine under its hood.
The massive 7.0-liter engine produced 490 lb-ft of torque, and powered by it, the 1970 Cyclone reached the 60 mph mark in 6.3 seconds. With that sort of power and heritage, the 1970 Mercury Cyclone is definitely worth buying, but it won’t come cheap- think six figures for a recreated model, easily.
2 1971 Dodge Demon 340
Yes, you would be forgiven for assuming that the Dodge Demon is simply the Challenger-based version, but there’s a lot more to the Demon name. You’d be forgiven again for thinking they based it off the 1971 Dodge Dart. Instead, Dodge birthed the first Demon based on the Plymouth Duster.
The top-end for the 1971 Dodge Demon was 127 mph, which was respectable for the time. Packed to the brim with history, the 1971 Dodge Demon is definitely worth investing in, whether you’re bringing it home to cruise around in a piece of history or work on a restoration project. 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 every single collector in the world dreams 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 garage on the planet.
With a 426 cubic-inch, Hemi V-8 powering it from under the hood, the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda chased down the 60 mph mark in just six seconds, munching down a quarter-mile in thirteen seconds. Moreover, it looked absolutely fantastic while doing it, so if the choice ever came down between the 1971 Hemi Cuda and a 1970 Challenger, we’re racing down the tarmac in the former.
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