1955-56 Dodge La Femme: I Am Marketing, Hear Me Roar

Note: Another post from Tony LaHood! -TK

You really don’t see as much of this anymore, for several reasons: first, manufacturers no longer have the kind of mad money it takes to design, produce and market vehicles that disrespect the economies of scale. Also, the once-vaunted “halo effect” is increasingly irrelevant to consumers–after all, is the average Altima or Civic buyer the least bit influenced by the existence of the GT-R or NSX?

And then there’s the matter of political correctness; seriously, if a car maker offered a model geared toward a specific gender or other personal demographic today, howls of protest would reverberate, boycotts would form, and the offender would be made to attend automotive sensitivity training conducted by a newly formed Federal Department of Indignation Resolution.

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1985 Dodge Diplomat Police Package: Plain White Wrapper

This car is the one that says ‘police car’ to me more than any other. Growing up in the 1980s, the Rock Island Police Department drove black and white Diplomats. And when Officer Friendly visited our school when I was in first or second grade, he was driving one of these.

1978 Diplomat

1978 Diplomat

The Dodge Diplomat initially appeared as a corporate cousin to the new, Seville-sized and very Seville-like 1977 Chrysler LeBaron. The car itself was essentially a 1976-80 Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré with fresh sheetmetal, plusher interiors, and more upscale aspirations.

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1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE: Impossible To Ignore

While Peak Brougham was, in my opinion, 1976 (last year of yuuuge GM B- and C-bodies; Cordobas, Grandes Prix, Monte Carlos, Elites, Cougars, need I say more), Peak Muscle Car was 1970. That vaunted first year of the Me Decade saw the wildest colors, options, myriad rally wheels and sport wheels, factory and aftermarket, Hemis, 440s, 427s, 429s and Hurst shifters. And there were two newly minted additions! The Plymouth Barracuda. And, today’s subject, the Dodge Challenger.

1970 Challenger

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Just Right: The 1965 Intermediates

If you’re in the market for a midsize car today, you have plenty of choices. Well, for now, as the ever present crossover is rapidly compelling the manufacturers to kill off the traditional midsize sedan. Several nameplates from which to choose–Camry, Impala, Fusion and Optima and of course Accord, to name a few. And they all come in the same flavor of competent albeit repetitive design and styling. Where’s the flair, man? Once upon a time, before safety standards, emissions and plain old public demand trumped style, a buyer could get virtually whatever their heart desired, right down to colors, options–and yes, Virginia, even a body style other than the now-ubiquitous four-door sedan. Want an aqua Skylark convertible with a white interior, V8 and four-speed? Done! How about a red Lark Wagonaire with a red interior, 350 McKinnon (nee GM) V8, power retractable roof over the cargo area, and automatic transmission? No problem. You could have those cars and everything in between–in 1965. Everything from cheapskate beige two-door post with manual everything to fully loaded sports convertible with a fire-breathing powerplant. So let’s set the way-back machine to Autumn 1964 and see what we can get.

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Remembering A Friend: Julie’s Cars

A good friend, Julie Werthmann, passed away last week. A close friend of my parents, and probably one of my mom’s best friends. Well, hell, she was a friend of mine too. Yesterday, we attended the memorial and said goodbye. She was a terrific lady. She and her then-husband met my folks back in the ’80s when they moved our Chris-Craft to a new dock at Sunset Marina. Mike and Julie became our ‘boat neighbors.’ They lived year-round on their boat, a Grand Banks double-cabin cruiser. I have known her since I was about five years old. And since I was a car nut even at that early age, I remember all the cars she had. And rode in most of them over the years.

The earliest car I remember was a dark green 1982 Delta 88 Royale Brougham. Just like the car in the brochure picture above, it had the color-keyed styled steel wheels, plus a sage green interior with matching top. And the 350 Diesel V8! But they never had an issue with this car. In fact, they kept it well into the 1990s, and it stayed nice and reliable all that time. The sound of that GM Diesel is permanently etched into my memory.

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