Performance vehicles are a Chrysler tradition. In the 1950s, an elite team of Chrysler engineers set out to extract extreme horsepower from existing engines. The team created new manifolds featuring long-tube intake runners. The innovative design helped engines ingest more air, translating into improved performance. The new induction system was called “Ramcharger,” and the team behind the technology adopted that name. The Ramchargers’ new engine produced enormous amounts of power, leading to success on the drag strip during the 1960s and 1970s.
Fast forward to the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where Dodge amazed crowds with its sleek Viper concept. The project, initiated by then-company president Bob Lutz and Carroll Shelby, was described as the successor to the AC Cobra. Planned by Tom Gale (father of Jeff Gale, the lead exterior designer of the 2008 Challenger SRT), its simplistic yet muscular shape paired with a killer 8.0-liter V-10, thrust the Viper into the spotlight. People raved about the Viper and it was approved for production a few weeks later. With the dawn of the V-10 powered supercar, emerged a group of devoted engineers. Team Viper worked to hone the supercar’s performance for street and racing. This would lead to endurance race victories in the late 1990s.
Meanwhile, a separate, dedicated team, “Team Prowler,” completed work on the 1993 Plymouth Prowler concept car. When the first Prowler rolled off the assembly line, four years later, Chrysler integrated the two specialty groups in a single entity- Special Vehicle Engineering. At last, Chrysler’s elite teams were working together under a single roof to create eye-catching niche vehicles.
In 2002, Chrysler made an announcement that would forever change the enthusiast landscape. Lead engineer, John Fernandez and Viper guru, Herb Helbig, took to the auto stage to announce the creation of Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO). The newly formed group leveraged existing resources to improve Chrysler’s high performance focus. PVO celebrated by unveiling the Viper-powered Dodge Ram SRT10, flanked by the Dodge Neon SRT4 and Viper SRT10.
Since all PVO vehicles wore the SRT badge, the PVO development team was renamed SRT in 2004. All PVO creations wore the Street and Racing Technology badge (see photos, below).
In 2012 Chrysler implemented a plan to turn SRT into a separate brand under the Chrysler Group umbrella. During the 2013 and 2014 model years, the Dodge Viper was sold under the model name SRT Viper. This proved unsuccessful and, in May 2014, the SRT brand was re-consolidated under Dodge, with former SRT CEO Ralph Gilles continuing as senior vice president of product design and also as the CEO and president of Motorsports.
Since 2004, many Chrysler performance models have worn the SRT badge. They include the Chrysler 300 (SRT8), Charger (SRT8), Challenger (SRT8), Caliber (SRT6), Neon (SRT4), Grand Cherokee (SRT8) and Viper (SRT10). As the years have past, the horsepower has grown immensely, from 425 hp. with the 6.1 Hemi., to 485 hp. with the 392, to 707 hp. with the SC 6.2 Hellcat, to 797 hp. with the SC 6.2 Hellcat Redeye and finally to 808 hp. with the SC 6.2 Demon. What an accomplishment for the SRT team!
Here is the SRT Vision:
"SRT creates some of the Chrysler Group's boldest, most distinctive products by single-mindedly following its core vision: Deliver benchmark performance at an affordable price and deliver it with absolute integrity and credibility.
Every SRT vehicle showcases five key aspects:
1. Exterior styling that resonates with the brand image.
2. Race-inspired interiors.
3. World-class ride and handling.
4. Benchmark braking.
5. Standout powertrain."
Starting in 2005, buyers of all Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep SRT vehicle owners were eligible for the “SRT Track Experience,” a one-day event, originally conducted by the Skip Barber Driving School and later by the Richard Petty Driving Experience, that allowed participants to experience the performance of the SRT vehicles. Participants were able to choose among several top NASCAR and road courses. In 2009, Dodge described it as follows: “The SRT Track Experience is an entire day of full-throttle action for SRT owners and performance enthusiasts alike. The SRT Track Experience includes guidance by professional instructors from the Richard Petty Driving Experience for each of the four modules, to ensure fun and top-level instruction in a safe and structured setting.” Participants got to push Challenger SRTs, Charger SRTs, Cherokee SRTs and Caliber SRTs to the limit, in four modules consisting of Autocross, “Challenger Challenge” (shalom), Performance Drive (drag racing), and “Full Throttle Challenge.” In addition, they got to experience “Hot Laps” (ride autocross track with professional driver).
From 2017-2018, the SRT Experience has been conducted by the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Bondurant, however, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2018, owing creditors between $1-10 million. Despite this, Dodge has advised that the program will continue in 2019. SRT owners can pre-register at: https://www.dodgegarage.com/track-experience.
The exercises at the Bondurant School included the following:
The following are the proud emblems worn by the SRT models:
- Accident Avoidance
- Controlling Skid.
- Proper race track driving.
- Hot laps- ride right-seat with a Bondurant Racing School Instructor on some fast-paced laps around the race track.