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Dodge dusts off Challenger muscle

CHICAGO – After a 35-year absence, the Dodge Challenger soon will be tearing up the roadways again.

Chrysler LLC is reintroducing the legendary pony car at this week’s Chicago Auto Show.

The Challenger has the long hood, wide stance and racing stripes of the original, which was introduced in the fall of 1969 as a 1970 model and phased out five model years later. Even the same orange paint is available.

But this time, the Challenger also has a navigation system, keyless entry and a hands-free communication system.

Unlike the original, which had a jaw-dropping nine powertrain options, the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 has just one: a 6.1-liter, Hemi V-8 with 425 horsepower. Chrysler says the new Challenger can go from zero to 60 in about 5 seconds and from zero to 100 in less than 17 seconds.

Government emissions regulations were part of the undoing of the original Challenger, and it remains to be seen how well the new version will do in an era of high fuel prices and tightening federal fuel economy rules. Small, more fuel-efficient cars were one of the fastest growing segments in the U.S. last year.

But Chrysler marketing chief Deborah Wahl Meyer said last month that the company had already sold 9,000 Challengers through its dealers, even though the car doesn’t arrive on the market until this spring. And another nostalgic muscle car – the Ford Mustang – has been a hit for Ford Motor Co., even though sales have recently declined as the vehicle ages. Ford sold 166,530 Mustangs in 2006, considered a big number for a niche segment.

Dodge will offer the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 in three colors: orange, silver or black. Each of the two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupes will have a numbered dash plaque. The Challenger has a suggested retail price of $37,995.

The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 will be made in Brampton, Ontario.

The Chicago Auto Show opens to the public Friday after two days of media previews.



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