Future classic: Dodge Magnum

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Dodge Magnum | Photos courtesy Chrysler LLC
Dodge Magnum | Photos courtesy Chrysler LLC
Dodge Magnum | Photos courtesy Chrysler LLC

First of all, yes, it had a Hemi.

Secondly, it wasn’t a sport utility vehicle, though it was just as roomy inside.

Instead, it was an amazing stylish station wagon — that’s right, an old-fashioned station wagon — but with a very contemporary, almost exotic, out-of-my-way-peasant presence as it filled a rearview mirror and intimidated traffic to move aside.

And it was ripe for customization.

All of which makes the Dodge Magnum a future classic.

D2006_107highFor the 2004 model year, Dodge resurrected its Magnum nameplate, which it first used back in 1978 — “the totally personal approach to driving excitement,” it claimed — on the full-size coupe that replaced the Charger Daytona (and does anyone remember that hideous, limited-edition — thank goodness! — appearance package that applied a two-tone paint job to the front and rear quarter panels of the ’77 Charger Daytona?).

The original and V8-powered Magnum got Chrysler back into stock car racing. However, the model lasted only two years before it was replaced by the slightly smaller and Slant Six-propelled Mirada.

Magnum, from the Latin word for great, has come to mean a surprisingly powerful bullet or an oversized bottle for sparkling wine. It also has been applied to the magnum opus, a great if unusually large work of art or literature.

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Or, in the case of the Dodge Magnum, a great and relatively large and powerful station wagon based on the Chrysler 300, the full-size sedan that looks like a Bentley but costs a lot less.

Based on underpinnings from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, the Chrysler 300 freed American driving enthusiasts who needed full-size cars from the shackles of front-wheel drive. Dodge’s version was called the Daytona as a sedan and the Magnum as a station wagon. But while the Daytona lacked the 300’s styling, the Magnum seemed to lack nothing, especially in its Hemi-powered RT or SRT-8 models.

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Best of all, however, was the European version of the car, the Chrysler 300C Touring wagon (left), which was basically the Magnum but with the 300’s Bentley-like grille.

The Magnum was in production only for the 2005 through 2008 model years. But in that span, Chrysler built around a quarter-million of them so it shouldn’t be that difficult to find one in great shape for driving now and maybe crossing the block a few years down the road.

 

 

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. The European version was available with a Mercedes Benz Turbo diesel .Had that option been available here ,would sales have changed ? We will never know. Sales were initially brisk as this was the only car with the new hemi .Once the Charger came into the market sales dropped . One thing about the Magnum, the roof top rack totally changes the look of the car . The hip hop culture adopted this car ,and I believe that hurt sales .
    The 5.7 had a design flaw ,the valve seats were a problem . They fixed it for 2006 ,but never had a recall . And it seems that our friends in Fiat have no desire to help owners of the early Magnums ,since crate motors disappeared from the scene fast once Fiat took hold . You can’t put a new VVT motor in a an older Magnum without a wiring harness that crosses the bridge between old and new . Call a vendor who claims to be able to do this and it ‘s not a sure bet as in a chevy crate deal