A Look At The Legend Of The Dodge Challenger

Filed under: Classic News |
The evolution of a car brand is always a fascinating thing to view at from the privileged position of the 21st century. With a century-and-a-half of automotive history behind us, we can see how automakers have revived and rebranded names over the decades. The Dodge Challenger, best known as a legendary pony car with an outlaw-attitude that seemed to match the cynical ’70s, had its origins in the 1959 Silver Challenger as a two-door passenger car. How did it go from an economical sedan to one of the fastest cars on the road? That is the story of a making a legend, from the 1970s to today. Dodge Challenger The Challenger as we know it today had a late entry into the muscle car market, and the name is all too appropriate; many consider it to be the answer the Ford Mustang (1965) and the Camaro (1966). The 1970 Dodge Challenger was only made available in 1969 and it had a lot of catching up to do when it came to pony cars. With a Hemi V8 engine and its distinguishing oversized engine bay, this car not only caught up, it also made elbow room at the head of the pack. The first generation quickly went on to star in Vanishing Point, potentially the ultimate muscle car movie, and today it’s a collectible that can be sold in the six figures. The next generation, from 1978-1983, is sometimes called “The Japanese Challenger,” as Chrysler had been bought out by Mitsubishi by this point. Branded overseas as the Mitsubishi Sapporo, it was also nearly the same vehicle as the Plymouth Sapporo. While the Plymouth emphasized luxury, the Dodge was on the sportier side, though it still impressed with a dazzling array of electronics and luxury. However, it largely disappeared after 1983 and few of them remain today. The Challenger that existed from 1978-1983 was a far cry from its powerful origins, but the car was a product of the 1970s energy crisis, when Americans faced fuel shortages due to an OPEC embargo. It’s difficult to emphasize just how big an impact the energy crisis had on the American psyche; after decades of growth and increased consumption, driving powerful, petrol-guzzling cars, they were lining up at petrol stations that often ran empty. Still, the ’78 Challenger had a lot of verve, and Mitsubishi introduced the “Silent Shaft” system to reduce rattling. Dodge Challenger Finally, in 2008, the Dodge Challenger returned with its present generation, with a body that echoed the original. The new generation has even more power than the 1970s legend, but unlike its ancestor, it’s far more responsive to turns and stops. The real transformation in the Challenger’s power was announced in 2014: the Hellcat V8 engine, reinvigorating the whole Dodge brand. The Hellcat V8, with 707 horsepower, was developed in secret, and now it’s made the Challenger the fastest muscle car around. While the 1970 legend is a collectible and the 1978 Challenger is all but lost to time, you can find a used Dodge Challenger from the present generation without much difficulty and at a reasonable price online. Owning a Dodge Challenger isn’t just owning a powerful, agile muscle car, it’s owning a piece of automotive history and an American legend.