Friday, June 30, 2006

Dodge Challenger gets the greenlight

From today's Free Press here in Detroit.

The Dodge Challenger concept appeared at the auto show in January. (DaimlerChrysler)

Dodge rumble returns

June 30, 2006



Muscle car fans, a classic ride silenced since 1974 will roar back to life this weekend.

Chrysler Group is preparing to announce before the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Saturday that it will build the Dodge Challenger, bringing to market as soon as next year a sports coupe to compete against the Ford Mustang.

Chrysler officials haven't announced details, but people familiar with the plans confirmed that the two-door, four-seat concept Challenger unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show will go into production.

Chrysler built the Challenger for only a few years, 1970-74, but the car made a lasting impression.

The concept version's styling borrowed heavily from the classic 1970 Challenger muscle car, with twin hood scoops and a pistol-grip shifter. The concept is powered by a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 producing 425 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission.

"Every NASCAR fan in the country will be drooling over that car," said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me, Dodge beating Chevy to the punch. As I stated on here recently, all signs point to an announcement by Chevy in the very near future. Hot Rod magazine even reported in a caption in this months issue that it was a go, though nothing official has been released. A quote from Bob Lutz in regards to the Challenger having 25 hp more than the Camaro concept stated "If the Dodge Challenger's 25 horsepower advantage over the Camaro becomes a problem, I would just reply that we have a certified 100 more on tap from the Z06 engine, should the need arise."

Now conisidering the Challenger will likely tip the scales at over 4,000 lbs, where as the Camaro will likely be around the 3,500-3,600 it has been at for years, I don't foresee 25 hp being an issue. That being said, I feel it would be a damn shame if they did not drop a ZO6 in and offer a specialty vehicle. Possibly reserving it for the Z28's only, once again making a unique engine only available in Z28's like the 302 from back in the day. Offer the base engine in the SS versions, and create an RS version that is something more than cheap ass looking ground effects.

The muscle car wars are back, only this time they get 3x the gas mileage while putting up as much or more in terms of power. I think it's about time I start setting aside some money for a down payment on a Camaro.

Here is another article that was in The Detroit News.

Muscle car is reborn

Dodge Challenger is back

Josee Valcourt / The Detroit News

Chrysler is crashing the muscle-car party with plans to build a production version of the Dodge Challenger coupe that debuted as a retro-styled concept car in January at the Detroit auto show.

The automaker plans to herald the return of the Challenger at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona, Fla., on Saturday, according to people familiar with the plans.

The Challenger concept, a rear-wheel drive coupe, drew raves from enthusiasts for its old-school looks and growling 425-horsepower V-8 engine.

"It's a pure retro car," said Csaba Csere, editor in chief of Car and Driver magazine. "It's a dead ringer for the original 1970 Challenger."

Chrysler plans to build the Dodge Challenger off the same basic chassis as its rear-drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Both of those vehicles are built in Brampton, Ontario.

That will save both money and time. The Challenger could go into production by 2008, said one person familiar with the plans.

The Challenger is returning into what may be a new golden age for American muscle cars. The Ford Mustang has become a smash hit since a redesign last year that paid homage to classic versions of the pony car in the 1960s.

General Motors Corp. is widely expected to resurrect the Chevrolet Camaro -- which went out of production in 2002 -- in the next few years.

A striking concept version of the Camaro arguably drew even more attention and praise than the Challenger at the Detroit auto show this year.

Nostalgic made-in-Detroit sports cars are coming back at time when the flagging domestic auto industry could use a little of the old magic.

Chrysler designers drew inspiration from a 1970 Challenger parked in the studio as they created the concept version. Designers hewed closely to the original version but filed off some of the rough edges and added bigger wheels and a more refined interior. The concept sits on a 116-inch wheelbase, six inches longer than the original. And it's two inches wider, making it appear more squat and tough.

"The historical significance of the Challenger takes it back to the days when the Big Three dominated the highways," said Erich Merkle, an analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, who has closely followed the Challenger program. "The design represents a place where Japanese competitors can't follow."

