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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.
LX-car proportions are very different from the old E-bodies, for better cornering and space usage; but Castiglione used perceptual tricks, such as 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,” and was told the vintage look wasn’t going to go forward. Mike procured a Popular Hot Rodding lamenting the looks 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.
“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 concept car itself was quickly built out of carbon fiber by Metalcrafters. 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 two-door model Challenger takes many cues from the 1970 car: floating headlights, ribbed seats, black-trimmed hood, and pistol grip shifter. Designers had a 1970 car in the studio as they created a concept. Tom Tremont, Vice President of Advance Product Design, wrote, “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 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, with only a trace 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. To recreate the original car’s wide-looking front and rear, designers increased both the front and rear tracks to 64 and 65 inches respectively, wider than the LX or the 1970 model. The front overhang was increased to allow the long hood.
The hood and the deck lid of the Challenger concept car are higher than the 1970. The old sidelights were brought back.
The hood itself is based on the original Challenger “performance hood” and its twin diagonal scoops, now with functional butterfly-valve intakes. The racing stripes are 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; it has a longer greenhouse than the original. All glass is set flush with the body without moldings. 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, since they might detract from the 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.
“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 (this would eventually end up in the center as the SRT and Dodge Performance Pages.)
The leather-wrapped steering wheel was designed to evoke the 1970 “Tuff” wheel, right down to the steering column ribbing. As the original Challenger was the first car to have injection-molded door trim panels (now common practice), the doors were imagined as a billet of aluminum covered with a rubberized material, with an armrest hole cut into it.
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 (these numbers were all done without catalytic converters, and using dual Flowmasters), while gas mileage is estimated at 14 city, 20 highway, very good compared with the original Challenger. Brakes are more effective than the original - stopping from 60 mph can be done in 133 feet.
The original Challenger used a shortened B-body platform (with some A-body elements, called the E-body platform), but the new Challenger has a shortened LX platform.
Challenger discussion forum
by Steve Kasher
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.”
The design is 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 force the designer to create innovative solutions. The wheelbase is six inches longer, but the hood is actually shorter. 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 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.” 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.
See our main concept cars page.
See our main Dodge Challenger page.
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