When you think of vintage Dodge Challenger, this is not what comes to mind. Gas was hitting a buck a gallon. People wanted economy and were finding it in imports from Japan and Germany. Chrysler was right on track when they brought us this re-badged Mitsubishi. Sticking the Challenger badge on the little import was probably not one of their brighter ideas.
It Wasn’t All Bad
They did manage to get a few things right. It was a rear wheel drive, and was available with a 5 speed manual transmission. Lifting the hood was the big letdown. That standard 4 banger had a whopping 77 horsepower and a theoretical top speed of 97 mph. They did offer a bigger 2.6 4-banger that brought the horsepower up to 115. It even propelled the car to speeds over 100 mph.
In Chrysler’s defense, they were being hit from all sides. We had gas shortages and rapidly increasing fuel prices in the 70s. The public was demanding better economy. The government was also cracking down with tougher CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) ratings and tougher emissions regulations. Oh, and the unleaded fuel was really creating havoc. The little Challenger was getting well over 40 mpg.This little Dodge Challenger was getting over 40 mpg. Click To Tweet
But Why Call It Dodge Challenger?
I really don’t have a beef with the car. But why call it a Challenger? Chevy brought us the Vega, and Ford brought us the Pinto. Even Plymouth had the smarts to call their version of this a Sapparo. Imagine what would have happened if they called it a Barracuda. Even Mercury was smart enough to not call their little import a Cougar in the 70’s. They called it the Capri.
On the other hand, Chevy stuck the Nova name on a Toyota. Ford produced a King Cobra with 4 lug wheels and a V8 nearly as wimpy as this 4-banger. And don’t forget about that Dodge Charger. At least they made a performance version of that one. I wonder what Carl Shelby could have done with this Challenger?
Don and I talk about the Dodge Challenger in Episode 168 of the trucking podcast. You’ll have to listen more.Share This: