For many enthusiasts, the Dodge Challenger story begins in 1970. But years earlier, the Challenger name was used on a totally different product from the Dodge division. Here’s the obscure tale of the Dodge Silver Challenger.
The Challenger name has a long and varied history with the Chrysler Corporation. In its most familiar appearance, the Challenger emblem was used on Dodge’s glamorous E-body pony car manufactured from 1970 through 1974. A few years later, the nameplate was recycled for a badge-engineered version of the Japanese-built Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe marketed by Dodge dealers from 1978 through 1983. And these days, of course, a sporty Dodge performance coupe (2008-on) bears the Challenger name, most notoriously in the 707 hp Hellcat version introduced in 2015.
But years before the 1970-1974 Challenger cemented the name with the car-buying public, the Challenger label was used, albeit briefly, on a special promotional model of the Dodge Coronet. Introduced on May 1, 1959 to spice up the summer sales season, the Silver Challenger was offered only as a two-door Club Sedan, and as the name suggests, only in metallic silver paint.
The promotional package also included black carpeting, silver vinyl and black Manchu (brocade) interior fabrics, whitewall tires, and full wheel covers. Like many summer promotions, the Silver Challenger included a number of normally extra-cost options at a low list price: $2,530.50, only a few bucks more than the stripped-down base Coronet at $2,466.
So this Challenger was offered as a price leader, not a performance model. There were but two engine choices: the venerable 230 CID flathead six with 135 hp, and a 326 CID Red Ram V8 with 255 hp. Transmission choices included a three-speed manual with column shift and a two-speed Powerflite automatic for $189 more. Popular extra-cost add-ons included a push-button AM radio for $86.50 and an outside rearview mirror for $6.45. So no, the Silver Challenger was certainly nothing sensational, especially when compared to the latest supercharged Challenger Hellcat of 2016, but it did offer the consumers of 1959 a little extra bang for the buck.