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Challenger: Revived muscle car has fans lining up to own one

By Matt Nauman
Mercury News
Fri., May 12, 2006

DaimlerChrysler-The Challenger, designed at Chrysler's West Coast studio, is longer and wider than the 1970s model.

CARMEL VALLEY - Why do Chrysler executives bother calling the Challenger a concept car? I mean, they're going to make it. How could they not?

Influential AutoWeek magazine proclaimed it the best concept at Detroit's January auto show.

It was the hit of the winter auto-show season.

Much of the mechanical parts of the Challenger already are in use in production cars such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum and Charger models.

Plus it looks fabulous, borrowing its shape and attitude from the 1970 muscle-car hall-of-famer. Its Challenger Orange paint job almost hurts your eyes, it's so bright and sunny.

Another car with '60s and '70s muscle roots, the two-door Ford Mustang, is a certified hit once again.

Last week, I was one of the first journalists to get behind the wheel of the new Challenger. Yes, this was the six-figure concept version. Yes, the car handler yelled at me when I slammed the door too firmly. And, yes, a 10-mile drive up and down Carmel Valley Road in a concept isn't the same as a 400-mile week in a production car.

But the allure of the Challenger is evident. Participants in the California Mille road rally stepped away from their Alfas, Porsches and Lincoln Capris to kick tires and snap photos.

Designed at Chrysler's West Coast studio, the Challenger has a pure, authentic feel to it. Designers say they corrected flaws of the legendary 1970 model -- recessed wheels, a too-long front end and shoddy build quality -- in making the new one. It's a bit longer and wider, too, but the proportions look low-slung and right.

The face, thankfully, echoes the vintage model and shies away from the horse-collar grille used on the Ram, Magnum and Charger. A neon tail lamp extends across the entire back of the vehicle and is a design highlight. Dual black stripes and big wheels (20-inchers in front and 21s in back) complete the look.

The inside is a study in black, with an emphasis on performance and function and not on creating some quasi-luxurious cabin. Round gauges, ribbed seats and a pistol-grip shifter set the proper mood. As with the Imperial, instruments in the Challenger concept aren't functional.

Under the hood is the 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 that makes 425 horsepower. Attached is a six-speed manual transmission. They were functional.

On the road, the Challenger had a nice growl. Its suspension still needs a bit of tweaking, but it's not hard to imagine this as a car than does straight and curvy with equal aplomb.

Chrysler keeps talking about the Challenger, and whether it can make a business case for a two-door, V-8 model in this age of favored four-doors and costly gasoline.

It's not too hard to read between the lines.
"If we wanted to go into production, and with the response we've been getting, we could pull the trigger and go,'' said Sam Locricchio, a Chrysler design spokesman based in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Chrysler is well-known for putting its concepts into production, with models from the Dodge Viper to the PT Cruiser making that trip in short time.
Based on those past exercises, you could even see a Challenger as early as the 2008 model year.

And here's another good reason for Chrysler to put the Challenger into production. When it brought out a four-door Charger in 2005, enthusiasts howled that the company was turning its back on its muscle-car roots. The two-door Challenger would quiet that noise in an instant.
People like Robert Genat can't wait.

"I'm anxious to not only drive that car, but to buy one when it comes out,'' said the photographer and author of many car books, including ``Challenger & 'Cuda: Mopar's E-Body Muscle Cars'' (Motorbooks International, $34.95). "The idea of being able to own a Hemi Challenger that's better than the original fascinates me.''

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"The idea of being able to own a Hemi Challenger that's better than the original fascinates me.''
...and that friends is why I must own one. I always envied the savvy original Hemi E-Body owners. Now is my chance to not imagine 1970 but have my own “1970” Hemi owner experience.

427 Posts

I want one so bad it hurts...its all I think about now a days. My current car (Buick Lesabre Coupe) is 15 years old and needs replacing. My truck sits in the garage (gas thing) and well stuck with it now because who's buying SUV's?!

Please DCX...spill the news...tell us your gonna build it so I can have peace of mind.
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