It's one thing to look the part, but the Direct Connection Dodge Challenger was built for
Gone are the days of cool inside projects from Detroit that were flown under the radar of the parent company. Where employees-make that enthusiasts-worked nights and weekends to develop cool performance projects and parts. Will we ever see those days again? Probably not. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few rebels at the helm of inspiring projects, those of legend. Today's Mopar Performance Group is fortunate enough to have some dedicated car guys developing products and grinning ear-to-ear when a high compression Hemi is fired up. Thanks to them, we now have a new legend in the making.
If you haven't seen the Mopar Direct Connection Dodge Challenger out at events, make sure you swing by their booth and pick their brains about the car. You'll soon find that you're talking to your buddy, the guy in the pits next to you, the guy in the right lane. They are the team at the Mopar Performance Group, and they're just like us.
This isn't just any regular Dodge Challenger, it's actually something of a historical icon of its own, being the first new Challenger VIN 00001. One of the original Drag Pack cars. Instead of crushing this masterpiece of metal craft, a small team comprised of Dale Aldo, Brian Falzon, Albert Kalaj, Evan Murphy, Richard Hwang, and David Daunter, decided to use it for something else. "With the new Mopar Performance aluminum block (PN 5153898) in development, we wanted to find out the limits and needed something to test it in," says Brian. "I talked with Dale about what we were thinking, and he got the ball rolling and eventually the approval from management to use the car."
Once the project was moving forward, it was clear that it was going to be challenging. "We wanted to build the car in part to let Mopar fans know that we were just like them, and we wanted to make a connection to them," says Dale. This resulted in the resurrection of the Direct Connection within Mopar, something that had really been in hiatus since the '80s- or at least it didn't have a test car in the fleet. This program develops parts for the public based on the needs of the performance junkies. The new Dodge Challenger would be doing just that, as it would develop parts for a whole new generation of automobile from Chrysler, the LX platform, and the new Hemi engine.
Working mainly on their own personal time-nights and weekends-the small team built and conceived the plan for the car, rooted in rich history and heritage. Arrow Racing assembled the aluminum block with Diamond pistons, Scat 6.0-inch rods, and a Scat 4-inch crankshaft installed. Compression was dropped to 8.56:1, ready for an onslaught of boost. A Mopar Performance 392 cam and experimental heads were added to optimize power output before it was lowered between the strut towers.
Brian and the Direct Connection team then mocked up a custom single turbo setup to feed the beastly low compression Hemi. Once all the piping was routed, a single 88mm Turbonetics Y2K ball bearing turbo was mounted to shove air through the Turbonetics T41768 intercooler, regulated by a Turbonetics New Gen HP Wastegate. The fuel is sucked from a five-gallon aluminum fuel cell with a Weldon DB2025 pump into a set of Mopar Performance fuel rails, now available for purchase.
The power is delivered to an MPR/Strange rear end through an ATI transmission with a 9-inch converter. Once this power has been managed 3.70 gears and 40-spline axles punish a set of Goodyear drag slicks and hurl the 3,400-pound LX Dodge Challenger-with driver-down the strip.
Under the hood things were cleaned up considerably, keeping things simple. It's an engine,
The first ever '08 Dodge Challenger...
The 88mm Turbonetics turbo is somewhat hidden from view underneath the radiator support.
A revision of these fuel rails were developed and made available through Mopar.
Finally the car was assembled, but it needed some school clothes. The Direct Connection team worked with Stephanie Rooks, responsible for logo and brand management, to come up with something that stayed true to the Direct Connection roots while still incorporating the modern liquid metal Mopar Performance scheme. "She came up with this terrific looking wrap that certainly does just that for us," says Dale. "Wraps are popular today, and many race teams have started using them because they're easy and can be greatly detailed." Not to mention that the wrap can be removed at anytime to reveal the original drag pack car, unmolested aside from a small hole for the air-to-water intercooler plumbing.
The car made its debut at Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas, where the crowd reaction was more than Dale or Brian could have anticipated. "Everywhere we've gone, the reaction to the car has been so positive that it's honestly hard to believe," says Brian. "So it's safe to say that we're happy with the way it turned out and what it's doing for us." It's not only a great way to promote the brand for them, but it's also an interesting way to test and develop new parts for today and tomorrow.
Inside is all business. The factory seats were removed and a single, well-bolstered Viper
After talking with Dale and Brian, it's hard not to view them as a new Skunkworks or Ramchargers of the decade. "We don't see this as a project with a timeline, since we plan to continue to develop new parts with this car," says Dale. If that's the case, we could have a whole cornucopia of late model performance parts driving Chrysler into the future performance market. With the Direct Connection team back in full swing working late nights on their own time, things are looking good for Mopar fans.
'08 Dodge Challenger Drag Pack
Owned by: Chrysler Group, LLC
Auburn Hills, Michigan
- Engine: As the test bed for the new aluminum new-Hemi block, a 440-inch Hemi is situated under the Six-Pack hood. The block is a Mopar Performance item, PN 5153898, with a forged rotating assembly consisting of Diamond pistons, Scat rods, and a Scat crank. Compression is a boost-ready 8.56:1. A single 88mm Y2K ball bearing Turbonetics turbo uses the exhaust gases to increase atmospheric pressure by 15psi, controlled by a Turbonetics New Gen HP wastegate. This compressed air is then chilled in a Turbonetics air-to-water intercooler before being fed into an aluminum intake. Fuel is added through a set of Mopar Performance fuel rails and injectors delivered from the tank by a high-flow Weldon pump. From there, the mixture is escorted into each cylinder by a set of experimental cylinder heads. Once the Mopar 392 camshaft has opened the valves, it's ignited, sent out to the turbo to begin the cycle once again, and through an open downpipe.
- Rearend: An MPR/Strange unit with 3.70 gears and 40-spline gun-drilled axles. It features an aluminum carrier and pinion support.
- Transmission: The shifting is performed by an ATI two-speed Pro Glide with a nine-inch torque converter designed for use with boost.
- Suspension: Currently the Challenger uses Afco adjustable drag shocks but will soon be swapped for Strange shocks. The rear suspension was designed by MPR Racing and is a four-link with a panhard bar.
- Brakes: Strange drag brakes.
- Wheels/Tire: In these photos you'll see 9x30-15 Goodyear slicks with 27-inch front runners. They have since switched to a 9x30-15 Hoosier slick with 28-inch skinnies.
- Paint: A "Liquid Metal" Direct Connection wrap.
- Interior: A slew of Mopar/AutoMeter gauges, switches and buttons are required in such a serious quarter-mile contender. A Mopar tach communicates what the Hemi is spinning to while the driver sits in the Viper-sourced seat.
It's safety first at Mopar. The car was certified legal to go into the 8s.
The air-to-water intercooler is a terrific choice for a drag car as it's more efficient at