In 1970, Sam Hanna’s dad bought a brand new Dodge Challenger right off the line. This started a love affair between the man and the muscle car that has lasted until this day. It’s the reason why he still drives one today. But there was a unique Challenger Sam found later in life that he lovingly restored to perfection and named Charlene. It was this car that held a special place in Sam’s heart. So when the car was suddenly stolen one night, Sam was devastated and depressed…. although he would never come out and admit it to his concerned partner!
At first he thought his colleagues were playing a prank on him (Deeks being the first to one to be blamed, of course!). As he grilled the team and strong-armed Eric to find his beloved Challenger, Callen became concerned that his partner was becoming more and more depressed and put out an APB to find the stolen car. For Deeks it was just a car, something to get from point A to point B. But as Kensi tried to explain to her indifferent partner, it was not just any car! Oh, no! It had a V8 Magnum and a 4 barrel carburetor with dual exhausts! Truly a work of art and a car that defined the term swagger.
What is the mystery behind this iconic car that certainly beguiled our tough special agent and made a name for itself in the automotive industry? NCIS:LA Magazine goes back in time to discover the origins of Sam’s beloved car, and find out why it became one of the most sought after collector cars today!
It all goes back to 1959 when the first Challenger called the Silver Challenger came off the assembly line. Later Chrysler made three different generations of a new muscle car called the Dodge Challengers with the first being produced in 1970. That’s when the new ‘pony’ car came into its own. ‘Pony’ was the term used for all muscle cars that were out to compete against the Ford Mustang. Chrysler wanted its new car to be the biggest and the best pony car out there. The new Challenger shared its components with the Plymouth Barracuda but it was more than able to stand up next to the Mustang and Camaro’s of the day. Chrysler also wanted its new upstart to be able to compete with the Cougar which was a more luxurious and expensive pony model. So they designed the Challenger with a longer wheel base, larger dimensions and a more luxurious interior. The base price on the car started at $4,480 in 1970. Not exactly inexpensive when you started adding all the bells and whistles that made the car so sought after.
In 1970 more than 76,000 cars were produced by Chrysler. The Dodge Challenger was among the fastest and wildest cars on the market and it created its own culture and buzz. Although the muscle car was well-received by the public, the press was not so kind. It was criticized for some of it drawbacks like poor outward visibility and feeling too bulky for its size. Yet, despite its drawbacks, the 1970 Dodge Challenger is still prized by collectors today and one in mint condition can go for over $80,000 on the resale market.
By 1974 sales had fallen off and Chrysler ceased production, although Dodge resumed production later, the car is still selling over 28,000 models each year.
Kensi’s description of Sam’s Charlene may the DC T/A (Trans-Am) model. It was a racing homologation car which Dodge built to race in the Sports Car Club of America. There were less than 2500 of these models made.
The Challenger certainly has a unique personality much like many of its owners, including Sam Hanna. It’s a muscle car that has stood the test of time making it one of the alpha cars of its generation. Strong and imposing, the 1970 Challenger was an impressive car that turned heads. Luckily for Sam, Callen couldn’t stand to see his friend suffer any longer over his loss and spent his rainy day fund to buy him another Challenger (Deeks: With copious amounts of potential!) that Sam will once again restore and begin a whole new love affair with. What name will Sam christen his new Challenger? Callen suggested Jennifer but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Sam may never know Charlene’s fate (and Nell and Eric will never tell!), but it’s for sure he will never forget her. Long live Charlene!