NEW YORK -- Dodge conjured a powerful Demon and wants it to help bolster sales and enhance its reputation as the wicked child among automakers.
How hellish? Try 840 horsepower.
Challenger SRT Demon is a limited-edition car that's so oriented toward the track it doesn't come with front passenger or back seats. They're options -- priced at $1 each. The car is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Demon V-8, an even hotter version of the same basic engine the powers the Dodge's 707-horsepower Hellcats. It produces 770 foot-pounds of torque, which is a lot, and only 3,000 will be available in the U.S.
It can rocket from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.3 seconds. It can go from zero to 100 mph in 5.1 seconds. The car is so powerful that it is capable of pulling its front wheels off the ground.
Pricing won't be disclosed for a couple months, but Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Chrysler's passenger cars, say he expects it will be well under $100,000.
As such, he doesn't say it will be a big moneymaker. Rather, the Demon is designed to bring more shoppers into Dodge dealers, where they will end up looking at other cars as well. "We'll sell more Hellcats as a result of having a Demon," he said at a warehouse event here ahead of the New York Auto Show where the car was introduced. "That's just how it works."
Yet the car is designed to be capable of being licensed and driven every day, he said. "You can make your Demon as crazy or as comfortable as you'd like," Kuniskis said.
A resurrection of the Demon name from the 1970s plays right into a renewed horsepower war.
Two years ago, Dodge offered Challenger Hellcat to top Ford's Mustang Shelby GT500, which was pushing more than 660 horsepower. When talk surfaced at this year's Detroit auto show on whether Ford would return fire with a more powerful Mustang, an FCA executive hinted at the Demon.
An enduring part of American culture, muscle cars tended to be smaller vehicles with bigger engines. There's no set definition for what makes a muscle car, but they were built to be street driven and be affordable to the middle class. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the original sticker price for a base-model 1971 Demon was $2,721. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $16,366 now. The new, high-performance versions of the vehicles are now more sophisticated and expensive.
"The muscle car was the perfect example of the right car with the right target demographic," said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at the Henry Ford museum, which has 260 cars in its collection. "You had a lot of young people at that time coming into some money buying cars of their own, looking for something they could, if not race in, pretend to race in."
The first Demon rolled out in 1971 as a part of the Dodge Dart lineup.
Tim Costello, a photographer for Mopar Collectors Guide, wasn't quite born yet then, but something about the Demon, when he became old enough to drive, captured his soul.Facebook
"I've always wanted one," Costello, 45, of Shelby Township, Mich.,said. "They were little and fun and fast — and reasonably priced."
Later Demon models shared a body with the Plymouth Duster. But the Demon, a two-door coupe with a V8 engine, had its own grille and rear taillight assembly. The logo was wicked, too. It included the word Demon in yellow, with a cartoonish devil and fork that made the M. Some religious groups objected to the name. By 1973, the car was renamed the Dart Sport.
Costello is restoring a bright red 1972 Demon that he bought in Hot Springs, Ark., and hauled back to Michigan.
The new Demon, he said, is a "really, really incredible street machine."
"I don't think I can afford a new one, myself, to be honest," he said. "But, there is a clientele — guys like me and older — who look at the older Demons and say: 'I don't want to work on cars anymore. I want to go to the dealership and buy a new car that has a warranty and have fun with it.' Old guys like them because they have air-conditioning, power steering, power brakes and all the bells and whistles."
--Witsil reported from Detroit and Woodyard from New York
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