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Old 11-17-2008, 01:36 PM   #1
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Default Dodge Challenger gets Viperized

With all of the doom and gloom surrounding the auto industry today, it's heartening for enthusiasts to know that there are still talented people in the business who are not working on hybrids or electric vehicles. For the record, these people are having high-horsepower, tire-smoking fun. For now.

Case in point: the Dodge Challenger SRT10 concept that debuted at SEMA on Nov. 3. The car is the brainchild of Tom McCarthy, senior manager for SRT vehicle synthesis and chassis. He thought up the idea in February, and the result you see here was driveable three months later.

"This car came about when trying to think up a cool skunkworks car off the Challenger. I didn't want to just add a supercharger--Ford has done that with Mustang. So we looked at what we had in-house," McCarthy said.

"In-house" (at least for now, as Chrysler has said it has received several offers to purchase the Viper brand) meant tapping the Viper parts bin, including the 600-hp, 560 lb-ft V10.

"There were several goals with this car. It had to be very inexpensive to do--we had a strict budget and a strict timeline. It had to be a complete runner when it was done. And I wanted it to be a show car with showroom quality," McCarthy added.

The project was kept secret, with only a handful of people knowing about the car initially. "My boss didn't even know for a while," McCarthy said with a grin.

Garth LeVere, a vehicle development engineer with SRT, was part of the group working on the car in a private room in the SRT garage in Auburn Hills, Mich. "A significant rule that governed the project was feasibility," LeVere said. "So there were no changes made to the body-in-white."

The V10 sits in the Challenger engine cradle. The induction system was rerouted up, rather than out the front as on the Viper, thus the need for the shaker hood.

The V10 is mated to the same Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual used in both the Challenger and the Viper and the same twin-disk clutch. For brakes, larger, 390-millimeter, two-piece rotors are up front with six-piston Brembo calipers. The wheels are forged Alcoas, 20 by 9 inches in front, 20 by 10 in the rear. Pirelli P Zeros are all around, 275/35R-20 in front and 275/40R-20 in the rear. The Challenger rear differential is used but is fitted with a 3.73 gear versus the 3.06 of a stock car.

The only physical changes to the body are the carbon-fiber hood and decklid spoiler and the front fascia. The fascia was opened up to help provide extra cooling needed for the V10, and a splitter was added, similar to one on the chin of the Viper ACR, to help with downforce.

The springs are 20 percent stiffer, and the stock Bilstein shocks were revalved. A larger sway bar was fitted. All told, the modifications added just 24 pounds to the stock Challenger's curb weight.

"We didn't want to take it up into the Viper ACR spectrum, in regard to ride and handling," LeVere said. "But we wanted to make it more of a car you could drive every day."

Interior modifications include the shifter, which is directly linked to the tranny, topped by a Viper shift ball, and a console-mounted red Viper start button. Carbon fiber is used on the door pulls and instrument bezel surrounds.

While this concept is a one-off--the donor car was an early preproduction unit rescued before it reached the crusher--McCarthy admitted to at least "thinking" about a business plan for production.

"I talked with the assembly-plant folks," he said, smiling.

Also, the car was a big hit at the June ride-and-drive event for Chrysler's senior officers. "We kept it off the official list, so no one knew it was coming. It made quite a splash.

"We know it's a tough environment, businesswise," he said. "But part of this project was that I didn't want our guys, or management, to lose sight of what we can do. Really, this was a labor of love for a lot of people."
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