Have you ever wondered what would happen if streetable performance cars came out of the legendary Petty compound in Level Cross, North Carolina?

Wonder no more, and keep looking. This '09 Challenger is the first build of its kind from Petty's Garage, and its sale at this past winter's Barrett-Jackson auction helped a lot of people via the Petty Family Foundation.

With the reorganizing that went on in recent years in NASCAR, the legendary shop that built race cars that won 10 NASCAR championships (seven by Richard and three by his father, Lee) saw its race-car fabrication works moved to Statesville. But the Level Cross shop wasn't destined to stay empty-or quiet-for long. "I didn't want it to be empty," says Richard Petty about the creation of Petty's Garage. "So, we brought in a couple of guys and started doing some race car restorations of cars that I raced that I want to put into the Richard Petty Museum, and the business has grown from that."

Indeed, Petty's Garage has grown into a performance-build shop, and this Challenger is the prototype of a limited-run series of LX-Body muscle that they'll be turning out. How much of the expertise that the Pettys gained by building Mopars to win on the track went into this Challenger, and will go into their other performance builds? A lot, Richard says, while noting that they've always built performance cars. "In the early years, my Dad, Maurice, and I built race cars from cars straight from the showroom floor. Over time, these cars became specialized racing vehicles. But we know how to take a production car, tweak it a little, and make it a little bit better." He adds that today's production cars-especially the LX-platform Challenger and Charger-are really good ones, but built for the masses. "The Challenger we built, and the cars we will be building, are built for the person that wants something a little bit different and a little bit better," he says.

"And we all know the 'better' starts with horsepower and handling," says the seven-time NASCAR champion.

For horsepower, they start with the Hemi under the SRT8's hood. "It's a really good engine, and has a lot of flexibility," says Richard of the latest-generation Hemi. "It's pretty much built to the max from Dodge. You can put a power adder on the stock engine, but when you do, you're pushing the reliability factor past the curve." He adds that, with a little bit of extra work, you can turn out more power and not risk reliability. "The guys at Arrington did a really good job [helping us] with our 426. I wanted to leave it naturally aspirated, and they turned out some really good power."

What Arrington did was start with a new 6.1L Hemi block and made a 426-cubic-incher out of it. They machined it for a stroker crank, then gave it a NASCAR-grade finish and prep. Inside it went a set of forged Mahle pistons on K1 H-beam rods atop a K1 forged steel stroker crankshaft, as well as a special custom-grind roller camshaft. On it were bolted a set of Arrington's own ported, Phase IV aluminum heads. The SRT8's OEM fuel injection system was upgraded with a 90mm Arrington throttle body for more fuel/air flow, and they also added their carbon fiber cold air intake. It's all good for 585 hp and 560 ft/lbs of torque, per Arrington's dyno numbers.

Downstream, the SRT8's six-speed manual transmission got a Hurst shifter, and the rear end's 3.92:1 rear gears and other differential parts were retained.

The rest of the car received similar attention, derived from what was learned building racing Mopars. They tore the Challenger down to its bare unibody, then strengthened it by adding subframe connectors and shock tower braces. They also fabricated a new front crossmember to attach the front suspension and steering to while holding the Hemi. New body pieces were fabricated all around-front fascia and rocker panels, a rear bumper cover, plus a rear spoiler. When they were complete, it was painting time-and five guesses what color went on. It took the 21st Century paint technology and chemistry of BASF Coatings' R-M Paint Division to perfectly match a shade of blue created by mixing the blue and white that was on hand in this garage back when two big '60 Plymouths were being readied for Daytona.