Not since the days of the muscle car have performance-oriented products been given such an influential role at the Chrysler Group. Consumers experience it through performance parts from Mopar®, the winning Dodge Motorsports cars and trucks on America’s race tracks, and the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) niche vehicles developed by the company’s Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO).
But where does PVO get its ideas? Among the answers is the company’s SkunkWerks
team – an unofficial group that was brought together as part of Chrysler Group’s
growing emphasis on performance parts, accessories and customization.
“We work closely with the Chrysler Group SkunkWerks team in looking at future directions for performance vehicles and parts,” said Dan Knott, Director, Performance Vehicle Operations, whose responsibilities include overseeing the engineering of current and future Mopar Performance Parts. “Like PVO, the SkunkWerks team is composed of a group of dedicated enthusiasts that enjoy working on a wide range of special vehicle projects. They clearly have a grasp of what’s hot in the aftermarket industry. They are really able to stretch their imagination, and that helps us significantly as we develop the next renditions of SRT vehicles and Mopar Performance Parts.
“It’s important to note that several of the SkunkWerks team members are PVO engineers,” Knott added. “They walk the talk as PVO engineers during the day, and after hours they are enthusiasts working on SkunkWerks projects or their own vehicles. It all makes for lively idea generation between PVO and the SkunkWerks team.”
Venues such as the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show enable the Chrysler Group to demonstrate its commitment to aspirational vehicles – and specifically to vehicle customization and personalization. In the past several years, the company’s Vehicle Excitement Team (VXT) has partnered with SEMA members to help them create more than a hundred new custom Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge vehicles.
Formed last year, the SkunkWerks team, however, develops its own customized vehicles “straight from the factory.” “First and foremost, the one-off custom vehicles the SkunkWerks team creates are test beds – dream applications, really – for future vehicle designs and Mopar Performance Parts, that we use to gauge consumer interest,” said Ralph Gilles, Director, Interior/Exterior Product Design and Specialty Vehicles – and leader of the SkunkWerks team. “We are really able to push the envelope with these vehicles, by exploring a wide variety of new ideas that come from our engineering and design teams and from our supplier partners.”
In addition to more than 25 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles created by aftermarket companies – in tandem with Chrysler Group’s VXT – for this year’s SEMA show, the following are highlights of seven SkunkWerks-designed show cars for SEMA 2003.
Chrysler PT Coupe Concept
Enthusiasm for Chrysler PT Cruiser customization is taken to a new level with
the Chrysler PT Coupe Concept. In partnership with Decoma International, Inc.,
the Chrysler Group SkunkWerks team began with the new (available early 2004)
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, and added a permanent hard top and functional
drop tail gate to turn it into the PT Coupe Concept.
Its aggressive stance begins with a lowered suspension, courtesy of a Mopar coilover suspension kit. Colorado Custom has provided 19 x 8-inch custom-cut aluminum wheels, which wear low-profile P235/35R19 tires from Bridgestone.
The PT Coupe Concept’s interior features aggressively bolstered 2+2 seating, with a dramatic focus on the cockpit. Most of the interior – including the entire back seat area – is trimmed in navy blue leather, while the cockpit features a combination of light pearl beige and navy blue leather. The rear view mirror incorporates a pop-out screen for backup assist (the camera is in the rear spoiler). The 900-watt premium audio system incorporates 18 Infinity speakers.
Under the hood is a 235 horsepower 2.4-liter high-output turbocharged engine, enhanced with the Mopar Stage 1 turbo upgrade. Additional performance enhancements include a Borla dual tip exhaust, and two-piston caliper performance brakes from StopTech High Performance Brake Systems.
Dodge Viper SRT-10 Carbon
The ultimate test bed for Mopar Performance Parts engineered specifically for
the ultimate American sports car, the Dodge Viper SRT-10 Carbon is designed to
be the ultimate street-legal, racing-oriented sports car.
“More of everything – except weight!” was the theme in designing the Viper SRT-10 Carbon. Measurable weight savings – it weighs approximately 150 lbs. less than the production Viper SRT-10 – was recognized thanks to an aggressive, clear-coated carbon fiber hood (with radiator exit louvers and openings for cowl induction) and deck lid (featuring a built-in spoiler that increases rear downforce), and the debut of ultra-lightweight Street and Racing Technology (SRT) 18- and 19-inch forged aluminum wheels. A clear-coated, lightweight carbon fiber front splitter increases front downforce.
A custom carbon fiber bolt-on hard top is featured, providing a coupe appearance.
