Online's most popular cruiser: '69 Dodge Charger
As Dream Cruisers celebrate the automobile on Woodward this week, everyone will have their favorite: maybe it's a Stingray Corvette, a 1932 Ford hot rod or even a gull-wing DeLorean.
But if you’re looking for hard data on the most popular collector car and muscle car in Michigan, one stands alone: the 1969 Dodge Charger.
Collector-car research and sales site ClassicCar.com has crunched the numbers, and the Charger coupe is not only the most-searched classic and muscle car in the Mitten State but also across the country. Thirteen states count the ’69 Dodge as the most popular. It ties the Ford Mustang for most-searched muscle car nationwide.
Classiccar.com sifted 45,781,804 searches in the one-year period through June 21 to make its determination.
“Nothing truly personifies American car collector’s pride, passion and freedom like a muscle car,” says Roger Falcione, the website’s president and CEO. “They are powerful, beautiful, designed for maximum performance. It makes sense that these cars are searched for so often.
"Tastes evolve regionally, but the staples of the performance car market have remained constant, and that is why we believe values continue to be so strong for cars like the Charger and Mustang.”
The Charger coupe debuted in 1966 and has been a Hollywood favorite in car-chase movies like “Bullitt” (a 1968 Charger is the mob hit-man car that chases Steve McQueen’s Mustang) and the “Fast and Furious” franchise (Vin Diesel’s black 1970-vintage steed).
But the ’69 Charger became an American icon as the “General Lee” in the “Dukes of Hazzard” series that debuted on CBS in 1979. The show — and its star car — has been recreated on the silver screen and music videos, most famously in 2005 when a bikini-clad Jessica Simpson gave it a suds wash.
"A lot of people consider the '69 the most beautiful muscle-car built from that era," said Marc Rozman, 64, of Royal Oak, who will cruise Woodward this week in his red '69 Charger R/T. "The 440-cubic inch Magnum engine has a lot of power. But I'm not a drag racer, I just like to cruise around with the windows down."
The Dukes built the Charger as a race car wearing No. 01 on the side. They used it to run moonshine. Powered by a 375-horsepower engine that could push the car to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, the General was known as the fastest car in Hazzard County, Georgia. An estimated 300 Chargers were used across the TV show’s 147 episodes, with 17 known to have survived the brutal, physical stunt scenes.
The original car is now owned by golfer Bubba Watson, who purchased it for $110,000 in 2012 (he has since painted over the Confederate flag on its roof). Ex-U-M basketball star Jalen Rose has also owned a General Lee replicar.
The 1969 Charger also won fame in NASCAR as the high-wing Charger Daytona. With Buddy Baker behind the wheel at Talladega Speedway in Alabama, it became the first NASCAR to run a lap in excess of 200 mph.
After the Charger and Mustang (the original 1968 "Bullitt" car will be on display at this year's Cruise), the Chevy Corvette comes in as the third most-searched car, leading in five states. The Chevy Camaro is fourth, followed by its cousin, the Pontiac Firebird.
America may be divided politically into red and blue states, but the popularity of Detroit muscle cars is uniform, with the Charger ranking No. 1 in states from New York to Michigan to Texas.
The sole foreign make ranking No. 1 anywhere was the British-born MGB, which was the classic of choice for Nebraskans.
Last year, the Mercedes-Benz 250SE was the only foreign favorite, leading classic searches in Connecticut. The Nutmeg State has another eclectic choice for most-searched this year — the 1949 Ford Custom.
Other notable detours from the Charger-Mustang-'Vette Big Three were in Maryland, which likes the 1954 Chevy Bel Air — and Utah, which is wild for the ‘23 Ford T-Bucket.
The 2018 report upends last year's findings, with top-searched classics repeating in just seven states. In 2017, Mustang led the way in 13 states followed by the Chevrolet Impala (seven) and Charger coming in fifth.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.