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The Carchive: The Dodge Magnum

Chris Haining February 25, 2013 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 21 Comments


Welcome to another instalment of what is officially Linday Lohan’s favourite thing to read in the bath. It’s R.A-S.H.

Two of the brochures I dredged out of the archive last week were met with only a lukewarm reception; but at least I’ve established a datum point in terms of where the interest boundaries lie. I’m pleased I didn’t try to post about my 1995 Chevy Cavalier brochure; a document (and car) so tedious I could barely think of anything to write whatsoever. The corresponding slump in Hooniverse page-views could well have made it the last thing ever posted here by me or anybody else.

So: I will never, ever post the ’95 Cavalier brochure. Unless I’m feeling especially mischievous. Today, though, B-Body MAGNUM!


I’m not going to lie to you: Yes, that’s my stove, and Yes, I’m making coffee.

This is a car that I have always nursed a trouser-firmness for, despite having seen precisely zero of them on UK roads.

The Magnum was a fascinating machine from day one and its motorsport-inspired inception. It was basically a more streamlined cosmetic reskin of the square-rigged Charger, something MOPAR were forced to do in order to have the basis of a vehicle that might stand half a chance in NASCAR. They were no longer allowed to use the naturally aerodynamic but discontinued ’74 Charger and the ’75 that replaced it had the same aerodynamic characteristics as the Sears Tower. So they chamfered the edges of the Charger, blessed it with semi-concealed headlamps and a long list of standard-fit benefits, and the Magnum XE was born.

“Magnum XE…The totally personal approach to driving excitement”.

The big double spread at the opening of the brochure allows us to drink in the styling features of the Magnum, and makes a stark comparison against the similar-era Thunderbird featured a few weeks back. The Dodge Boys did some solid work here, skilfully disguising the fact that the grille itself was still as bluff and vertical an edifice as ever, and those retractable acrylic screens for the headlamps were a masterstroke. Also noticeable are the pronounced castellations at the fender edges; you can follow this line back to the end of the door where it abruptly, but neatly, flicks up to the window line. It’s an impressive looking machine and no mistake.



“Somebody thought a long, hard time about this new Dodge.”

Interestingly, the brochure makes absolutely no reference to NASCAR anywhere within this publication, possibly hedging their bets until they knew how successful it would be with Petty behind the wheel. In answer; not terribly.

Instead they went full tilt at promoting the “Personal Luxury” attributes of the new car.

“… the car that makes everything happen the way you want it to happen. Your own private island.”

Weird stuff. Within this exclusive blacktop-bound land mass you sat on “smart, new thin-back low profile bucket seats” in “soft, tailored vinyl” with colour-coordinated door panels and shag carpet. I’ll take mine in G-String Red, please.


“Introducing Magnum Gran Touring… A personal car turns into a personality car”

If you ponied up for the Gran Touring package you would be sitting behind “new engine-turned instrument panel appliques”. Your Magnum XE would have become a Magnum GT and would wear a set of flares on each of the wheel apertures, together with white-lettered tyres on Magnum road wheels. There would also be heavy-duty shocks underpinning it all.

As ever, the list of optional equipment was mind boggling, running beyond a choice of cast aluminium wheels, CB radios and a proto-space age electronic search tune AM/FM stereo radio; albeit one with no capacity to deal with tapes of any description. What does seem odd, though, is Dodge’s decision to put the tachometer only on the options list. I mean, I know that pushrod V8s in the late seventies were big lazy buggers, and most Crown Vics didn’t have a Tacho right to the end, but, man, this was Richard Petty’s car.


Still, at least you could have T-Tops. My order would be for an XE in Charcoal Grey with Red vinyl buckets, the 400, T-Tops and the incredibly advanced Intermittent wipers.

These days, Magnum enjoys a bit of a cult status mainly as it represented the end of the Chrysler B-Body before the Mirada and Cordoba took over Chrysler’s coupe duties on the J-Platform. As I said at the top, these are seriously few and far between in my neck of the woods.

As this series matures I really ought to drop the habit of ending each feature with the catchphrase “At Least I Own The Brochure”. But in this case, I really am glad I do.

<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on a Hotpoint electonic halogen cooker. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer. The coffee was good, by the way>

  • Kris_01

    I almost owned one. Sit down and let me spin a yarn.

