NASCAR Lineage: 1978 Dodge Magnum

Headlight covers really need to make a comeback. I don’t mean the glass or plastic lenses that every set of lamps comes with, but rather, the wind-cheating aero design used on cars like this Dodge Magnum. You may call them hideaway headlights; I just consider them my favorite part of the grown-up muscle car design the Magnum was known for. This example here on craigslist needs some help and a price reduction, but it looks like a worthy candidate for restoration. 

The Magnum always strikes me as a car with an identity crisis: it wasn’t the the tire-smoking banshees thats its forbearers were, but it also wasn’t trying to blend into the pile of vanilla pudding that was the American family sedan market at the time. It even had a name that channeled your inner bad boy – Magnum! Factor in Richard and Kyle Petty’s dalliances with the Magnum bodies in NASCAR and it almost seems like this was more a grown-up Dodge Charger than a two-door Dodge Monaco.

However, the Magnum hailed from an era when performance was being squeezed out of every domestic car and truck, so despite the hallmarks of a muscle car, the Magnum didn’t come equipped with a monstrous power plant. It did, however, attempt to help the young family man get over his sense of regret from selling his gnarly Charger and into a car that at least felt familiar, while ensuring the kids and wife were comfortable and safe inside. It came with front and rear sway bars and some other touches that at least made it feel sporting.

And even with that 360 four-barrel mill under the hood, the era of emissions rendered this imposing motor far less impressive than years prior. Being a California car, the seller notes that the smog equipment is even more invasive, limiting the Magnum to 170 b.h.p. This one turns over, but the Magnum doesn’t currently run. While you’re contemplating putting a Magnum in your life, check out this article from Hot Rod about dyno-testing a 360 smog motor – could there be some more life left in this Magnum with that equipment removed?


  1. terry

    $6k? Ahhahahahahahahaha. No.

    • seth karpen

      had a 76 dodge magnum bought new for about that much money. Front seal on engine leaked from day one. Was a fun car to drive. In someones rear view mirror looked like a state trooper car coming up on you

    • Wayne Thomas

      $6000 only if it had a Viper V10 swap.

  2. dj

    How about $600?

  3. Jimmyg

    Had one what a piece of junk. Spent more time at the dealership then in my driveway .

  4. flmikey

    I realize that people are trying to take advantage of the popularity of the classic car market, but the price on this piece of crap is insulting! This car has absolutely nothing going for it…except a trip to the junkyard…

  5. Howard A Member

    Now wait a sec, that NASCAR thing got to be worth something,,,, Not too sure who it appealed to back then, gentleman cruiser, maybe, but sadly, most turned into $500 beaters. Pretty much the end of the era for these, and we never got it back. ( it, being nice cars, that is, and this was a nice car at the time)

  6. Bill

    My boss had one of these. It even had a factory CB radio. Good highway cruiser, but it literally fell apart within a year.

  7. Coventrycat

    Thought those headlight covers were the coolest back then. Kinda Euro.

  8. Rabbit

    These cars appealed to exactly nobody, except maybe those who wanted a Cordoba on the cheap, or those bemoaning the loss of the big Monte Carlo & Grand Prix. Drove a Mag or two back in the early 80’s, as much as I hated Fords, I’d rather have a T-Bird.

  9. Nova Scotian

    My KIA Soul 2.0 makes about 163 hp…

    • Bill

      But it’s a Kia Soul…

      Like 1
      • Glen

        I gave you a thumbs up, but I have to say, if it gets him through the Winter Nova Scotia has had, it can’t be all bad!

  10. Adam T45 Staff

    I have quite eclectic taste in cars. This is yet another one that we never received Down Under, and one of the few American cars that I look at and consider that this wasn’t a bad thing.

    The fact is that you can usually look at any car and you know either what the manufacturer is trying to achieve, or what the target market is. With this one that’s a question that is not obvious. I suspect that it is quite a heavy car, and with only 170 hp (when it was bright ans shiny new), it was never going to burn the bitumen. It’s not a high-end luxury limo. My taste is eclectic, but even I’d pass on this one.

