Dodge Challenger Muscles Into Detroit

January 7, 2006





2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/7/2006)


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In the weeks leading up to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, one car getting a lot of attention was the Dodge Challenger concept vehicle, with its retro styling that recalls the muscle car era.

Chrysler’s designers have flirted with the retro styling for years, but the Challenger’s final design sports less contemporary flair than it channels the muscle car from Chrysler’s past.

Though it will be unveiled as a concept vehicle at the NAIAS, the rear-wheel-drive, two-door Challenger is widely considered as a sure bet to reach production, perhaps as soon as the middle of 2007, according to a new report issued by CMS Worldwide just before the opening of the show.

The car is based on the rear-wheel-drive LX platform that has already been used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum/Charger.

Muscle reborn


2002 Ford Thunderbird Neimen Marcus Edition

2002 Ford Thunderbird Neimen Marcus Edition

Tom Tremont, Chrysler Group vice president of advanced design, said the Challenger, which was designed in Chrysler’s Pacifica Studio in Southern California, comes with all the distinctive features needed for an American muscle car, including a huge dose of horsepower, minimal signature lines, an aggressive grille, and bold colors and graphics.

Tremont added the Challenger concept vehicles draws upon the initial 1970 model, which is considered the icon in the Challenger series. CSM describes the concept car as a “near-clone.”

“The 1970 model is the most sought after by collectors. But instead of merely recreating that car, the designers endeavored to build a Challenger most people see in their mind’s eye — a vehicle without imperfections like the old car’s tucked-under wheels, long front overhang, and irregular fits. You remember the good and screen out the bad,” he added.

Tremont said the key to making sure the Challenger looked right was to make sure the car had the right proportions. The concept Challenger sits on a 116-inch wheelbase, which is six inches longer than the original. The concept Challenger, however, is also two inches wider, giving the car a squat, tougher, and more purposeful appearance, according to the vehicle’s designers.

2001 Ford Taurus Sedan

2001 Ford Taurus Sedan

The concept car also can accommodate four seats and while the exterior is retro, the interior has a very contemporary feel, which includes the latest materials and textures as well as bold gauges.

The long, thrust line down the side of the car, which was one of the distinctive features of the original Challenger's design, has been raised and the concept vehicle sits on 20-inch tires in the front and 21-inch tires in the rear. The wheels are set flush to the body to enhance the power of the car’s stance

The hood and rear decklid of the Challenger concept are also higher than on the original Challenger, and the show car is powered by — what else — a 6.1-liter HEMI that turns out 425 horsepower.

The concept Challenger’s wide stance also is emphasized both in the front and the rear of the vehicle while the bumpers are flush clean and colored the same as the body.

“This is something we would have loved to do on the original Challenger,” said Jeff Godshall, who worked in the Chrysler Exterior studio in the 1960s. “The technology just wasn’t there. With the Challenger concept, however, the Pacifica Studio designers are able to realize what we wanted,” Godshall said.

CSM Worldwide’s report said the development of the Challenger was spurred by the success of the Ford’s new Mustang and the recent trend of outfitting classic muscle cars with modern mechanical equipment.


The concept Challenger also appears to be an effort to appease of vocal group of critics upset with the Chrysler Group’s decision to turn the Charger into a four-door sedan.

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