Our Rare Ride today is an excellent condition example of an easily forgotten Malaise coupe from Chrysler Corp.
It is, of course, the second-generation Dodge Challenger, from 1980.
After a successful first run for model years 1970 through 1974, the big, muscle Challenger nameplate took a little hiatus. Flash forward to 1978, and Chrysler was ready to reintroduce an all-new (and very different) Challenger. This time it was leaner, greener, and Malaise-ready.
The general world climate at the time put a damper on the thirsty, large muscle cars of a few years prior. Though it was well before the DSM era, Chrysler and Mitsubishi had a strong existing relationship. The Pentastar people smelled opportunity in the air, and set their sights on the rear-drive Galant coupe.
A quick badge job later, and the captive import Dodge Challenger was ready for showrooms. Over at Plymouth, the Challenger’s brother was known as Sapporo — a name Mitsubishi used for the Galant in some markets.
In addition to the shrunken body, the Challenger lost its V8 for this generation. On offer were a couple of inline-four engines, in either 1.6- or 2.6-liter displacements. That limited power reached the road through a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic.
Though down on power and general American-ness, the Challenger was still able to stand out amongst its Malaise competitors. Its 2.6 engine made decent power (in historical context), and was praised for its smoothness. Mitsubishi engineers had pioneered and implemented new balance shafts to reduce NVH levels. And it worked.
Challenger and Sapporo would carry on with minor facelifts through the 1983 model year. At that time the Sapporo name vanished, and Challenger returned to its slumber until 2008.
Today’s Challenger is a 36,000-mile example living out its days in West Virginia. An original owner wanted his coupe to lean more towards brougham luxury than sport, so there’s a snazzy plaid interior and an automatic transmission.
This one’s probably as original as they get these days, with warning wrapper still intact on the sun visor. The seller indicates 100 percent originality, but keen observers will note paint match issues on the passenger door.
In any event, the seller is entertaining offers for his prized ride. So $18,990 or whatever ought to do it.