News & Media

Beauty of 2013 Dodge Charger more than just skin deep

March 14, 2012, Mark Aumann,

Unique design characteristics match styling of the Dodge production model

LAS VEGAS -- Taking the car cover off the 2013 Dodge Charger Cup prototype at Sunday's unveiling was probably the easiest thing Howard Comstock and Mark Trostle have done in 18 months.

When you've been given the task of trying to design a race car that matches the styling of the production model -- within the constraints of NASCAR's current tubular frame and suspension -- you can take a little pride in your handiwork.

Charging forward?

Dodge is excited about its 2013 Charger design, but still must find someone to drive it.

It took more than 2,500 emails, 600 drawings and as Comstock put it, "a lot of locked doors and blacked-out windows, and sneaking around in the middle of the night," to create a car that not only met NASCAR's specifications, was amenable to the other three manufacturers and won the applause of Chrysler's top brass.

In mid-2010, Comstock, manager of engineering for Chrysler Group's Street and Racing Technology Motorsports division, and Trostle, head of SRT Motorsports design, were handed a project that seemed almost impossible: take the existing NASCAR chassis and put some pizzazz back into it.

"The original 'car of tomorrow' design is seven years old, and it's quite frankly, outdated," Comstock said. "The fans said they wanted a car that looks like a car, and we took all of those cues and said, 'We understand, so let's get to work.' And it was a lot of work."

NASCAR's "car of tomorrow" project was first and foremost about safety, not style -- following the deaths of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt. The cars, which made their debut in 2007, were larger and boxier, with a generic look. And somewhere along the way, the connection between "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" was misplaced.

What the folks at SRT Motorsports -- along with their counterparts at Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota -- wanted was a chance to do more than add a few decals. They wanted to not only showcase the unique design characteristics of their respective brands but go one step further: make the cars look more like a street car.

And that took some serious designing, according to Trostle.

"When I got involved in this, my biggest input was I wanted to change the proportions of the vehicles," Trostle said. "Road cars have evolved over the years and they look a certain way, how the roof is -- what we call the greenhouse -- and how long the deck lid is. That was the big move we had to make right away.

"We shortened the deck a little bit and the front end actually grew a little bit. But it gave it that rear-wheel drive proportion. So that was the big part of it. Once we had the proportion, we started putting in the design identity from the road car."

For the 2013 Charger, that meant moving the base of the front windshield almost 5 inches forward, to give it more of a natural, modern slope -- and allowed designers to round the roofline and contour the rear window pillars.

That radical modification, along with moving the body forward on the frame, makes the car look significantly more like the Charger -- and the other 2013 models -- you'd see in the showroom.

"We're going to share a common greenhouse, but it's completely redesigned from the existing car of today," Comstock said. "I think if you look at a side-by-side, the existing car has more of a sedan look. This is more of a two-door sport look.

"I think the fans are going to notice some of those cues going forward. And I think that's going to be a lot better for the sport in general, especially for our brand. The roof closely matches the roof of our production car. We're happy about that."

Once the designers determined the correct proportions, they then went to work on trying to add individual style to their car. For Dodge, that meant a distinctive front valance.

"The fans want to look like the cars that we sell, and this is the result. I think it's pretty dramatic."


Even though the front nose of the Charger appears to go against conventional aerodynamics, Trostle said the proof is in the wind tunnel. And what he knows, he's not telling.

"We didn't really share a whole lot of what our aero numbers were as we were developing it," Trostle said. "What we shared were the common areas. Our front end is kind of more a 'in your face' style. But there are a lot of tricks you can do to make a car slippery. Those are the things we put into it in developing it."

One of the other major design changes that fans will immediately notice is between the wheels. Not only will the 2013 cars have flared fenders, but in the case of the Charger, scalloped body panels that match the style of the passenger car.

"All of the Cup cars have been slab-sided," Comstock said. "We have wheel flares like you'd see on the street. We have the real distinctive scalloping on the doors. We have the hugely popular grill, not just a decal. We've got the shape in the tail of the car."

The flared fenders certainly have functionality. But a good designer knows sometimes you have to add a little flair for the dramatic.

That was the case for Trostle's decision to emphasize the wheel flares on the Charger Cup car.

"To me, a race car needs to look planted," Trostle said. "And having those wheel flares exaggerated helps plant the car and make it look aggressive."

Comstock said one of his requests of NASCAR was to allow his team to add as many unique styling cues as they could and "that was addressed." The design team is confident that whatever team chooses to race the Charger at Daytona next February will have full support of the rabid Mopar faithful.

"The fans want to look like the cars that we sell, and this is the result," Comstock said. "I think it's pretty dramatic.

The 2013 Dodge Charger race car will more closely resemble the street model, also on display for comparison. (Getty Images)

"Now we're looking forward to the next step, which is racing it."