The first thing you notice about this car is what you didn't notice first: it's a convertible. Dodge hasn't built any Challenger convertibles [yet] but this one looks so right that it takes a second glace for most people to understand that this is not OEM, but an exceptional custom piece. The second thing you notice is that it's not just a Challenger that has gone topless, but rather an extremely special vehicle: Mr. Norm (Krause) had this car built for himself, and it is not only a convertible, but it is also the first Mr. Norm's Super Challenger, the first Kenne-Bell supercharged Super Challenger, and was custom built (as a hardtop) for the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Forty years ago, this would be like getting the first Hemi 'Cuda convertible ever built, and if you're a fan of Mr. Norm, perhaps it's even sweeter than that.
Oh, and did I mention that it makes 600 horsepower?
If you've been to SEMA, you know that any car that shows up there for display has to be over-the-top nice in every way. Some vinyl decals and a set of big wheels just won't cut it. The body has been thoughtfully modified with a tip of the hat to the past, but with an eye firmly on today's buyers. Retro touches include the gills ahead of the rear wheels, the rectangular exhaust tips, and a hood that owes its shape to the performance hoods of the past. But for the 21st century, they also added a lot of carbon fiber; both the hood and the rear deck (including the spoiler) are made of the lightweight materials. There's also a red stripe along the sides which visually lengthens the car and incorporates Mr. Norm's Super Challenger logo on the front fender. As a show car, the Sherwin-Williams 2-stage urethane finish is impeccable in every way, with black paint that's several shades darker than the factory stuff, and a clearcoat that has been rubbed and buffed until it was smooth enough to dazzle under the harsh SEMA lights. Today, with only 2,192 miles on the odometer, it remains in show-ready condition. Just be warned, this car attracts A LOT of attention.
The big news is the 600 horsepower Hemi under the hood. No, it's not an ancient 426 but a modern 6.1-liter SRT-8 unit that has been puffed up thanks to a Kenne-Bell supercharger. Out of the box, it makes 425 horsepower, and as Jim Bell says, anyone who can't instantly make 50% more power with eight pounds of boost doesn't know supercharging. Considering that Kenne-Bell routinely built 4.6-liter Mustangs with well over 500 horsepower, getting big power numbers out of a 6.1-liter Hemi was a relatively easy prospect. This very car was used by the guys at the Kenne-Bell facility to develop the supercharger system, which includes a 2.8-liter screw-type supercharger, an intercooler mounted in the lifter valley, and fuel injectors that are 50% larger than stock. Of course, there's also a lot of black box magic happening which makes this 600 horsepower machine idle like a stocker and drive gently enough that your mother could take it to church on Sunday. The power output depends on the fuel used, on 105 octane racing fuel it is capable of cranking out over 900 horsepower, which is more than enough to dispatch just about anything on the road.
As a show car, the engine compartment had to sparkle, and there's a lot to see under the hood. The first thing you'll spot is that big polished aluminum blower sitting front and center; it's just too cool to hide under a plastic shroud. There's also a massive polished stainless intake, which pulls cold air from down low to feed the beast. And there are carbon-fiber details everywhere, from the strut mount covers to the radiator shroud, which also bears a special badge indicating that this is Super Challenger number 0001. And like any famous tuner, Mr. Norm was more than happy to make his mark on the car as his signature appears on that carbon-fiber radiator shroud as well as on the supercharger itself.
Underneath, there's a heavily fortified automatic transmission that's been adapted to handle the power and still crack off crisp shifts without jarring the occupants. The suspension has been lowered 1.5 inches using Hotchkis Performance coil-over shocks, and brakes are massive SSBC V8 units with 8-piston calipers and slotted rotors. The Corsa Performance exhaust system uses those trick rectangular tips I mentioned earlier, and gives this Hemi a cracking voice that will delight you every time you hammer through a tunnel with the top down. The finishing touch isn't a set of retro-looking wheels, but a very modern one-off set of two-tone 22-inch Rodtana two-piece forged aluminum hoops made just for this car, wearing 265/35/22 front and 285/35/22 rear Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires.
The interior received the same thorough makeover as the body and engine, and it is all done to the same OEM standards. The seats got new Katzkin leather covers with textured inserts and contrasting red stitching on the seams. Custom Super Challenger embroidery appears on the seatbacks as well as on the floor mats, leaving no questions about what you're driving. All the stock SRT-8 equipment was retained in the conversion, including the A/C, power windows, power locks, cruise control, and powerful stereo system, and it all works as it should. A special Hurst shifter was adapted to the Chrysler Auto-Stick automatic shifter, and it's reminiscent of the old SlapStick setup from the past. And even without the Mr. Norm improvements, this was already a special Challenger; it is number 5,802 of the first 6,400 SRT-8 Challengers ever built. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the custom convertible conversion, which is a Mr. Norm specialty. He has already put the convertible into series production, and the black canvas folding roof on this car fits so well and folds so easily that it could easily pass for an OEM installation. Look at the profile of the car with the top up and you can see that extra care was taken in keeping it as true to original form as possible. When it's down, the stack lays flat and doesn't protrude above the deck, and is covered by a custom fitted boot. There's even a monogrammed trunk mat with the Mr. Norm's Super Challenger logo. Very slick!
Documentation is, of course, extensive. Not only do we have all the original SRT-8 information, including the window sticker, owner's manual, and warranty booklet, we also have a ton of information from Mr. Norm himself. There's a certificate of authenticity identifying it as Super Challenger #1, purchased at Mr. Norm's request, a stack of photos from all the shows this car has headlined, and a large binder full of magazine articles that feature this car extensively. A sample of the titles included:
Muscle Car Power: April 2009
Chrom & Flammen (Dutch magazine): July 2009
Mopar Milestones: 2009
Amcar: January 2009
Mopar Enthusiast Magazine: April/May 2009
Mopar Action Magazine: April 2009
Dodge Enthusiast: Summer 2008
Muscle Car Milestones: 2008
Opportunity is knocking once again: serial number 0001 of a brilliantly executed tuner car by one of the biggest names in the Mopar game. Cars like this are almost never available to the public, as the creators typically keep them to themselves. With extensive show and magazine coverage, this one is perhaps the most famous Mr. Norm's Challenger SRT-8 in existence, and it has the performance credentials to back up its looks and pedigree. While it's safe to say you can't buy a car like this anywhere at any price, and building your own would take twice the asking price, the real value is the pedigree. In 20 or 30 years, THIS will be the measuring stick used for this generation's muscle cars, and like the cars of the past, those with history and documentation on their side command top prices. Miss this one and you may not get another chance; serious Mopar collectors know a special car when they see it. Call today!
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