2020-09B Challenger is 50 Photo 03

Challenger may have been late to the pony car party, but it did so fashionably. 50 years later, that entrance remains memorable.

Ironically, it was the Dodge’s sister division, Plymouth, was actually first to the party with its Barracuda. Released just a couple weeks before the Ford Mustang in April 1964, the Barracuda shared with Mustang the formula that would make this sporty, youthful segment such a huge seller during the 1960s: long hood, short deck and compact proportions in a sporty front-engine, rear-drive package. While the Mustang was based on the Ford Falcon platform, its styling was entirely new; conversely, the spendier Barracuda was more clearly a fastback version of the existing Plymouth Valiant. The Mustang was a runaway success with 121,538 sold for 1964 while the Barracuda and its trick curved-glass backlight could only be considered a moderate success with 22,443 sold that abbreviated season. Had the first Barracuda been at least as popular as the Mustang, perhaps we’d be calling cars in its class “fish cars” instead of “pony cars.”

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