Quick Spin: Mr. Norm's Super Cuda is retro to the extreme
The Dodge Challenger has found plenty of happy homes, and we've had the pleasure of driving quite a few examples, ranging from various production models to an array of tuner versions, including the Classic Design Concepts Widebody Challenger and the Hurst Series 4 Challenger. We can now add one more to the list: Mr. Norm's Super Cuda. Yes, it isn't a Challenger by name, but few will mistake what vehicle forms the base of this coupe despite its uniquely Plymouth appearance.
With a supercharger fitted atop a Hemi V8 to make a prodigious amount power, Mr. Norm's Super Cuda has the potential to make muscle car fans swoon and green types have a heart attack. Is this a case of muscle car overdose, or do we have a genuine classic on our hands? Read on to find out...
Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
First, the visuals. Mr. Norm's Garage has taken a distinctly different direction than the myriad of other aftermarket Challengers, opting to mimic the styling of the Challenger's classic Plymouth brother, particularly the 1971 model. We must admit that the look suits the Challenger well, and the conversion is incredibly simple. A new grille, a panel that blacks out much of the taillight section, a front spoiler overlay, "Badass Black" graphics package, Hulst Customs 22-inch wheels, and a set of hood pins are all that's needed to make the exterior transformation. Those few changes go a long way in giving the Super Cuda a distinctive look, and like it or not, everything flows together well. Too retro? For some, maybe, but if you're already a fan of the Challenger's styling then the Super Cuda isn't too far of a jump.
As with the exterior, Mr. Norm's Super Cuda has just a few simple upgrades for the interior. We've never been huge fans of the Challenger's cockpit, and unfortunately the pickings are slim when it comes to aftermarket mods. Items like the Katzkin perforated leather seats and monogrammed carpet mats are a nice touch, but mostly add to the theme of the car rather than provide any real improvement. Mr. Norm's package also includes a Hurst short-throw shifter, although the car we photographed still had the stock unit to row between gears.
Now on to the good stuff. While we wouldn't say the 6.1-liter V8 in the Challenger SRT8 is short on power, we would have been extremely disappointed if Mr. Norm had left everything stock underneath the hood. There was no need to worry, though, as the Hemi powerplant has been supercharged to produce more than 600 horsepower. An intercooled Kenne Bell twin-screw blower is the chosen method of forced induction, offering instant boost at nearly every rpm. If one so desires, horsepower can be bumped to four-figure levels by upping the boost and fuel supply, along with fortifying the engine's internals, meaning you can have as much power as the rear tires can take and then some.
It's one thing to talk about harnessing 600+ horsepower in a road car, but entirely different to actually do it. We actually drove two versions of Mr. Norm's Super Cuda – one was an automatic and the second with the six-speed. Just like the stock Challenger, the automatic doesn't provide much driving excitement. Yes, there's a massive amount of horsepower and torque on tap, but the slushbox-equipped Challenger was surprisingly boring to drive. It just proves that horsepower can't solve everything.
The six-speed variant, on the other hand, was an absolute beast. The folks at Kenne Bell, who were chaperoning our drive, informed us that this model also had more aggressive engine tuning. That turned out to be an understatement, with lightning quick throttle response that made power delivery hard to control. Scary? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. We pegged the throttle at every opportunity to awaken the Hemi monster underneath and unleash an immediate explosion of nose-lifting acceleration and an angry roar from the dual Corsa exhaust system. The instantaneous boost of the Kenne Bell supercharger provides the best method of power delivery we've experienced in any of the Challengers we've driven thus far, and the incredible amount of torque available anywhere in the rev range makes pegging the throttle addictive.
With our six-speed tester's price adding $24,000 to the Challenger SRT8, Mr. Norm's Super Cuda certainly isn't cheap. However, that actually compares favorably to other aftermarket Challengers on the market, and the horsepower/dollar factor is still pretty impressive. Even better, Mr. Norm's Garage allows Challenger owners to buy components individually, so you can get the power, the looks, or any of the individual components without breaking the bank.
Cost of entry, fuel economy and emission standards be damned. The Super Cuda is the defiant antithesis of a green car. It's a shameless throwback that puts a goofy grin on the face of anyone who fondly remembers the muscle cars of their youth. In a world increasingly filled with hybrids and fuel-sippers, we're fortunate enough to live in a time when raw grunt and retrolicious looks can still be had for a price. Don't fight the power, enjoy it.
Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
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