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The Chrysler Vehicle Excitement Team (VXT)

Chrysler's "Vehicle Excitement Team" (VXT) was a group of engineers who beg, borrow, and buy what they need to create practical cars to show to tuners - and maybe build on the production lines. The team followed Chrysler's long tradition of semi-underground engineers who built hot cars from whatever they could find and fabricate.

The engineers have a very low budget to keep costs down, but are no doubt encouraged by their peers, even as their projects have little official sponsorship. The group itself was backed by Jim Schroer, a marketing man brought over from Ford, with hints that Dieter Zetsche may be interested.

One key goal for Chrysler was to make a splash at 2002's SEMA (the Specialty Equipment Market Association) show to grab the attention of younger people and aftermarket companies. Chrysler has long lagged behind GM and Ford, not to mention Honda and Toyota, in its appeal to young buyers and aftermarket tuners, even though the product is often easier to tune and sturdier than many competitors.

Chrysler managed to get 27 VXT cars out to SEMA. Perhaps the closest to being built is a turbocharged version of the pedestrian Dodge Stratus, using the 2.4 turbo engine from the GT Cruiser and Dodge Neon SRT-4. The base 2.4 turbo doesn't produce that much more power than the 2.7 V6 (215 vs 200 hp), but is easier to tune for even more performance. What's more, there's a chance it can reach production, and in larger numbers than the SRT-6 or SRT-4. The model built for SEMA has custom gauges, leather, and a short shift kit, but those would probably not make it to a production version. (The Stratus built by VXT, based on the Stratus R/T, had a lowered suspension and larger tires, along with modifications to the exhaust and turbo assembly for 250 horsepower or more.)

The VXT PT Cruisers include a two-door PT Super Cruiser with a 300 horsepower version of that same 2.4 liter engine, with a handmade carbon fiber hood; and a luxury, all wheel drive PT with a massive sliding sunroof, dubbed PT Big Sky. Both were made mostly with off the shelf parts. The Super Cruiser is race-ready, with a roll cage, racing seats and harness, and fire suppression system. The engine was tricked out by John Bucknell, who worked on the supercharged 1.6 liter engine used in the Mini Cooper S. Fabrication was done entirely in-house, though the transmission was assembled by Getrag.

Thanks to Doug Hetrick for the info.

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