All I Want for Christmas is a Dodge Challenger R/T
Like most car people, I don't have a specific car that's my favorite but instead have a favorite genre of cars. Try having that conversation with someone who wants a specific answer and doesn't want a twenty minute soliloquy on the state of the automobile.
However, most times, my favorite genre, "muscle cars", doesn't do for someone who wants a specific answer. So, I have the usual suspects. '57 Chevy. '69 Camaro. '67 Mustang fastback. Ferrari 458. See? I can go Euro with the best of them.
Sometimes, though, if I feel the person is really interested in what I have to say, I will give them as close to an honest answer as I can and tell them, "I'm a big fan of the original Chrysler "E-bodies". For those playing along at home that would be the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger not the extended K-car platform from the '80s that was also christened, "E". The Challenger, in particular, the appleest apple of my eye.
I've loved the Dodge Challenger since I first saw one in the original, (yes, there was a remake) "Vanishing Point". Vanishing Point was a meandering tale of amphetamine dependent "Kowalski", a Vietnam Veteran who's also a dishonorably discharged police officer. To make ends meet, he's been contracted to transport a "supercharged" Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco. Oh, and he gets into plenty of trouble along the way. But of course.
To make Vanishing Point even more interesting, during his journey, Kowalski is kept company by "DJ Super Duper Soul" on "KAY-OH-DOUBLE-Ya". Kowalski either has an appreciation for the wham-bam, wake up music that Super Soul is serving up on the ones and twos or its the only station the Chrysler Solid State AM radio can get in clearly.
Either way, Super Soul, along with the Challenger, are the highlights of the film. In case you were wondering, Mr. Little went onto great fame as Sheriff Bart.
The film features breath taking cinematography of the wild, wild west and shots of the "supercharged" Challenger being driven to an inch of its life. Incidentally, Chrysler didn't offer a factory supercharger on the Challenger. It's plausible, though, that the car could have had an after market blower installed. Let's leave that creative bit of screen play to poetic licence.
I saw this movie with my mother when it came out in 1971 and I loved it. It is, however, a "mature audiences" film although it is rated, "GP". Brimming with sex, drugs, sex, violence, sex, drugs and violence, I wonder what my mother was thinking when she took her 7 year old to the Baldwin Century that Saturday matinee forty plus years ago. I'll give Crazy Betty a hall pass and leave it at that she believed she was treating me to a "car movie". Thanks, mom. I have no doubt that Vanishing Point helped cement my life long appreciation of cars and in particular, the E body Dodge Challenger.
One day, perhaps, I will splurge and drop nearly 40 grand on a new Challenger. It would be cheaper than buying Kowalski's. A new Hemi Challenger is on my bucket list and one of the few cars I'd buy if I won the lottery. Until then, I'll keep dreaming, imagine what it must have been like to be Kowalski and make believe as I do each day that I'm "DJ Super Duper Soul".
Five "Alpine White", 1970 Dodge Challengers were used to make Vanishing Point. Four were equipped with 440 engines and four speed manual transmissions. A fifth, was a 383 car with an automatic. Barry Newman, who played Kowalski, remembers that the 440 cars were so powerful that, "it was almost as if there was too much power for the body. You'd put it in first and it would almost rear back!"
Today's Dodge Challenger shares many design cues with Kowalski's Challenger. Kowalski's rode on a special version of Chrysler's midsize chassis (E-body) while today' Challenger uses the Chrysler's "LX" chassis, a rear wheel drive version of the LH chassis. The LX is also used on the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans. Many suspension components are "borrowed" from the Mercedes Benz S and E classes.
pictures and words by Charles Connolly
Screen captures from "Vision Quest" movie trailer youtube.com.