Back in 1999, Dodge shook up the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit with the introduction of the Dodge Charger R/T Concept. While the Charger nameplate had been important during the 1960s and 1970s, the nameplate had been absent from the brand’s portfolio since the last turbocharged 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger rolled off the production line at the Belvidere, Illinois. Now while the 1999 concept showed a more modern take to return to the original Charger’s past of rear-wheel-drive, it introduced a four-door layout to the nameplate for the first time ever.
The 1999 concept would later inspire the design of the 2011 Dodge Charger production car, a car that has evolved into today’s Charger, after a few updates. But while the concept touted bold styling and muscle car attributes, there was never much talk about its powertrain.
Now while the concept was rear-wheel-drive, not many people know that it was built on the Chrysler LH platform. The LH platform underpinned cars like the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler 300M, Chrysler LHS, and Chrysler Concorde, all of which were front-wheel-drive vehicles. However, Chrysler had developed the platform to be able to adapt to front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and all-wheel-drive if needed. Making the LH platform a great candidate at the time to underpin such a car.
Under the hood, was a supercharged version of Chrysler’s new 4.7-liter PowerTech V8 (which was dubbed “Magnum” in Dodge vehicles). The 4.7-liter made its first appearance under the hood of the second generation Jeep® Grand Cherokee (WJ) during the 1999 model year and was the first completely new V8 engine in decades from the automaker. It featured a cast-iron block with aluminum heads and two valves per cylinder. Unlike the other Chrysler V8s being used at the time, it used a chain-driven single overhead camshaft (SOHC), one in each head.
Equipped with a supercharger, the 4.7-liter produced 325 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque. That would prove to be a 90 horsepower and 25 lb.-ft. jump over the naturally aspirated version. The engine was mated to a Borg-Warner T-5 5-speed manual transmission with a pistol grip shifter, guaranteeing that the concept was a true driver’s car. But there was also one other major detail that was revolutionary in the car’s design.
Instead of running the car on standard gasoline, the car was instead fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). This meant the car would meet the California Air Resources Board Últra Low Emission Vehicle (ÚLEV) standard, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25% over the gasoline equivalent. The concept car showcased a new storage tank system that could deliver up to 300 miles range in a CNG-powered passenger car and not compromise storage space in the trunk.
The cylinders, or pressure cells, inside the Fiberglas storage tank were lined with a gas-impermeable High-Density Polyurethane (HDPE) thermoplastic and wrapped in a hybrid mix of high-strength carbon and super-tough glass filaments that were wound with an epoxy resin. Finally, the cylinders were laid into a foam egg crate to absorb impacts. Making it strong for its weight, resistant to environmental damage, reliable, and durable. The tank could also be made flat, in the shape of a conventional gasoline tank, yet the fuel can still be stored at 3,600 pounds per square inch.
Currently, Stellantis’ brands are still looking at alternative fuel systems. The Opel and Vauxhall brands recently unveiled its Vivaro-e HYDROGEN light commercial vehicle, which uses a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) powertrain by enabling the integration of the whole fuel cell system with the existing traction motor under the hood of the production vehicle. Instead of using batteries like the electrified Vivaro-e battery electric vehicle (BEV), it uses three carbon-fiber 700-bar hydrogen tanks. This allows refueling to only take about three minutes and providing zero emissions.
Could we see such an alternative fuel system in a future Dodge muscle car? It is unlikely. Dodge like most of the Stellantis portfolio of brands, has made a pledge to move more towards electrics. The first Dodge plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) is scheduled to make its debut in the 2023 model year, with the introduction of the Hornet C-SUV. The brand will introduce its first BEV in 2024, with the launch of the next-generation Dodge Challenger, according to sources close to MoparInsiders.com
Nevertheless, the search for the best choice of sustainable propulsion continues throughout the industry. The 1999 Dodge Charger R/T Concept is proof that the Dodge brand has looked for other options outside the traditional gasoline-powered muscle car, for quite some time.
1999 Dodge Charger R/T Concept Image Gallery: