Rare Rides: The 1980 Dodge Challenger, a Galant by Any Other Name

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1980 dodge challenger a galant by any other name

Our Rare Ride today is an excellent condition example of an easily forgotten Malaise coupe from Chrysler Corp.

It is, of course, the second-generation Dodge Challenger, from 1980.

After a successful first run for model years 1970 through 1974, the big, muscle Challenger nameplate took a little hiatus. Flash forward to 1978, and Chrysler was ready to reintroduce an all-new (and very different) Challenger. This time it was leaner, greener, and Malaise-ready.

The general world climate at the time put a damper on the thirsty, large muscle cars of a few years prior. Though it was well before the DSM era, Chrysler and Mitsubishi had a strong existing relationship. The Pentastar people smelled opportunity in the air, and set their sights on the rear-drive Galant coupe.

A quick badge job later, and the captive import Dodge Challenger was ready for showrooms. Over at Plymouth, the Challenger’s brother was known as Sapporo — a name Mitsubishi used for the Galant in some markets.

In addition to the shrunken body, the Challenger lost its V8 for this generation. On offer were a couple of inline-four engines, in either 1.6- or 2.6-liter displacements. That limited power reached the road through a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic.

Though down on power and general American-ness, the Challenger was still able to stand out amongst its Malaise competitors. Its 2.6 engine made decent power (in historical context), and was praised for its smoothness. Mitsubishi engineers had pioneered and implemented new balance shafts to reduce NVH levels. And it worked.

Challenger and Sapporo would carry on with minor facelifts through the 1983 model year. At that time the Sapporo name vanished, and Challenger returned to its slumber until 2008.

Today’s Challenger is a 36,000-mile example living out its days in West Virginia. An original owner wanted his coupe to lean more towards brougham luxury than sport, so there’s a snazzy plaid interior and an automatic transmission.

This one’s probably as original as they get these days, with warning wrapper still intact on the sun visor. The seller indicates 100 percent originality, but keen observers will note paint match issues on the passenger door.

In any event, the seller is entertaining offers for his prized ride. So $18,990 or whatever ought to do it.

[Images: seller]

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jun 08, 2018

    Given the Mustang/Mustang II downsize in '74 and the GM downsize in '77, I think people were oriented to at least some nameplates getting smaller. The slope of the rear window into the trunk is kind of funny looking to me, otherwise it's not too bad looking and generally pointy in the same way that a '79 Mustang was.

  • Rick Rick on Feb 09, 2023

    What a sad excuse for a Charger.

  • MaintenanceCosts I own a 2019 Bolt Premier that's identical to this one except for the mods and I still wouldn't buy this one. Wheels are ugly, tint is illegally dark in my state, and a badge conversion to Opel, which GM doesn't even own anymore, is just plain dumb.
  • Verbal It is more about profit margins than market demand. Ford could easily sell a substantial number of this car in North America, but the profit margins would be thin. Ford makes money hand over fist on F-series, Broncos, etc. No need to venture out of the pickup/SUV/CUV box. The suburbs of America are filled with driveway queen F-150 air haulers that are the new Country Squires. Ford likes it that way.
  • JMII What I don't get about this video is how did the tire get under the Soul? Its not like those things have massive ground clearance. I assume a tire would have smacked into the bumper and went flying in some other direction. This interaction seems to break the laws of physics... the car should have won this encounter not the tire 😱
  • SCE to AUX Looks like a good buy, but I'm not into alterations.
  • Ajla I'm smart enough to see the popularity of CUVs.What I'm not smart enough to understand is how selling 20000 sedans in small markets is superior to selling 20000 sedans in a larger market.