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With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|Tire Melting 101: Mr. Norm's Super Challenger|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Friday, 08 May 2009 15:09|
When I was handed the keys to a supercharged 615-horsepower Mr. Norm's Super Challenger, I realized that a bad day out in the field melting tires beats the best day in the office.
Norm Kraus, better known as Mr. Norm, is legendary among Chrysler fans. His dealership, Grand-Spaulding Dodge, was the epicenter of the Mopar performance universe from the mid-sixties into the early seventies when the first muscle car era came to an untimely end. When you wanted to drive the very fastest Mopar off the showroom floor, you headed to Chicago with your checkbook in hand. When you left, you could rest assured that you had one of the fastest street-legal Dodges on the planet. Times really haven't changed all that much in the last 40 years; to get the fastest new-gen 2009 Challenger you still visit Mr. Norm, only this time he's semi-retired in Florida. However, he still has his thumb in the high-performance pie. Together with Mike Staveski and Bill Sefton, he has reincarnated Mr. Norm's Garage.
On Tuesday the Automotive Traveler team had the "chore," if it can be called that, of driving the first production-spec supercharged Mr. Norm's Super Challenger. To build such a car you start with the goodness that is the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8, which is no slouch in the horsepower department, and send it to performance guru Jim Bell at Kenne-Bell for a stimulus injection courtesy of a twin screw blower that adds almost 200 horsepower to the 425 it came with from the factory. Yet the result is a Challenger that feels just like any other SRT8 during normal driving and is utterly tractable around town, especially when equipped with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, but a tiger is unleashed when the accelerator pedal meets the firewall.
While our time with the Super Challenger was just long enough for a 150-mile run among California's Inland Empire that included a trip for lunch to the rustic and historic Mount Baldy Lodge, it was more than enough to let us know that we were behind the wheel of a very special car. First, on this particular car there are the upgrades that include the supercharger and intercooler package, the full exterior and interior upgrade, signature Mr. Norm's stripes, 20-inch 2-piece star-style modular wheels, Corsa exhaust, and Hotchkis coil-over suspension package. The as-delivered price of our test car, including all installation labor and the Challenger SRT8 "donor car" comes in at $59,248.
Automotive Traveler is no stranger to the driver's seats in the Mr. Norm's Super Challenger and Super 'Cuda (a 2009 Dodge Challenger with exterior styling modifications sufficient to make it appear that Plymouth survived and now offers a Challenger companion as it did in 1970) having driven the range of normally aspirated cars after their debut at the 2008 SEMA Show, but this was our first opportunity to put the hammer down on the force-fed version. There was no opportunity for any track time--that will come in a few weeks--but we did have one glorious opportunity, provided by a very long on-ramp leading on to CA 210, to get an idea of its capabilities. Getting up to an indicated 60 instantly, we just stayed in it with the pedal to the floor and saw 120 in what seemed like two heartbeats before having to slow down to merge with traffic. The ability of the Super Challenger to pin you into the Katskin leather seats is unrivaled by any car in its price class.
The Mr. Norm's Super Challenger is a true one-of-a-kind creation, a part of the Mr. Norm's legacy that goes back to the golden era of Grand-Spaulding Dodge. Ordering is simple; build and option your 2009 SRT8 Challenger the way you want at your Dodge Dealer, then call Mr. Norm's Garage to choose from the various Mr. Norm's style and performance-proven packages. At that point you will confirm the final details, arrange financing (if required), and coordinate the build and the shipping logistics. Once the order is entered, you can follow the build right up until it is ready for shipment. If you already have a 2008 or 2009 Challenger, you're can duplicate the process with an existing car.
Engine and major drivetrain components are dyno tested and tuned for maximum performance. After we returned the 5-speed automatic test car, Jim Bell brought us into the dyno room where a 6-speed version of the Super 'Cuda was on the test stand. Because of the ability of the 6-speed gearbox to handle more torque, the engine is tuned differently, providing an additional 20 horsepower. We've already driven the stock 425-horsepower SRT8 Challenger 170 miles per hour on last year's Vanishing Point run. With more the 100 extra horsepower under the hood, it's entirely possible that this first stage supercharged Super Challenger (Jim Bell has an even more powerful 1,000-horsepower version under development for release later this year), it's entirely possible that the Super Challenger is capable of tickling the magic 200 miles per hour threshold given enough road. Norm, Bill, Mike, and Jim, maybe you can hand me the keys for the next Silver State Challenge?
Of course all this performance comes at a price. Built from the already capable--if somewhat porky--SRT8 Challenger, you can build a 615-horspower, 5-speed automatic supercharged Super Challenger for well under $60,000, delivered. Start with the Mr. Norm's Base Package ($3,559), Kenne-Bell supercharger and Intercooler ($7,995), upgraded Hotchkis suspension ($1,500), the melodic Corsa exhaust ($1,895), and the tab is "just" $55,949, including all installation labor. This compares very favorably with the 540-horsepower Shelby Mustang GT500KR, which typically sells for more than its suggested list price of $79,995. While the Shelby is about 400 pounds lighter than the Mr. Norm's Challenger, with almost 75 more horsepower on tap combined with the advantages of its more sophisticated independent rear suspension, the Mr. Norm's Super Challenger presents an outstanding "value" proposition in a head-to-head comparison among top-tier, modified contemporary pony cars.
See high-resolution versions of these and more images in the Automotive Traveler image gallery.