The Dodge Challenger is currently one of the few classic muscle cars left, with its massive body and huge amounts of power from five different powerplants. Everything about it evokes the idea of conquering mass with more power, like the F-4 Phantom II fighter jet from the 1960s. Similar to that jet and to the muscle cars of lore, the Challenger wasn’t designed to be spry and nimble — it was meant to be absurdly quick in a straight line.
This is all a huge callback to the first-generation Dodge Challenger, of course, which was considered one of the greatest pieces of American muscle ever created. People have been shelling out insane amounts of money for first-generation Challengers at auctions for several years now, with some examples even surpassing $1,000,000. But the 1970s saw the tightening of crash regulations, the move away from leaded fuel and the 1973 OPEC oil crisis, which effectively killed the type. The final nail in the coffin was the establishment in 1978 of the CAFE standards, which required manufacturers to meet a standard of fuel economy.
By 1975, most muscle cars had evaporated from the market. The first-generation Challenger got the ax in 1974, seemingly for good. There just didn’t seem to be a place for the muscle car in America after that.
However, Dodge brought it back in 1978, but in a completely different and now mostly forgotten form. No longer was the Challenger name applied to a V8-powered hunk of iron, but instead to a captive import Mitsubishi Galant Lambda, known originally as the Dodge Colt Challenger before becoming just the Dodge Challenger after 1981.
Built in Japan by Mitsubishi, the second-generation Challenger was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive subcompact. It came with a choice of two inline-4 engines: a 1.6-liter variant with 77 horsepower, or a 2.6-liter variant branded as a Hemi with a whopping 105 hp. Instead of being powered by one of the largest engines available in a car, the second-generation Challenger was actually notable for having one of the smallest ever seen at the time.
Ultimately, this forgotten generation of the Challenger came to an end with the launch of its replacement from Mitsubishi and Chrysler’s new partnership. While it might be a part of history that most Mopar fans would probably choose to forget, it led directly to the Mitsubishi Starion sports car, which became a legend in the 1980s alongside the Toyota Supra, the Mazda RX-7 and Nissan Z cars.
At any rate, Dodge is back in the muscle car game again, and there are plenty to choose from. Find a Challenger on Autotrader here. Just remember to take the splitter guards off before you drive it. Find a Dodge Challenger for sale
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