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Chrysler fills Detroit garage with muscle cars

Mopar muscle cars lead the pack at Detroit Auto Show

Published: January 15, 2014 02:00 PM

I set out to do an overall muscle-car summary of all the hot Detroit horsepower here at the show. But I got so carried away with my notes on Mopars that I kind of forgot about the other legendary namesakes from Ford and GM. The new Mustang is certainly newsworthy and what’s not to like about the ferocious looking 505-hp Camaro Z/28?

The problem is that I could not walk past the “Mopar Garage” display without staring at the honest-to-goodness Shaker hood peeking out of a very custom “Mopar ’14 Challenger” decked out in white paint with blue pinstripes and black wheels. It’s obvious that Chrysler believes there is a strong aftermarket accessory and upgrade market because this display was crammed with Mopar-branded wheels, sound systems, suspension parts and exhausts to give your beast more rumble.

The reason these cars capture my imagination so much is that I grew up wanting one. The problem, though, was the first wave of American muscle cars peaked before I was old enough to drive. Yet I’d read countless stories of how the famed Hemi-powered 426 cubic-inch V8 ‘Cudas and Challengers ruled stop-light drag racing. Chrysler also had plenty of success in sanctioned events as well, with the Gen II 426 Race Hemi winning its first race – the 1964 Daytona 500 with Richard Petty at the wheel. Three other Hemi-powered entries gave four of the top five finishing positions in that race to the new powerplant.

And even though I had a pivotal birthday last summer (rhymes with “nifty”), I was still too young to drink in all that muscle car madness.

The smart people in Detroit know there are lots of people who either missed this era or want to relive it. And, in a way, today’s cars are much better than the originals. Modern muscle cars are faster, handle and stop much better, have more safety equipment, and get superior fuel economy. Win, win, win!

Checking out the Mopar hardware on display, it’s clear that Chrysler is playing to its home-field advantage. And they didn’t hold back.

There was a bevy of sweet orange cars on-hand, but there was one that caught my eye – a Challenger R/T “Hemi Shaker Limited Edition.” Why all the fuss over a shaker hood? The company says it actually feeds more air into the engine, helping it breath deeply to exhale all that 375 hp. And the thing actually shakes when you start it up. Imagine: All that shaking and not a cup of Starbucks in sight.

The Shaker package also includes 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, performance-tuned steering, a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, special Goodyear Eagle tires and three-mode Electronic Stability Control. Clearly it’s not all show and no go.

My colleagues will tell you that these cars make little sense: they’re too big, too heavy and lack the athletic moves of more nimble numbers like the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, Volkswagen GTI, Porsche Boxster, or Mini Cooper. They’re absolutely right. But that doesn’t shake my love for a new Shaker.

The Mopar Custom Shop display at the show features examples of Mopar-customized vehicles including the SRT Viper, Fiat 500L Thalassa, Jeep Wrangler Recon, Jeep Cherokee Trail Carver and Ram 3500 Dually CASE Work Truck.

–Mike Quincy

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