1971 Dodge Challenger RT

1971 Dodge Challenger Guide: History, Performance, & More

What does a company do after posting an 80,000 car sales year? Well, if they are smart, not too much. The ‘71 Challenger fell into that category. The gas/emissions crisis was just starting to hit, but the sporty car was still very alive. It wouldn’t, however, be the waterfall of sales like the 1970 model even though the car sported most of the same features.

Model 1971 Dodge Challenger
Type 2-door
Names & Trims Coupe, Convertible, R/T
Engines 189ci I6, 225ci I6, 318ci V8, 383ci V8, 440ci V8, 440 six-pack, 426ci Hemi
Price range $2,737-$3,273*

*Consumer Guide: Encyclopedia of American Cars

1971 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi
Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s

Even though the ‘70 and ‘71 Challengers look identical – face value – the cars’ line-ups are immensely different. The line-ups went from two-hands-full, down to a mere 4 options. Gone were many of the “initialed” names – and with them – a lot of pomp and circumstance. Tougher to be excited about a “Hardtop” than a “SPECIAL Edition”. 

More than this, the color options were down some, the engines were starting to feel the de-tune crunch, and the sales floor was scrambling to meet even a third of the last years’ totals. As much as the Challenger was a good-looking muscle car, there was no stopping the change in buyers’ demands.

1971 Exterior Changes

Externally, the front of the car is about the biggest change for the ‘71 year. The lights became closer together and the grille lengthened. The grill was also changed to a thinner, angled look vs. a flat look. I believe it to be a stretch to say “more aerodynamically” shaped, but it is more than just the “blockish” flattened look of the ‘70.

1971 Dodge Challenger front
Photo credit: WallpaperUp
1970 Dodge Challenger front
Photo credit: Mediagetz

The rear of the car was also a noticeable change. The taillights were made slightly smaller and were accented more than the ‘70. The back-up light was moved from the spot between the two lights to inside the middle of each light. These went from their own style to looking like that of the ‘69 Camaro. Dramatic change to say the least, but one that did nothing for sales.

1971 Dodge Challenger rear
Photo Source: Barrett-Jackson
1970 Dodge Challenger rear
Photo Source: Classic Cars

As for the remainder of the car, the design was kept pretty close to the 1970’s. Dummy rear brake vents were added to the rear quarters as an option, and you could still opt for wings, stripes, spoilers, and the like. The look was still there, even if it was a bit less surprising and startling as the previous year.. Honestly, to the untrained eye.. it is a ‘70 all the same.

 

Available 1971 Challenger Models

Challenger

1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible base
Photo Source: Kloompy

The starting point for ‘71 was now referred to as “Challenger” – with the “Deputy” now being just a base options list and sold in very small numbers. Standard features included all-vinyl bucket seats in black, and black and white. You’d also get a heater/defroster, 14” hubcaps, parking brake, aluminum muffler and exhaust, and the 198ci, I6. Optionally you could also get the 318ci, V8, 3-speed console automatic, seats in dark green, bright blue, saddle colors, and fixed rear window glass.

Challenger Hardtop/Convertible

1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible
Photo Source: Classic Cars

The next level of Challenger was now the hardtop coupe or convertible coupe (as the Special Edition was dropped completely). Options were deep here and ranged from simple items like a  wood-grain steering wheel, a deeper range of interior colors, and cigarette lighter, to major items like a 4-speed manual transmission, and vinyl roof covering. Pricing would be more of a premium back then and getting more expensive nowadays.

Challenger R/T

1971 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi Convertible
Photo Source: Mecum Auctions

The last stop in the significantly smaller list of models was the R/T (Road and Track). These were the top echelon of performance Challengers and the options were extensive. Using the vast color palette, you could design a 440 six-pack in sublime green R/T with a shaker-hood, or go for the softer spoken all-black, no-frills, 426 Hemi look. There was little you couldn’t get for these cars and some of the top-end ones will run you in the 6-figure range in today’s market.

1971 Dodge Challenger Specifications, Options, & Interior

Physical Dimensions

The 1971 Dodge Challenger’s physical dimensions:

  • Length: 191.3 inches
  • Width: 76.3 inches
  • Height: 51 inches

Interior

1971 Dodge Challenger brown interior
Photo Source: Hot Rod

A more diverse color range and some little nuances aside, the ‘71 Challenger was as similar a place to reside as the previous year. The seats were slotted differently, there were more vibrant colors (like green and blue), and the shifter was downgraded to a plastic “T” inside the console, but the remainder was pretty similar… and all pretty good. Like all Mopars by this point, however, you were starting to see the transition to the ‘70’s look vs the ‘60’s.

Hoods

1971 Dodge Challenger "shaker" hood
Photo Source: Magazine Cars for Sale

For 1971, the Challenger retained most of the same hoods as 1970. You still had a well-styled “base” hood with a few grooves standard. As you opened your bank account further, you’d get the vented R/T hood and then with more funds, the stripe on top. These were the most prevalent of the performance hoods and far easier to upkeep than the next in the list.

Referring to the shaking top of the engine, the “shaker” hoods were the quick way of knowing something fierce was before you. Usually atop the 440 six-pack or its nemesis 426 Hemi, these were awesome looking machines – and they had the excessive speed to match as well. Unfortunately, the T/A model was dropped, so the fiberglass hood with the dramatic scoop was gone. A loss to say the least.

Vinyl Tops

A gold colored top was now offered but the Gator Grain was deleted. Other colors were unchanged.

 

1971 Dodge Challenger Engines

1971 Dodge Challenger 426 Hemi V8
Photo Source: Legendary Motorcar

1971 “Standard” Engine Specifications

Displacement/

Cylinders

198 ci I6 225 ci I6 318 ci V8 340 ci V8 383 ci V8
Bore & Stroke (in.) 3.4×3.64 3.4×4.12 3.91×3.31 4.04×3.31 4.25×3.38
Carburator 1bbl 1bbl 2bbl 4bbl 2bbl
Compression 8:4:1 8:4:1 8:6:1 10:3:1 8:5:1
Air Cleaner Single Single Single Dual Single
Exhaust System Single Single Single Dual Single
Crankcase 3¼ quarts – 4 quarts when replacing oil filter on all engines except the 440 and 426 when it is 5 and 6 respectively.

Closed crankcase ventilation with cleaner air system standard on all engines.

Coolant 10.8 qts. 10.8 qts. 13.3 qts. 12.5 qts 12.1 qts
Horsepower 125 @ 4400 145 @ 4000 230 @ 4400 275 @ 5000 275 @ 4400
Installed NET Horsepower 105 @ 4400 110 @ 4000 155 @ 4000 235 @ 5000 190 @ 4400
Fuel Recommended Regular Regular Regular Premium Regular

1971 High-Performance Engine Specifications

Displacement/

Cylinders

383 ci V8 440 ci V8 426 ci V8
Bore & Stroke (in.) 4.25×3.38 4.32×3.75 4.25×3.75
Carburator 4bbl 3x2bbl 2x4bbl
Compression 8:5:1 10:3:1 10:2:1
Air Cleaner Double Unsilenced Unsilenced
Exhaust System Dual Dual Dual
Crankcase 3¼ quarts – 4 quarts when replacing oil filter on all engines except the 440 and 426 when it is 5 and 6 respectively.

Closed crankcase ventilation with cleaner air system standard on all engines.

Coolant 12.1 qts. 12.9 qts. 13.3 qts.
Horsepower 300 @ 4800 385 @ 4700 425 @ 5000
Installed NET Horsepower 250 @ 4400 330 @ 4700 350 @ 5000
Fuel Recommended regular premium premium

For Starters…

There were some interesting, but mostly minor changes to the engine line-up for 1971. To start with, the 340ci V8 was now a standard option. An excellent engine, it would be one of the better small blocks you could get and was only de-tuned 15hp from the previous year.

Due to lower compressions, the lower and higher output 383ci V8s were both down in power. The lower dropped 15hp to 275hp, and the upper 383 was down to 300hp – some 30 horsepower drop. Torque ratings – though not shown here – were also down in some cases.

For a bit more power…

From here you got to the big change in the engine line-up. The base 440ci 4-barrel was removed completely. Your only option was the over-the-top 440 six-pack. This would’ve made for some tough decisions and is most likely the biggest reason there are few true ‘71 440s in circulation. The six-pack was also reduced to 385 horsepower – 5hp down. Not entirely a deathstroke, but still a sign of the times.

The final engine was still the 426 hemi. It was the only untouched performance engine for 1971 and was still THE most powerful and most coveted. Rated at the same 425hp, these were the baddest Challengers on the road and though the 1970 gets the nod as the best Challenger hemi you can buy, the 1971 hemi would be similarly just as quick through the quarter – in the mid 13-second range. Sadly, only 47 would be produced for 1971.

1971 Challenger Transmissions

  • The base transmission would be the 3-speed automatic in column or console shifting styles or a 3-speed manual floor shift. This was available in A903/904 for the lower engines and A833 for the engines bigger than the 318ci.
  • The next style for the performance engines would be the 727 Torqueflight automatic. This was used in anything above the 340ci engine and was a very resilient transmission.
  • Lastly would be the 4-speed that would come with a pistol-grip shifter (a wooden top in the shape of a hand-gun grip). These were optioned with regular and limited-slip differentials.

1971 Challenger Wheels & Tires

The left-hand thread wheel nuts that had been fitted to the 1970 model driver’s side were done away with. On the Rallye wheels, the trim ring now had a brushed finish and the wheel center was a dark gray.

1971 Dodge rallye wheel

 

Engine Standard Optional Recommended Brand
198/225/318 7.35×14 E78x14,F70x14*,E60x15** Goodyear
383 F78x14 F70x14*,E60x15**# Goodyear/Polyglas GT

 

Engine Standard Optional Recommended Brand
340 F70x14 F78x14,E60x15# Goodyear/Polyglas GT
383 F70x14 F78x14 Goodyear/Polyglas GT
426/440 F70x14 E60x15# Goodyear/Polyglas GT

* Only with HD suspension.

** Only with HD suspension and disc or HD brakes. # N/A with Air Cond.

1971 Dodge Challenger Production Numbers

1971 was an “average” year for the Challenger, but the dropping numbers couldn’t be ignored. With just over 4,500 R/T models sold, the performance fire was already being snuffed out. It also makes them a rare and expensive commodity today. They sold the following units:

Challenger Coupe

23,088
Challenger Hardtop Coupe
Challenger Convertible Coupe 2,165
Challenger R/T Hardtop Coupe V-8 4,630

*Consumer Guide Encyclopedia of American Cars

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