April 28, 2010
The CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: 1977 Dodge Charger Daytona, 1978 – 79 Dodge Magnum and 1979 Chrysler 300
By Jim Brennan
Welcome to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, where I research unusual cars of the past which might fall under the Muscle Car banner, and then try to convince you that they belong in the Parking Lot. In this edition, we have a trifecta of Chrysler-produced two doors. Remember, this was a time in which Chrysler was trying to sell anything to generate cash flow, and the best way to sell a “new” vehicle is to introduce special editions, or new names on existing bodies. Which brings me to these three offerings from the late 70′s. They were all produced from the Chrysler Cordoba: let’s discover the Dodge Charger Daytona, the Dodge Magnum, and the Chrysler 300 from the late 70′s.
Beginning in 1975, the Dodge Charger was based on the Chrysler Cordoba. In 1976 the model range was expanded to four models: base, Charger Sport, Charger SE and the Charger Daytona. The Charger Daytona was introduced in hopes or rekindling the performance fire, but it amounted to little more than a tape stripe package. It did offer either the 360 small block or the 400 big block. Sales did go up slightly to 65,900 in 1976 but would quickly plummet after that mainly due to the fact the base and Sport models were one-year-only offerings that did not return for 1977.
The Dodge Magnum model was introduced in 1978 and produced for only two years. It was sold in the United States and in Canada as a rebadged Chrysler Cordoba with a unique front clip. It was a replacement for the Charger SE in Dodge’s lineup and available in two bodystyles, the ‘XE’ and the ‘GT’. One of the driving forces for producing this car was NASCAR. The Magnum was more aerodynamic than the Charger. The road-going versions featured four rectangular headlights, opera windows, and an optional T-Bar or power sunroof. Power steering, brakes and seats were offered as standard equipment. Mounted under the hood was a 318 cubic-inch V8 engine. Optional engines were available, including the two and four-barrel carbureted 360 and 400 V8s. The 400 was offered for only a single year, being dropped from the option list in 1979 as Chrysler ceased production of the big-block V8s at the close of 1978.
The GT version was packed with performance, powered by the E85 police interceptor engine. The suspension was improved, a special axle adapted, and ‘GT’ badging placed throughout the vehicle. The technology of these vehicles was advanced for its era. It had an onboard spark control computer, electronic ignition, and a lockup torque converter. The Magnum name persisted for only a short time, being replaced by the Mirada. The Mirada was a smaller car that had also been a rebadge of the Chrysler Cordoba. The name ‘Magnum’ would lay dormant for many years, making a re-appearance in 2005 as part of Dodge’s full-size vehicle in their model lineup.
The 1979 Chrysler 300 Cordoba Special Edition was a one-year-only special that Chrysler marketed during some of the company’s worst financial times. The Cordoba had been out since 1975 and was a big success for the company, selling nearly 150,000 per year. It was similar to the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix that General Motors sold in those times of the ‘personal luxury car’. Big, heavy, V-8 cars with a nice ride and an appetite for gasoline.
The 300 was put together with all the high performance parts that Chrysler had in their parts bins for the police cars. It had heavy duty suspension and the largest performance engine at the time: a 360 cubic inch, high performance 4-barrel carbed affair from the famed Little Red Express truck and the police cars. Even the transmission was heavy-duty, so it shifted a little harder and you could hold your foot on the gas pedal longer in each gear.
There were 300 badges and decals all over the car, including the inside red interior with a fancy metal-turned look instrument cluster featuring a tachometer along with all the other instruments. All the cars got the red leather interior with a console mounted shifter.
The question is this, are these “Cordobas” with extra trim, or true Obscure Muscle Cars? Those powered by the 400 could be, and even the ones with the 360 police engine could marginally be considered muscle cars. Remember, you could easily tweak either of these engines for more power, and you’d have a hell of a sleeper. However, now is the time to have your say: do these cars belong in the Parking Lot?
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