Chrysler's top sales and marketing executive, Joe Eberhardt, has said in the past that a production version of the Challenger could be priced slightly higher than the Ford Mustang, which has a starting price of between $19,000 and $26,000 depending on engine choice and other options.

"One of the keys for Challenger will be pricing," Csere said. "It can't be priced too much higher than the Mustang or they won't be able to reach the sales volumes they need."

Merkle said he expects that the Challenger will only be offered with a V-8 engine, unlike the Mustang, which comes with both a V-6 and a V-8 option. He believes Dodge will sell about 30,000 to 35,000 Challengers beginning in late 2008.

"Essentially it will be a specialty vehicle," he said.

Detroit News Business Editor Mark Truby contributed to this report. You can reach Josee Valcourt at (313) 222-2575 or

Monday, June 26, 2006

Formula running much better

Buttoned up most all of my needed repairs, in addition to an oil change. I had ordered up some 8mm Taylor wires, new plugs, MSD cap/rotor, and new transmission mount. I'm not sure what it is, but for some reason I take great pride in making my own spark plug wires. The tune up went fairly smoothly, but I'd still like to kill the person who designed all the bullshit on the passenger side making it a real pain in the ass to get to the front #2 plug. The emissions equipment on my car is about to go, by winter I'll likely yank a lot of the stuff out, most notable the air pump and all the lines. I look at it this way, the car is nearly 20 years old. The number of 20 year old cars on the road is relatively small, so while everybody with newer cars have cars that pollute less, I'll take their added cleanliness and credit it to myself, allowing me to pollute a little more in an effort to make at home repairs much easier on myself. Yeah, that's how I roll! lol

Recently I found I had snapped my transmission mount in half, so I ordered up a performance polyurethane replacement. The job was pretty straight forward, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the repair also fixed an exhaust leak that came about recently. I was aware until crawling under the car for the repair that the exhaust hanger was attached to the tail housing of the transmission. So killed two birds with one stone this time around.

I am still skeptical that there is some sort of fuel issues with the car, possibly the injectors, or maybe the fuel pump going already, though it's not even a year old. Another possibility is a vacuum leak I suppose. As high as oil consumption is getting (thus the need to swap plugs after about 10,000 miles), I really need to pick up that extra engine I have and get started on the bottom end this upcoming winter. I may scale it back a touch, as initially I was gonna shoot for 400-450 hp, but now I'm thinking something in the range of 350 would be fine, as I really want to bump the mpg up a touch to go with the increased performance.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Planned Formula repairs

This weekend I will be doing some much needed repair/maintenance work on my Formula. In addition to an oil change I will be installing new plugs, wires, cap/rotor, and transmission mount. After being left stranded for the first time with this car a few weeks ago it appears that my lunch time fix here at work resolved that issue, a failed ignition module. Even after the repair however the car still appears to have some sort of issues, whether they are ignition or fuel related, I don't know for sure yet. I do know this though, it's getting quite thirsty for oil, using about 1 quart every 1,000 miles. So my tune up about 10,000 miles ago has probably run it's life and the plugs are likely getting quite fouled out.

It's probably been 3 weeks now since I determined what that "clunk" was coming from. I knew before even looking, but just to 100% sure I jacked the car up. Sure enough, the transmission mount was split in half and the transmission was slamming off the top of the tunnel during hard acceleration. I can't imagine my driving style had any impact on it's failure. To date, in relation to rubber components and suspension parts I have snapped two stabilizer links while taking off ramps at good speed and now tore a transmission mount.

I really need to start preparing a block for rebuild for this car, as it's oil consumption seems to be more than just a set of dry rotted valve stem seals or worn valve guides. I suppose this would be a good time to pick up a compression tester and verify it's the pistons/rings while I pull all the plugs, but that would just make too much sense.

