I’d be willing to bet that shortly after the Ford Model T started rolling off the assembly line in the early 1900s, some customer did something to his car to make it stand out from all the others. After all, the Model T was the first mass-produced car, and thousands of look-alikes in each big city would make it tempting for someone to do a little customizing, even though you couldn’t just run out and buy car accessories at the local store.
Half a century later, the muscle car era hit America with full force, and the custom parts industry was getting into full swing. From custom wheels to parts that would hop up an engine, hardly anybody left their Mustang, Camaro or Challenger alone if they were serious about performance.
We’re now in a new era of muscle cars, with all of the Detroit Three offering sporty two-door cars featuring impressive power and loads of retro style. And as before, I’ve noticed that many buyers of new Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers are personalizing them a bit.
Aware of this desire that some of their customers want to go a little further when it comes to their cars, Chrysler’s Mopar division has come up with a whole slew of accessories that can add to both the “show” and “go” aspects of the Dodge Challenger. All street legal, all covered by warranty, and all can be installed right at the dealership before you take delivery of the car. That way, the added equipment can be included in the financing.
To show off the available goodies you can add to the Challenger, the folks at the Mopar performance division put together an example of just how far the idea can be taken. Starting with a bright red 2010 R/T model (base price $30,860), they decked it out with pretty much everything, and created a really wild looking car. And I was recently handed the keys to it.
First, the things that add to the show, many of which are part of the Mopar Exterior Appearance Group that’s added at the factory for a suggested price of $1,995. Right up front is a hood scoop (non-functional, but an almost exact replica of the one on Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars back in the day) which gives the Challenger a very menacing look. Included in that package are a rear spoiler and side decals, also paying tribute to the first muscle car era.
This showcase car also has a lowering spring kit ($1,750) which gives it a nice stance, and a gorgeous set of forged, polished 20” wheels ($2,332). Those really set the car off and glisten in the sun, providing a nice contrast to the bright red paint and black accent stripes. All in all, the exterior cues take us back to about 1970, when a groovy Challenger R/T would be the hit of the Bob’s Big Boy parking lot.
Of course a car like this can’t just look good; it has to back those looks up with some muscle. The R/T model is no slouch on its own, but some select Mopar accessories can wake things up just a little more. While I motored around in the bright red Challenger, a cold air intake system ($371) and a performance exhaust system ($1,190) provided some extra rumble and probably a double-digit horsepower increase over the factory rating of 376.
Modern muscle cars handle much better than their forebears, and improvements there are also part of the Mopar parts catalog. The red Challenger was decked out with not just those lowering springs, but a sway bar kit ($484) and strut tower brace ($359) that stiffens the car’s structure. Combined with the 20” wheels and tires, these items help the slightly porky coupe stay pretty buttoned-down to the road.
The array of Mopar accessories doesn’t stop at the exterior; you can customize the inside as well. The showcase Challenger got the whole shebang, from custom leather seat coverings ($1,199) to faux carbon fiber trim on the console and center stack ($172). The car also had more than $1,300 worth of Kicker speakers cram-med inside, but I’d certainly skip those as I’m definitely not into thumping bass.
What’s great about the car that the Mopar and Dodge folks put together is that it really stands out. The updated Challenger has been around for just over two years, so they’re starting to become kind of commonplace. With its aggressive rake and retro hood scoop, this particular example was almost always noticed, usually with approving thumbs up.
My favorite moment of my time in the car came on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I had the windows and sunroof open in order to better hear that healthy exhaust system, and a song by The Steve Miller Band was playing on the satellite radio. If I hadn’t already had lunch, I most certainly would have headed over to Bob’s Big Boy to show off.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He can also be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. You can reach Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net