It’s the end of a long run for the Dodge brand’s two muscle cars, the Challenger and Charger, and the brand was hoping to give them a special send-off with a series of seven limited-run “Last Call” models.
It’s already pulled the wraps off six of them, including the Challenger Shakedown and Charger Super Bee, but was saving what it billed as the best for last — with a debut scheduled for next week’s SEMA Show.
But now, it turns out, that mysterious offering won’t make it to the annual gathering in Las Vegas, Dodge boss Tim Kuniskis suggesting “it’ll be a funny story later.”
Remind me to laugh later
During a background briefing outlining Dodge’s plans for SEMA this week, Kuniskis revealed that the plan was to come up with a final model that would put the legendary Hellcat edition to shame.
“But we ran into some problems,” Kuniskis explained. To be more precise, the modified V-8 has been blowing up when pushed to the limits in the Dodge test lab. We’re not talking about a minor breakdown. Apparently, the engines really have been blowing up.
And with a fix yet to be developed, Dodge decided it would wait a bit before showing off what it had billed as the most dramatic of the Last Call special editions.
“I think we’ve got it figured out — if we don’t blow up any more engines,” said Kuniskis. “We think we got it fixed but I’m still holding my breath.”
Seven limited editions
If all goes well, he added, we could get a glimpse of the final model before the end of the year. But it won’t happen until Dodge engineers are confident the special edition can hold up during what is some intensive testing. The automaker’s protocol requires every new engine clock dozens, even 100s, of hours running flat out on the dyno before it’s certified for sale.
In the meantime, fans who want to get hold of something special before the Challenger and Charger drive off into the sunset do have some other options. That includes Shakedown, Super Bee, Swinger, Black Ghost, Go Mango and King Daytona Last Call models.
All told, less than 5,000 of these will be built before the Brampton, Ontario assembly plant producing Challenger and Charger gets shut down for a yearlong makeover. (When it comes back up, the factory will be converted for production of battery-electric vehicles including an all-new Dodge muscle car based on the Daytona concept vehicle.)
“Transparent” ordering process
Dodge expects to see strong demand for the Last Call models, as well as the standard versions of the Challenger and Charger. And it’s taking an unusual approach meant to make it easier for the public — the Brotherhood of Muscle, Dodge prefers to say — to track down the model they want.
It’s set up the new 2023 Dodge Horsepower Locator website, potential buyers will be able to enter their zip code and then spec out the vehicle they want. They’ll receive a list of nearby dealers who’ll be getting that precise model and, if nothing is found, buyers will be able to expand the search nationwide. Unlike some systems, however, customers won’t be able to place an order online. They’ll simply be connected with a dealer.
To make the process as transparent as possible, Kuniski explained, Dodge is laying out the full 2023 model year allocation in one fell swoop. The seven special editions will be split amongst the brand’s top 500 dealers — with those in the top 200 group receiving a few extras.
“Our enthusiasts will have every opportunity to locate the Dodge ‘Last Call’ model they desire,” said Kuniskis
There’s no way to guarantee dealers won’t demand a premium, the Dodge boss said. State franchise laws limit factory control over what retailers charge. But the locator website will allow potential buyers to not just locate a vehicle but see where they might get the best deal.
During his webinar, Kuniskis added a bit more good news for Dodge performance fans. All 2023 Hellcat models will come standard with the “Jailbreak” upgrade. That will bump the pony count up to 807 hp. All 2023 Charger and Challenger models will get commemorative “Last Call” plaques.