The Dodge Challenger convertible concept produced for SEMA 2006 is at this link.
According to sources, Chrysler is trying to decide on which strategy to follow: a high-price, low-volume run, or a high-volume, lower-price run. Also in flux is the question of engines – restricting to just the Hemi, or allowing both the Hemi and at least one V6. Chrysler announced a manual transmission will be available along with an automatic, each having five speeds; an SRT-8 version will have the 6.1 Hemi while the stock Challenger will have the 5.7 Hemi (no, they will not have the new crate Hemi, nor did we expect them to). At this point we believe there will be a first-year run of about 50,000 Hemi equipped Challengers, possibly with automatics, followed by a smaller run of Hemi Challenger SRT-8 cars with manual transmissions. Rumors are flying about a 6.6 liter Hemi, but we believe that is speculation at this point.
One possibility was just sent to us: the Challenger start out in SRT-8 form for model-year 2008, with both a manual and automatic, built on the LC (shortened LX) platform. Following that will come the standard Challengers.
When and where will it be built? â€œDCAutoWorkerâ€ wrote that customers cars would be built starting in April 2008, with a 30-day hold to get some supplies built and perhaps handle any last-minute issues without a recall; hence it would be given to dealers in May 2008 as a 2008 model (in the near past, Chrysler would have called that a 2009). Brampton has not yet been officially named as its home, but the three-week model changeover is longer and later than normal.
CanadianJeepYJ wrote that, according to a Chrysler rep talking informally: â€œCars should start rolling off the line in January-Feburary of 2008, hitting the dealers by March. There will be a SXT model with either a V-6 or a 4.7 V-8. The first hemi R/T’s will be all autosticks. The SRT-8s will be the 6.4 Hemis putting out 500-505 HP. The story right now is the manual trans is still up in the air, he said there is a faction that wants only autosticks, and another wants the 6 speeds. He’s backing the 6 speed availability.â€
Buddy (of Mighty MoPars of Orlando) wrote: â€œAt the MoPar Nationals, they were conducting a survey asking what you would like your Challenger to have. Color, dual exhaust, muscle car graphics, complete gauge package, type of transmission, must it have a Hurst shifter, type of engine (3.5L V6 was an option), if autostick which direction – side to side or front to back, must it have 20 inch wheels front and rear, etc. Seeing the car in pictures does it justice but seeing this thing in person is UNREAL! Check out the detail on the brake caliper. Notice the name “Challenger” on it?â€ (Buddyâ€™s photo)
LY is the platform code for the second-generation LX cars (an unfortunate designation!); this basic platfom, which like the LX uses a Mercedes-style suspension with Chrysler engineering for better driving dynamics, higher reliability, and strong cost savings, will be used on the Mercedes E, CLS, and R classes, starting in, depending on the model, 2010 to 2012 (according to a supplier).
The Challenger may ride a shorter wheelbase to decrease weight, but on the other hand, it may simply be a two-door variant, much as the original Dodge Charger was a two-door version of the Coronet.
The concept car has a 116 inch wheelbase, while the other LXs use a 120 inch wheelbase; but itâ€™s a custom-made, carbon-fiber-bodied one-off concept car. The 1970 Challenger was 191 inches long (with a 110 inch wheelbase); the concept is 198 inches, and two inches wider than the original. Built by Metalcrafters, it weighs 4,160 pounds.
The original Challenger rode a unique platform (shared only with the Plymouth Barracuda) designed to handle any Mopar engine, including the fearsome 426 Hemi and 440 Six-Pack. The name was later applied to a Mitsubishi import.
The Dodge Challenger was styled primarily by Michael Castiglione, a 15-year Chrysler veteran, based on what people see in the original Challenger – a car with a huge, long hood and a short rear deck. While the LX series have longer hoods than most modern cars, the proportions are very different from the old E-bodies (current designs are much more practical for both cornering and space usage). However, Castiglione used some perceptual tricks, such as increasing the size of the front overhang, moving the rear-view mirrors back, and using a steeper windshield angle coupled with an angled cut in the door to make the hood seem longer. Making the car wider than the LX series (and the original, for that matter) and moving the rocker panels in made the Challenger look more like the original, with its tucked in rocker panels. Despite very different hard points in the design, Castiglione’s interpretation looks so much like the original to the human eye that many thought it was the original car and not a new version!
Mike Castiglione was up against two other competing designs, both of which were more “sports car than muscle car;” he was told that his design (the one you now see) that wasn’t going to go forward. Mike said that he procured a Popular Hot Rodding lamented the appearance of the Dodge Charger and presented his case to Trevor Creed, showing that Chrysler’s best fans wanted something resembling his ideas. That made the difference, and Creed agreed.
The concept car itself was built very quickly by Metalcrafters, which builds Chryslerâ€™s concepts; the body is made of carbon fiber, not steel or fiberglass. The car is wider and shorter (in both length and wheelbase) than the Dodge Charger. The wheels are far larger than those of the original cars, though styled to look similar: 20 inches up front and 21 inches in back. The color is original for the concept, though the Hemi has authentic orange paint. The Dodge-provided 13.0 second quarter mile time and 4.5 second 0-60 would not apply to actual production cars, since it comes via dual Flowmaster mufflers with no catalytic converters.
