Photos by Steve Temple and Harold Pace, renderings by Ben Hermance.
Like a performance driver who keeps his eye ahead of the curve, Mopar enthusiasts want to know what’s in store for the high-flying Challenger. This grand name from the Seventies is finding a whole new legion of fans now that it’s entering the second decade of the New Millennium. Given how rocky the economy has been of late, though, it’s only natural to ask what’s ahead for the Challenger. Will it lose corporate support, as so many performance programs have of late? Or will it continue to increase its impact on the performance scene, befitting its storied predecessor?
Good questions, as the answers seem to change on a daily basis. From the factory standpoint, we can point to a couple of new offerings for 2010 in the area of color choices: Detonator Yellow and B5 Blue. Both of these are “legacy hues,” hearkening back to that iconic Golden Era of muscle cars.
From the rumor mill, it appeared that at one time SRT engineers were secretly developing a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 (which, if produced, would certainly not be limited to the Challenger platform). Shown at the trade-only SEMA show, this mill was said to have a potential output of 510 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. But when the economy tanked, a lot of plans went out the window (along with a number of Mopar engineers).
As of this writing, our latest info comes from a guy who knows a guy at Chrysler HQ in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He alluded to some developmental challenges during testing for the Phoenix V-6, intended to power a high-mileage, entry-level version of the Challenger, available with either a six-speed manual or automatic, and MDS as well.
Some interior tweaks might appear on 2010 Challengers, but no factory-built convertibles are planned as of this writing. But with the Viper going away, don’t be surprised if 2010 Challengers feature enhanced brakes, suspension and carbon fiber trim, since it’s now Chrysler’s “halo vehicle.”
This same (but unverified) source told of a 6.5-L engine, said to be capable of big power – “around 600-hp.” Some speculations swirling around Chrysler include talk of variable valve timing and direct injection. This mill was supposedly slated for the Challenger, but over the past few months, it’s been removed from any specific vehicle attachment to the testing sessions, so it’s not clear where it’s headed. Our mole did say that there seems to be way too much testing to be just a crate engine. The 5.7-L Hemi going into the current mule vehicles are making 400 hp on the dyno. He added that they’ve been doing very little testing lately with MDS-equipped models.
So where does that leave us with the 2010 Challenger? Well, since 2009 was really the first full year of production, we can’t reasonably expect to see major revisions on the Challenger platform, especially in view of the current business climate and low demand for new cars. Consider, too, that the number of Challengers produced is a mere fraction of, say, the Dodge Ram, so there’s less potential revenue to offset investment in any design changes. Putting it more bluntly, Chrysler simply doesn’t have the resources or manpower right now for a niche performance vehicle, so don’t count on any special editions in the near future. This basically means we’ll have to be content with the still-fresh Challenger soldiering on in its current uniform.
That doesn’t mean we’re left with only plain-vanilla versions, though. Just look to the aftermarket, which has been hard at work, using the Challenger as a foundation for all sorts of performance projects and limited-production models. After all, letting dealers, hot rodders and tuner shops handle performance mods is a time-honored tradition. For historical precedents, recall the Hurst cars, Mr. Norm’s Challengers, Shelby Mustangs and various Camaro specials from Yenko, Berger, Nickey, and Baldwin Motion.
The more times change, the more they stay the same. Check out the return of two legendary names, Mr. Norm and Hurst, which both debuted highly enhanced Challengers at the SEMA show last Fall.
We recently spent some one-on-one time with the famous Mr. Norm Kraus, a man who needs no introduction to Mopar fans. His dealership, Grand Spaulding Dodge, was the Mecca for high-performance Mopars during the heyday of muscle cars back in the sizzlin’ Sixties.
When asked if his latest Super Challenger and Super Cuda for 2010 represent revisiting those glory days, he quipped, “I never really left them.”
