“Classy Little Car” – 1979 Dodge Challenger

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Dodge put its Challenger through some challenging changes, from the muscle car era that we all know and love to rebadged Mitsubishis, and now, to the current retro-inspired Challenger. This 1979 Dodge Challenger is on Craigslist in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The asking price is $4,500 and the owner says, this is a “classy little car.”

By 1977, after a three-year hiatus, the Dodge Challenger had gone from a pavement-pounding monster to basically a rebadged Mitsubishi Galant Lambda. This was the last “Challenger” made until the current model came out in 2008. You can see one of problems with the body that the seller mentions, the hole in the left rear lens. They also mention a couple of scratches on a door. I don’t see any rust on this one, and for a Minnesota car that’s several decades old, that’s pretty amazing, and unusual.

This is a one-owner car and it appears to be in fantastic condition overall. There are a few glitches with it, but I don’t know if I’ve seen one from this era in this nice condition for many years. This car has only traveled 59,200 miles and that’s less than 1,600 miles a year, so I’m assuming that it’s never been driven in the winter.

There are no engine photos but this one has Mitsubishi’s G32B 1.6L inline-four with 77 hp. A Challenger with 77 hp!? Is that worse than a Dodge Charger with four doors? Maybe, but I know that a four-door Dodge Charger was hard to swallow for a lot of people, too. The interior of this car looks as nice as the exterior does, but the plaid fabric is the real star here. The seller mentions that the carburetor “runs a little rough until the engine is warmed up but the car runs excellent on the road.”

There it is! Classy. You know that you had a pair of double-knit pants with almost this exact same pattern back in 1979, come on, don’t deny it! As with most Craigslist ads, the seller is fairly light on photos, I would want to really highlight the interior and the fact that the body looks so good. There are no photos of the passenger side at all, but if it looks as good as the driver’s side does this is one well-preserved car. When was the last time that you’ve seen one of these on the road?

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  1. Adam T45

    This model Challenger was sold in Australia as the Mitsubishi Scorpion (great name), fitted with the 2.6l four-cylinder engine. Mitsubishi Australia also made a turbo sedan called the Sigma Turbo (pictured) that utilised the same floor-pan and mechanicals. The turbo engine could be tuned to produce a reliable 300hp. Mitsubishi never put the turbo engine into the Scorpion, which was a bit strange considering it was their sporting model.

    The Challenger fitted with the Australian developed turbo pumping out 300hp may have been a car whose performance was more befitting the illustrious name. What do people think?

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Adam, with all due respect,,,not even close. You’d never for a second convince someone that lived through the American muscle car era, when Challenger was king, that a turbo 4 cylinder ANYTHING will hold a candle to a 440/ 6 pack Challenger. Not to take anything away from the turbo 4 cylinder, they make some impressive hp, it’s just we remember, you could walk into a Dodge dealer,( with not really a lot of cash) and 20 minutes later, be driving one of the fastest cars made. It was quite a time.

      • Adam T45

        Hi Howard. I understand exactly where you are coming from mate. We had exactly the same situation with the Ford Falcon GT here in Australia. In a five year period Ford transformed it from a fire-breathing racer to an urban cruiser. I was just thinking that if I gave you a choice between this Challenger with an asthmatic 77hp, and the same thing with 300hp, I’m pretty sure that most people would choose the latter.

        I’ve never understood manufacturers who try to relive past glories by producing cars named after their iconic models, and they turn out to not be a patch on the original. Maybe they should’ve followed the Australian lead and called this model the Scorpion. It may have upset fewer people, and it’s a name with a sting in its tail!

      • CCFisher

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but I believe many folks who lived through the first American muscle car era remember it better than it actually was. Today, I can buy an EcoBoost Mustang or a V-6 Accord for $30k that will run with that 440/6-pack Challenger (according to contemporary road tests), or a V-8 Mustang, Challenger, or Camaro for a few grand more that will flat outrun it.

  2. Woodie Man

    Is this same as a a Sapporo?

    • Howard A Member

      Hi WM, the Sapporo would have been Plymouth’s version of this car.

  3. Sam

    Another neat car from the “transition” period. The 4dr version from Adam T45 has a good look.

    How about the Challenger’s cousin…Plymouth “SAP”poro?

    Can anyone identify what clan the Scottish Tartan is from? Our “77 Matador fastback coupe had a plaid interior.

  4. brian crowe

    I didn’t even know this year Challenger exsisted but I can’t get over that interior. Wow!

  5. Howard A Member

    Oh Challenger,( I thought when these came out) you were once so proud, look what they’ve reduced you to,,,,truth be known, I think Mitsubishi made some of the best vehicles, although, they all were good, if this car just didn’t have that mighty name. Can you just see the person buying this car, thinking this was as good as the Challenger got, for shame. ( and their real surprise when they rode in a REAL Challenger.) These were popular for a few years, until they melted away, like most cars up north. Great find, just to use. Collectible?,,,,hmmm,,,,we’ll see.

