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Legendary Alliances

When history and heritage join with the legendary, the outcome is nothing short of incredible.

Andy Bolig - February 02, 2012 10:00 AM

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 Under that shaker hood scoop is an Arrington-prepped Hemi. Petty Blue shock tower brace makes room for the scoop but still provides the strength to keep the chassis square in the turns.

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Petty’s Garage and Pedder’s suspension teamed up to improve the handling of the Challenger. Brembo brakes take care of the stopping chores. 

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 For serious handling, sometimes the stock suspension geometry must be changed. These adjustable upper control arm bushings not only limit unwanted movement over the softer, rubber bushings, but they also allow for increased movement in the form of specific adjustments to the caster and camber of the front suspension.

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Handling improvements also carried over to the rear portion of the chassis with updated urethane chassis mounts and Petty’s Garage/Pedders suspension anti-roll bar, shocks, and springs.

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The foundation for the front and rear suspension is based on a removable platform. Pedders urethane mounts and bushings keep the assembly from becoming movable under hard turning and a set of offset urethane rack mounts help eliminate bump steer.

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 The stock mounts only have limited radial support (screwdriver through opening) but the new urethane mounts greatly improve stability and handling.

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 The cockpit of this Challenger is a mix of both comfort and componentry. The car was headed for VIR right after these pictures were taken so the team could get some hard numbers on the improvements to the car. Steady 1.33g turns were obtainable, and the aftermarket harnesses helped keep driver Stan Wilson firmly in the seat. 

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 At the track, the Petty’s Garage team was constantly monitoring all aspects of the car’s performance. Here, brake technician John Hayworth marks down temperature readings from the brakes and tires after a run. 

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Richard went on to win a record 200 races by the end of 1984, but as for the Challenger, its legacy ended a decade earlier in 1974.

There is no doubting the impact that the Dodge Challenger has had on the muscle car/pony car arena. The fact that Dodge reinstated the nameplate for two more generations only serves to show the appeal that it bears for Mopar aficionados.

The first generation of Challengers was produced for only five years, from 1970 to1974. Along with the smaller Plymouth Barracuda, it was Mopar’s entrant into the budding pony car market. Designed to wager performance war against the Mustang and the Camaro, the Challenger was available in a variety of performance levels, ranging from six-cylinder to six-packs. Trim levels available at the time also put the Challenger in the running against more upscale brands like the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Trans Am, a rivalry that would likewise appear on racetracks around the globe.

While the Challenger was forging its way on SCCA racetracks and more than one red-light rendezvous, Richard Petty was already well-seated into the hearts and minds of motorsport enthusiasts. By 1971, Richard had already won his third Daytona 500 and was on his way to a record seven wins in that event. The seven-time NASCAR champion was hammering his way into the record books, driving Dodge and Plymouth offerings on the big-oval while the little E-body handled the street-going chores, endearing itself to Mopar enthusiasts world-wide. While the two entities combined to successfully wave the Pentastar flag, their paths would ultimately lead them in different directions. Richard went on to win a record 200 races by the end of 1984, but as for the Challenger, its legacy ended a decade earlier in 1974 when Dodge pulled the plug midway through the year.

Both namesakes would show up over the next few years in various forms, but it wasn’t until the third iteration of the Challenger nameplate re-appeared on a Dodge that both the Petty and Challenger legacies would unite. While the King’s legacy grew exponentially, his bodily dimensions basically remained unchanged; the same could not be said for the Challenger. To accommodate the increased safety components and comforts of today’s autos, the Challenger grew in about every dimension. Not a good direction if you are looking to hang your hat on a legacy of a performance pony car. Thankfully for Challenger, Richard’s signature cowboy hat is filled with race-proven knowledge of what it takes to make a car perform.

Petty’s Garage began putting their performance touches on the Challenger in 2009, when they offered the first Petty Challenger up for bids at the 2010 Barrett-Jackson auction. While it took a record-setting $130,000 to own the first car painted the famous Petty (B5) Blue, that doesn’t mean that you can’t own one today. All of the King’s men have been busy fabricating and tuning on the Challenger to make this current offering truly legendary in its own way.

We stopped by the shop in Randleman, North Carolina, to check out the most recent car to tout the Petty Signature Series Challenger nomenclature. More than just a pretty, street-savvy face, this Challenger, like the original versions back in 1970, was built for some serious track action.

The crew at Petty’s Garage (www.pettys-garage.com) has learned a thing or two about making turns (both left and right) and teamed up with Pedders Suspension (www.peddersusa.com)to improve on the platform’s handling capabilities. Proper handling is a mix of both movement and stability. You want to allow the chassis components to move properly, but all of that movement has to be tied to a solid foundation or all of the careful measurements become washed out by chassis flex. That is why the Petty Challenger chassis is comprised of both components to correct movement and to eliminate it. Various Petty Blue bracing stiffens up the foundation on the Challenger while the updated suspension components work to keep proper alignment and movement.

You don’t get to be the King by looking at other’s rear bumpers and the Petty Signature Series Challenger needed the same underhood performance that both nameplates have become known for producing. Each Petty Signature Series Challenger gets treated to an Arrington Engines package and coupled with the supercharger, develops 610hp. The main difference between racing engines from the ’70s and today’s engines is the newer ones can produce that level of horsepower, and yet remain totally streetable.

For those times when the car goes from street to track, other upgrades include the Brembo GT Brakes featuring huge calipers, slotted rotors, Cobalt friction pads and custom made 19x10.5 Forgeline wheels shod with BridgestoneRE-11 305/30/19 rubber all around. We had the opportunity to witness this car making the rounds at the Virginia International Raceway and in the hands of seasoned racer Stan Wilson, the car was capable of sustained 1.33g maneuvers through the turns.

While our feature vehicle was full of data-acquisition circuitry, you can rest assured that similarly equipped Challengers will still remain comfortably provisioned, even without the cameras and g-meter telemetry.

Interior options include all of the comforts you would expect from a Detroit offering today, such as an upgraded, leather-wrapped interior set by Katzkin, featuring seat covers and door skins that wear the Petty’s Garage logo with pride, along with the King’s signature on the gauge cluster. Put a Hurst short-throw shifter in the mix and you’ve got a formula for a super-fun ride!

Tweaked and tuned by some of the brightest minds in racing, the Petty Signature Series Challenger is more than just a joining of two legacies. It represents a contemporary version of what is possible when two icons come together to actively build a future together.

Not only is that future very bright, it’s also very fast as well!

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