I got a pretty good idea as to the type of engine I'd like to build up. I'd shoot for the 400-450 hp range and try to maintain around 25 mpg. In all honesty, with the right components I think it's a very doable goal.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dodge Challenger decision to possibly come by October

Automotive News is reporting that a decision may come about as early as this October as to whether or not the Challenger will be built. As I stated earlier, the Camaro nearly has the greenlight, so one would expect Dodge would enter the ballroom ready to dance, arriving slightly late to the party, yet fashionably late, just like the 1970 Challenger was.

Challenger decision may come by Oct.
Bradford Wernle

Automotive News / June 19, 2006 - 6:00 am

DETROIT -- The Chrysler group may decide whether to make the Challenger muscle car as early as the end of the third quarter, CEO Tom LaSorda says.

LaSorda on Friday said Chrysler has been flooded with positive responses to the Challenger concept, shown at the Detroit auto show in January.

"You have to look at the investment, the cost of the program and the margins you can make," he told Automotive News at Chrysler's Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters. "With something like this, you chase the business case and not the volume."

Chrysler officials have said the Challenger will likely be a lower-volume car with a V-8 engine. It would be built on the same platform as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Dodge Charger cars. John Wolkonowicz, an analyst for Global Insight, predicts Chrysler will make 20,000 to 30,000 and sell them in the low-$30,000 range.

You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at

In addition, there was a first drive review on ESPN's site.

Dodge Challenger concept first drive

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

2008 Camaro very near production

I spoke with a friend last night at the Detroit Tigers baseball game. This guy works within the ranks at GM and informed me that he believes there is about a 99% chance that the Camaro will go into production. It would be built at the Oshawa, Ontario plant, which recently accepted a change to work rules in hopes that it would lead to $800 million in investment by GM. There are currently weekly meetings taking place between GM here in Warren and Australia, since it will basically be a Holden design upon the Zeta platform. I was told that the CTS, a Buick, Impalla, and possibly a Pontiac (GTO or maybe a Firebird) will all be built upon the platform as well. News to me was that the Monte Carlo will in fact be killed, while the Cadillac CTS will be getting a 2 door coupe model.

The Camaro is currently the hottest item on the agenda over at GM, with hopes of rushing it into production for the 2008 model year. If that happens, I think I'm going to have to start figuring out how I am going to afford a new Camaro. I could hold off one year, thus completing my trifecta of F-bodies, with a 1969, 1989, and 2009 all 20 years apart, which would be kinda sweet. I've always said I'd probably never buy a brand new car, yet a new Camaro would instill such a passion that I think I could be swayed to drop the coinage. I assume that they would likely come out with either a COPO, ZL1, or some other derivative that would have a slightly detuned version of the LS7 with 505 hp, which is what I would simply have to have. So, up for sale could very well be a fully restored 1970 Challenger R/T in order to make way for that new Camaro.

It's kind of ironic, as when I first saw both the concept Camaro and concept Challenger, I awarded the Challenger the winner, hands down. Yet the more I saw each in the magazines I realized something, the Challenger was nothing more than a 1970 Challenger, which I already had. All of the modernization that did to that Challenger I could do to mine, yet I would have one that would continue to appreciate. The Camaro on the other hand, there is no denying it is a modern car with just the right amount of retro styling to show it's heritage. That's when I realized, why would I want a copy of what I had, like I felt the Challenger was? Not to mention, much like my 1970 Challenger, parked next to my Camaro that Challenger looks like somewhat of a boat. Mine weighs in at 3600 lbs, I've read that the new one would tip the scales at over 4,000 lbs. My 1969 Camaro, complete with big block/TH400, weighed in at 3,400 lbs (3,250 when I ran a small block and TH350), I figure a new Camaro would be on par with my 1970 Challenger, coming in around 3,600 lbs or so. Those 400 or so lbs make quite a difference in terms of performance and handling.

While the demand may be minimal, I would gladly order up a new Camaro with manual locks, windows, and seats just to drop a few more lbs off the car. I could car less if it hurt resale value, because in all honesty, it probably wouldn't. There would be a small niche of buyers out there that would search far and wide for the lightest most stripped down versoin of the car available if it ever came time to sell.

