The 1969 Dodge Charger presented perhaps the widest array of choices in the history of the nameplate. There was a base model, an available SE (for “Special Edition”) option that heaped on more luxuries, a hot-performing R/T version, and two wild race-bred iterations: the 500 and the Daytona. Engine selections started with Chrysler’s trusty 225-cid Slant Six, but also included five V-8s, topped by the rollicking 425-horsepower 426-cid “Street Hemi.” Depending on the model, available transmissions were three- and four-speed manuals, plus the excellent three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
Given all these choices, it’s perhaps ironic that the car came in just one body style, a two-door hardtop. The 1969 Dodge Charger was an update of the completely restyled ’68 model, which meant it was built on a 117-inch wheelbase with Chrysler’s familiar torsion-bar suspension up front and leaf springs in the back. New styling touches for base and R/T Chargers included a vertical center divider in the grille and horizontal taillights.
1969 Dodge Charger: Background
The really distinctive new Chargers were the 500 and the Daytona, both creatures of the so-called “aero wars” of the day being waged by Ford and Chrysler as they sought dominance in NASCAR stock-car racing. As it turned out, the recessed grille and inset flying-buttress rear window that looked so great on the ’68 Charger was an aerodynamic washout on 190-mph high-banked ovals. To create the 1969 Dodge Charger 500, Chrysler engineers began by plugging the nose cavity of an R/T with a Coronet grille (and nonretracting headlamps) moved up to the front edge of the bodywork. Meanwhile, they quelled lift by flush mounting the rear window.
Dodge manufactured 392 of these cars for street use in order to homologate the Charger 500 for racing purposes. Race-prepared 500s went on to claim 19 NASCAR wins, but specially designed Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones won 30.
1969 Dodge Charger: Modifications
Back to the wind tunnel went the Chrysler engineers, who came back with the radical Daytona. This 1969 Dodge Charger wore a pointed 18-inch extension to its nose (including pop-up headlights) that cut drag and added downforce. Not only did the Daytona keep the 500’s rear window, but it further reduced lift by mounting a horizontal tail stabilizer on towering vertical extensions that rose from the deck. With 503 produced to satisfy the racing rulesmakers, the Daytona made its track debut late in the ’69 NASCAR season-a bit too late to turn back the Ford onslaught. Still, the Daytona proved itself to be capable of 200-mph racing speeds.
Competition editions of the 500 and Daytona all came with 426-cid race Hemis. Those destined for retail customers could be ordered with the tamer Street Hemi or the 375-horsepower 440-cid Magnum V-8. Either way, they were the ultimate expressions of the 1969 Dodge Charger.
1969 Dodge Charger: Specifications
- 1969 Dodge Charger 500 Hemi
- Wheelbase: 117.0 in.
- Weight: 3671 lb.
- Price: $4641
- Engine: ohv V-8
- Displacement: 426 cid
- Fuel system: 2 x 4 bbl.
- Compression ratio: 10.25:1
- Horsepower @ rpm: 425 @ 5000
- Torque @ rpm: 490 @ 4000
- Representative performance
- 0-60 mph: 5.7 sec.
- 1/4 mile: 13.48 sec. @ 109.0 mph