CarAdvice was at a special preview of Chrysler and Mopar’s unique SEMA concept vehicles in Las Vegas this week, ahead of their public unveiling at the SEMA show.
It follows a Chrysler tradition of building heavily-modified show vehicles to celebrate automotive expos and events across the USA. Our exclusive preview, at the neon graveyard museum down near old town Las Vegas, was a fitting setting for the focus on blending old and new.
The other big news from the night was the announcement that Mopar would be retailing a ‘plug and play’ engine swap kit for it’s impressive 5.7-litre and 6.4-litre Hemi engines. It’s no secret that modifiers have been retrofitting these engines into all manner of classic Chryslers around the world (even Valiants in Australia) but previously, owners had to go to the aftermarket for computers, wiring harnesses, fly by wire pedal modifications and control modules. Not anymore.
The kits are designed for model year 1975 and earlier vehicles, and include the power distribution centre, PCM, engine and chassis harness, accelerator pedal and more to create a virtual plug and play scenario. The ’71 Challenger and CJ66 Jeep you’ll read about below have both been built with these kits.
The crate Hemi install kits retail for $1795 USD - not including the engine of course - illustrating just how affordable a modern engine swap into a classic vehicle can be in the States. No word yet as to whether we will see these engines and kits available through Chrysler dealers in Australia but they do have a Mopar part number so fingers crossed.
1971 Dodge Challenger
Undoubtedly the star of the show, the ‘Shakedown Challenger’ as it is known, is no ordinary ’71 Challenger. First up, it’s coated in what the Mopar guys call ‘Bitchin’ Black’ with retro-style offset stripes.
It’s the unification of old-school muscle car style with modern tech that is most interesting though. The shaker bonnet scoop is an obvious nod to performance Chryslers of the past.
Shakedown is powered by a modern V8 - transplanted from a Challenger SRT - which weighs in at 6.4 litres and is backed by the factory Viper six-speed manual transmission, input shaft and mid plate with a custom first gear ratio.
Inside, there’s new SRT Challenger seats in custom trim, custom carbon fibre trim and a Hellcat shift knob.
The other interesting design aspect of the Challenger is the chassis, which is a full custom rolling chassis with the body mounted on top, rather than the unibody construction of the original ’71 Challenger. It has allowed Mopar to better customise the handling and braking package to suit the modern driveline.
Most relevant to Australian buyers is this Jeep CJ66. There’s been some blending going on to get to the final product, with a TJ frame, a CJ universal Tuxedo Park body on top, and JK elements. That’s before you get to the off-the-shelf standard issue Mopar accessories.
The windscreen has been chopped two inches, there are JPP beadlock wheels, 35-inch BFG all-terrain tyres, 10th anniversary Wrangler Rubicon bumper bars, custom matte black graphics and a Mopar Warn winch.
Inside, there’s custom Viper seats, a one-off roll cage, bikini shade top with netting cover screens, a custom steering wheel, Mopar gauge cluster and Mopar all weather mats.
This concept is aimed squarely at illustrating Mopar’s new-found commitment to restoration and being able to offer something to every Chrysler owner, no matter how old the platform.
The narrow body CJ66 is powered by yet another semi crate engine, backed by a six-speed manual transmission and front and rear Dana 44 axles.
Dodge Durango Shaker
This aggressive concept could in fact preview the Durango SRT that is rumoured to be in the works right now. Baby blue paint is the exterior highlight, there’s a custom fabricated - that is also functional - shaker induction bonnet, which is the first ever for a Durango.
Under that bonnet, is the same 6.4-litre engine powering the Challenger, but this time backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Durango is dropped via a custom lowering kit, the 22-inch wheels are custom items, and there’s satin black trim along with a Challenger style fuel filler flap.
There’s also AWD and three rows of Dodge Viper seats inside the cabin. They’v been trimmed in leather with blue stitching, while the centre controls and dash trim has been colour matched as well. There’s also a unique console shifter.
Chrysler Pacifica Cadence
Mopar is even encouraging people mover owners to customise their vans, with more than 100 accessory parts for the Pacifica. The engine has been left untouched, so the standard 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 remains, as does the nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Cadence illustrates some of the 100 customisation options with interior storage additions, ‘stow and go’ cargo bins, a Mopar/Thule paddleboard/surfobard carrier and a pet kennel.
The seat piping ties in with the exterior design, there’s a black headliner and Mopar floor mats.
Custom graphics ensure the exterior is just as eye-catching, along with 20-inch wheels and a set of Mopar running boards. The moulded rear splash guards have the Chrysler logo in them and there’s plenty of satin black detailing.
Ram Macho Power Wagon
You’d expect this vehicle to be the favourite on the SEMA show floor and you’d be right. Truck-mad Americans couldn’t get enough of the tough Power Wagon concept. The stock 6.4-litre V8 and eight-speed transmission remain.
There’s an all-new concept storage system called RamRack, which secures larger items and neatly folds and slides under the cab’s sail panel when not in use.There’s a new front bumper with winch mount, winch guard and tow hooks.
The running boards are custom, one-piece items, and there’s a heavy duty 21-inch LED light bar.
If you think the Ram Macho Power Wagon looks a little taller than stock, you’d be right. It’s been jacked up 4.0 inches courtesy of a custom lift kit, it runs enormous 37x12-inch Nitto trail Grappler MT tyres, fitted to 18-inch rims with bead locks. Black graphics compliment the Macho Mango exterior colour.
Inside, the Power Wagon gets front and rear mud mats, Ram letter logo sill guards, a colour attached steering wheel and other Mopar accessory upgrades.
MORE: all SEMA news