What is a retro car without retro colours? It’s the visual tie that binds four decades of muscle car separation.
Dodge’s eye-popping Plum Crazy Purple for the Dodge Challenger certainly brings back memories for muscle aficionados. At least it certainly does for me since I have a Plum Crazy Purple 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible with white stripes, a rare ragtop that has been my baby for more than a decade.
When Chrysler designers introduced the retro-styled Challenger for the 2008 model year, you could only get it in Orange — the first heritage colour to be released — then black and silver. But these colours didn’t satisfy buyers for long.
“Challenger is the modern interpretation of the muscle car. The minute it came out, people were saying they wanted the car in Plum Crazy Purple. There were online posts and renderings,” said Chrysler’s Jiyan Cadiz. “It’s such an iconic colour … it was pretty much a natural move.”
For the 2009 model year, Chrysler offered up its second heritage hue known as B5 Blue, named for the 1970 paint code, but still less iconic than Plum Crazy. It wasn’t long before Tor-Red rolled off the assembly line. Then, it was only a matter of time before buyers got their wish: 2010 would see more bright hues: first Detonator Yellow; then purple.
Known as PCP in Chrysler lingo, the new Plum Crazy is slightly darker than the original, one of eight extra-cost “high impact” colours offered in 1970 and 1971, when muscle cars reached their peak of both performance and marketing outrageousness. Plum Crazy kept company with the likes of Panther Pink, Top Banana, Sublime and Gomango.
“The colours really helped define these cars then,” says Cadiz. “It’s quite a daring colour, but there is definitely a demand for Plum Crazy.
“The colour just looks right for that car. The first time I saw it was at the Detroit Auto Show, and lots of people came up to me and said ‘I used to have one’ or ‘I always wanted one.’”
Count this reporter into that group. Having an original purple Challenger is one thing, but when Chrysler brought back Plum Crazy, my first thought was that I could buy a new twin.
Sure, they’re 40 years apart, but really in automotive history, some could argue no two cars have ever looked so similar with four decades between them.
To get the ball rolling, I told a local dealer friend about my wish to complete my purple pair and that, oh yes, I also wanted inside the factory in Brampton, Ont., so I could watch and document the birth of the twin.
Shockingly, he said he would make it happen.
On a Tuesday in February, I watched as my car rolled down the assembly line. But it almost didn’t happen. As we found out, no one gets in to see the cars being built. Few dealers ever do, and certainly not customers. But after a couple of dozen calls between VPs and PR types, dealers and plant security to convince them that I wasn’t a spy and just wanted to write about my new Challenger being built, I was in.
A friendly Chrysler engineer spent two hours taking me around the three-million-square-foot facility in a motorized cart. I ogled purple metal shells fresh out of the paint booths. Racks of “Hemi” V8 engines.
Row upon row of new Challengers, Chargers and 300s in all stages of the build process. I was in Chrysler heaven.
Finally, I saw my very own PCP Challenger at the end of the line, and it was love at first sight. After the car went through a series of tests, I was introduced to my new baby outside and we snapped our first official photos together.
It would only be a short time before my ’70 Challenger would have pictures taken with the new baby at a local car show.
Chrysler’s retro plan had worked marvelously, thanks to the colour purple.