    Back in about '98 or so, I was at a local car show and saw a '77 Charger Daytona . In talking with the owner, he mentioned that his brother had one "pretty much like it" and "he wanted to sell it" for "cheap". Info thus passed, I made my way out of town to this guy's noble residence. And when I say "out of town", I do mean a 45-minute drive out into the middle of the woods.

    If this area of Canada is God's country, then where this guy lived was where God took His dumps.

    And of course when I say "noble residence" I of course mean "falling-down shack". But you've all figured that out by now.

    I drove up the long-ish driveway and was met by a character with about as many teeth as a Jack-O-Lantern. Surprisingly, he was rather affable and quite knowledgeable of the car in question – not a Charger, not a Magnum, but a '78 Cordoba with the stacked rectangular lights, sky-blue original paint job, Rallye rims and 400-cube mill. Not at all the biodegradable demo-derby refugee I expected to see given the setting.

    Yes, it was equipped with rich Corinthian leather (white buckets, no less), and most staggering of all, a low price (gimme $500 and it's yours).

    To top it all off, a '79 Magnum XE parts car was to be thrown in for free. There, some relevance to the post.

    An interesting comparo could be made between the two. The Magnum is essentially a Cordoba with different taillights, a different trunk lid and a different fiberglass fascia. But inside, there are more subtle differences. The Cordoba uses a woodgrain theme inside with dash trim – the Magnum, engine-turned metal a la the Firebirds of the same era. The Magnum is less likely to sport leather, but is often adorned with the Tuff wheel of Mopar musclecars past. Lastly I believe that the Cordoba mostly came with steel rims and wire wheel hubcaps, where the Magnum had Rallyes, and IIRC that suspicion was confirmed when Cap'n Redneck advised that the rims on the Doba came from the "black wreck".

    I never did buy that car. It sold, the next summer, to a Philistine who, rather than appreciate the baroque lines of the late B-Body, unceremoniously stripped and demoed the car.

    The reason – this being 1998, I was 18, driving a shit '88 Pontiac Sunbird that I'd sunk $300 into at the start of the summer, and needless to say, I was broke.

    That Cordoba remains first on my "shoulda bought it" list to this day.

    • Ricardo Montalban

      All the fantasy cars have Rich Corinthian Leather.

  • Vavon

    You would think that for such a huge car they would use a bigger engine than a 1.8L… 😉

    <img src="http://encarsglobe.com/data_images/models/vauxhall-magnum/vauxhall-magnum-01.jpg&quot; wdth=650>

    • jeepjeff

      What are you on about? 1800ci is 29.5L. This is an American car, after all.

      • Vavon

        That's hilarious!!!

  • fede6882

    It looks a bit overdone to my eye, can't decide if I like it or want to set it on fire. I would sure set the grill on fire… is it that way only for looks? or is the radiator really that ahead and they did't want to move it back?

    anyway, the fenders are nice. and quite long.

  • Devin

    I don't know what it is about that brochure, but it's very… key party about the whole thing, if you catch my meaning.

  • MVEilenstein

    What a gorgeous, terrible, wonderful car.

  • racer139

    My neibour had a 78 magnum way back when I was five. his was black with a red pin stripe and rich red corinthian leather. the one thing I remember was the headlight covers, I did not remember them retracting,do they? I believe this car started the gto headlight cover craze. Always liked the way these looke from the front, its gotta be those headlights.

  • skitter

    The headlight covers,
    though clear, are retractable.
    That just blows my mind.

    • OA5599

      They are because of
      Government regulations.
      Can't obstruct at night.

  • racer139

    Yes I never knew they did. I live in a rust belt and as such my neibours car must have had siezed mechinisims because I never did see them in the retracted position. I do believe that the reason he got rid of it was because it needed the passenger side floor replaced.

  • calgoat

    Almost everything about that car seems terrible by today's standards… BUT being familiar with its contemporaries of the era, the styling isn't too bad. There's almost a detectable level of charm there. Almost.

  • Lotte

    You have a Magnum brochure?! H-how, I thought you were on the other side of the pond (I was also surprised you had Thunderbird brochures). This is so cool!

    I would like the Pewter/Red combo, although I would also consider a "good guy's car" eggshell white with the cloth beige bench. And maybe the 360, as I just read on Wikipedia that that's the size of the racing engine. With a little bit of tweaking…