Ten years after being revived, the Dodge Challenger remains the last proper muscle car in the world.
If you asked a group of people to name five of the most famous American inventions, nestled in between electric light bulbs, airplanes and of course twinkies (which are remarkably average) you’d probably find muscle cars.
At their peak in the late-60s, they perfectly represented the swagger and dominance of the post-war US. Only America could have created such behemoths, partly because only America had the right combination of wide, empty roads and inexpensive petrol.
1970 Dodge Challenger RT 426 The legendary original.
It didn’t last long though. Within a decade, muscle cars were in crisis thanks to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the 1973 oil crisis and changing market demands. Some still stuck around, but their engines had had the life sucked out of them and they looked terrible.
Just compare the first two proud generations of the Chevy Camaro with the third, which looked like a child’s drawing of an Acura sports car. Skip forward a few decades into more modern times and you’d think that the muscle car market would have been well and truly killed off, but Americans hadn’t given up on their old heroes just yet.
The Ford Mustang brought itself back from the brink with a fastback fifth generation that, unlike its predecessor, didn’t look like it belonged in a cartoon, and a few years later the Camaro returned with a loud snarl.
Sandwiched in between was the Dodge Challenger, a car that had been put on ice for over 30 years. Production on the Challenger SRT8s began in May 2008 and ended just a couple months later. In that time, over 7,000 units were sold. Every single one came with a 6.1 litre Hemi V8, an engine worthy of the name muscle car, and cost a whisker under $40,000, less than £25,000 according to the pre-recession dollar-to-pound rates.
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 After a lacklustre second generation that was more Mitsubishi than real Dodge, the beast was finally back.
The huge success of this limited edition certainly gave Dodge something to think about, and in 2009 the SRT8 was joined by two smaller versions, one with a 3.5 litre V6 and the other with a 5.7 litre V8, obviously the Challenger’s idea of a sensible and balanced model. The new cars were fast – the SRT8 could do 0-60 in under five seconds and had a top speed of around 170 mph – but it took until 2011 for a Challenger to pack more horsepower than the original. The 1970 R/T 440, with its colossal 6.98 litre V8, had delivered 425 bhp, which was matched by the first SRT8s that rolled out of stores but only exceeded by the 470 bhp of the 2011 model.
2012 Dodge Challenger SRT 392. This model came with leather heated seats and a 6.1 litre Hemi V8, so you could cruise comfortably or tear up the road. Credit: Sicnag
From there, things only got more insane. The 2015 SRT Hellcat didn’t look all that different, but the supercharged 6.2 litre V8 offered 707 bhp, allowing it to accelerate to 60 quicker than an original Lamborghini Murcielago.
A year later, Texas dealers started selling a limited-edition Hellcat with around 50 extra bhp, which somehow came with a full factory warranty. But all that paled in comparison with the 2018 SRT Demon. The standard Demon comes with 808 bhp, which can be boosted to 840 horses when using 100 octane racing fuel or higher, and boasts a 0-60 time of 2.3 seconds. Even more importantly to hardcore fans, it smashes the quarter mile in just 9.65 seconds, less time than a Bugatti Veyron. And it can do wheelies, the first production car ever to manage that.
With its original rivals either dead (Pontiac, Plymouth and AMC) and its current rivals focusing on building sports cars with proper suspension and more than a passing interest in going around corners, the Challenger is left in an interesting position as arguably the last muscle car on the planet. Nobody else on the market is as dedicated as Dodge in building big cars with even bigger engines.
Tim Kuniskis, the former CEO of Dodge and Head of Passenger Car Brands for FCA North America, had a big hand in bringing the Demon to market, and he’s stated that his team’s main goals for the car were for it to pull wheelies and do the quarter mile in under 10 seconds. If that’s not the ultimate commitment to creating muscle cars, what is?
2018 Dodge Challenger Demon Faster than any Ferrari, Bugatti or Porsche on the market.
Credit: Alexander Migl
By Andrew Shaw at 5 Oct 2018, 00:00 AM