Agents of Shield: Ghost Rider’s Hell Charger and the Dodge Charger Through the Ages
“When the Ghost Rider burns your soul, your soul stays burned,” said one unlucky thug who decided to shoot an RPG missile at the Ghost Rider, the newest addition to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this TV adaptation of the anti-hero, Ghost Rider drives a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. However, at first glance, it sure doesn’t look like a Dodge Charger. If anything, it looks like a Dodge Challenger with only one side door and an incredible-looking Shaker on top of the hood.
Upon further research, we found the original car and the team (MovieMachines) who turned the Dodge Charger R/T into the now infamous HELL CHARGER! This gave us a better look at the vehicle, and it is in fact a Dodge Charger, an old one at that, but with only one door on each side. Furthermore, that’s no shaker on the hood. It’s a blower, the same one installed into Dom’s Charger from The Fast and the Furious.
This got us thinking…when exactly did the Charger veer off from the look of the Challenger and get its own style? You have to admit, the two models can easily fool anyone that they’re the exact same from afar. So we did some research and decided to break it down, from the very first Dodge Charger to now.
First Generation: 1966 – 1967
The first generation Dodge Charger didn’t last long. It was a two-door fastback body with four bucket seats. So it was always a four-seater, but started off with only two doors. It also shared some components and design from the Coronet Chrysler B platform. Only selling 37,344 units of this Charger in 1966, it was clear the Charger wasn’t an instant hit with its audience.
It did however make its presence known as a muscle car. The 1967 edition of the Charger was basically the same car with a little bit of chrome painted on and a V8 engine option. When sales dropped even further, Dodge took a better look at the Charger for its second generation.
Second Generation: 1968 – 1970
Redesigned but still based on the Chrysler B platform, the new Charger model got a variety of changes to the exterior and the interior, such as an undivided grille, rounded tail lights, and hidden headlights. This is the Charger everyone thinks of – Steve McQueen’s ominous black nemesis in Bullitt, the orange “General Lee” on The Dukes of Hazzard, and now Ghost Rider’s Hell Charger in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The second generation also gave birth to the 1969 Dodge Charger 500. Why is this Charger so popular? Many say it’s the best car the Chrysler Corporation (before the Chrysler Corporation merged with Fiat) produced. The design of the 1969 Charger changed a bit more, with Dodge dividing the front grille and redesigning the taillights to look like hockey pucks. Though it wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing to some, the Charger was made for racing, not for looking pretty.
Sadly, it wasn’t very aerodynamic. As a result, the Charger Daytona was conceived and raced in NASCAR. It was actually the first car to go faster than 200 mph in NASCAR history. Only 503 units were sold at this point, but it was enough to get NASCAR’s attention and make it an official NASCAR car. In 1970, the Daytona disappeared from the Dodge lineup, and the Charger retrieved some of its cosmetic choices from the 1969 version.
Third Generation: 1971 – 1974
In 1971, the Charger adopted a more Coke-bottle shape and had a lot of changes. The front grille was split into two again, each half bordered by chrome or body-color paint; the second generation had edges, the third was smooth; depending on the trim, headlights were hidden or exposed – a panel on the grill concealed them when not in-use; and the cockpit was completely new, now with a semi-fastback rear window that transitioned into a deck lid. Finally, the Charger was getting some real style unique to its name.
This style actually lasted the entire generation, with only minor changes in 1973 and 1974 in the grille and headlamps. Dodge must have never been happy with them due to the constant back-and-forth changes. Nevertheless, this Charger soared in sales. Whether it was because its popularity grew or because the Coronet was scrapped, who knows? The lineup for the Charger was condensed to three trims, and although a muscle car, when tested for speed and race times, the ‘72 Charger SE didn’t do so well.
With a top speed of 76 mph, the popularity of the Charger died out. Sales dropped, and as noted, minor changes were made to the body and overall design in ‘73 and ‘74. Minor changes weren’t going to cut it though. If the Charger was going to come back, then it needed to be a new Charger. Period.
Fourth Generation: 1975 – 1977
This Charger took a huge hit. Amid the fuel crises and emissions regulations that came out mid-70s, the Charger’s design and desired muscle car engine had to be restricted when it needed to shine. The fourth generation Charger adapted design notes from the Chrysler Cordoba with a different grille, and was a foot longer than the ‘71 Charger. Where Charger designs in the past aimed for aerodynamic styling, the fourth generation Charger looked more like a wagon than anything else.
