Dodge Fields a Challenger
by Doug Breithaupt

1970 Dodge AAR Challenger by Johnny Lightning
From 1970 to 1974, Dodge offered a sister car to Plymouth's Barracuda. The Dodge Challenger while successful when introduced, came at the end of the muscle car's golden era and did not survive the gas crises of the early 1970's. Today, the Challenger is a desirable pony car option for collectors.

Toy car producers have offered a select variety of Challenger models over the years. Curiously, the most collectible Challengers from 1970, have only been offered in recent years.

1974 Dodge Challenger by Matchbox
Johnny Lightning has made the American muscle/pony cars, their bread and butter. In the second series of 'American Muscle', Johnny Lightning did the 1970 Dodge Challenger. With an opening hood and a variety of wild 1970 colors, the JL Challenger proved a popular model (shown in lime green). JL followed with another Challenger in their Indy Pace Car series, The 1971 pace car was the Challenger convertible. This pace car has the un-enviable distinction of being the only Indy pace car to ever be involved in an accident during the race. The car was totaled when it struck a photographer's stand at the head of the pit lane. The accident resulted in the death of a photographer. The JL model is very nicely done but would look better with rubber tires.

Most recently, JL has done a second 1970 Challenger as part of their MOPAR series. The AAR Challenger is clearly a more detailed casting than the earlier 1970 model. Shown in hot pink and black, the AAR Challenger is a great buy at $2.99.

In 1979, Matchbox offered the 1974 Challenger in their 1-75 series. Shown in red with white top and chrome interior, the original model was one of the last of the Lesney castings made in England. Why Matchbox waited five years to offer this last of the '70-'74 Challengers is a good question. After Matchbox became Matchbox International in the early '80's, the Challenger casting was modified. Instead of a production-based model, the Challenger received big back tires, side pipes and a large hood scoop. This drag-race version has seen continued production until recently. The model shown is the 'Revin Rebel' version and has a diecast hood scoop. Later castings switched to a plastic scoop. It is very likely that the 'Revin Rebel' was an attempt to cash-in on the popularity of the 'Dukes of Hazzard' TV show of the 1980's, although the Duke's car was a '69 Charger.

Matchbox also offered the Mitsubishi-based Dodge Challenger (also offered as a Plymouth Sapporo) of 1979. This was a weak attempt by Dodge to remind buyers of their glory days and it was not a success.

1970 Dodge Challenger by Johnny Lightning
While the car shown is labeled on the base as a Challenger, it was also offered by Matchbox as a Mitsubishi Galant Eterna. Note the curious wheels used on some of the Matchbox of this era.

The last Challenger is also a 1974, offered by Playart of Hong Kong. This is one of the more desirable Playart models and features opening doors. Playart often did interesting cars in, not offered by other manufacturers and the Playart model pre-dates the Matchbox version.

1974 Dodge Challenger (Revin' Rebel) by Matchbox

1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible Indy Pace Car by Johnny Lightning

1979 Dodge Challenger by Matchbox

1974 Dodge Challenger by Playart