First of all, yes, it had a Hemi.
Secondly, it wasn’t a sport utility vehicle, though it was just as roomy inside.
Instead, it was an amazing stylish station wagon — that’s right, an old-fashioned station wagon — but with a very contemporary, almost exotic, out-of-my-way-peasant presence as it filled a rearview mirror and intimidated traffic to move aside.
And it was ripe for customization.
All of which makes the Dodge Magnum a future classic.
For the 2004 model year, Dodge resurrected its Magnum nameplate, which it first used back in 1978 — “the totally personal approach to driving excitement,” it claimed — on the full-size coupe that replaced the Charger Daytona (and does anyone remember that hideous, limited-edition — thank goodness! — appearance package that applied a two-tone paint job to the front and rear quarter panels of the ’77 Charger Daytona?).
The original and V8-powered Magnum got Chrysler back into stock car racing. However, the model lasted only two years before it was replaced by the slightly smaller and Slant Six-propelled Mirada.
Magnum, from the Latin word for great, has come to mean a surprisingly powerful bullet or an oversized bottle for sparkling wine. It also has been applied to the magnum opus, a great if unusually large work of art or literature.
Or, in the case of the Dodge Magnum, a great and relatively large and powerful station wagon based on the Chrysler 300, the full-size sedan that looks like a Bentley but costs a lot less.
Based on underpinnings from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, the Chrysler 300 freed American driving enthusiasts who needed full-size cars from the shackles of front-wheel drive. Dodge’s version was called the Daytona as a sedan and the Magnum as a station wagon. But while the Daytona lacked the 300’s styling, the Magnum seemed to lack nothing, especially in its Hemi-powered RT or SRT-8 models.
Best of all, however, was the European version of the car, the Chrysler 300C Touring wagon (left), which was basically the Magnum but with the 300’s Bentley-like grille.
The Magnum was in production only for the 2005 through 2008 model years. But in that span, Chrysler built around a quarter-million of them so it shouldn’t be that difficult to find one in great shape for driving now and maybe crossing the block a few years down the road.