Other ingredients in the recipe that make the Viper SRT-10 Carbon the performance enthusiasts’ fantasy car are a special version of the 8.3-liter Viper V-10 engine -- with individual runners, cowl induction, a 10 throttle body intake with aluminum velocity stacks, oversized intake and exhaust valves and modified cylinder heads resulting in 625 horsepower -- as well as a high-tech suspension featuring compression and rebound tunable shocks with adjustable ride height, titanium high-rate springs and high-rate anti-roll bars.
The Viper Competition Coupe race car parts bin provides a high torque bias racing limited-slip differential, differential oil cooler, racing seats and competition harnesses.
Dodge SRT-4 Extreme
Simply put, the SRT-4 Extreme is the award-winning Dodge SRT-4 taken to its
practical limits. Capturing and celebrating the enthusiasm that defines Chrysler
Group’s Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO), it is the test bed – the prototype
– for the development of current and future Mopar Performance Parts.
Extensive use of lightweight carbon fiber and composite parts has reduced the weight of the Dodge SRT-4 dramatically – by an estimated 500 pounds compared to the production SRT-4.
As the ultimate sport compact “tuner” vehicle, the SRT-4 Extreme features a prototype edition of a potential future Mopar Performance turbo upgrade kit, a dramatically lowered ride height provided by a Mopar Stage 3 coilover suspension kit, and an impressive list of brand name performance parts -- including a Mopar short-throw shifter, a Mopar blow-off valve kit, a Borla catalyst-delete resonator, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup race tires, a brake kit from StopTech, SSR semi-solid forged wheels, a six-point harness from TeamTech, Recaro race seats and a Moroso detachable steering wheel -- that make this car the performance enthusiast’s dream.
There’s no mistaking the SRT-4 Extreme. Equipped with a subtle body kit, it features a subtle bright silver metallic exterior, with a lightweight carbon fiber hood, deck lid, front and rear fascias and door assemblies. The intentionally minimal interior -- making the car suitable for potential Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) or private racing venues – includes competition seats and harnesses and a welded-in roll cage.
Dodge Ram High Output 1500 Sportside
Street presence and HEMI® power defined. That’s the Dodge Ram High Output 1500
Sportside. Or put another way: a sporty, low-slung, powerful pickup for the
Dodge enthusiast that satisfies muscle car hunger with a V-8 Ram.
The Ram High Output 1500 Sportside combines a regular cab with a “stepside-like” bed configuration, designed to highlight the truck’s lowered stance and unique 22-inch Budnik wheels and Pirelli Scorpion-Zero 305/40ZR/22 tires.
Power is increased to 375 horsepower thanks to the addition of cold air intake and a free-flow dual exhaust system. Interior highlights include aggressive, race-inspired sports seats and an amplifier/subwoofer system that comes complete with satellite radio.
Jeep Liberator CRD Diesel
Boasting superior range and significant low-end torque, the Jeep Liberator
Common Rail Diesel (CRD) showcases the Jeep brand’s off-road capability while
demonstrating the advantage of the common rail diesel engine.
Absent of carpet, leather and alloy wheels, the Liberator CRD is Jeep’s absolute commitment to form and function. Highlights include a top-of-the-line GPS navigation system, an entertainment system, a canvas roof with a full-length sliding panel, four vinyl-trimmed bucket seats, a 9,000-lb. winch, radical steel bumpers and outrageous 16 x 8-inch cast-aluminum bead lock wheels and Goodyear Wrangler MT/R 315/75R16 tires.
Chrysler Sebring Special
A tribute to the Chrysler 300M Special, the Sebring Special brings serious
performance to the classy, fun-to-drive midsize Chrysler sedan.
Performance highlights start with a 2.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine generating 240 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. A Borla dual exhaust – with cast exhaust tip outlets in the rear fascia -- adds to the sophisticated performance theme of the Sebring Special.
Riding on Bridgestone Potenza SO-3 225/40ZR18 tires and a performance suspension, the Sebring Special features “Crossfire-like” hood lines, a modest sill package and rear spoiler, a chin spoiler and new fog lights plugs with high-tech projector appearance in the front fascia.
Chrysler Pacifica Santa Monica
The street-wise sports tourer from Chrysler, the Pacifica Santa Monica stands
out even among the SEMA crowd. The car is meant to celebrate the urban vehicle
enthusiast and to show that the elegant yet sporty Chrysler Pacifica is a
natural canvas for this creativity.
Relatively understated vehicle highlights include an eye-catching Magnesium exterior color, monochromatic lower body color cladding, a slightly lowered suspension, performance four-piston calipers with larger brakes and 20-inch chrome TSW Heaven 7 wheels and Continental SportContact 245/45ZR20 tires.