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Production Dodge Challenger!
The concept car has a 116 inch wheelbase, while the other LXs use a 120 inch wheelbase; but it’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!
(Steve Kasher talked to Mike Castiligione): 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 Chrysler’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.
“During the development of the concept car,” says Micheal Castiglione, principal exterior designer, “we brought an actual 1970 Challenger into the studio. For me, that car symbolizes the most passionate era of automotive design.”
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 President—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 eye—a vehicle without the imperfections like the old car’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 car’s curved surfacing. “We wanted to stay pure,” said Castiglione, “with simple, minimal line work, but with everything just right.”
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 “present” 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 “six-shooter” 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 “performance hood” 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. “This is something we would have loved to do on the original Challenger,” said Jeff Godshall, a Plymouth Owners’ Club contributor who was a young designer when the first Challenger was created, “but the technology just wasn’t there.”
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, didn’t make the “cut,” 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.
Again, the interior of the production car will be very different.
The interior is black relieved by satin silver accents and narrow orange bands on the seat backs. “Though 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,” said Alan Barrington, principal interior designer. As with the original car, the instrumental panel pad sits high, intersected on the driver’s side by a sculpted trapezoidal cluster containing three circular in-line analog gauge openings.
“We designed the gauge holes to appear as if you are looking down into the engine cylinders with the head off,” 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 car’s “Tuff” wheel, as does the steering column “ribbing.” The floor console, its center surface tipped toward the driver, is fitted with a proper “pistol grip” 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. “We imagined that the door panel was a billet of aluminum covered with a dark rubberized material,” Barrington relates. “Then we cut into it to create a silver trapezoidal cove for the armrest.”
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 today’s smallest, most underpowered Hummer. Brakes are more effective than the original - stopping from 60 mph can be done in 133 feet.
Challenger is an appropriate name; just as the original rode on a shortened B-body platform (with some A-body elements, called the E-body platform), the new Challenger will ride on a shortened LX platform - with two doors. (The Dodge people have apparently talked about the two-door design as a "flexibility test" for the platform, which sounds interesting coming from the company that produced coupes, luxury cars, economy cars, and minivans from a single basic platform. The real flexibility comes in their ability to build the Challenger on the same assembly line, at the same time, as the other LY models — which would be a major advance, since the body is very different.) It’s also possible that the entire LY platform will be on a slightly shorter wheelbase - in which case the LY would not be shortened, and would be cheaper to engineer and produce.
E8502 added: “From a design standpoint, it's a pretty great work of ‘auto art.’ The lines are just right as to hide the cars size, and it has a glamorous roof-line that evokes fond memories V8 hartops of days gone by. A high greenhouse gives the sides a substantial look of imposing substance. The rear end is flamboyant and bold, with the taillight spanning the entire rear. Dual exhausts showcase the power, and large 18" rims with low profile tires put all that power to the ground. A sleek modern interior with subtle touches of sporty trim help to tell folks this isn't just another coupe... Surely this car is a big disappointment, I mean, what is there to not like about it?”
Challenger discussion forum
The Challenger Concept just begs to be built. This is pure testosterone. Even the Viper doesn't create this kind of craving, as the Challenger goes from "oh-I-wish-I-could-afford-one" to "omigod-I-could-actually-BUY-one."
Mike Castiglione, a 15-year Chrysler veteran, was charged with exterior design, and it was no easy task. He was up against two other competing designs, both of which were more "sports car than muscle car," and he was, in fact, told it was his design that wasn't going to go forward. As he related the story, he procured a copy of Popular Hot Rodding that covered the upcoming Charger but strongly lamented the four-door design. He presented his case to Trevor Creed, demonstrating that Chrysler's best fans wanted something resembling his ideas and Creed agreed. Thanks Mike. We all love ya for it.
The design is so clearly a Challenger, but there many subtleties to be noted. The soft crease above the rear window (the so-called "hardtop line"). The original crease surrounding the wheel openings is there.
But realities of the LY platform, the hard points, force the designer to create innovative solutions while still being recognized as its namesake. While the wheelbase is six inches longer, the hood is actually shorter. But the illusion is created by moving the windshield's center forward and losing the front overhang where the original hood had a drop off. In addition, the classic bullet mirrors are moved rearward compared to today's A-pillar mountings, adding even more visual length to the front end. Just like the old days.
Inside, you can sense the imagery that Alan Barrington was trying to project: the image of milled billet aluminum covered in black rubber, then cutting out sections to reveal the metal below. The kickout at the bottom of the gauges reinforces the feeling of staring down a cylinder head. The door panels allude to the original's one-piece molded design, but take it to a new level by "carving out" the familiar trapezoidal shape, exposing the aluminum underneath. It's quite an effect.
The wheel design was a source of some frustration. Castiglione repeatedly tried to bring the classic Rallye wheel to the car, but it just wouldn't take in today's vocabulary. "It looked too much like a luxury car wheel, so we used the five-spoke." And look closely. Each spoke has a triangular section cut out from its depth that can only be seen from the side.
The fever that rages over the new Challenger will certainly not abate anytime soon. And "official" word or not, all the reasons I've heard to not build this car add up to the same number: zero.
Plum Crazy, please. Thanks Mike and Alan.
Bruce Kepley wrote: “As a past owner of 14 Dodge Challengers over 21 years, I can say that there is not one line that I would change on this car, which is surprising. This new design was brought to my attention by the guys working with me who are not Mopar people, and out of 26 available people at our company 4 have indicated that they would place the order today for the new Challenger if possible. As the satisified owner of the new Hemi Daytona Ram truck, my projection for the first year would be 200,000 vehicles easily, and quite probably more. The passage of time has proven that the 1970 Challenger was the high point of automotive design coupled with power, and things that would come after it would probably never equal it, given the price range. The very same thought may be true with the new Challenger retro design, since it is so true to character of the Challenger. Guys, it's simple, forget the aerodynamics, if you build it we will come......marketing done.....and I'm a marketing manager by career.”
Richard suggested, “On the front of the hood replace the Dodge Ram emblem with the original D O D G E letters and add the wing to the trunk lid.”
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