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Factory-spec Challenger racer

2008-07-16 09:37


Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Dodge
Model Challenger drag race package
Engine 6.1-litre V8
Power 317kW
Torque 569Nm
Transmission Six-speed manual
Despite being in an epic financial malaise Chrysler is celebrating its Mopar motorsport history in fine quarter-mile style.

It’s been 40 years since Hemi powered Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas rolled up at drag strips across North America to dispute quarter mile king status with Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro.

Times are a changing

Since the halcyon days of the late 1960s the automotive landscape has all but forsaken the pushrod V8 and three-speed automatic gearbox. This is apparently of little consequence to Chrysler though, and it has decided to pay homage to 40 years of Mopar inspired drag racing adventure with a special edition Dodge Challenger.

The two first drag race package cars were unveiled last weekend at 29th Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals hosted by the Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado. What potential drag race package customers can expect is essentially a stripped out, unpainted Challenger.

An all-American diet

Mopar engineers wanted to reduce weight by approximately 445kg and embarked on a component shedding program Porsche RS designers would have been proud of.

As the drag package cars are primarily intended to be drive-home racers airbags have been binned along with power steering, side impact beams, rear seats and the complete HVAC system. Even the windshield wipers were shaved off; which means if it rains you’ll be home very late if at all.

The minimalist nature of design becomes even more apparent when one notices the disconcerting lack of body detailing. The cars start out as body-in-white (BIW) products from Chrysler's Brampton assembly plant in Ontario, Canada without body sealer, sound deadener or any undercoat. Diplomatically put, they look awfully cheap and 'plasticky'.

To offset all the minimalist kit shedding, potential buyers will get a neat composite lift-off hood with functional – and Mopar massive - scoop, Dodge Viper-style front seats, polycarbonate (read plastic) door windows and a lightweight cooling module with electric fan.

Backyard mechanics will be heartened by the presence of manual rack and pinion steering (parking might be challenging though) and the cable-operated throttle linkage and pedal assembly – which is something of an oddity in the contemporary era of fly-by wire throttles.

Hemi power

Hemispherical combustion chamber engines power the Challenger. The drag race package cars are available with the entire range of Hemi engines – including the controversial 3.5-litre V6.

Expect most cars to be equipped with the 6.1-litre V8 producing 317kW and 569Nm. Engines are to be repositioned to improve driveline angle and weight distribution. The 116-inch Challenger wheelbase has been shortened by half an inch too whilst the front cradle features a bolt-in crossmember and solid engine mounts to compensate for repetitive full-throttle launches.

Plain crazy or perfectly clever marketing?

The first drag package cars are set to be ready for order in early September, with Dodge only needing to sell 100 to homologate the package for National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) racing purposes.

At a time of record fuel prices and rampant emission regulation one can hardly see the logic of a factory specification street legal drag racer; until you tally up the NHRA’s 80 000 membership tally.

Running at 140 tracks throughout the US NHRA is the world’s largest motorsport sanctioning body, and their events have an attendance base second only to NASCAR – which leaves you with a lot of potential V8 sympathising customers…


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