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Media post: The First Challenger

Mention the words “Dodge Challenger” to any car enthusiast and they will likely gush about the awesome Dodge Hellcat Challengers built in just the last few years. Ask them when the first Challenger appeared, however, and you will probably get a blank stare.  This is because its not common knowledge that the first Challenger was merely a Dodge Coronet with a fancy paint job. Well, maybe a little more than that, but we got the story from our friends at Rouen Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram of Woodville, OH.

The Challenger in the 1960s

The first-generation Challengers were “pony cars” made by Chrysler Corporation. Made between 1970 and 1974, these cars were based on modified Barracuda chassis. For engines, buyers could choose between a 335HP 383, a 375HP 440, a 390HP 440 and the big guy in town, the 425HP 426 Hemi. It’s true that Chrysler joined the pony car party a bit late (1970), but when they finally got there, they made quite an entrance. The party lasted about half a decade (until 1975) and then Chrysler pulled the plug.

The Challenger in the 2010s

Fast forward to 2011 when the Challenger name resurrected and once again applied to Chrysler cars. These seventh-generation Challengers borrowed styling cues from the classic second-generation models and they boasted outlandishly powerful engines. In particular, the SRT Hellcat. Released in 2015, this sedan was powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 that cranked out 707 horsepower.

The Silver Challenger

The Challenger name was first used on a promotional model of the Dodge Coronet.  Introduced on May 1, 1959, it was called the Silver Challenger and was offered only as a two-door Club Sedan, and as the name suggests, only in a new silver paint. It was simply a special Coronet spruced up to move some product during the slow summer months.

Even so, the Silver Challenger was a good-looking automobile. It featured a distinctive all silver metallic “Lustre-Bond” paint -a high-baked enamel that could go two or three years before waxing. The 1959 summer promotional package also included black carpeting, silver vinyl and black brocade interior fabrics, whitewall tires, and full wheel covers.

There were two engine choices for the Silver Challenger. The 135HP 6-cylinder or 255 HP V-8 engine. Transmission choices included a three-speed manual with column shift or a two-speed Powerflite automatic.

Optional accessories that provide added driver comfort, convenience and control features, including swing-out swivel seats. Suggested prices at the factory were $2,530.50 for the 6-banger and $2,650.00 for the V-8.

Just 352 Made

Even though it was an attractive car, sales of the Silver Challenger were low. Chrysler records say that just 352 Silver Challengers built before the redesigned 1960 Dodges went into production in late August.


So, this case study is an interesting one. It represents the evolution of a car brand, an evolution that is not uncommon in the automotive world.

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