The "L-body" Dodge Charger actually started its life in 1979 when it was originally known as the 024, and was based on the front wheel drive L-body Dodge Omni platform (hence the "L-body" Charger designation), and was also known as the Omni 024. Its wheelbase, however, is a couple of inches shorter than the Omni's. The "Charger" name was resurrected as a performance option package on the 024 in 1981, known as the Charger 2.2, signifying the 2.2L (135 cid) I4 engine. In 1983, all models of the 024 were now Chargers, as the 024 designation was dropped altogether. Plymouth had an identical model initially known as the TC3 (or Horizon TC3), and shared all of the 024's drivetrain and underpinnings. The TC3 would become the Turismo in 1983. Both the Charger and Turismo would be discontinued after 1987.
This article covers both models except where noted.
|Production|| 024 (1979-1982)|
|Body Style||3-Door Hatchback|
|Transmission|| 4-Speed Manual, FWD|
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
|Engine|| 1.6L (97 cid) I4 (1983-1986)|
1.7L (105 cid) I4 (1979-1982)
2.2L (135 cid) I4 (1981-1987)
2.2L (135 cid) Turbo I4 (1985-1987 Shelby)
The front wheel drive subcompact Dodge Omni (and Plymouth Horizon) were introduced with great success in 1978, and a year later, they spawned a couple of 3-door hatchback sport coupes called 024 and TC3. Both shared the "Omnirizon's" 70 hp Volkswagen-based 1.7L (105 cid) I4 engine. They could have either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. The 024 and TC3 also shared the same interior and dashboard as their 5-door sedan counterparts. 024s and TC3s had slightly different grilles and taillights but were otherwise identical. 1980 models had no real changes except the 024 and TC3 could have an interesting DeTomaso appearance package, which included a front air dam and rear spoiler in addition to a multitude of stripes and decals. The DeTomaso still had the base Omnirizon's 70 hp engine, so its performance was (at the very least) modest, and were little more than a dressed up pretenders. The DeTomaso package would last but only one year. In 1981, the 024 got a new engine option, the 84 hp 2.2L I4, and was the basis for the Charger 2.2 sport option package (Plymouth's version was the Turismo 2.2). Both had bogus hood scoops, decals and a rear spoiler. Lesser models continued as before. There were no changes to the 024 and TC3 in 1982, but their platform was extended this year to include the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp neo-pickups inspired by the Chevrolet El Camino but intended to compete more directly with the likes of the Subaru BRAT and the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Truck.
In 1983, the 024 and TC3 designations were dropped and both became known as Charger and Turismo respectively. Both got a new base engine, this one was a 64 hp Peugeot-built 1.6L (97 cid) I4. The 2.2 got a 10 hp power boost to 94. The Charger got an interesting Shelby option package that was not offered on the Turismo (see separate report below for information on that model). The Turismo-based Plymouth Scamp compact pickup would be dropped at the end of this year also. In 1984, both got new noses with a quad headlight design and the rear C-pillar quarter windows were now blanked off on all models, a design inspired by the Shelby Charger a year earlier. Dodge introduced another 3-door hatchback sport coupe this year, the Daytona, but that was a K-car-based model marketed to a more upscale audience than the Charger supposedly appealed to. The Charger-based Rampage pickup would be dumped after this year, lasting only one year longer than its Scamp twin. There weren't many changes in 1985 other than the usual color-shuffling. The Duster name reappeared that year, last used in 1980 as an option package for the Volare, and it was now an option package for the Turismo that had a rear spoiler, rallye wheels, and special striping. In 1986, both the Charger and Turismo gained the required Center High Mounted Stop Lamp, and the 2.2 got a slight hp gain to 96. For the L-body Charger and Turismo's final year, the 1.6L I4 was dropped, making the 2.2 as the base engine. All instrument panels gained a tachometer, oil pressure and volt meter gauges this year as well as revised gauge graphics. Due to falling sales (and internal competition from Dodge's own Daytona), the Charger and Turismo were dropped after the 1987 model year. There were no successors for either car line.
After working together for years during their heydays at Ford, then-Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca and racing legend Carroll Shelby joined forces once again to come up with a performance package for the Charger. While this of course was nothing like the fierce and revered Shelby Mustangs that Ford produced between 1966-1970, it did inject at least a little excitement in the otherwise underwhelming Omni-based Charger. The Shelby Charger debuted in 1983 with a "high-output" 110 hp 2.2L I4 that wasn't shared with the lesser Charger 2.2, and was only available with a 5-speed manual transmission. It also had closer gear ratios, quicker steering, a stiffer suspension. The Shelby Charger had a deep front air dam with accompanying ground effects and rear spoiler, and blanked-off rear C-pillar quarter windows. Inside there was a unique 2-tone blue and silver seating pattern with "CS" on the seatbacks. For its first two years the Shelby was available only in 2-tone silver and blue.
In 1984 when the Charger got a redesigned front clip, the Shelbys retained the older style dual headlight nose. Running changes included a revised camshaft, chrome valve cover, stiffer suspension, 50-series Eagle GT tires on 15 inch wheels, and low-restriction exhaust. Dodge now offered a similar package this year on the pedestrian 5-door Omni and called it the GLH (Goes Like Hell), but it was initially available only in black. In 1985, color choices were expanded to maroon/silver and black/silver. The big powertrain option this year was the 146 hp turbocharged 2.2 I4 borrowed from the Daytona, and shared its multiple-point fuel injection and a close-ratio five-speed transmission. This car was by no means sophisticated, but it did have appeal to those who valued bang-for-the-buck above all else.
'86 Shelby Chargers got the required center high mounted stop lamp like all other cars this year, but there was no other real change. For its last year in 1987, the last 1000 Shelby Chargers went out with a bang, using the turbocharged intercooled 176 hp version of the 2.2L I4 engine that was used in the limited-edition Omni GLH-S a year prior. This would be the only Shelby Charger that would not be available with the Shelby's signature 2-tone paint - these were solid black (just like the GLH-S was). Like the "regular" L-body Charger, the Shelby Charger would also die after 1987, although Carroll Shelby's collaboration packages with other Dodge models such as the Lancer and Shadow continued for a few more years afterwards.