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Copyright © 2004, Dave Duricy.
“Grab life by the horns.” Dodge machismo is back.
The new for 2005 Dodge Magnum R/T is a hot rod wagon with a fold-flat floor, an angry ram out front, and a Hemi V-8 under the hood. Dodge brags that this "is the new shape of American muscle," but the swagger is vintage Dodge Dude circa 1978 Dodge Magnum XE.
Dodge aimed its 1978 Magnum sport coupe at aging boys who had driven Dodge Super Bees in the Sixties and Challengers in the early Seventies. They appreciated the Magnum name for its association with high-performance MoPars, and probably understood the suggestive XE suffix. For a sexy ride, choose Dodge.
Dodge's original den of iniquity came with wall-to-wall shag carpeting, and an accessories list designed to “make everything happen the way you want it to happen.” Optional bucket seats with driver and passenger-side recliners were Magnum mission critical. True swingers also sprang for the T-top roof inspired by memories of driving topless.
Men shown driving ’78 Magnums in Dodge brochures could be mistaken for Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” or Burt Reynold’s “Bandit” Bo Darville. The Magnum itself had Reynold’s mirrored shades and open collar style. Cool see-through doors covered the headlights, and Magnum sheet metal was disco shirt tight. Optional raised letter tires and Road Wheels were the automotive equivalent of gold chains and mood rings.
Magnum walked the walk with power front disc brakes, front and rear anti-sway bars, and Chrysler Corporation's renowned torsion-bar suspension. The engine was choice of 318, 360 or 400 cubic inch V-8. Still, despite the road-car hype, tuning for economy and low emissions ensured that Magnum's strut was leisurely.
Dodge moved out 55,431 Magnums for 1978, then brought the model back for just one year. The 1979 Magnum was self-described “machinismo,” but sales dropped to 30,354. The thrill was gone - until now.
"The hey-day of American car design is where a lot of the  Magnum design comes from," says Magnum designer Ralph Gilles. "The high belt line for example, the chopped roof, long hood, and powerful bold front end. All the elements that made those cars great. It's proud of being a car. Making itself known, like a big linebacker."
He's right. Old Magnum turn-ons are back: bucket seats, muscular fenders, even those headlights with shades. A large dose of "Dodge DNA", as Dodge puts it, is behind the barrel-shaped instruments that retort across the dash like those in a '65 Dodge Charger. The crosshair grille echoes Dodge's kid-racer Coronets from the Sixties.
The resounding 2005 Magnum R/T blast-from-the-past is old-school power and size. Sounding like its vintage "machinismo" self, Dodge describes the car as a "package with proportions unlike any other in the marketplace."
The old Dodge boys would understand the new Magnum. They'd see Dodge rebellion with a zero to 60mph sprint of 6.3 seconds and a base price of $29,995. They'd know that the 348 cid (5.7 liter), Hemi-head V-8 breaths freely, burns efficiently and belts out its 340 horse power. They'd dig the rear-wheel-drive drivetrain, 120 inch wheelbase, and big-time body that swoops across 16 feet of sheet metal. They'd know what to do on road, track, or Lovers Lane with Magnum seating for five and 27 cubic feet of cargo space.
Dodge has made a couple of important additions to its one-time bachelor pad. Aside from date-pleasing sound systems and sun roofs, the 2005 Magnum also offers childproof locks and a place for the kiddie seat. A smokers' group is relegated to the options lists.
Magnum, he's come a long way, baby.
The main Dodge Magnum pages - 2005 and 1978-79
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