â€œDuring the development of the concept car,â€ says Micheal Castiglione, principal exterior designer, â€œwe brought an actual 1970 Challenger into the studio. For me, that car symbolizes the most passionate era of automotive design.â€
The two-door model Challenger takes many cues from the 1970 model (the most sought after by collectors), including floating headlights, ribbed black seating, a hood with black trim, a 6.1-liter Hemi engine with six-speed manual transmission and a pistol grip shifter, and the general look and feel; designers had a 1970 model in the studio as they created a concept. “We wanted to do a muscle coupe that connects with the American heritage,” said Tom Tremont, Vice Presidentâ€”Advance Product Design, “but instead of merely re-creating that car, the designers endeavored to build a Challenger most people see in their mind’s eyeâ€”a vehicle without the imperfections like the old carâ€™s tucked-under wheels, long front overhang and imperfect fits. As with all pleasurable memories, you remember the good and screen out the bad.”
The designers considered the essential attributes of a muscle car to be distinctly American; mega horsepower; pure, minimal, signature lines; aggressive air-grabbing grille; and bold colors and graphics.
The signature side view accent line is higher up on the body, running horizontal through the fender and door and kicking up just forward of the rear wheel. The upper and lower body surfaces intersect and fall away along this line, which has just a whisper of the original carâ€™s curved surfacing. â€œWe wanted to stay pure,â€ said Castiglione, â€œwith simple, minimal line work, but with everything just right.â€
The five-spoke chrome wheels are set flush with the bodyside, giving the car a muscular stance. Wheel openings are drawn tightly against the tires, with the rearward edges trailing off. One of the key characteristics of the original car was the wide look of both the front and back ends. To achieve this the designers increased both the front and rear tracks to 64 and 65 inches respectively, wider than the LX, wider even than the 1970 model. To realize the long horizontal hood the designers deemed essential, the front overhang was also increased. (These could be problematic if the Challenger goes into production.)
Both the hood and the deck lid of the Challenger concept vehicle are higher than the 1970 in order to lift and â€œpresentâ€ the front and rear themes. The front end features the signature Dodge crossbar grille and four headlamps deeply recessed into the iconic car-wide horizontal cavity. Diagonally staggered in plan view, the outboard lamps are set forward, the â€œsix-shooterâ€ inboard lamps slightly rearward. At the rear, the car-wide cavity motif is repeated, encompassing a full-width neon-lit taillamp. Both the grille and the front and rear lamps are set into carbon-fiber surrounds. Like the original, slim rectangular side marker lamps define the ends of the car.
The hood reprises the original Challenger â€œperformance hoodâ€ and its twin diagonal scoops, now with functional butterfly-valve intakes. Designed to showcase the modern techniques used in fabricating the car, what look like painted racing stripes are actually the exposed carbon fiber of the hood material. Bumpers are clean (no guards), body-color, and flush with the body. â€œThis is something we would have loved to do on the original Challenger,â€ said Jeff Godshall, a Plymouth Ownersâ€™ Club contributor who was a young designer when the first Challenger was created, â€œbut the technology just wasnâ€™t there.â€
The Challenger concept is a genuine four-passenger car. Compared to the original, the greenhouse is longer, the windshield and backlite faster, and the side glass narrower. All glass is set flush with the body without moldings, another touch the original designers could only wish for. The car is a genuine two-door hardtop with the belt line ramping up assertively at the quarter window just forward of the wide C-pillar. Exterior details one might expect, like a racing-type gas cap, hood tie-down pins, louvered backlite and bold bodyside striping, didnâ€™t make the â€œcut,â€ the designers feeling such assorted bits would detract from the purity of the monochromatic body form. But tucked under the rear bumper are the twin-rectangle pipes of the dual exhausts.
The interior is black relieved by satin silver accents and narrow orange bands on the seat backs. â€œThough the 1970 model was looked to for inspiration, we wanted to capture the memory of that car, but expressed in more contemporary surfaces, materials and textures,â€ said Alan Barrington, principal interior designer. As with the original car, the instrumental panel pad sits high, intersected on the driverâ€™s side by a sculpted trapezoidal cluster containing three circular in-line analog gauge openings.
â€œWe designed the gauge holes to appear as if you are looking down into the engine cylinders with the head off,â€ relates Barrington. These are flanked outboard by a computer, allowing the driver to determine top overall speed, quarter-mile time and speed, and top speed for each of the gears.
With its thick, easy-grip rim, circular hub and pierced silver spokes, the leather-wrapped steering wheel evokes the original carâ€™s â€œTuffâ€ wheel, as does the steering column â€œribbing.â€ The floor console, its center surface tipped toward the driver, is fitted with a proper â€œpistol gripâ€ shifter shaped just right to master the quick, crisp shifts possible with the six-speed manual transmission.
As the original Challenger was the first car to have injection-molded door trim panels (now common practice), the doors received special attention. â€œWe imagined that the door panel was a billet of aluminum covered with a dark rubberized material,â€ Barrington relates. â€œThen we cut into it to create a silver trapezoidal cove for the armrest.â€
The Hemi has 425 hp, 420 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed manual transmission. With its 4,100 pound weight, it can do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds (with 20 inch wheels on front and 21 inch wheels on back), and runs the quarter mile in 13 seconds flat; top speed is 174 mph (limited by wind resistance), while gas mileage is estimated at 14 city, 20 highway, very good compared with the original Challenger and roughly the same as todayâ€™s smallest, most underpowered Hummer. Brakes are more effective than the original – stopping from 60 mph can be done in 133 feet.