First Drive: Hurst HEMI Challenger

Hurst HEMI Challenger – Click above for high-res image gallery

Cars-n-Coffee is a weekly gathering of automobilia in Irvine, California at Ford's former Premier Auto Group parking lot. Every Saturday morning from 6AM, Ferraris, Jaguars, Lamborghinis, Porsches, '50s hot rods, Mercedes, Camaros, you name it, rumble their way into the lot. On one recent overcast morning, Autoblog headed down to the dawn soiree, having been offered a drive in the Hurst HEMI Challenger. Although 6AM is closer to our bedtime than it is to reveille, we stayed up and paid a visit to the Challenger, hoping to find out if it had any hope of being a champion. Follow the jump for the story.

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Photos copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

The first thing we have to admit is that this just barely qualifies as a "First Drive". This car is the SEMA car we showed you in November, and it's still wearing prototype wheels, and those wheels don't like to go more than 25 mph. So yes, our first drive was conducted at something like parking lot speeds. That, and the fact that Orange County roads are exceptionally smooth, means our report is a little low on dynamic details. We can reveal that the car sounds great even at 25 mph, and we imagine we'd have fun going a lot faster... and that's got to count for something, right?

As for going fast around turns, that remains unknown. When it was in the Autoblog Garage, the unadulterated Challenger SRT8 was given three cheers for straight line ability and a limp handshake for twisties prowess. Unless we're talking about a Bentley GT, we wouldn't expect a 4,000-pound coupe to throw the smackdown to esses, but Hurst's installation of an Eibach suspension and Bilstein shocks should take this one at least a few rungs up charts.

If you plunk down for this car, though, we assure you that you'll have parking lots handled. Don't even worry about them – this car has your back. And depending on the parking lot you're in, there's a good chance you'll own the lot in more ways than one.

That's because the Challenger is like a great white wonder – and we don't mean a Dylan album. It's huge. Unless you're parked at a Flying J, there's no way you could lose this car. And this particular example, a Series 5 wearing the white flake paint job studded with gold pearl mica and gold inlays on the 5-spokers, is especially attention-getting. If you ever needed to tell someone how to find it in a crowded lot, your best instructions would be "Look for the Inca pyramid with gold pinstripes."

It is a very good thing then that it's beautiful. Previous to this, if anyone had offered us a white car with aluminum rims with gold insets, we'd have responded with "Hmm... yeah..." like Peter Gibbons' boss in Office Space. But even the wheels work, and the entire cosmetic package boosts the basic Challenger presence from impressive to "Gringo Badass."

There are some changes in store for the car, however. Those prototype wheels that like the slow lane will be milled slightly differently on the production car. The 5-axis program didn't like the sharp curve where the spokes meet the hub, so that arc will be shallower. The rear spoiler will also be faster, more curved, and the increased curve means it will lose the inset Hurst logo.

Finally, the car pictured wears staggered B.F. Goodrich G-Force tires, 245/40 ZR20 in front, 295/40 ZR 20 in the rear. Initially, however, Hurst will only offer the factory-spec Goodyears. The car's electronic stability control can handle a certain amount of stagger, but Hurst wants more time to calibrate the system appropriately. Hurst says it hopes to offer the staggered tires "in the very near future," especially since BFG has offered technical assistance to tune the car.

Otherwise, what you see is what you get. This particular Challenger is the new Series 5. At SEMA, there were only four different series' offered, none of them with the gold flake paint job, but a number of ready-to-buy customers at the show said "I want that car... no, that one right there." Voila, the Series 5 was born.

Another customer-created concept: Hurst will place a camera in the glovebox of every car being built, and the wrenches working on it will take pictures of the car during the build. Should the owner wish, the Hurst techs will even autograph the car. It's better than a plaque on the engine – in this case, every car comes with its own story, in pictures.

We have been told that the production wheels are due in January. If all goes well, we'll arrange a more thrilling First Drive, one that will use the Hurst HEMI Challenger's 572 hp and 528 lb-ft. to see how much we can make its white and gold fade together into a triple-digit blur. Then, if there is any real comparison with this great white wonder and the Dylan album, we hope it will be "This Wheel's on Fire." In the metaphorical sense, at least. Until then, enjoy the high-res gallery of photos below.

View 27 Photos

Photos copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

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Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.