When too much is just enough

  • The original Challenger
  • The original Challenger
  • Challenger 2010
  • Challenger 2010
Date:14 February 2010 Author: Anthony Doman Tags:, , , , ,

While watching for what seemed like the 43rd time the other night, between mouthfuls of popcorn I wondered if any movie had beaten its record for most cars trashed. Google is your friend, so moments later I’d found the answer: the sequel, .

According to usually reliable sources, during the making of the original (don’t bother with the sequel) filmmakers used 13 versions of the Bluesmobile, the retired police car driven by the brothers. They bought 60 police chase cars, according to Wikipedia; during filming these were all panelbeaten back into shape until they could no longer be straightened out.

From jumping a drawbridge to outdragging, outcornering and outmuscling a phalanx of pursuers – most of them Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers, the odd Winnebago and a couple of station wagons filled with Nazis – the Brothers’ increasingly battered 1974 Dodge Monaco managed to stay ahead until, at its final stop, it fell apart. (Their factory-modified squad car was said to have a 6,5-litre V8 engine and uprated running gear. The modern equivalent features a 5,7-litre Hemi V8 with 274 kW/535 N.m, and new tech being introduced ranges from a GPS cannon that fires tracking darts to earth-shaking sirens with huge woofer speakers, and licence-plate cameras: see Popular Mechanics September 2009.)

What kick-started this train of thought afresh was a news release that rumbled into my inbox today. It was about another Dodge altogether, but certainly a more storied Dodge than the Monaco: let’s hear it, please, for the Dodge Challenger on the occasion of its 40th birthday.

Launched in 1970 on the same platform as the Plymouth (read Valiant) Barracuda, the Challenger was a bid to join the “pony car” wars by taking on the Ford Mustang/Chev Camaro/Pontiac Firebird with additional luxury. After a fuel-efficient but largely forgettable second-generation Challenger that was actually a Mitsubishi in drag, the nameplate went into mothballs for nearly two decades. Finally, in 2006, Chrysler responded to entreaties for a follow-up with a car that’s deliciously retro and packs a wallop (317 kW in the SRT8 version – same as the original Hemi – which is good for 0-100 in 5 seconds and a top speed of 273). Our American Muscle group test in our July 2009 issue pits it against current heavyweights such as the Camaro, Mustang and Pontiac G8 GXP.

And while we’re talking movies, the generation-1 Challenger’s crowning moment was a starring role alongside a drug-fuelled Barry Newman in that cult classic Vanishing Point, at least until it turned into a fireball at a police roadblock. The car was a hit on TV, too: it’s not every performance car that can cram in not only Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton (later Mrs Quincy Jones), but also Clarence Williams III’s capacious ‘fro, in .

In 2010, there are plenty of good arguments in favour of green lifestyles and political correctness. Fortunately, the Dodge Challenger isn’t one of them.

Video: White 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 – Return to Vanishing Point

Find out more at www.dodgechallenger40th.com/challenger-release.php