Dodge Challenger muscle cars,
A Brief History of Muscle Cars, The Dodge Challenger
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Mention the words “Dodge Challenger” to any car enthusiast and they will likely wax nostalgic about the powerful Chrysler-built muscle cars of the late 1960s. Or, equally likely 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 blank stares. Chrysler records say that just 352 Silver Challengers built in just the last few years (both the 6-cylinder and the V-8 versions) before the redesigned 1960 Dodges went into production in late August.

This is because few know that the first Dodge Challenger was merely a special Dodge Coronet all dolled up to sell some cars during the summer of 1959. Want to know more?

A Short History of the Challenger

The first-generation Challengers, made between 1970 and 1974, were “pony cars” made by Chrysler Corporation. Based on modifiedBarracuda chassis, these vehicles were considered quite good looking and available with real muscle engines.  For V8s, for example, 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 a grand entrance.

Fast forward to 2011 when the Dodge Challenger name was pulled off the shelf and once again applied to Chrysler high-performance cars. These seventh-generation Challengers borrowed styling cues from the classic second-generation models and they boasted outlandishly powerful engines. In particular, the automotive world was shaken good when Challenger SRT Hellcat was released in 2015. Powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 that cranked out 707 horsepower, the Hellcat was the fastest sedan you could buy.

The Silver Challenger

The raw-horsepower Challengers of the first and seventh generations stand in quite some contrast to the very first Challenger. This is because the first Challenger was nothing special in terms of muscle cars. In fact, it wasn’t a muscle car or even close.

Dodge Silver Challenger 1959 muscle cars,

The Dodge 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 metallic silver paint. As we mentioned above, this car was not representative of a new direction for Chrysler Corporation. 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.

No Muscle Car Engines

There were but two engine choices for the Silver Challenger. The 135HP “Get-Away” 6-cylinder or 255 HP “Red-Ram” V-8 engine. Both engines used regular grade gasoline which was unusual for the high compression engines of the day. Transmission choices included a three-speed manual with column shift or a two-speed Powerflite automatic ($189.)

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

Low Sales Numbers

Even though it was an attractive car, sales of the Silver Challenger were disappointing. We asked Cuero Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram of Cuero, TX, if they could find out how many Silver Challengers were sold and they didn’t disappoint.


So, what we have here is an example of a brand name that came on quietly and later was transformed into a roaring success. It did have a few firsts notched on the bedpost though. Up until that time, it was the lightest body style Chrysler ever offered with a V8 in it and it offered the first Metallic Silver painted car for any Detroit Car Maker.

Dodge Challenger muscle cars,
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