Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Mopar power is no longer a term relegated to cars just from the 1960s and ’70s. With the advent of modern Mopar products such as the return of the HEMI and performance-minded platforms such as the Charger and even 300, Mopar power is no longer an ‘old’ word. We asked a number of players in this rapidly growing field about the marketplace today. They spoke of new parts for old cars, new parts for new cars and especially how everyone in the industry seems to be waiting on pins and needles for the new Challenger to come out.
Hot Models, Hot Parts
Our first question was, “What are the hot models, and what are the hot parts for those models?” And, our first answer comes from Rob Richard, Director of Global Mopar Parts, Sales and Service Marketing for Mopar Performance. He has his finger on the pulse of Mopars and says, “For current Chrysler car and truck vehicles, the Chrysler 300C, Dodge Charger R/T, Dodge Magnum R/T (as well as the SRT8s) and the Dodge Ram are still hot among consumers looking to modify their vehicles for enhanced performance.”
He adds, “Mopar Performance Parts offers a large arsenal of hard-core parts for all these Chrysler vehicles. Engine items such as CNC ported cylinder heads, high-lift roller camshafts, cold-air intakes, long-tube headers, cat-back exhaust systems for both 5.7-liter HEMI and 6.1-liter HEMI applications, along with lowering kits and enhanced suspension components, are just some of the factory-engineered products that Mopar offers for the diehard enthusiast.”
Mopar even has bundled these parts into packages such as the “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” kits which include reflashed engine and transmission controllers. These allow the customer to take full advantage of the horsepower increase while maintaining great everyday drivability. These “Stage” kits can add over 40 horsepower to a production 5.7-liter HEMI engine.
“What’s great about having all these parts for the 5.7-liter and 6.1-liter HEMI in Mopar’s performance product portfolio is that they will bolt up the new Dodge Challenger when it’s released this spring,” says Richard.
“Mopar also has a complete 392 HEMI crate engine that produces 525 horsepower on 92 octane pump gas. The 392 HEMI crate engine is based on the production SRT8 6.1-liter HEMI engine, but it has a host of “go-fast” parts built in: ported heads and a high-lift and long-duration camshaft. What makes the 392 HEMI crate engine so attractive to a consumer is that it includes a specific engine controller with “plug-and-play” capability that will allow installation into virtually any vehicle, old or new. The 392 HEMI accepts any Mopar small-block transmission, thereby eliminating the need for a custom or “one-off” bellhousing. Again, this makes it much easier for the enthusiast to install the engine into his or her late model production Mopar or vintage muscle car.”
“And speaking of muscle cars, we are still seeing a surge of customers restoring vintage Dodge Challengers and Chargers as well as Plymouth ‘Cudas and Road Runners. Mopar has vintage sheet metal along with hard-to-find interior and exterior trim parts for these classics, and we will be releasing hundreds of new parts in 2008. We refer to these owners as Mopar brand “ambassadors” because of their passion for Mopar and their enthusiasm for their cars. These enthusiasts also own new Chrysler vehicles.”
Quite the opposite is XV Motorsports in Irvington, N.Y. They take old Mopars and wake them up with new parts. They also make parts for new Mopars such a carb kit for the popular 5.7 and 6.1 new HEMIs. Their founder, John Buscema, says, “The hot models are the E bodies, Challengers and ‘Cudas. Then the B bodies like Chargers, Roadrunners and such, next the A bodies such as Darts and Duster.” As far as what parts are hot, he is quick to answer with, “Suspension and brakes. People always want to upgrade them. Nobody wants a 40-year-old car to handle like one.”
JC Flugger, VP of Marketing at Flowmaster, says, “…The R/T Charger, 300C and R/T Magnum kits show that these are hot for Mopar cars out there. We anticipate the same for 2009. Our B-body kits are popular, with nothing but praise from the users. Dodge trucks by far are number one in Flowmaster Mopar sales, especially in the American Thunder Series.”
Paul Darden of Jet Performance, keeps it simple with, “The Charger and 300C, both RT and SRT, are big draws. We expect the Challenger and possible ‘Cuda to be huge. Hot parts on these platforms are the performance module, exhaust and intake changes.”
New Editions of Classics
Next we asked, “Have the new editions of old classics helped Mopar sales overall?”
XV Motorsports’ John Buscema gave us a timeline and said, “A groundswell of people are already drag racing these cars. A lot more people are looking for performance products. The Challenger is just coming out, and I think there will be more impact with it than the other ones. I think the Challenger will be the car that defines that. Until the Challenger is out, it won’t make a difference.”
