Home » Our Pro Designer is Upset Again, This Time at a FrankenChallenger

Our Pro Designer is Upset Again, This Time at a FrankenChallenger

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We use a wobbling mountain of old CRT monitors for a view screen here at The Autopian substation to beam in a lot of questionable automotive choices from all over the World Wide Web. But car enthusiasm is a broad church and we’re here for all of it—the good, but mainly the bad.

Or rather, the other Autopian staffers are. Someone has to be the voice of reason in this out-of-control bathtub of full of lunatics, and dear reader, I’m increasingly worried that’s me. The one who styles himself like he just walked off a Bunnymen album photoshoot and drives both an old Range Rover and an old Ferrari. All right, we’re grading on a curve but someone has to try and uphold standards around here, especially when it comes to automotive aesthetics.

2014 Dodge Challenger 100th Anniversary Edition
Photo: Dodge


Who has pissed in my morning martini this time? Glad you asked. I love American muscle cars. There’s just something about stuffing a ridiculous engine in a proletarian body, decorating the whole thing luridly and sending it out the showroom with an affordable purchase price and barely any brakes. They bring a slight warmth to my dead soul like a steaming plate of shower spaghetti.

Were I capable of your human emotions I would have a soft spot for the ’71 Mopars, specifically the ‘Cuda, Challenger and GTX. They represent the stylistic high watermark of the muscle car era. Do you know what else is good? The current evergreen Challenger, a brilliant example of heritage design done right. Do you know what’s bad? Trying to combine the old one and the new, one like some Detroit chimera.

Photo: eBay
Photo: eBay

That didn’t stop the builder of this abomination, now trying to offload his unholy hosebeast of a creation onto some poor sap without functioning eyesight. What is going on here? A poor ’71 Challenger has had its rear bumper removed and a fill panel badly butchered into its place. At the front, it appears the front fenders have been hacked back to allow a new Challenger front fascia to be delicately attached. With a lump hammer. Choices have been made. Did the builder have all the ingredients lying around the yard and after a few cold beverages one evening succumb to a boozy flash of inspiration?

Let’s pick through the description for an insight into the insanity:

“This is a one-of-a-kind build.” Translation: this is an idea so bad no one else had it. In the entire history of ideas, this is one of the worst.  “An imaginative fusion of the old and new Challenger!” Anyone using the word fusion and not talking about a Ford needs to be flayed with a fan belt. “Front grill assembly was custom fabricated using 1971 grill components – truly a work of art.” Yes, the kind of art that requires a visible line of pop rivets to hold it in place. That’s a sign of quality craftsmanship. Someone get Rolls Royce on the phone and tell them they’ve been doing it all wrong.

“Oh Adrian, you’re being unfair,” you might be saying. “Let someone build the car they want, they’re not hurting anyone. You’re just pissy because someone has a different opinion to you.”

You know what? You’re goddamn right I am. You’re free to build whatever you want, and I’m free to critique it because my opinion is extremely qualified and my experience and training are relevant. And I love the sound of my own voice. Yet people feel entitled to shit out half-baked eye sores because they don’t understand or value creative work or worse still think that anyone can do it. When I don’t know how to do something, I enlist the help of experts who do.

Photo: eBay

Look at how the tape stripe bends sharply as it transitions from the fender to the nose. This is because the surface changes direction too abruptly – the intersection or join between the two panels has no continuity. Think of it like a peak instead of a smooth blend, forcing a jigsaw piece into a place it’s not meant to go. Looking at the stripes as a whole, they’re about as straight as a $7 bill. There’s a definite kink (not the good kind) as the feature line moves from door to fender.

Photo: eBay
Photo: eBay

It appears the scoop of a modern 392 has been grafted onto the hood of a ’71 without any attention paid to the curve of the trailing edge. The cowl is peeking through like when you did that “pull your lower eyelid” down thing as a kid. The rear windshield looks ready to pop out the first time you mat the thing, which you won’t be doing anytime soon as Frankenchallenger doesn’t have an engine or transmission.

Trying to clean up the rear to match the front has left a vast expanse of painted metal that falls away to nothing, which looks chinless and weak. Where are the exhaust tips going to go? At least there’s consistency in the inconsistent panel gaps, which are as hilarious as the ones around the hood.

Dodge Challenger 1971 Pictures 4
Photo: Dodge


A ’71 Challenger is a fine-looking car in its own right. If you want to modernize it there are better and more visually cohesive ways rather than throwing on a panel designed for a completely different car. Lower it a touch. Update the lighting. Correct the appalling-from-the-factory panel gaps and fitment. Maybe upgrade the door handles. Subtle changes that don’t fundamentally alter the carefully considered overall look. This thing is like wearing Yoji Yamamoto sneakers with a sports jacket; two totally contrasting looks that don’t fit together at all.

No matter what OEMs and superstar name designers may lead you to believe, a car’s appearance is never the work of one person. I touched on this in the comments of my Midjourney piece, but no creative person, no matter what the discipline, is an island. In the studio, there are lots of pairs of eyes on a design to form a consensus as to what works. And those people have been hired because they have demonstrated a high level of aesthetic sensibility and good judgment in their portfolio work and graduation projects. It’s like being a movie director: even auteurs rely on a trusted crew of cinematographers, production designers, scriptwriters and so on. Car design is no different.

Car design teams spend literally years tweaking details and features on full-size models as a car moves through the design process. This is as true today as it was in the ’70s. The end result is hopefully something that works as a complete vehicle. Do they always manage it? Of course not, but that should be taken as a reflection on how hard it is to get right, rather than an indication that designers don’t know what they’re doing.

