Everything old may be new again, but eventually, everything that's new again grows old.
Except, perhaps, for the Dodge Challenger.
The Challenger is an odds-defying, high-horsepower retro car with sales muscle, too. While most other retro-themed cars in the last 20 years enjoyed brief flashes of showroom success before the novelty wore off, the Challenger is heading into its 12th model year with just one major cosmetic refresh and is on a sales roll.
In October, the venerable muscle car outsold both its chief rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, the fifth month since 2009 that the Challenger raced ahead of the competition. FCA US long ago discovered that the car's brawny good looks, recurrent special editions, frequent new colors and continuous horsepower supplements are a recipe that keeps the buzz going. Having a muscle car with robustly engineered, Mercedes-derived underpinnings and a usable back seat relative to its closest competitors doesn't hurt, either.
At a time in its product cycle when most other cars would be on life support — or worse — the Challenger could end the year with an all-time sales record for its modern iteration.
When the Challenger returned in 2008, its throwback styling evoked a powerful emotional response from customers and onlookers. A substantial freshening for the 2015 model year not only embraced that styling, but reveled in it, with sweeping interior callouts to the heady 1970 model. Dodge rekindled the Scat Pack Club and logo from its muscle-car days and turned up the volume with its Challenger SRT Hellcat and Demon versions. It's a lesson that other carmakers can learn from.
While the Challenger's longevity and popularity may be gravity-defying, other automakers' retro models have had mixed results in recent years. Still, it doesn't keep designers from trying. One good example: Volkswagen's plans to bring an electric version of its legendary microbus, the I.D. Buzz, back to life a few years from now. When it does, once again, a Volkswagen microbus will pull up next to a Dodge Challenger at a stoplight somewhere.
And in that moment, at that intersection, it can be 1970 on the road all over again.