"The only thing I have to...
"The only thing I have to worry about, being a dermatologist, is driving with the top down too much. my patients might think I was a hypocrite if I came into the clinic with a sunburn." -Clint Brunner, M.D.
Driving around with the top down can be one of the most enjoyable experiences you'll ever have behind the wheel of a cruiser. Dr. Clint Brunner was driving his '08 SRT8 Challenger down the road one day with his wife, Erin, and three sons. "We were all comfortable and I started thinking to myself how cool it would be to have the top down," he says. The seed was planted and the idea grew into a cool custom Challenger project.
Building a car that could fit a family of five and still satisfy Clint would be a tough task. "I'm a little spoiled since I have a few very powerful cars in my driveway," he quips. He began doing some research and found a few candidates that could modify his Challenger into a drop-top.
"On the top of that list was Convertible Builders in High Springs, Florida," he recalls. "They seemed to do the nicest job and made their modifications look like they came from the factory, and best of all, they look good with the top up." Clint didn't stop there. He also found that Mr. Norm's was about two hours away from their shop. This got him scratching his head. "Hmm, a convertible Challenger with Mr. Norm's heritage, Kenne Bell power, and a custom Plum Crazy paintjob. My wife loved the idea and the car was ultimately being built for her."
Clint got in touch with Mike Staveski at Mr. Norm's and told him what he would like to do. He called up Jerry Ulm Dodge in Tampa and bought a black automatic '09 Challenger SRT8 over the phone. Mr. Norm's picked the car up and brought it to Convertible Builders to have the conversion performed. Once the roof was removed and the proper systems were in place, it was delivered to Mr. Norm's to receive the go-fast parts. Their first task was to remove the Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl paint and spray it in original C7 Plum Crazy, the right way.
With the custom hue applied, Mr. Norm's put the Challenger on the lift to install Hotchkis sway bars and lowering springs. They also made underbody bracing that is necessary to compensate for the now roofless Challenger. The extensive underbody support also prepared it for the power of the twin-screw Kenne Bell supercharger. The 2.8L blower incorporates an air-to-water intercooler that has engine coolant running through it to help cool the compressed air from the blower. This Challenger has serious twin-screw blower whine coming at you, and then it growls as it leaves.
Inside, the red seat inserts were removed and more appropriate purple leather accents were sewn in place. The rear seats required no modification for the drop-top, so Clint has no trouble seating the whole family. The power-operated top functions like any normal 'vert would be expected to, and the finished job looks clean and OEM. Gauges were added so that Clint and Erin could keep an eye on vitals such as boost and fuel pressure, and they even illuminate purple.
The 6.1L HEMI is a very stout...
The 6.1L HEMI is a very stout and efficient engine. Clint is used to something a little more radical thanks to his other rides. He had a 2.8L Kenne Bell polished twin-screw which incorporates an intercooler. On 91 octane and a safe tune, the HEMI produces 516 rwhp.
The original work was done at the Florida location before it was delivered to Clint at the 2009 Mopar Nationals. "I hadn't seen or driven the car up to that point, so Erin and I were very excited to see it," he says. "When we got there and saw it sitting by the Mr. Norm's booth, I couldn't believe how good it looked. The first time Erin and I drove it was to and from the photo shoot. It was perfect," he says.
Since our shoot, Clint and Erin have had some finishing touches performed by the second Mr. Norm's location in Machesney Park, Illinois, truly leaving the car in perfect condition. "Erin drives the car all the time and she certainly has the coolest car at school when she goes to pick the kids up," he jests. Clint assures us that Erin spends a lot of time with her foot on the gas and has no problem leaving two black stripes wherever she goes.
Owned by: Clint and Erin Brunner
- Engine: Factory 6.1 liter Hemi SRT8 engine with Mr. Norm's/Kenne Bell 2.8L polished twin-screw supercharger/intercooler package. It runs on 91 octane and the blower forces 10 pounds of air into the intake and was dyno-tested at 516 rwhp. Out back is a Corsa exhaust system. Tuning was done by Mr. Norm's.
- Transmission: Stock W5A580 five-speed automatic
- Rearend: 3.06 Getrag axle
- Suspension: Hotchkis sway bars and lowering springs. A Mr. Norm's underbody brace was installed to stiffen the chassis after the roof was removed.
- Brakes: Factory four-piston Brembo fixed calipers front and rear with 14.2-inch vented/slotted front rotors and 13.8 vented/slotted rear rotors
- Wheels and Tires: SRT8 20x9-inch forged aluminum wheels with P255/45ZR20 Goodyear F1 Supercar tires
- Paint and Body: Convertible Builders in High Springs, Florida, removed the roof and installed a power-operated top that incorporates a soft tonneau cover. Mr. Norm's in Hudson, Florida, sprayed the car with original Plum Crazy paint, not the new shade. After the NATS, the car was sent to Machesny Park, Illinois, the location where it received its final paintwork.
- Interior: Mr. Norms installed boost and fuel pressure gauges in addition to a purple seat insert.
- Special thanks to: Mike Staveski and Tim Barth of Mr. Norm's, Jeff and Larry Moran at Convertible Builders, my parents (for starting me off with my first Mopar love-their '70 Charger 500 which I restored and still own), and most of all, my wife Erin-Happy Birthday! How am I ever going to top this gift next year?