Do you want to know why Ring Brothers keep wiping the floor with everyone else at SEMA every year? It’s because they hire a fucking professional car designer. I’m not saying you can’t try and beautifully customize your car your own way; just remember why you might fall short.


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90 Responses

  1. While I see you point about the poor execution of the build, the overall effect isn’t too bad to my short sighted eyes.

    I’m not saying it’s a good idea to mess with the original Challenger which is a fine automobile as is, I’m not saying the dude is a master fabricator. I’m just saying the overall result, when glossing over many technical issue and some aesthetic choices (that spoiler really looks out of place to me) isn’t awful, and if you take it as a “prototype” made by a guy in his yard, that’d be the first iteration of many to achieve his vision, it’s not too bad.

    Now, the fact he is selling it proves it’s not the case, but it’s still no Yubian Puma where the entire vision is just pure shite.

  2. Hot take: Keystone Klassics (sp?) are absolutely the dumbest looking aftermarket wheels ever made, and don’t work on anything.

    I led with that so I could say this: it took me the first 47 years of my life, but I finally saw a car at a show that they looked great on: a 1968 Oldsmobile Delta 88. But on muscle cars or sports cars, they are ass and have always been ass.

  3. At first, I thought it wasn’t that bad and you were just being grouchy. The closer I looked, the worse it got. I have a few cars whose paint is best viewed from 10 feet away, this is a 20 or 30 foot car.

  4. The back end looks like MO from the movie Wall-E, except that MO got high from sweeping up some really tasty rust bits while renovating David Tracy’s former apartment.

  5. All this design critique and no mention of how the lower body of the original ’71 curves under the car much more than the new front and rear bumpers, making a completely incongruous line along the bottom edge of the body from one side of the wheel to the other? The original design looks much lighter in large part because of this lower body curvature giving the appearance of it being higher off the ground, the body being not as tall… the car was “light on its wheels”. The new design is much more squared off and “planted”, but that gives the new challenger a much heavier appearance. Combining the old with the new here gives this beast a chin like Jay Leno and a really awkward rear end (beyond the slabbiness that you pointed out where the lower bumper should be)

  6. Don’t get mad at this poor car, it’s a victim.
    Please indulge my own Challenger story. A few years ago my wife and I were driving our 2017 Challenger through Florida on vacation. Stopped at a restaurant and there was a Testarossa in the parking lot. Inside was a man wearing a Ferrari jacket and baseball cap. Maybe he wanted people to know it was his car? A few people were standing near his table asking questions and making his day. All well and good. After a bit my wife says, “Please. Go over there and tell him that a Challenger is amazingly affordable.” I blew sweet tea out my nose and tears ran down my face. She’s a caution.

  7. At first I thought this was a new Challenger with old Challenger stuff grafted on.

    When I realized it was the other way around, I came fully onboard with your POV. This is a travesty.

    1. What jackass thinks the OG Challenger/Cuda needs aesthetic “improvements” in literally any way? It is already one of the very sexiest designs from the Golden Age of muscle cars.

  8. I’m not defending this thing in any way, but that hood was originally created for the 1970 AAR ‘Cuda, and it’s possible that this particular hood was swapped over from one of those, rather than being a graft job.

  9. There is one abomination on this ride that no one has mentioned yet, so let me put on my fire suit and say it out loud:

    Keystone Klassics are the dumbest looking aftermarket wheels in the history of aftermarket wheels. They look dumb as hell on nearly every car they have ever been put on.

    It took me the first 47 years of my life to finally see a car that they really “worked” on to my eye: a 1968 Oldsmobile Delta 88 hardtop. They had a quasi “factory Magnum 500s” effect. I was flabbergasted – I couldn’t believe I was looking at a car that looked great with a set of Klassics on it.

    This guy was obviously giving a nod to the Sox & Martin drag car here, which is the only heritage-correct cue on this abomination, but guess what? They looked fucking stupid on THAT car, too.

  10. Hmm, for a moment I looked at that and thought someone had fixed the ugly greenhouse on the new Challenger.

    Backdating the new car sort of makes sense, but why ugly up the old one when you can just go the the Dodge store and get the ugly from the factory car.

  11. This article had me laughing my ass off. The writing style was delightfully mean-spirited, and it was genuinely funny as a result. I hope to receive similar critique whenever I send out drawings of my ideas or if I complete my own projects and showcase them. And if they actually gain approval, that would be even better, but I’m not expecting that to happen, so a biting and caustic form of whit will suffice. Besides, the criticism is still constructive, even if it is funny and/or caustic, which is what gives it its value.

    You know what would make this Challenger even more abominable, and solve the lack of a place to put an exhaust and a lack of transmission at the same time? A Tesla drive system installation. It would totally complete this car. It would be unholy, in all the wrong ways. A true abomination that would bring forth Old Testament wrath!

    Of course, my preferences would have leaned toward trying to make a modern interpretation of a Charger Daytona or Plymouth Superbird, with the actual emphasis on drag reduction that those cars had. 0.28 in the early 1970s placed it among the most aero cars available for sale at the time. I think with a similar body style and modern aerodynamics knowledge, a low 0.2X or even upper 0.1X Cd is possible, while retaining musclecar proportions, even if they are slightly skewed.

    In 2013, GAA classic cars made a more modern interpretation they called a Challenger Daytona, but I couldn’t get info on its aero value, and suspect it probably isn’t as good as the 70s-era Charger Daytona/Plymouth Superbird given the lack of attention to the rear:


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