Summer of ’69

3 years ago Heritage

In 1969, life was moving fast and the cars were moving faster, the Beatles were out and Zeppelin was in, the swingin’ sixties were transforming into the sensational seventies, and only one thing was clear: times truly were “a-changing”. It was a big year for many: Bryan Adams got his first real six-string, man explored the moon and Mopar® provoked a muscle car revolution. As we live out the 50th anniversary of the model year, I can’t help but look back upon 1969 and notice the enormous impact the year had on the Dodge Brand’s identity.

a dodge advertisementI can’t imagine it was easy being a Chrysler exec back then, it took real attitude to shake up the norms that other automotive manufacturers were content with perpetuating. ’69 unveiled an all-new attitude for Chrysler, one centered around bright colors, bold styles and outrageous options. Debuting their iconic “High Impact” color series with shades like Go-Mango, HEMI® Orange, Rallye Green and Bahama Yellow, Chrysler single-handedly incited a rebellion against the tame tans, boring browns and baby-poo green that previously besmirched the streets. Alongside their colorful new shades, ’69 brought out-of-the-box options like the A12 lift-off hood, six-pack carburetor systems and, yes, even the funky flowered Mod-Top option!

a dodge advertisementWilder than the features they were adorned with were the cars themselves. 1969 outlined a flashy fresh image for every model and cultivated iconic nameplates such as the Super Bee and the Roadrunner. While on the surface these cars were simply mid-grade Coronets and Satellites, they came equipped with all the go-fast goodies, nifty features and hip attitude of the new decade, but with an affordable price tag of the past. Cartoon mascots and bold colors grabbed consumer attention while impressive power and refined styling brought brand distinction. Mopar’s image was taking shape and the world was taking notice, bringing home MotorTrend’s Car of the Year® with Plymouth’s Roadrunner was just one of many accolades Chrysler Co. received in 1969.

a 1969 barracuda advertisementDespite the popularity of Dodge and Plymouth’s new models, 1969 produced its fair share of flops as well. In order to compete in NASCAR, it was required that all racecars be built into stock production vehicles available to the general public. Dodge started off the year by producing 392 models of their race-inspired Charger 500. Key differences to the 500 model included a stark front end and a flush rear window, both features designed to improve the vehicle’s aero-dynamic advantage. While the redesigned 500 model achieved a top speed of 6 mph more than the stock ’69 Charger, it wasn’t enough to bring home the trophies. That’s when Dodge got serious about winning, they went wild designing something so exaggerated, so extravagant, so down right extra it must have shocked the competition. I can’t even imagine the outraged reactions of Ford’s racers when they first saw this thing.

a dodge advertisement The pointed nose cone, huge fender scoops, “What is that wing-thing”! Snide comments and snickering were soon laid to rest as over twenty of these Daytona Chargers zoomed past to their lead in the racing circuit. The winged warrior may not have sold great at dealerships but plenty were produced to qualify in NASCAR racing. With Dodge’s star driver Bobby Isaacs sneaking in 17 victories, there was no doubt the Daytona Charger was a huge success. Aside from dominating in the remaining NASCAR season, the Daytona Charger set multiple records; the most significant being it becoming the first car to ever reach 200 mph in a closed course.

daytona chargerBoth on the street and on the track, Chrysler used the 1969 model year to prove they were getting serious about performance. With big blocks roaring, high impact paint colors popping and fun-spirited features bursting onto the scene; there is no doubt 1969 was a revolutionary year for Mopar. As Chrysler used the year to shape their brand’s image, their influence also defined the history of the era and the muscle car hobby as well. Other manufacturers had to work tirelessly to compete with Chrysler’s record-setting racecars, outrageous options and audacious attitude; I can’t imagine a world where the muscle car era could have even existed without the contributions Chrysler made in 1969. What a time to be alive: Don Garlits’ Swamprat #13 tore up the local dragways, Daytona Chargers flew down the track, brightly colored Super Bees and Roadrunners flooded the streets; it had to have been a hell of a summer, the summer  of ’69.

a plymouth advertisement




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