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First look: Dodge delivers proddie Challenger SRT8

Hemi: 317kW V8 punches SRT8 to 100km/h in around five seconds.

The final production version of Dodge's 1970s-inspired 6.1-litre Challenger SRT8 lobs

15 Feb 2008

DODGE has unleashed the final production version of its born-again Challenger, a 6.1-litre muscle car that echoes the 1970s original.

Although the Challenger has the blood pumping at Chrysler’s Down Under HQ, it looks like the dream of having a new local performance flagship will go unrealised as there are still no plans for right-hand drive production.

Local executives have not quite given up, but it seems that the Challenger will be built in extremely limited numbers – perhaps as few as 50,000 in total – so there is little chance of a sudden re-engineering for the few right-hand drive markets in the world.

If you really want to buy one, then ebay may be the answer, but expect to pay considerably more than the US$37,995 list price. Yesterday there were three cars listed with prices starting at $42K and rising to over $50K with almost a week remaining.

Also listed on ebay (ending on Saturday the 23rd) is a unique blue car built in homage to American stock car legend Richard Petty at the request of his son Kyle, also a successful driver. This car is chassis number 43 – Petty’s famous racing number – and the proceeds will go to a children’s charity established by the Petty family.

Last month, car number 1 off the production line was sold at a collector car auction in Arizona for a staggering US$400,000, with the proceeds also going to charity.

41 center imageWith the Mustang still going strong and now joined by the Challenger – and with the Australian-developed Chevrolet Camaro soon to join them – the old ‘Pony Wars’ of the late-1960s and early 1970s have certainly been revived, although there is no sign yet of a revived Trans-Am racing series.

The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 accelerates from 0-100km/h in the low five second range and completes the standing quarter mile (400m) in less than 14 seconds.

Its 6.1-litre Hemi V8 produces 317kW of power at 6200rpm and 610Nm of torque at 4800rpm on regular 91-octane unleaded petrol, with a redline of 6400rpm. It is mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission.

This maximum power rating matches the figure of the ultimate first-generation Challenger, the 426 Hemi (one of which can be bought on ebay for US$399,000).

Dodge introduced the Challenger in 1970 and it was discontinued in 1974 in the wake of the first oil crisis. A second-generation model offered between 1978 and 1984 was sourced from Mitsubishi and, powered by a four-cylinder engine, was not worthy of the name.

The latest offering is heavily based on the original, which starred in the movie Vanishing Point. Unlike that car (which was white) or the 1970 Trans-Am racer (which was green), the 2008 model is only available in orange, silver or black.

Dodge marketing director Mike Accavitti said the new Challenger brings what pony car fanatics crave: ground-shaking performance, unmistakable design cues reminiscent of the original Challenger, world-class ride and handling characteristics and benchmark braking, as well as modern amenities and technology.

“The all-new Dodge Challenger SRT8 is engineered to give customers everything they want in a modern muscle machine,” he said.

“The new version of Dodge’s American classic boasts tyre-smoking performance and head-turning design while offering a wide array of state-of-the-art technology, such as GPS navigation, ‘Keyless Go’ entry, an infotainment system and hands-free communication.” Mechanically, the Challenger features a multilink short and long arm front suspension and a five-link independent rear suspension, forged 20-inch Alcoa aluminium wheels and performance brakes with red-painted Brembo four-piston calipers and vented rotors all round.

Developed by Chrysler’s in-house SRT performance engineering team, the Challenger is a two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe produced in Ontario, Canada with a numbered dash plaque, carbon fibre-look stripes and functional ’70s-style dual bonnet scoops that feed air to the engine.

“Our designers wanted to capture the mind’s eye view of what people today remember about the Challenger from 35 years ago,” said Chrysler’s British-born design chief Trevor Creed. “So their challenge was to excite today’s customer by capturing the emotion of the original Challenger, but with today’s quality and performance.

“The exterior proportions evoke a bold, instantly recognisable vehicle that has a wide, stable stance on the road. A full-width grille and fog lamps reminiscent of the original Challenger are married to the modern ‘Dodge attitude’. The result is an aggressive face that is unmistakably a muscle car.

“The rear spoiler is not only reminiscent of the original Dodge Challenger T/A model, but is a functional part of the SRT8, generating significant rear downforce.

“The side mirrors actually started with a mold from the mirrors of an original Challenger. We tweaked a few details for fit and finish, then put them through our modern aerodynamic testing metrics and ended up with a body-mounted mirror that is remarkably similar visually to the original, but offers significantly better aerodynamic performance.” The race-inspired interior was also inspired by the original Challenger, featuring race-style leather seats with added bolstering and an orange accent stripe, stitched accents on the seats and steering wheel, four-bomb gauges with tachometer and 180mph (290km/h) speedo in the centre, trapezoidal theme of the door and gauge cluster, dark headliner and a slanted shifter console.

SRT boss Kipp Owen said his company understands what customers want in a performance car and believes the Challenger will exceed their expectations.

“The original Challenger was best known for its straightline prowess at the drag strip. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 not only lives up to that heritage, but was engineered to offer world-class ride and handling characteristics when on the street, at a drag strip or at a road course.

“It is the ultimate modern muscle car – built by gearheads for gearheads.”

Read more:

Hot new Dodges go under the hammer

Challenger to Dodge Australian call-up

Dodge's reborn Challenger is go!

First look: Dodge has a new Challenger

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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