- Written by webmin
We were somewhat surprised last week to learn of a special edition Dodge Challenger that seems to have flown almost completely under the radar. As it turns out, Bob Frederick of New Wilmington Dodge in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, has worked with the folks at Chrysler to create a very short run of Challengers for the Kowalski Edition, a tip of the hat to the 1971 movie, Vanishing Point.
As most muscle car fans already know, the original movie featured a main character known simply as Kowalski, driving a white ’70 Challenger R/T that bore no stripes. The plot involved Kowalski’s attempt to win a bet by driving the Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. High-speed mayhem ensues and a cult classic was born.
Frederick has been a fan of the movie since he first saw it as a child, during a time when he was already familiar with Mopar performance cars because his father was operating a Dodge dealership in Ohio. By the time Chrysler finally re-entered the rear-drive passenger-car market, Bob had joined the family business and quickly became known as a source for Chrysler’s new generation of muscle cars.
Creating a modern-day Vanishing Point Challenger would seem a natural for a guy raised with such influences, and considering the movie car’s uncomplicated appearance in basic white with stock trim, pulling it off might look simple. In fact, Frederick had ordered some Challenger R/Ts in white when they became available for 2009, but he felt an actual tribute car should be based on the top-tier model, the SRT8. Only Chrysler wasn’t offering it in white.
Then a potential opportunity arose when Chrysler announced the 2011 392 Inaugural Edition Challenger SRT8, listing white among its available colors. That’s when Frederick began making calls to Auburn Hills.
“I met with the team and told them what I wanted: 2011 Challenger SRT8 392, six-speed manual, Bright White, stripe delete, Dark Slate SRT seats, WP3 Alcoa SRT aluminum 20-inch wheels, 730 Nav and SRT Option Group II…. I reminded them that the paint was already in the plant and that the unique SRT8 parts were already there in white as well, so it seemed logical that it could be done,” explained Frederick, acknowledging that he knew it might not be quite as simple as that sounds, particularly because he really wanted the cars to have sequential VINs.
The reality of today’s highly automated production facilities means that significant alterations to the normal product “recipes” can be troublesome, and perhaps deemed unworthy of the effort required by the mother ship. Fortunately, the team in Auburn Hills liked the idea enough to give it a try.
The short version is, it worked, and the result is the 2011 Challenger SRT8 Kowalski Edition. In addition to the factory options listed above, the Kowalski cars are fitted at the dealer with unique “Kowalski Edition” decals on the rear spoiler and under the hood along with a special numbered dash plaque and a custom fender tag mounted in the engine bay, plus a pair of Scat Pack bee decals for the quarter windows, reminiscent of the ones used on Dodge’s 1970 performance models. Inside, the Kowalski cars get ’70-style Hurst Pistol Grip shift handles with woodgrain grips and a six-speed shift-pattern insert; out back are Mopar chrome quad exhaust tips. The cars come with a unique broadcast sheet as well, and the cherry on top is a reproduction Colorado license plate with the same digits as the movie car.
So just how many were built? Only 10, and all have already been spoken for. We were fortunate enough to get a look at the last one, owned by Melvin Benzaquen of Classic Restoration Enterprises in Sloatsburg, New York, last week. Benzaquen has owned a 2009 Challenger R/T and a 2010 SRT8, both six-speed manuals, and says the extra power of the new 392 is instantly apparent; he also says that the chassis refinements for 2011 make the big Challenger seem much more nimble. Despite this, he says he probably won’t be putting many miles on his Kowalski Edition, and we’d imagine most owners feel similarly, though we hear tell of one that’s being fitted with a supercharger as this is written. Let’s hope there are no bulldozers in its future.