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Dodge steps up to the challenge

The Dodge Challenger retro-style muscle car, which takes on the Aussie-built Chevy Camaro.

The Dodge Challenger SRT8 will be unveiled as a production car at the Chicago motor show in February, with a full arsenal of Camaro-busting weapons. It will be in US showrooms by June, giving it a 12-month advantage over the Camaro, which is into final prototype testing by GM Holden engineers in Melbourne.

“We are a year ahead,” Chrysler chief designer Trevor Creed says. The British-born stylist has led the design-driven success of a range of Chrysler cars and he has high hopes for the Challenger. It was first shown nearly two years ago as a concept car at the Detroit motor show and will be production-ready on February 6. Challenger order books opened on December 3 and 4300 cars were sold that day.

Chrysler plans to sell 120,000 cars over the life of the Challenger program, starting with the hot-rod SRT8 automatic. “It's 120,000 over the lifespan of four years,” Creed says.

“The first 4000 or so are the SRT8s, and we are building a batch of SRT8s that will have a 6.1-litre V8. And then our next batch is regular Challenger and Challenger RT, which is 3.5-litre V6 and 5.7-litre Hemi. The next year is a regular build of those again, plus SRT8 with a six-speed manual transmission.”

Creed says the Challenger has been built from the same mechanical package as the top-selling 300C sedan, but there are no plans for a right-hand-drive model for Australia.

“Challenger is a short-wheelbase version of the 300C. It's the same front, the same rear, shorter in the middle by four inches [10cm] with a new body style on,” he says.

The Challenger is coming as US baby boomers snap up retro-style muscle cars, led by the Ford Mustang.