But he does admit that times have changed: “Back in the Sixties, it was race/performance only,” he notes. “Today, the combinations are more diversified. When somebody asks, ‘What does it come with?’, we reply, ‘Whattya want?’ We offer all the options on these cars, because our customers have the money to spend, and this is their love.”
Filling us in on the details of the models on display, he points out that the Super Challengers live up to their name with an
available intercooled, twin-screw supercharger stuffed under the hood. This positive-displacement Kenne Bell blower, when bolted on a 6.1 Hemi, boasts 650 horses at eight pounds of boost. To absorb such a torrent of power, Hotchkis lowered the suspension 1.5 inches, and the Rodtana 22-inch rims are shod with Pirelli Scorpion Zero Assimetrico rubber. A Corsa performance exhaust emits that sweet sound of power. Custom Sherwin-Williams paint, bodyside graphics,Mr. Norm emblems, and logo embroidery on the Katzkin leather upholstery signify the special-edition character of these cars.
Taking the Challenger one step further is the Mr. Norm’s Super ’Cuda that draws inspiration from its race-bred relative, the legendary 1970 AAR ’Cuda. Using the Challenger as a foundation, this dramatic restyling package matches heart-stopping good looks with heart-pounding performance. This design features a modern interpretation of the classic ’Cuda grille and tail panel, coupled with an aggressive front spoiler. Reinforcing the theme, the sides of the Hemi Orange Super ’Cuda are boldly accented with Sharpline Converting’s satin-black strobe stripes, inspired by those on the 1970 AAR ’Cuda. These graphics match the sinister Sherwin-Williams Planet Color Badass Black that covers the hood and adjacent surfaces, much like its storied ancestor.
Inside, the cockpit features a Hurst Shifter for precise shifting of the five speed transmission, a Katzkin “Barracuda” custom leather interior with Hemi Orange perforated inserts and Super ’Cuda monogrammed carpet mats by Designer Mat. As on the Mr. Norm Super Challengers, the Super ’Cuda comes armed with a ground-pounding 6.1 Hemi engine fitted with a Kenne Bell blower, along with the corresponding chassis upgrades.
Convertible versions of both the Super ’Cuda and Super Challenger will be available by the summer of 2009, and on 2010 models. In addition, Mr. Norm debuted the new Legends Edition at Barrett-Jackson earlier this year. Equipped with an ultra-high output, 900-hp 426 Gen III stroker Hemi, custom four-link rear suspension and Dana 60 differential, the Legends Edition sets a new high-water mark for street super cars.
Mr. Norm just announced the availability of a 426 Hemi Edition Challenger and Cuda convertibles that will feature stroked 6.1 Hemi engine. Equipped with a new forged crank, along with forged rods and pistons, the displacement is enhanced to near-historic levels, especially with a supercharger.
Hurst is another noteworthy name in the annals of Mopar performance. The company’s latest Challenger is a worthy successor, available in several levels from Series 1 to 5. The latter is the most heavily equipped version, outfitted with Hurst’s Hard Drive Pistol-Grip shifter, a Vortech centrifugal supercharger, and a MagnaFlow exhaust.
Running a streetable 5.5 pounds of boost and 91-octane fuel, you can figure on spiking the output of a 5.7-L to 432-hp, about 102 horses more than stock. And the 6.1 Hemi, force-fed with a max of 6.5 pounds, jumps to 560-hp, a gain of 135 horses. Torque output goes from 420 to 510 lb-ft.
Putting the power to the ground is an Eibach suspension with Bilstein shocks, plus a set of 20-inch polished forged wheels fitted with BFG KDW tires. Adding to this hot performance are cool looks, with a Hurst body-color rear spoiler, exterior graphics, Hurst leather interior with gold top-stitching, embroidered logos and a sequentially numbered interior dash plaque.
When all is said and done, these tricked-out Challengers pick up where the production models leave off. Times are tough in Detroit right now, so it’s gratifying to see how everybody is pitching in to make the most of the 2010 Challenger..
Hurst Performance Vehicles
Performance West Group, Inc.
Mr. Norms Garage