The planning and design of the Challenger concept car started in 2004. At that time, Chrysler’s Pacifica Studo was given the assignment to work with the exiting LX platform (i.e., Charger, Chrysler 300 and Magnum) to develop a 2-door, rear-wheel drive concept car.
Many of the designers were musclecar guys and a new Challenger was proposed to be built around the 6.1 Hemi engine. There was a lot of conversation as to how much retro design features should be built into the car. Based on a competition, three versions were developed.
Two were initially approved by senior management, although neither was a retro design.
However, after receiving input from Charger buyers, the Challenger design, as we know it today, was approved. The chief designer, Micheal Castiglione and the interior designer, Alan Barrington, sought to capture the key elements of the 1970 Challenger (i.e., its long hood/short deck, high-impact colors, loud exhaust, power-to-weight, pistol-grip shifter, etc.) in a newer way, using different materials and geometric shapes.
On February 1, 2005, Chrysler gave the designers four months to complete a clay model and deliver it to Metalcrafters, a California company that builds Chrysler concept vehicles, to produce a full-size running concept. In June, the clay model and design specifications were turned over to Metalcrafters. On November 3, 2005, Metalcrafters completed the main assembly of the 4,160 lb. carbon-fiber Challenger concept and began the final prep for its January 8, 2006 world debut at Detroit Auto Show (see photo, below).
Unveiling of the 2006 Challenger Concept by Trevor Creed
Based on overwhelming public response, Chrysler announced, on July 1, 2006, that the Challenger would return, after 35 years, as the ultimate American musclecar coupe. Tom LaSorda, Present and CEO, officially announced, at the Pepsi NASCAR car race, in Daytona, FL, that the Challenger was a “Go” and that it would debut as a 2008 model.
"Go Announcement"- 2006 Concept with 1970 Challenger T/A
On February 13, 2007, Dodge announced that the new Challenger will be built at the Brampton, Ontario assembly plant, with production starting in the spring of 2008.
Brampton, Ontario Build Announcement
Order banks opened, on December 3, 2007 for the Challenger SRT. Every franchised dealer was told that they would receive at least one. The price was set at $37,995, plus a $2,100 gas guzzler tax. Most buyers, however, paid much more due to dealer “market adjustments.”
Only three colors were offered- Hemi orange, silver and black, and the only transmission was a 5-speed automatic. Advance orders totaled 9,000. In the first day, 4,300 Challengers were sold! Production, however, was limited to 6,400 cars in the U.S. The official debut of the 2008 Challenger SRT occurred, on February 6, 2008 at the Chicago and Philadelphia Auto Shows, and production started on April 15, 2008.
Chicago Auto Show Unveiling of 2008 Production Challenger
Based on the tremendous demand, Dodge was unable to fill the orders for the inaugural Challenger. So, production of the 2009 Challenger started quickly, in July 2009. This offering, unlike the 2008 model, was available as an SRT (6.1 Hemi), an R/T (5.7 Hemi) and an SE (3.5L). A 6-speed manual transmission was a $995 option.
Now, 13 years later, the Challenger is still in production. This is a testament to its appeal to performance-oriented buyers who desire a beautifully retro-designed musclecar!
Dodge really hit a home run on this car! Many thanks to the original designers, Micheal Castiglione and Alan Barrington for their vision and persistence. Also, a big thank you to the designers of the 2008 production car, Jeff Gale and Brian Nielander, for bringing the concept to life as a car that we can all enjoy and drive!