Sunday, July 31, 2011

Car Of The Day: July 31, 2011

Today's car of the day is Hot Wheels Scorchers' 1979 Dodge Magnum.

The Dodge Magnum name has been used on a number of different automobiles. The most recent is a large rear-wheel drive station wagon introduced in 2004 for the 2005 model year and produced through to 2008. This new Magnum is Dodge's first car to use the new Chrysler LX platform, shared with the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger. The LX Line is assembled at Brampton Assembly Plant, near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Historically, the Dodge Magnum model name had been used from 1978 to 1979 for a large coupe in the United States. In Brazil, the Magnum name was a top of the line version of the local Dodge Dart from 1979 to 1981. In Mexico, the Dodge Magnum was a sporty rear-wheel drive two-door car based on Chrysler's M body (American Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury). It had a 360 CID (5.9L) V-8 engine with a single 4 barrel carburetor rated at 300 hp. From 1983 to 1988 it was a sporty two-door K-car with available turbocharger from 1984 on. Four engines were offered for the Mexican Magnum K, a SOHC I-4 2.2L (K-Trans-4), a turbocharged SOHC I-4 2.2L (1983–86) and two other 2.5L SOHC I-4s, with and without turbocharger (1987–88). The Mexican front-wheel drive Magnum was officially called "Dodge Magnum 400" between 1983 and 1984, as it was a sporty Mexican variation of the American Dodge 400 of the early eighties. For 1985, the "400" suffix was dropped. For the 1987 season, the turbocharger received an intercooler and the power from the turbo engine changed from 140 to 150 hp. The K-car based Magnum was replaced by the Mexican Chrysler Shadow GTS for the 1989 model year.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Dodge Magnum

A recent find at a thrift store, I think $1 was an extremely reasonable price for this model.  There are only two 1/64 scale Dodge Magnums of this era, and now I have both.  The other is a Corgi, and is the superior casting with opening hood and engine detail.  Unfortunately both examples lack an interior and this Scorchers version is a NASCAR stocker as seen by the window bars, lack of door lines, and riveted headlights.  Sadly, the real car never won a Winston Cup race and ended up being the car that made Richard Petty switch to General Motors halfway through the 1978 season.

The 1978 and 1979 Dodge Magnum in the United States and Canada was an addition to the Chrysler line up that allowed Richard Petty to continue racing with a Mopar. The Magnum replaced the Charger SE in Dodge's lineup in two forms; the "XE" and the "GT". It was the last vehicle to use the long running Chrysler B platform. The appearance was somewhat of a rounded off Charger, and was in response to getting a car that would be eligible for NASCAR that would be more aerodynamic, something the 1975-78 Charger was not. Styling features included four rectangular headlights behind retractable clear covers, with narrow opera windows, and an optional T-bar or power sunroof. The Magnum was well-featured with power steering, brakes and seats; the suspension included Chrysler's standard adjustable, longitudinal torsion bars, lower trailing links, and front and rear anti-sway bars. The base engine was the 318 in³ V8 with Lean Burn, while two and four-barrel carbureted 360 and 400 V8s were also available; weight was nearly 3,900 lb (1,800 kg). The 400 was dropped from the option list in 1979 as Chrysler stopped production of big-block V-8's in production cars at the end of 1978. A performance model, the "GT" was available with the 400 V8 in 1978 and the "E58" police interceptor (360 V8-195 HP) engine in 1979 along with HD suspension, special axle, special "GT" badging and a "turned metal" dash applique. Technology was advanced for the time with an onboard spark control computer from inception, electronic ignition, and a lockup torque converter. The Magnum name was discarded quickly in favor of the Mirada, a smaller car that was also a rebadged Chrysler Cordoba. The Magnum has something of a cult following today, with several clubs and enthusiasts who are dedicated to the recognition and preservation of Chrysler's "last B-body". In 1979, they made 3,704 Dodge Magnums with the T-Top.

For the 1978 NASCAR season, the 1974 Charger that Chrysler teams had continued to use was no longer eligible for competition. Chrysler worked on several car designs to smooth out the current 1975 bodied Charger into something that would be reasonably aerodynamic for the big racetracks and the Magnum design was settled on early in 1977 for use in the 1978 racing season. While not as aerodynamic as the previous 1974 Charger body, the shape of the Magnum showed promise, and the Petty built test cars easily reached 190 mph (310 km/h) on test runs. Once out on the tracks the cars ran well with Richard Petty almost winning his Daytona 125 (finishing 2nd), and lead 30+ laps of the Daytona 500 until a blown front tire caused him to wreck. However, the lack of factory support of continued development of the small-block Chrysler 360 V8 as a race engine was becoming more of a problem, and in high speed racing traffic the Magnum did not handle well. Richard Petty was particularly harsh in his criticism of the car. By the latter half of the 1978 season, Petty and Neil Bonnett (the two top Mopar teams) gave up on the cars inconsistent performance and switched to Chevrolets, leaving independent drivers Buddy Arrington (who bought a few of Petty's Magnums, along with some parts) and Frank Warren to soldier on without any substantial (Chrysler did provide sheetmetal and some engine parts to teams driving Magnums) factory support. From August 1978, 2-5 independent teams showed up with Magnums in NASCAR races until January 1981, when NASCAR switched to smaller bodied cars. The Magnum never enjoyed the racing heritage of its predecessors, but it was not without its own glorious moments. Petty scored 7 top five finishes in his 17 races with the car, and Neil Bonnett won three poles and scored 5 top five finishes with his. Richard Petty recognized the Magnum with a commemorative decal, depicting his famous number 43 emblazoned on a Magnum for his 1992 Fan Appreciation Tour. Though Richard never won a race in a Magnum, Petty's son, Kyle Petty drove one of his father's year old Dodge Magnums in his first race (1979 Daytona ARCA 200), and won! Kyle raced in 5 NASCAR races using the left-over Magnums in 1979, but by the end of that year wrecked them beyond reasonable repair. As of now (JUL 2008) only two NASCAR Magnums still exist; one (an ex-Petty car) resides in the Talledega NASCAR museum, and the other; (Marty Robbins' 1978 Magnum #42) has been superbly restored and is owned by a private party in southern CA. The owner plans on racing it in the vintage NASCAR series.

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