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2006 Dodge Challenger concept car

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.

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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!

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(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."

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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.

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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."

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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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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"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.)

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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.

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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

Impressions from the North American International Auto Show (Detroit) show floor

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."

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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.

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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.

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Timeline of the new Dodge Challenger

JanuaryPlanning and design begins for the 2006 concept Challenger.

Feb 1Chrysler gives the go-ahead to build a full-size running concept and gives the designers four months to complete the clay model and deliver it to Metalcrafters, a California company that builds Chrysler's concept vehicles. The finished concept, its body made of carbon fiber, had to be ready in time for the world debut at NAIAS 6 months later.
AprilFinal exterior design sketches are completed.
AprilInterior design work begins on the concept Challenger.
JuneComplete clay model and design specifications are turned over to Metalcrafters.
Nov 1Dodge debuts the 392 Hemi crate engine in an original 1970 Dodge Challenger at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. Inside information gathered at the show strongly hints that a production version of the 392 will debut in a future Challenger model.
Nov 3Metalcrafters of California completes the main assembly of the 4,160 lb. Challenger concept model and begins the final prep for its world debut at NAIAS in January.
Nov 20First spy photos of the Challenger concept appear on the internet. The two unauthorized and undisguised photos were taken of the Challenger while it was being prepped for an outdoor photo shoot.
Nov 21Dodge formally announces the 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept Vehicle and releases a color drawing of the vehicle. The press release states that "The 2006 Dodge Challenger concept resurrects another authentic American muscle car for the Dodge brand and continues to build on the success and heritage of the HEMI® engine."
Nov 26Kevin Verduyn, head of Chrysler's U.S. design operations, states publicly that Chrysler currently has no plans to produce the Challenger.
Dec 20More spy photos of the Challenger concept appear on the internet.
Dec 22A MPH magazine cover photo leaked on the internet reveals the clearest photo to date of the Challenger concept. The cover was an advance mock-up of the February, 2006 issue.
Dec 27Car and Driver & Road and Track magazines start to arrive in subscribers' mailboxes, with new photos as well as preliminary specifications of the Challenger concept.

Jan 8World debut of the 2006 Challenger concept at the Detroit Auto Show.
May 22The Challenger concept appears in public, driven to two car enthusiasts gatherings in Huntington Beach, Ca. and Newport Beach, Ca.
July 1Unprecedented public response to the Dodge Challenger concept results in Chrysler announcing that after nearly 35 years, the Dodge Challenger will return as the ultimate modern American muscle coupe. Chrysler Group President and CEO Tom LaSorda officially announces that the Dodge Challenger is a 'Go' and that the all-new Dodge Challenger would debut as a 2008 model in calendar-year 2008. The announcement was made shortly before the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race at
Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Aug 15Chrysler announces a contest giveaway for three vehiles each of the 2009 Challenger R/T, 2007 Chrysler Sebring and 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in the "Dream Car Sweepstakes". Of the more than 24,000 entries received, over 55 percent of the entrants registered to win the all-new Dodge Challenger. The winners of the Challengers were Brenda Freeman of Jasper, Ga.; Evelyn Puett of Plainfield, Ill.; and Phil Sholtes of Grosse Ile, Mich.
No one caught the fact that this was the first "clue" that the R/T would not debut until the 2009 year.
Oct 31Dodge displays a white and blue Challenger Super Stock 392 concept at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

Feb 13Dodge announces that Ontario will become the home of the all-new 2008 Dodge Challenger, to be built at the Brampton assembly plant with production starting in the spring of 2008.
Feb 15At the 2007 Chicago auto show Dodge announces that the production Challenger "will debut in 358 days at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show". A large countdown clock is displayed next to the Challenger concept.
Apr 7Brampton assembly plant starts production of the first AME (Advance Manufacturing Engineering) Challenger pilot models. Seven build days are scheduled between April and June.
Apr 29Seven very clear photos of the bare Challenger body frame are secretly taken inside the Brampton assembly plant and leaked to the internet.
June 28First spy photos of a cameo'd test mule Challenger, taken by Brenda Priddy, are released to the internet.
Aug 19A spy video of a cameo'd test mule Challenger driving on the streets of Auburn Hills, Michigan, appears on the internet.
Sep 17Dodge announces that the first three 2008 Challengers off the assembly line, SRT8 5-speed automatic models, will be auctioned for charity.
Sep 26The first of the three Challenger charity auctions, for dealers only on Ebay, opens with a $25,000 starting bid for Challenger No. 0002. The first details of some of the key features of the SRT8 Challenger are revealed for the first time in the auction listing - the 6.1L engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission are officially confirmed.
Oct 3Dave Smith Motors of Kellogg, Idaho puts in the winning ebay bid of $175,407.07 for Challenger No. 0002.
Oct 13Three camera phone images of a completely unmasked production Challenger, taken without permission at a dealer show in Las Vegas, appear across the internet.
Nov 29In an email to dealers, Dodge announces that order banks will open up on December 3rd. The email states that every franchised dealer will receive at least one 2008 Challenger.
Dec 3Dodge opens up the order banks and announces pricing for the "All-New 2008 Challenger SRT8", set at $37,995 plus a $2100 Gas Guzzler tax. New details are officially confirmed including the three colors to be offered on the 2008 models (Black, Silver and Orange), a Kicker audio system, 20"x9" wheels, carbon fiber hood decals, MyGIG navigation radio and power sunroof option. In the first day 4,300 Challengers are sold.
Dec 6First Official photos released of the "All-new 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8". Dodge releases five partial-view high resolution "teaser" photos. In response to persistent rumors that only 5,000 2008 models would be built, Kathy Graham, Dodge Challenger public relations specialist announces "We haven't decided yet. It will be less than 10,000."
Dec 10Orders for the 2008 Challenger pass the 7,000 mark.
Dec 31Orders for the 2008 Challenger pass the 9,000 mark.

Jan 16First photo of an unmasked 2009 Challenger R/T is posted on the internet, caught while being valet-parked. The same day, the clearest photos yet of an unmasked Challenger also appear, a 2008 silver SRT8 model spotted driving on the streets of Michigan.
Jan 19The second of the three Challenger charity auctions is held by Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona. Challenger No. 0001 brings a winning bid of $400,000.
Jan 21Chrysler announces that it will build 6,400 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 coupes for the United States, with a few more slated for Mexico and Canada.
Jan 23A clear spy photo appears showing the center stack and floor console area of a 2009 preproduction 6-speed R/T Challenger. An additional photo appears, shot trhough the drivers window, showing the steering wheel and dash area.
Jan 24Car and Driver magazine releases embargoed exterior images of the production SRT8 Challenger, some of which are shown on two prototype magazine covers for the April 2008 issue.
Feb 6The long-awaited world debut of the production SRT8 Challenger at the 2008 Chicago auto show, with a simultaneous debut at the Philadelphia auto show.
Feb 12Bid opening date on Ebay for 2008 Challenger Number 0043, a one-only B5 Blue model. The proceeds will benefit the Victory Junction Gang, an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children with chronic illness, founded by Kyle Petty, in honor of his late son, Adam.
Mar 19Scheduled debut of the 2009 base model and 2009 R/T model Challengers, 2008 NY Auto show.
Apr 15-21Approximate date for the production start of the 2008 Challenger SRT8.
JuneEstimated early production start-up for the 2009 Challenger models.
July-Aug2009 Challenger models due to start arriving to dealers.

Spring-summerEstimated production startup for 2010 Challenger models. Convertible models are rumored, with production possibly starting earlier in the year. A 392 Hemi version is also rumored to debut in a 2010 model year.
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