The roofline abruptly stopped at the deck lid, the grille was a tiny rectangle with small turn signals on either side, with round headlamps outside of those, and awkwardly huge bumpers. Dodge needed a new Charger, but this wasn’t it. This Charger only had a single trim and limited options. It was clear this car wasn’t made to save Dodge; it was meant to keep the Charger name alive. Some would say that’s all it accomplished with only a little more than 30,000 units sold.
During 1976 and 1977, nothing really outstanding happened. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Dodge took this dog out to pastor and put it down. The Charger disappeared for several years after until it resurfaced in 1982.
Fifth Generation: 1982 – 1987
The introduction of the fifth generation Dodge Charger was a little sneaky – it was released under a different name in 1979 as a three-door coupe, the “Omni 024”. The Charger name wasn’t applied until 1982 when Dodge got a new shiny 2.2-liter SOHC engine. It wasn’t much, but it took away any claims that the Charger was a slug. The car was a little more aerodynamic this time around, and in later years started to look more like a sedan than a coupe.
The car had a non functional hood scoop, non functional side scoops, and in 1983, the Dodge Charger Shelby was introduced. This vehicle saved the Charger, sporting the 2.2-liter four cylinder engine that, with a little tinkering, shot the horsepower up to 107-hp. A revised suspension, 15-inch aluminum wheels, and a solid roof panel came together to make the Shelby Charger an icon. It wasn’t better by other Chargers by much, but it saved the model.
Every year thereafter, changes took place. In 1984, the nose was redesigned with dual quad headlamps; the Shelby Charger expanded its color palette to include black and Garnet Red, and the 2.2-liter engine got a turbocharged upgrade in 1985. In 1986, a third brake light was added – that’s all, and in 1987, interest started to shake a bit and the Dodge Charger became indistinguishable from its previous incarnations.
Then came the Shelby Charger GLH-S. Outfitted with a larger radiator, bigger fuel injectors, a Shelby Electronic Logic Module, and several other components, the Charger reclaimed its speed. It went from 0-60 mph in 7 seconds, and it covered a quarter-mile in 15 seconds, going 94 mph. The Charger muscle car made a good come back and Dodge decided not to mess with a good thing and didn’t produce any new models for nearly two decades.
Sixth Generation: 2006 – 2010
The Charger was released as a four-door muscle car based on the rear-wheel drive platform of the Chrysler 300. Some people liked the practicality of a four-door muscle car, whereas enthusiasts were outraged. Nevertheless, this Charger was the best yet, balancing performance, handling, and comfort.
Multiple trims were released, including SE, SXT, and R/T, along with packages featuring Road/Track Performance and Daytona R/T accessories. The SE came with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, 17-inch wheels, a CD player, full power accessories, and cruise control. The R/T had all this plus dual exhaust outlets, larger brakes, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and replaced the engine with a 340-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8.
If drivers wanted more personalization, especially for the R/T, the Daytona R/T Package could turn any trim into a race car, with flat-black graphics and decals, spoilers, a Hemi orange engine cover, performance components from shocks to tires, heated sports seats, and an additional 10 horsepower. Drivers could get the same performance with the Road/Track Package without the Daytona style.
Small changes occurred over the next few years; in 2008, the cabin was improved with upgraded materials and a redesigned dashboard and console. The exterior got new wheels and the option of xenon headlights. In 2009, the HEMI engine was tweaked up to 368-hp, had VVT tech, and greater fuel-efficiency.
Seventh Generation: 2011 – Now
One more change for the Dodge Charger, and it’s the muscle car we know today. The exterior styling was completely upgraded. It had new side scoops along the front and rear doors, more angular headlights, aggressive new grille styling, a modern wrap around LED tail light across nearly the entire length of the trunk, and a more aerodynamic shape overall.
In 2015, it received a couple of more styling updates, such as a new front end with LED lights and a more aerodynamic nose that featured a noticeable curve around the headlights. The biggest reveals though were the engines: a 3.6L, 5.7L, the SRT 6.4L, and the new 6.2L supercharged V8 SRT Hellcat engine.
It would be impossible today to recreate the Ghost Rider’s Hell Charger, mainly due to the lack of 1964 Dodge Chargers still around. However, you can always check Mopar Custom Auto Parts and see what you can use to get close.