  11. Rock On Member

    This one is listed at half the price. The writing in the ad really butchers the English language though.

    • 68 custom

      That one is a nicer car to begin with plus it has buckets, console, sunroof, ETC. but my goodness that guy sure kneads help with his spelling!

    • Jeff Staff

      I’ve got to check out his claim that BJ sold a Magnum for $137K!

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      That’s a far more interesting car (and ad) than the one featured here. You can believe that the guy drove this into his garage in 2004 (Altoids tin, soda cans, paperwork,, etc) with full intentions of getting it back out again someday.

      Being the 1st and 4th owner of it, I have to give him credit for letting it go before it just sat there, forgotten for another 20 years.

  12. Mike

    If it had the E58 360 it would be a good runner…and way more desirable.

  13. Cubs win

    I love these cars but this one is a bit crusty and an ugly color. The one in the ad is awesome but in the wrong area for me to buy.

  14. Joe Nose

    That is one NAZZcar. Nascar, not so much.

  15. scottymac

    Dalliance is a good way to put it, Jeff. I think when the Petty boys couldn’t get these things to run is when they made the jump to Pontiac. Poor ole Buddy Arrington might have been the only driver to stay with MoPar. I’ve got one good thing to say about these, though. The seven inch rally wheels from the XE GT model match the eight inch wheels from the Volare kit car and spruce up my old Ford.

  16. Rustytech Member

    I looked at one of these last summer that made this look like a boat anchor. Black with red Corinthian leather, 360ci V8, and perfect condition. Price? $12,500. It would take half that just to restore the interior on this beast. What’s this guy smoking?

  17. JimA

    These are actually kind of fun cars. The 75 – 79 charger, Córdoba and magnums are all basically the same bones with slightly different skins. Although I prefer the 75-77 Charger and Cordobas and have had 3 chargers and currently a Córdoba. But the current ride has the sunroof, leather buckets, upgraded suspension, dual exhaust with glass packs and a stroked 440 it’s definitely a sleeper with the triple black color scheme.

    This one as is isn’t worth more than 600- 800 but the engine if good can be stripped of the smog crap and relatively cheaply put in a performance ignition, dual exhaust and minor engine upgrades so it’ll move along just fine.

  18. Ray Smith

    I remember working at an auto auction when I was a kid. We got Chrysler lease vehicles back by the hundreds. Our General Manager hand picked a beautiful red one with white leather interior to be his driver. The car had T Tops, no vinyl roof and had factory fender flares. It was classy and my dream car at the time. I don’t know if there are any survivors left but if his were to show up in pristine condition I may end up being one nut short.

  19. Texas Tea

    Okay, I have to throw in my two cents worth.

    I was a young mechanic at a Mopar dealership in 1978 and a full time college student. These cars looked good enough, but where horribly built, as was all the rest of the Mopar line up. If you will remember, Mopar had a union dispute going on during this time period. The U.A.W. did their level best to destroy Mopar, and almost got it done (remember Lee Iacocca taking over the helm). I could tell you stories about some of these products and the problems they had when they showed up on the car transports at our dealership, but that would take way to long. The U.A.W. lost me with this foolishness. I will never own another U.A.W. built vehicle, unless it’s a classic when unions took pride in their work.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi T T, that’s true. Mr. Iacocca said it himself, ” we sent a lot of crap out the door”.

  20. RJ

    The interior is so at odds with the rest of the car. Blech.

  21. Rocko

    Always was, is and forever be a $600

  22. Jubjub

    At least it has the cool aluminum wheels and the turbine centers are there.

    Place this in the context of a Donna Summer 8-Track and it will be easier to appreciate.

    Guess that Eagle wagon in the background will pop up here next.

  23. Squanto

    “NASCAR lineage” In plain words, it has four tires and a steering wheel. Just like a stock car.

  24. Corey Irons

    I bought a 78 SE back in 1990 from a used car lot in Denver for 195.00 as is
    .It was dirty and needed a tune-up but otherwise a decent ride for the money. Drove it for a year until it fraught fire one night cuising down I-70 @ 60mph. I guess I got what I paid for.

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