Noted journalist, Cam Benty, now with Flowmaster’s marketing team, says, “The reintroduction and resurgence of models such as the Charger/Magnum and upcoming Challenger have helped to deliver platforms that are perfect for Flowmaster products. In addition, these vehicles help widen the visibility of our product line to enthusiasts and others far beyond the “muscle car” category. To help this process, we have created kits that make it easy to enhance the performance and mileage of Dodge Chargers/Magnums by both the professional and home car builder. The well documented interest by older muscle car model owners in Flowmaster has helped to lend credibility to the new vehicle owners who often have classic muscle cars bearing the Charger and Challenger nameplates tucked in their garages already.”
Rob Richard answered with a resounding, “Definitely! When the Chrysler 300C came in 2005, Mopar saw a huge rise in parts sales for this car. The same was true for the Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum R/T models. These vehicles filled a void for the Mopar enthusiast looking for a new HEMI-powered rear-wheel-drive car. Therefore, the consumer demand was there for enhancing the car’s performance (as it was for the HEMI-powered cars of the late 1960s). The SRT8 versions of these cars also helped to boost overall parts sales. We also saw the need to increase parts availability for the classic Mopar muscle cars as they are a huge factor in Mopar’s long history. We developed our restoration parts line about two years ago – developing vintage tooling and establishing relationships with select suppliers who could manufacture high-quality, low-volume runs on select restoration parts to serve the needs of our customers.”
Paul Darden agreed when he said, “Oh yes, the new models of old muscle basically created a whole new type of muscle car market and allowed us to reach a whole new group of car enthusiasts.”
And lastly, we asked, “What is the potential for Mopar in the aftermarket?”
XV Motorsports’ John Buscema said, “I think it’s very big and one of the things that hasn’t caught on yet is the 5.7 and 6.1 engine. It only came out a few years ago. With the new models coming out, there is definite robust demand for aftermarket parts beyond restoration.” He should know, he offers kits to put those new engines into older Mopars.
Cam Benty agreed and said, “There is a huge potential for Flowmaster products within the Mopar arena. The new Challenger will not only be a great place for our automotive products as well (as) Mopar trucks, which is an ever-increasing part of our business. The new diesel truck engines are limited in terms of what is legally allowed due to new emission constraints. However, for the massive number of diesel vehicles built prior to 2008, we’ll continue to offer Flowmaster and Hushpower products that improve performance and mileage. Of course, gasoline-powered Mopar trucks will continue to be a growing part of our business.”
Rob Richard also agreed and pointed out, “Potential for Mopar Performance to grow in the aftermarket is huge. With the products we offer for both current and classic Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth vehicles, we expect to see strong sales growth for many years. However, in order to keep sales strong, Mopar is also looking at other markets. At the 2007 SEMA show, Mopar announced our new ‘Trail’ initiative of Jeep Performance and Dodge off-road parts for the thousands of Jeep and Dodge truck enthusiasts. The off-road enthusiast market is huge. It was a natural extension for Mopar to offer these consumers an array of products for their vehicles, such as lift kits and front- and rear-axle upgrades.”
Paul Darden made it unanimous but with somewhat of a warning. “It all depends on the launch of the Challenger; done properly it could carry the Mopar market forward the next couple years and will force other aftermarket manufactures to build products for these vehicles. The future is bright for Mopar…don’t screw it up,” he laughs.
The folks we talked to on this subject are right; the potential for Mopar is indeed bright. And note that they all saw the Challenger as pivotal in keeping the momentum going and maybe taking it up a few more notches? Between it and what is happening in Mopar today, this could take off like a HEMI-powered rocket ship.
Challenger to NASCAR?
Performance Business NASCAR correspondent, John Carollo, reports that NASCAR may be actually thinking of using the new Challenger for what was formerly known as the Busch Series cars in the very near future. Now known as the Nationwide Series, NASCAR’s number two division will be getting their own Car Of Tomorrow (COT) as soon as 2009. While NASCAR has already developed the chassis and set it for ’09, the body style and size has yet to be selected. Strong speculation centers around using one that will be strikingly different from the Sprint Cup cars that race in the Daytona 500.
While using the Challenger would also coincide with the release of the new Camaro, Ford’s Mustang would also join the ranks. Toyota, already involved in all three of NASCAR’s top series, could either use a modified version of the Camry or develop an entirely new body to fit the new COT chassis.
The move, if it comes to be, would certainly give Detroit a shot in the arm selling their new ‘Pony’ cars as well as give the series more of its own identity and plenty of new interest. It may not be 1969 all over again, but the excitement level would surely be close to 200 mph for this win/win situation. We’ll keep you posted…