Must like back in 1964, Ford beat GM to the punch with the Mustang. Just like 1964 GM is rushing around to launch it's own pony car, a resurrected Camaro. Then, just like when 1970 was approaching, will Mopar step up a few years later with it's own pony car, a new Challenger? There is definitely a Mopar clan out there salivating over a new Challenger, as old Mopars are some of the most valuable collector cars out there at the moment. The second coming of the Muscle Car era is coming, the key difference is this time around they are knocking down close to 30 mpg instead of 10 mpg and are producing more power than even the best years of the 1960's.

ps...make these babies easy to work on so us gearheads can tune them for more power!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Long term car projects

Back in college I always wondered how car restoration projects took people so long. I would constantly read in magazines about projects that took 5-10 years, sometimes even longer. Me, well my Camaro saw a complete ground up restoration while I was in college. From start to finish it took about 5-6 months. That entailed removing every bolt, stripping the body to bare metal, rewiring the car, rebuilding the engine, the transmission, and basically every other component on the car. We're talking the whole 9 yards.

Now here I am, some years later, out of college with a full time job, a house, and much different responsibilities. I find both of my cars in non-running condition, both torn apart to the point where finishing either one seems far down the road. Here I am, both cars having sat for about 5 years with only moderate progress. In my defense, my life did take somewhat of a detour when I moved to Detroit. Living in an apartment building, 9 floors up with nothing but a parking garage throws a serious wrench in restoring cars. I found both of my cars now back down at my parents house, mostly just collecting dust...aside from the occasional weekend when I ventured down to work on them, well, I should say the Challenger at that point.

For the first time in my life I was living the true big city life. Well, as close to big city life as is offered in Michigan. For all of its downfalls, I have always seen something magic in Detroit. My feelings for the city and the region could be best explained by driving up I-75 south of Detroit. Passing through the River Rouge complex, giving you a glimpse of what built Detroit, what built Industrial America, then as you crest the overpass, then you see the city of Detroit, Windsor, and "The Bridge," all of which were the result of industrialism. Detroit has a crudeness, a blue collar attitude about it that most gearheads would truly understand and respect.

So anyways, my situation changed when I bought a house in Detroit and built a new garage. With this house came the added expenses, lacking were the funds to get back to work on the car(s), so still they sat. It took me nearly a year before I had anything beyond an extension chord out to my garage for power. Things are rolling along now however, with it completely powered up, a gas line out there awaiting a furnace by winter, an extra pipe to run cable out there, a work bench, air compressor, my tools, and recently purchased welder complete with gas setup. So the shop itself is ready to go. Yet the house still commands priority. Today I worked on painting the trim on the garage, one or two more weekends and it will be complete. Once that is done it will be time to start on my rear deck, as I've gone without one since shortly after I moved in, when I tore down the death trap the previous owner had built. A deck wouldn't be such a priority if it wasn't for the fact that my house is raised about 3 foot above the ground, so currently I have one helluva drop off making the read exits unusable.

I have find time now and then to make small amounts of progress on my Camaro, which is now where my focus will remain. I have removed the steering column, the steering box, and front brake system, complete with master cylinder and lines. I plan on replacing all components, upgrading each one. For the steering, I will be replacing the box with a rack and pinion setup which will be both more precise as well as much lighter. The brakes will be a 4 pistons setup, likely manual, for much better stopping power. Before, my brakes could be downright scarey once the vacuum canister ran out of reserve, as it was time to put some serious muscle into the pedal at that point and start praying. I also began grinding down my welds from many years ago when I installed new floor pans. I want to retouch on them, por-15 the intior, then should be good to go. I'm not sure whether or not next summer would be a realistic goal for it to be back on the road or not, but it is the most realistic game plan I have had in many years. I need to start setting target dates to have certain portions of the project completed by. Those timelines are usually a waste anyways, as the dates will come and pass and the work won't be completed. I'll just play it by ear and hope for the best. In the mean time, don't expect a whole bunch of activity until fall rolls around, when upon this blog should really come to life.