Half-Century of Muscle: Dodge Challenger Is Still Kicking Hard After 50 Years

Dodge Challenger turns 50 15 photos
Photo: Dodge
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If you are a car enthusiast, then most likely you have an inexplicable passion for muscle cars. So hats off to Dodge for their unapologetic growl and the satisfaction they’ve given to this cult over the years.
This type of cars appear to have everything under control, and probably they will never get into a situation where they fall out of grace completely. Even in this SUV and emissions dominated world, people are still willing to buy muscle cars, and who can blame them, it’s the dream most of us had since childhood. Sure, there was a Countach and a Testarossa on the bedroom wall, but between the Italian pieces of art you could always spot a Dodge Challenger.

Having said that, it’s no accident that the world made a big fuss around the Dodge Challenger when it came back with its third generation in 2008. Since it has been relaunched, we’ve been spoiled with a wide range of model variations, with SXT, GT, R/T, SRT Hellcat or SRT Hellcat Redeye to name a few.

2020 Dodge Challenger
Photo: Dodge
2019 marks 50 years since the appearance of the first model, and Dodge decided to celebrate that with a special $5,000 to $6,000 package that will feature a Shaker hood on the V8s (the first one to come with a scoop in-body color), Gold Rush alloy wheels with different designs for each model in the lineup, and massive Brembo brakes with a new gun-metal finish.

There will be some different stuff inside the cabin as well, with a sepia stitching on the dashboard and yellow gauge clusters, real bits of carbon fiber and plenty of “50” logos here and there.

But enough about that. We’ve taken this opportunity to reminisce about some cool and weird stories that the Challenger produced during the years.

Good old 1970s

First, let’s take a trip down memory lane. As far as 1970s, when one could possibly walk into a Dodge dealership and place a special order for a Challenger with The Elephant: the 7.0-liter liter, 426 cubic inch, 425 horsepower HEMI V8 engine. The car costed around $6,000, as much as the 50 year anniversary option does now, of course, without adjusting the inflation. Looks like we’ve come a long way.

The car was a star in the famous movie Vanishing Point, and while the film got some pretty mixed reviews - some might call them even harsh - there were no bad feelings directed towards the superb Dodge Challenger that Kowalski drove. Somehow, because of the intense chases and because they actually had to do everything with the cars themselves - no CGI back then – none of the cars survived. None.

That was not a major concern, as the bright idea to use the 70s’ Challengers came directly from the 20th Century Fox studio executive at the time, Richard Zanuck. Knowing that Chrysler had a practice of regularly renting the movie studio with all sorts of cars for just $1 a day, it was definitely not a big price to pay in order to throw a Challenger around.

First Generation Dodge Challenger \- All Black
Though very well received by the public, the first generation of Challengers did not make the number of sales Dodge hoped for, matter-of-fact the early models are now among the most collectible automobiles from that era.

Moving forward, in 1978 Dodge decided to give it another go and revive the model. However, and there’s a big however here, they agreed to outsource manufacturing to no other than Mitsubishi Motors. Personally, I have a bitter taste in my mouth every time I say that sentence, and it’s not because the Japanese based brand doesn’t know what it's doing, as they’ve created a lot of good cars among the years, but merely the combination between them that managed to create a compact luxury coupe when everybody expected a muscle car.

First Generation Dodge Challenger \- All Black
Photo: matt2335 /
After a short spell, Dodge realized in 1983 that it has too many sport compacts on the line, as if there is such a thing, hence the Challenger was discontinued. The name remained silent until it appeared again at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a concept in 2006.

The car returned in 2008 and it came with a punch. It still follows the design from the 2006 concept to this day, with a few adjustments here and there, but most importantly it’s that its muscle again. So muscle in fact that is the only production car to lift its front tires from the ground when it accelerates.
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