Throwback Thursday: The History Of The Modern Challenger (Part 2):

We Go Over The Modern Challenger From Concept, To Launch...

We want to continue our look at the modern-day Dodge Challenger from concept to production. We looked at the 2006 Dodge Challenger R/T Concept and what it took for Exterior Designer Michael Castiglione and Interior Designer Alan Barrington to create the 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept.

2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8. (Dodge).

Fast forward to February 6, 2008, after a 35-year hiatus, Dodge introduced the production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 at the Chicago Auto Show. Styling stayed true to the concept introduced earlier, with some tweaks for production. The SRT8 was the only Challenger trim available for the 2008 model year and was powered by the SRT 6.1-liter HEMI V8 generating 425 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft of torque mated to a 5-speed automatic (the only transmission option for the 2008 model year) which sent power to the rear wheels.

The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 was available in three colors, HEMI Orange, Bright Silver Metallic and Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat. One special edition of the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (#43) was painted “Petty Blue” and later auctioned off to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Amongst the production numbers, 7,209 Dodge Challenger SRT8s were produced for the 2008 model year. With 6,400 for the United States, 500 going to Canada and 309 to Mexico. All 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8s came with a numbered dash plaque. The cars for the United States had a dash plate calling the cars the “First Editions”, while the Canadian models carried a unique grille badge and dash plate wearing a “500” badge.

Here is a series of interviews with Dodge designers Jeff Gale and Brian Nielander about what inspired them to make the 2006 Dodge Challenger R/T Concept into the production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8…

Concept To Production…

Crosshair Or No Crosshair?

Concept VS Reality…

Challenges To Put In Production…

Favorite Things To Design…

Concept Interior VS Production Interior…

Just over a month after the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT reveal, Jim Press, former Vice Chairman and President of the Chrysler Group unveiled the complete 2009 Dodge Challenger lineup at the New York International Auto Show in New York City. Joining the previously shown SRT8, Dodge unveiled the HEMI-powered Challenger R/T and the six-cylinder Challenger SE.

Our all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger is a modern-day muscle machine representing the best from the past and present,” said Mike Accavitti, former Director – Dodge Brand and SRT Global Marketing, Chrysler LLC. “Thirty-five years following the debut of the original, we are bringing Dodge Challenger back and loading it with essential hardware, styling, and technology desired by today’s buyer.

2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. (Dodge).

The R/T was powered by the venerable 5.7-liter HEMI V8 rated at 370 horsepower and 398 lb.-ft of torque with the 5-speed automatic or 375 horsepower and 404 lb.-ft of torque when mated to the new 6-speed manual transmission. Challenger R/Ts with the automatic transmission featured multi-displacement technology (MDS) which would allow the 5.7-liter HEMI to run on four cylinders under light load while the manual transmission cars did without.

2009 Dodge Challenger SE. (Dodge).

Challenger SE was powered by Chrysler’s 3.5-liter High Output V-6 with a four-speed automatic transmission producing 250 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, besting the 2009 Ford Mustang V6 by 40 horsepower and 10 lb.-ft of torque, although the Mustang was backed by a 5-speed automatic as well as a 5-speed manual that was standard.

The Dodge Challenger SRT8 was of course back for 2009, now with an optional 6-speed manual transmission in addition to the standard 5-speed automatic. The 6.1-liter HEMI remained the same, rated at 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Challenger debuted with excellent safety and technology features for its time:

The 2009 Dodge Challenger offered customers a full range of innovative technologies including:

  • MyGIG™ provides a cutting-edge multimedia audio and entertainment system, with built-in navigation
  • UConnect® Hands-free Communication System provides convenient, voice-activated communication with Bluetooth® cellular phones
  • SIRIUS® Digital Satellite Radio offers a variety of commercial-free radio programs and music
  • Keyless Go allows the driver to start the vehicle with the simple push of a button
  • Remote Start starts a secured vehicle with the key fob
2009 Dodge Challenger R/T Interior. (Dodge).

Dodge Challenger offered more than 25 safety and security features were included:

  • Supplemental Side-curtain Air Bags extend protection to all outboard front- and rear-seat passengers
  • Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) modulate the brakes for the driver to provide steering control while braking
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) applies selective braking or throttle reduction to control oversteer and understeer
  • Brake Assist ensures maximum braking action during panic stops
  • Traction Control reduces the throttle and/or applies selective braking to optimize traction during acceleration
  • Hill Start Assist (HSA) for Manual Transmission application assists the driver in launching the vehicle on an incline
  • Automatic Headlamps turn headlamps on at dusk and off in the daylight without driver intervention
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM) alerts driver about low tire pressure(s) in order to facilitate safe handling
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8. (Dodge).

Since the initial debut, Dodge has continued to refine the Challenger with a refresh in 2015, new halo models such as the Demon and HELLCAT as well as the upcoming R/T Scat Pack 1320 and HELLCAT Redeye. V6 models moved away from the old 3.5-liter HO V6 to Chrysler’s much-awarded Pentastar V6 which delivers more power, torque, and efficiency, SRT cars got a new 392 cubic inch 6.4-liter HEMI V8 to replace the 6.1-liter HEMI, gaining 60 horsepower and 55 lb.-ft of torque in the process. The 5-speed automatic is long gone, replaced by an 8-speed ZF unit while the 6-speed manual still remains available for those that like to row their own.

While some may say that the Challenger is dated, going into its 10th full model year without a significant redesign, sales figures for the Challenger are actually up in a segment that is declining. In fact, the Challenger is currently outselling Chevrolet’s Camaro this year which was all new for 2016. That just goes to show what constant refinements, timeless design, and desirable halo cars can do for a brand. After driving the 2018 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Shaker, it’s hard to think that its the same car since 2008.

Jared Balfour

Jared founded MoparInsiders and is a 41-year-old automotive enthusiast from Vancouver, British Columbia. He took an interest in cars at a very young age and has been interested in them ever since. His hobbies include photography, videography, drag racing, and auto detailing. He currently owns and drives a 2023 Audi RS6, a 2024 GMC Sierra, and a 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

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