Challenger By Petty #001
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.
An Arrington-built 426-inch Hemi supplies the power, without the need for a blower that mi
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.
A Hurst and a Kenwood amp are the major functional upgrades to what otherwise is a stock S
"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.
20-inch CCW wheels wear wide-tread Goodyears, while huge Bremo disc brakes provide lots of
The Petty-fabricated structural members also include front/rear subframe connectors, which
Distinctive silhouettes of "The King" grace each inner door panel.
Front shock tower braces add strength to the Challenger's unibody.
A Petty-fabricated front crossmember holds the Hemi, front suspension, and brakes.
These chassis parts got a coat of dark blue (Parts Blue) to contrast against the Petty Blu
The chassis received plenty of attention, in the form of Pedders LX SRT8 extreme coilovers, bushings, and anti-roll bars, front and rear. The rear end also got Petty's Garage's adjustable antiroll bar and toe linkages, and all the chassis' bare-metal pieces got a coat of what the Pettys call Parts Blue, to contrast with the Petty Blue-painted underside. Brembo's "Gran Turismo" brakes went on at all corners, with their "M-6" calipers in front and "M-4" calipers in back. Filling the fenderwells are a set of 20-inch-diameter CCW's SP551 wheels, shod with Goodyear Eagle R5A tires
It all adds up to a car whose identity is summed up by the words "Challenger by Petty."
If you're wondering why they waited until the new Challenger came out before building a Petty version of the LX-Body, Richard says there was a very good reason why-and it didn't involve waiting. "When the Charger came out, we were racing out of Level Cross and didn't have the time to focus on anything but racing," he says. "Not to say that I have more time today, but the race team is now in Statesville, and my office is still here in Level Cross, so I'm here pretty much every day, and I can spend time on both businesses."
The plan for Petty's Garage includes more builds like this Challenger, but not Concours-quality restorations of street cars, as Richard says those are two very different specialties. "We are currently working on a couple of historically-significant race cars for customers that will be returned to period-correct vehicles, as they were raced," he says. "One is for a museum, and the other for a private collection. We also have a few custom cars we are working on for customers: two Mopars-one's a really nice Barracuda, and the other is a Pro Touring Superbird that will be my personal car. It's starting from a Road Runner chassis, and I have a few things in mind for it."
When this car crossed the block at Barrett-Jackson, the sale proceeds benefitted the Petty Family Foundation. "Our family has always supported charities and civic service," he says. "Mostly that goes back to the values Lynda and I were taught by our parents. Our charities of focus are the Victory Junction Gang Camps, the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and education-based charities.
"When Kyle and Pattie started Victory Junction, our charity work became more visible, but our family has always tried to give back to communities. The experiences that Victory Junction provides these kids are remarkable. Just allowing a child to swim in a pool can be a new experience, something they might not have ever had the chance to do.
"I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for those who have served our country, and a deep appreciation for those who have made sacrifices for our freedom. Without that freedom, Richard Petty would have never been able to do the things he did. I enjoy working with the PVA, and going to see our service men and women at the VA hospital, and visiting with those that receive assistance from the PVA. The work the PVA does is so critical for these men and women, and anything we can do to support them is well worth the time and effort."
To find out more about the Petty Family Foundation-and the good causes it supports-check it out online at www.pettyfamilyfoundation.org, or by visiting the foundation's homepage on Facebook.
'09 Dodge Challenger by Petty
Built by: Petty's Garage, Level Cross, North Carolina
- Engine: Yeah, it's got an Arrington-built Gen III 426 Hemi, good for 585 hp and 560 ft/lbs of torque (per Arrington's dyno numbers). Inside the machined-and-NASCAR-prepped 6.1L block went forged Mahle pistons and K1's H-beam connecting rods and a forged steel stroker crankshaft. The camshaft is a special grind roller cam, and the heads are Arrington's ported Phase IV aluminum. Also on this engine: Arrington's 90mm throttle body and carbon fiber cold air intake.
- Transmission: A Hurst-shifted SRT8 6-speed manual.
- Rearend: OEM SRT8 differential and 3.92:1 gearing.
- Suspension: At each corner are Pedders LX SRT8 extreme coilovers and bushings, with Pedders' antiroll bars, front and rear, plus Petty's Garage's adjustable rear antiroll bar and toe linkages.
- Brakes: Brembo "Gran Turismo" brakes, with "M-6" calipers in front and "M-4" calipers in back.
- Wheels and Tires: CCW's SP551 wheels (20x9 inches front, 20x10 inches rear) wear Goodyear Eagle RSA's (245/45R20 in front, 295/40R20 in back)
- Body: Inside, the original LX-Body Challenger unibody was reinforced with Petty's Garage-fabricated subframe connectors and shock-tower brace. Outside, special parts by Petty include the front fascia and grille inserts, rear spoiler, plus a fiberglass rear bumper cover and rocker panels.
- Paint: BASF/R-M's special blend of the legendary Petty Blue, sprayed on at Petty's Garage, Level Cross, North Carolina
- Interior: Petty's Garage made the OEM cabin even better with custom logos on both front seats, silhouettes of Richard Petty on both door panels, and a Kicker subwoofer and amplifier added on to the stock SRT8 Option Group II sound system.