A Look Back

Discussion in 'Dodge Challenger General Discussions' started by SRT-Tom, May 15, 2024.

  1. SRT-Tom

    SRT-Tom Well-Known Member Staff Member Super Moderator Article Writer

    Posts:
    7,125
    Likes Received:
    2,238
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2011
    Location:
    southern New Jersey
    Now that the Challenger is out of production, I thought that it would be appropriate to take an extensive look back and see how the Challenger was developed in the midst of severe financial upheaval. Based on the times, we were extremely lucky to see the revival of Challenger.

    In 1998, Chrysler merged with German automaker Daimler-Benz to form DaimlerChrysler AG. The merger proved contentious with investors and, as a result, Chrysler was sold to Cerberus Capital Management and renamed Chrysler LLC in 2007. Like the other Big Three automobile manufacturers, Chrysler was impacted by the automotive crisis of 2008-2010. The company remained in business through a combination of negotiations with creditors, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 30, 2009, and participating in a bailout from the U.S. government through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. On June 10, 2009, Chrysler emerged from the bankruptcy proceedings with the United Auto Workers pension fund, with Fiat, and the U.S. and Canadian governments as principal owners. The bankruptcy resulted in Chrysler defaulting on over $4 billion in debts. In May 2011, Chrysler finished repaying its obligations to the U.S. government five years early, although the cost to the American taxpayers was $1.3 billion.

    So, with all of these financial problems going on, Dodge decided to develop a concept car, in 2006, based on an existing platform to save money. Also, it wanted to get the car into production quickly because Chevy had the new Camaro in the wings. The planning and design of the Challenger concept car started in 2004. At that time, Chrysler’s Pacifica Studio was given the assignment to work with the exiting LX platform (shortened by three inches) to develop a 2-door, rear-wheel drive concept car.

    Many of the designers were muscle car 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).

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]


    Unveiling of the 2006 Challenger Concept by Trevor Creed (start at 14 min. mark)



    Based on overwhelming public response, Chrysler announced, on July 1, 2006, that the Challenger would return, after 35 years, as the ultimate American muscle car 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.

    [​IMG]


    "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.

    [​IMG]


    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.

    [​IMG]


    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.

    Incredibly, the Challenger had a 15-year run (2008-2023). This was a testament to its appeal to performance-oriented buyers who desire a beautifully retro-designed muscle car! (Note- The original Challenger only had a 5-year run (1970-1974).

    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 continue to enjoy and drive for many years!

    It is highly recommended that every Challenger owner view the following informative designer interviews. They really give you first-hand insight into how the retro-styled Challenger evolved from the drawing board to reality.

    2008 Challenger Designer Interview -- Segment 1 - YouTube

    2008 Challenger Designer Interview -- Segment 2 - YouTube

    2008 Challenger Designer Interview -- Segment 3 - YouTube

    Designer Interview ; Segment 4 - 2009 Challenger - YouTube

    Designer Interview; Segment 6 - 2009 Challenger - YouTube

    Dodge Challenger: Exterior Styling - YouTube

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 1 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 2 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 3 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers Castiglione and Barrington Pt. 4 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers Castiglione and Barrington Pt. 5 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 6 - YouTube

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 7 - YouTube
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2024 at 9:22 AM
    fritzthecat, Chuckv and Mark Davidson like this.
  2. Niles

    Niles Full Access Member

    Posts:
    158
    Likes Received:
    38
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2023
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
    I've been a Mopar fan since I bought my 1969 Dodge Charger back in 1990. When the new Challenger came out, I was so excited about the prospect of owning a retro looking Mopar muscle car with the modern suspension, brakes, electronics. I would have bought a Mustang, if not for the Challenger. Last year I finally bought one and then a second one. I absolutely love them.
     
  3. Mark Davidson

    Mark Davidson Member

    Posts:
    12
    Likes Received:
    2
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2019
    Location:
    Indiana
    If I remember correctly, the Challenger design we come to love was ordinally a Charger concept for the front and rear. My kid played Midnight Club LA video game and it had a concept Charger which turned into the Challenger.
     
  4. Chuckv

    Chuckv Member

    Posts:
    23
    Likes Received:
    8
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2021
    Location:
    Florida
    Thanks Tom for the great article and links. I was late to the whole muscle car era so it's good to read this stuff.
     
  5. SRT-Tom

    SRT-Tom Well-Known Member Staff Member Super Moderator Article Writer

    Posts:
    7,125
    Likes Received:
    2,238
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2011
    Location:
    southern New Jersey

    Not really. The designers were told to work with the LX platform to develop a 2-door muscle car. As a result, there were several variations of the Challenger before the final concept was approved. Watch this designers' video.

    Challenger Designers - Castiglione and Barrington, Part 1 (youtube.com)