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New Charger may face fate of retro GTO

By Matt Nauman

Mercury News




If you saw the Daytona 500 race, you no doubt know that there's a new Dodge Charger going on sale this summer.

There are two schools of thought on how successful that car will be.

The first says that Chrysler is on a roll, that it's making money and head-turning cars again. The surprising success of the Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Magnum wagon set the stage for the Charger's return. After all, those three models share platforms and engines, including the Hemi V-8 that has become Chrysler's fourth brand these days. (As in Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and ``That thing got a Hemi?'')

The new Charger will be priced right, probably starting around $27,000, when it goes on sale in June.

The other group-think puts a more negative spin on the Charger's future. And it invokes the Pontiac GTO.

The GTO, like the Charger, is/was a legendary muscle car from the '60s and '70s. It, also like the Charger, disappeared for many years. Fans of the original stayed loyal, and these now-vintage GTOs and Chargers still demand attention at weekend car shows.

General Motors brought back the GTO for the 2004 model year and it landed with a thud. This new one looked just like any other Pontiac (strike one) and it was built in Australia (strike two). Even its 5.7-liter V-8 and rumbling exhaust note couldn't save it. GM predicted annual sales of 18,000. Pontiac dealers sold just 13,569 last year. GM engineers recently added 50 horsepower and some muscle-car touches such as a hood with dual air scoops and more pronounced exhaust-pipe tips to attempt to salvage the GTO.

The new Charger comes to market as a car that doesn't resemble the old Charger (strike one), and with four doors instead of two (strike two).

Some Charger loyalists on Internet discussion boards have savaged the new version. One called it ``another ruined American icon.'' Another is selling a T-shirt with the message ``Real Dodge Chargers have two doors!'' and a big red circle with a slash through it over a photo of the new Charger.

Some even think that the new Charger's German roots -- automaker DaimlerChrysler is a German-run company and the Charger shares a few parts with some Mercedes models -- is strike three, but I think the jury is still out.

Personally, I think the new Charger looks a bit dull. The front end that has become Dodge's signature look (on the Magnum, Dakota and Durango) doesn't work here. And the rear end and the interior don't do much for me, either.

Nostalgia-based marketing is a dicey business. The new version of the Mustang does a nice job of looking very similar to the late-'60s version, and it's winning praise and new buyers.

Both the VW New Beetle and the Mini Cooper have cashed in on their sentimental shapes.

But Ford's retro Thunderbird hasn't been a star car. And the revived GTO proves that bringing back a classic name is no guarantee of success.

Not coincidentally, a new movie starring perhaps the most famous old Dodge Charger arrives this summer. (Some would argue that it's Richard Petty's No. 43 blue-and-red Charger race car.) ``The Dukes of Hazzard'' is a remake of the TV series that ran from 1979 to 1985. It'll feature Jessica Simpson and Burt Reynolds, but the real star remains the General Lee, a 1969 Charger that'll fly through the air and kick up walls of dirt as Bo and Luke Duke avoid Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.

Unlike GM, which did little to connect the old and new GTOs, Dodge isn't running away from the Charger heritage. It already has tried to profit from the Charger's NASCAR racing history. It also says it'll revive two classic paint colors on Charger Daytona R/T models to be sold later this year. Go man, go!, a shade of metallic orange, and Top Banana, a bright yellow, will adorn cars with honeycomb grilles, dual exhaust tips, ``Hemi'' and ``Daytona'' badges and a black rear spoiler.

Will it be enough? Time and monthly sales reports will let us know.
 

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I restored a 67 Charger 383-4 with M4 and drove it as my primary car for 10 years plus as my second vehicle for another 5. I see nothing in this new version tha makes my heart beat change one bit. I couldn't be happier with my GTO and my decision to get the 04.
 

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It just doesn't do it for me. Im looking into purchasing an old '69 as a project car, and I can guar-damn-tee it will not have any direct corrolation to the new one. I feel they could have done a better job at trying to preserve the old look. Although I am not a fan of Ford, I will say they did a good job at remaking the Mustang. (Yuck, did I just give Mustangs a compliment?)

Anyways, the GTO is still the best re-make in my eyes ! :cool
 

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Mopar?!

During my associations with Mopars and their owners, I have very little regard for either. The stuff they are making now is ugly beyond words. Yuck!!! The only good Mopars I see are on Dragstrips, and they get completely torn down and rebuilt between runs, just like all the other makes.

Maximental
 

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it is going to be just like the GTO, the charger will have its fans that will love it to death. me, i will be loving my goat forever, i don't like the charger, but some still will.
 

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It's sad that the forthcoming Charger doesnt even resemble the concept car from a few years back. It was a four door also, but it did not appear as one.
I cannot believe they are calling this square four door box a Charger. Whose idea was this?
 

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The Germans and the percieved success of the new Chrysler 300C.
 

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The GTO began the began the muscle car era...its debatable. Whatever the case, the new GTO is a very very good step in bringing back muscle with style. My 05 M6 is my dream car and i love it more everyday. However, if they were to bring back the Camaro...i would have to by that too!
 

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Why would soomeone want to pay 30K for an old goat..the new ones are so much faster, way cooler imho..don't get me wrong, I love the old 67's..but that was almost 40 years ago..times change!! Try driving a restored 67 on a 3000 mile trip..I doubt you'd make it! :confused
 

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The old stuff from the 60's is nice to see at car shows and cruise nights. The road manners of these cars are poor to intolerable by todays standards and not a real consideration for regular use. The guys that are dissapointed in the new versions(nameplates only) of these 60's icons should stick with the original vehicles as there will be nothing built under 21st century constraints and regulations that will satisfy a purist. They simply cannot build these people a new old car.
 

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The new charger is, well to me, a slightly modified 300C and shames the heritage of the charger. Like others, I will not knock the Charger name though, one of my favorite cars of the past is a '69 Charger. I'd love to have one as a project car. I think this new charger will see it's demise in a few years though...I think most people will end up...gulp...going with the mustangs.

Ford is doing the right thing with the potential release of the Shelby GT500. Even though most mustang owners won't have a GT500, it still will only help sales of the stock GT (this is my opinion, I won't venture as far as calling it an educated guess though :lol: ). In my opinion as well, I feel that if GM would release a Judge somewhere down the line based heavily on that Ram Air 6 concept, I believe that stock GTO sales would increase as well.

Back on topic of the charger though, this new incarnatation is pretty poorly designed, and I don't think it will make it long.
 
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