If there was ever something unworthy of it's name or title it has to be the malaise era Dodge Charger Daytona. I might also walk bare foot over crushed glass or hot coals to score a deal on a nice one with T-tops. Properly equipped the Fake Daytona can be a real fun car to own and drive, still the Dodge Boys should have called it an R/T.
It was a dark time for the muscle car marques. A trifecta of challenges, the Automotive Axis of Evil, 1. new government emissions standards, 2. staggering insurance rates, 3. the first OPEC oil embargo. This toxic combination killed the muscle car. Product planners came up with the personal luxury coupe. Mid-size two door cars focused on comfort, features and styling that said class instead of fast. The Chevy Monte Carlo is a great example. Over at Highland Park the Chrysler Cordoba would carry the personal luxury banner with great success. At Dodge there was confusion. The Dodge Boys would get an all new Charger to replace the 1974 that had existed in some form since 1971. What they got was a Cordoba with the Charger name affixed to the fenders.
Below is the Cordoba and pitchman Khan Noonien Singh. One of the cars is the 1975 Charger, can you spot it?
The Charger unlike the Cordoba clearly had a sporting, muscle car reputation. Yes the Charger had a semi-luxury trim level, the SE that dates back to 1969. Yes, there were many bread and butter stripper Chargers for those light on coin, with the 318 2 barrel or even the occasional Slant Six. The Charger made it's name on the rip-snorting big block motored muscle cars and the NASCAR super speedways. For 1975 the Charger SE body didn't match the reputation, at launch all Chargers were SE. Introduced mid-year was the Daytona package which attempted to tap the Charger cachet. Swing and a miss. This Daytona had nothing in common with it's NASCAR homologation predecessors. It was a paint and decal option, bucket seats, and performance radial tires were also part of the Daytona trim. What wasn't standard on the Daytona were engines topped with 4 barrel carburetors or even a heavy duty suspension. Front and rear sway bars were standard equipment. While the four speed manual transmission was still available you could only get the Torqueflite automatic with the 4 barrel performance engines. Still if you check the right boxes on the order sheet you'd have a fun ride. For example the 360 or 400 4 barrel V8s, trailer towing package with the Sure Grip rear differential. Get the factory sliding sunroof.
For 1976 Charger would adopt a second body to join the SE. Basically renaming the former 1975 Coronet 2 door as Charger and Charger Sport. This basic body skin served as the Road Runner for 1975. It looked sportier, Dodge should have used this car as the basis for a Charger R/T. Instead Dodge trotted out Daytona once again, basically unchanged. For 1977 the T-top option became available. Charger SE would soldier on one last time for 1978 but with the new Dodge Magnum taking the performance mantel Daytona was no longer available.
Now as you read through this you may have gotten the impression I'm not a fan of the Disco Era Dodge Daytona. I think they are great cars for getting into the classic Mopar hobby on a limited budget. Most of them seem to have left the factory with either the 360 or 400 4 barrel, engines easy to massage more power from. Under the skin these are basically a Mopar B-body with great aftermarket parts availability. Get one with a sunroof or T-tops, you'll have an awesome summer time cruiser. That is a great base for all the hot rod wrench turning you can do. Bonus, your Charger will be the only one at Cars 'N Coffee, also easy to find at big Mopar shows. A really nice driver will set you back around $9K with all the bells and whistles.
John is a GenX car enthusiast who grew up driving classic muscle cars. He enjoys the new modern muscle cars that can out perform the classics in every way. In the sportscar world his banners are Viper and Corvette. John has a guilty pleasure. The disco era street machine. Those unloved, underpowered cars festooned with scoops, spoilers and stripes.