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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1959 Dodge Silver Challenger

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The Muscle Car has been a staple of Dodge for quite some time, starting with the 1953 and 54 Dodge Red Ram “Baby Hemi” that has a small but loyal following among the early Dodge fanatics, then burning through the late 50’s with the Dodge D-500, the small yet powerful Max Wedge Cars from the early 60’s, the awesome Hemi Powered bruisers of the late 60’s, and even the powerful 440’s of the early 70’s. There were storied Dodge models throughout this period including Polara, Dart, Charger, Coronet, Super Bee, and Daytona. However, did you know one of the most recognizable Muscle Car Nameplates is actually much older than any of these models? It was a mid year model, introduced in May of 1959, and though it wasn’t at all successful when introduced, that nameplate is still in use today. Introducing the 1959 Dodge Silver Challenger…

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The Dodge Silver Challenger was introduced to the public by a rather ordinary press release in which it stated:

DETROIT–The “Silver Challenger” is the newest edition to Dodge Division’s line for 1959.
The “Silver Challenger” features a distinctive all silver exterior color in a metallic “Lustre-Bond”, high baked enamel that may go two or three years before waxing is necessary.

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A harmonious interior treatment available only in the new models carries out the silver color theme with a silver metallic vinyl and black Manchu fabric upholstery. The door panels are trimmed in a combination of of black and silver vinyl. Black carpeting gives and added interior luxury appearance to the new model.

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The distinctive silver color is complimented by the standard equipment white side wall tires and stainless steel wheel covers. A Dodge crown medallion on the leading edge of the front fenders adds another distinguishing touch to the new Dodge model.
The striking exterior design of the “Silver Challenger” is keynoted by arched headlight “eye-brows” which curve inward and downward to the front grill. New taillights–patterned after jet-tubes–and new rear-end “control surfaces” on the fins provide a fleet, futuristic image.

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“Silver Challengers” will be powered by either the 135 horsepower Get-Away 6-cylinder or 255 horsepower Red-Ram V-8 engine. Both engines use regular grade gasoline which permits savings averaging 80 cents on each tank of gasoline.
The Red Ram V-8, a new engine for the 1959 Dodge line, is designed to extract maximum power out of regular-grade gasoline. It has a piston displacement of 326 cubic inches, and has a 9.2 to 1 compression ratio.

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Suggested factory retail prices at the factory, Detroit, Mich., are $2,530.50 for the 6-cylinder and $2,650.00 for the V-8, including delivery excise and handling charges and excluding state and local taxes.
Optional accessories that provide added driver comfort, convenience and control features, including swing-out swivel seats, are available on the all new silver model.
The “Silver Challenger” model will be launched with a nation-wide newspaper, magazine, radio, and television advertising campaign.

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For our purposes, let’s concentrate on the V-8 equipped models, displacing 326 CID, and developing 255 HP. Remember, this was 1959, and the Silver Challenger was the smallest, lightest body that Dodge offered at that time. Most of the cars during this time period were offered in all bench seat interiors, but you could get the swivel bucket seat interior if you wanted. A three-speed stick was standard, but you had a choice of a two-speed PowerFlite or a three speed TorqueFlite automatic.

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This car was based on the contemporary Dodge Coronet, and these cars weighed in at 3,750 pounds (Not a lightweight by any means, but lighter than most full-sized cars today) and with 255 HP, and 350 lb-ft of torque, it would embarrass many so-called performance cars of it’s day. The car could also handle better than most of it’s peers because of Chrysler’s exclusive use of torsion bar front suspension, with extra long leafs at the rear.

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The car is also rather understated with its exclusive color pallet, which is a far cry from the rolling jukeboxes that were being produced during this time period. This was a very good looking vehicle for the period in which it was produced. Unfortunately, it was a true sales dud, with an estimated 352 Silver Challengers built (both the 6-cylinder and the V-8 versions) before the redesigned 1960 Dodges went into production in August.

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So what we have here is a true pioneer of sorts. This is the first Dodge to have the name Challenger… This was the lightest body style offered with a pretty powerful V-8… This was (probably) the first Metallic Silver colored car from Chrysler (or for any Detroit Car Maker) before 1960… But, is this an Obscure Muscle Car, and does it belong in the Garage? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate on this one.

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Would you consider including the 1959 Dodge Silver Challenger (with the V-8) within the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • Impalamino

    This is a far cry from my favorite Forward Look body styles, but the silver-on-chrome really makes the most of it. IMHO, the '59 Coronet is the rare car that looks better in sedan form than coupe form. Could a Silver Challenger be had that way?

    The interior, mixture of shapes and textures that it is, actually really appeals to me. Again, silver over black and chrome just looks good.

    Neat car that I'd never heard of. Great to see!

  • bluehillsmike

    Makes me miss my long lost 58 Dodge Royal (In baby blue with dark blue top), Eddie. Eddie was my winter beater in the late 70's when I stored the big block Fury. Eddie was a chick magnet, with an oft used huge back seat. This was college in 1978. Seven years down the drain.

  • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

    That's really stunning car Jim, never even knew about these before, thanks for the write-up.

  • aeilenstein

    I was really into it until the writer used "it's" possessively. Oh, well, it's a nice ride with lots of room!

  • Mad_Hungarian

    Wow. I have reacted to many of the "Obscure Muscle Car" features with "Come on, what's obscure about that?" Not this one. Never heard of this one before. Not sure I ever saw ANY '59 Dodge post coupe before; usually if you see a Mopar post coupe of this vintage it's a Plymouth. So this one wins the obscurity prize going away!

    A lot of the early silver paint jobs were notorious for fading and/or peeling. Makes me wonder about the ambitious claims of going 2-3 years without needing waxing.

    • Rover1

      And how many years do modern paint jobs go without waxing? Actually, other than the hooniteriat,(natch), does anyone still wax their vehicles nowadays?

  • ptschett

    You know a Mopar is obscure when Allpar doesn't have a page for it. And the black & silver interior is more futuristic than they knew, to judge from my 41-year-newer Blue Challenger.

    • Vairship

      …the black & silver Space Invader print interior…

      FTFY

  • tonyola

    It's only a muscle car if it has one of the hi-po V8s and this could be had with a Six. But it's certainly obscure.

  • FЯeeMan

    Slightly off topic:

    How much blind spot do the fins create, especially with the dash-mounted rear-view?

  • ray

    I got the pleasure of seeing a 1959 Silver Challenger at a car show in Portsmouth, Ohio today. A true beauty. Much different than my '14 Challenger. It is actually the one in the photo on the Dodge Challenger Wikipedia web page. I met the owner & he had the original paperwork. Beautiful car inside & out with 35K miles. The dash mounted rear view looked strange. I thought it was a homemade set up when I first saw it. I'm sure there are blind spots.

  • jimmyrk3

    I am interested in all things about autos that have a color in the name, Silver and Golden Hawks are two examples. I’m always thinking if they aren’t painted in that color they are not true examples. So on seeing this about a model I have never head of I went on a search for the color codes. Since it was limited of run, half year with 350+- examples, there is no mention of silver metallic “Lustre-Bond”, any where I know to look. Not even silver metallic, just a couple of really plain silvers…
    Any ideas of a paint code? Inquiring minds and all that, you know… Thanks