50 Years and 0 Signs of Growing Up

Embarking on the 50th anniversary of 1970, I find myself reflecting on the last five decades of Dodge and how the brand has grown from that peak year of the original horsepower movement and into the second coming of muscle cars. As Detroit’s underdog, Dodge has faced a unique set of challenges, leaving them on the constant cusp of collapse for much of those last 50 years. Despite market projections, industry speculation and repeated rumors of failure, the brand has managed to persevere through decades on death’s door to become regarded as the American muscle car manufacturer. On this 50th anniversary year, we compare the company’s standing in 1970 and see how, 50 years later, Dodge has become the car community’s ultimate comeback kid.

1970

Dodge Challenger

With the boldest blends of bright colors gleaming, the fiercest of muscle machines flexing and the rowdiest of big blocks roaring, 1970 is highly regarded in history as the pinnacle of the original muscle car era. For just this sliver in time, even your average American was tempted to toe the line of immaturity in exchange for the sheer thrill of driving a badass muscle car. In 1970, Dodge catered to this horsepower-hungry market by upping the ante with outrageous new colors like Panther Pink and Plum Crazy, sleek new E-body models, and over-the-top engine options featuring multi-carb fuel systems.

Dodge Challenger

Despite American society’s apparent thirst for these exhilarating automobiles, dawn was approaching and extinction was near. Chrysler put forth a strong fight, remaining the final stronghold for domestic performance but spiking insurance premiums, climbing gas prices and heavy government regulation would soon squeeze the final breath of life out of the muscle car market. The following model year, 1971, would be recognized as the end of the automotive industry’s greatest era and the final year for true muscle cars after the sudden elimination of Six Packs, HEMI® engines and most of the High Impact Paints. The inspiration associated with an enjoyable driving experience had been traded off for superior fuel economy, compliance with safety regulations and prudent practicality. The muscle car market was dead with a “do not resuscitate” signed and stamped by the U.S. government, so how in the hell did we wind up here?

2020

Dodge Challenger

50 years later and the beastly Dodge Charger and Challenger have returned with a vengeance. Available with over 700 horsepower, 14 different colors and heritage-inspired options, these modern Mopar® muscle cars make their 50-year-old grandfathers look lethargic in comparison. Yet, as we enter the new decade, there is an almost eerie similarity between the Dodge Brand of 1970 and the Dodge Brand of today: HEMI engines, daring designs and that iconic rebel attitude.

Dodge Magnum

It would seem that even after the passing of half a century, not much has changed, but the reality is it took much of those 50 years to get Detroit’s underdog back to the revered muscle car manufacturer they are today. With decades worth of baby steps, Dodge crept back up onto the muscle car scene with the reintroduction of a platform that many would consider to be the polar opposite of cool: the station wagon.

In 2005, Dodge broke a nearly 20-year stint of producing FWD econoboxes with the introduction of the first V8 passenger car ever seen since the days of the Diplomat with the new Dodge Magnum. You may not agree with the idea that grandpa’s grocery-getter could be what ignited Dodge’s comeback to the muscle car market, but let’s take a look at the facts. It was the first Dodge car available with a HEMI V8 since the ’70s, it used the original LX chassis and it set the stage for the reintroduction of Charger and Challenger models. Gearheads across the globe went wild for the rebirth of real Mopar muscle cars, leading Dodge to escalate their options from there.

Dodge Challenger

Fat grippy tires, 707 HP SRT® Hellcat engines, bright colors and drool-worthy design soon lead the Dodge lineup to this point in 2020. Exactly 50 years after the previous pinnacle in the original muscle era, we see the brand is finally back where they left off, but this time they’re far from peaked. After 50 years, the Dodge brand has learned the importance of their roots, the value in dedicated muscle-crazed customers, and that really there is no fun in growing up. So stay youthful, stay wild and stay tuned for more on our 50 year anniversary here on Dodge Garage.

Dodge Challenger

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