  6. Leaf36

    Nope! Barf!

  7. Jay D.M.

    And people make fun of the Mustang II.

    • Dave

      Yeah at least the Mustang II was made by Ford and you could get a v8 even though it was smog choked at least it was a v8. I was seven years old when these come out and I still remember thinking what a shame it was to call these a challenger.

  8. terry


  9. Joe Nose

    Interiors by Herb Tarlek.

    • Rabbit

      They used one of his old suits…

  10. Rob

    I just remember an issue with this motor and the timing chain set up wearing out and causing a massive failure.

  11. DG

    I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the successor to these Mitsu coupes was the Starion. Now that was a cool car, particularly the flare-fendered ESi model.

    • Marc De Koster

      This model was superceeded by at least two more generations Sapporo (in Europe that is), and outlived the Starion which was more of a sportscar than a coupe. The Starions successor was the 3000GT.

  12. Mitch Ross

    I believe the standard engine was the 2.6 liter 4 cyl.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

      Hi, Mitch. In the Craigslist ad there’s a tag that shows the engine model number being G32B, which is the 1.6L. The G54B is a 2.6L, which was a great engine for me in my Chrysler LeBaron back in the mid-80s.

      • Mitch Ross

        I guess even a “know it all” can learn something new. i can ‘t imagine thay sold many with that small engine, seems way under powered for the size of the car.

  13. ccrvtt

    I remember seeing these cars at an auto show and being very impressed with the thoughtful features they had on them. But for the life of me I can’t remember what those features were. I’ve had a lifelong antipathy toward Japanese cars which is totally irrational. I’ve owned an Rx7, an Accord, and a Corolla. But I’m from Dee-Troit and I guess I take an irrational pride in that as well. So now I own a Chevy, a Ford, and a Chrysler – a sampling of the 3 major food groups.

    But I digress. This little Mitsubishi was the first car from Nippon that really impressed me. It was built by the people who brought us the Zero. And Mitsubishi is so much fun to say.

  14. Allan

    I passed my driving test in one of these, MANY years ago.

    A blue version of this car.

    I had forgotten about the blue plaid pattern on the seats, so thanks for that memory……

  15. AMCFAN

    Chrysler in 1979 was almost bankrupt. If not for the association of Mitsubishi there would be no Fiat Chrysler SPA today. The gas guzzlers and poor engineering got them to where they were. Face it. They were in the tank. People made fun of my dad when he bought a new 79 Power Wagon. That is how bad the sentiment was toward the mighty Mopar Company. Make fun of this car all you want but it was the best thing at the time rolling out of the plant like it or hate it. Chrysler couldn’t go back.

    Howard A, I lived in the 70’s and remember when the big blocks were riding the streets. Yes it is hard to imagine a turbo 4 cylinder that can compete with a V8 but we have had them in the United States from 2004 to 2015 and it happens to be made by Mitsubishi. The Evolution or simply EVO.

    When other car companies were building bigger engines Mitsu was building the 4 cyl. The 4G63T started life in the states at 271 HP but was more realistic pushing 400 HP. It was a world class performance car. The engine can make as much as 1200HP.

    You can watch Youtube for hours and watch the EVO’s from around the world. My favorate is the two kids roll racing a Challenger HellCat and smoking it. Once the kid even misses third gear!

    I like vintage cars like everyone. But I can appreciate newer technology and have respect for companies other then the US manufactures that can build a faster and affordable car. The EVO in 2004 was a cool $30K. Find a nice mint original and they start at $30K So with that I am sure the 30 somethings that appreciate vintage Asian metal will be on this. Nice find.

  16. John C Cargill

    I was a Chrysler Service mgr in 1984/85, All Mitsubishi 4 cyl. ran bad cold, lousy automatic choke design, as well as the fact that the ones with the tiny valve always had problems later because Americans then didn’t understand required valve adjustments. The Chrysler 2.2 was the better choice if offered.

  17. Rustytech

    As long as the frame rails aren’t rusted, and looking at the body there’s no reason to think they are, this is a nice car and a good deal. I was still working at a Dodge dealer when this car was made. I worked on many of these, but do not remember ever seeing the smaller engine, they were all the 2.6L. I always thought they were nice looking cars, yes they were very different from the “Real Chargers” but they were a good driving car and got much better gas mileage. I remember the biggest complaint customers made was the rough idle when cold, and you never really got rid of it. I do agree Chrysler brass could have made a better choice of the name though.

  18. Rolf Poncho 455

    In South Africa its called a Mitsubishi Colt Callant 2.0L engine 4 cyl
    I remember a yellow colt dragster supercharged noisy and fast at
    rainbow dragstrip it was my favorite car at the strip in the 80’s

  19. Marc De Koster

    The Charger was called (Mitsubishi) Sapporo in Europe, the sportier coupe sister of the more humble Galant.


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