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Mopar's Big Four 75th Birthday Presents


By Thom Cannell Senior Editor
Steve Purdy Detroit Editor
The Auto Channel
Detroit Bureau

Celebrating the brand’s 75th anniversary a group of journalists and enthusiasts gathered at the Mopar Accessory and Performance Lab in Centerline, Michigan last week for a sneak peek of four Mopar branded vehicles to be introduced at the Chicago Auto Show. As a bonus ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, the most famous drag racer of them all and Mopar partisan, was there to cut the anniversary cake and tout those specialty vehicles.

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It took Pietro Gorlier, president and CEO of Chrysler LLC’s Mopar division, just moments to deliver four stunningly hot, desirable, affordable cars last Tuesday, cars you can order tomorrow. The off road-ready, 2-inch lifted Jeep Compass “True North,” bumble bee yellow Fiat 500 “Stinger,” Ruby Red, carbon fiber-hooded Dodge Dart “GTS210 Tribute,” and grand prize Chrysler 300 “Mopar ’12,” all came unwrapped and will be on display at the Chicago Auto Show starting next week.

Even better, Gorlier promised, you can buy your Fiat 500, Dodge Dart, Jeep Liberty, or Chrysler 300 and upgrade in stages later, if you like. All the parts are available as kits.

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Gorlier began acknowledging Mopar parts brand history, starting as Chrysler’s brand of antifreeze in 1937. He charmed the audience with his Italian accent and knowledgeable introduction of the father of drag racing who was building and racing Hemis in the 1950s, ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits.

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Tricia Hecker, head of Mopar marketing, then unveiled the 2012 Mopar Jeep Compass “True North”, showing the cosmetics that include matte black trim, custom front and rear brush bars, and rock rails. Riding on 16” BFG All Terrains and lifted 2” by Rocky Road Suspensions, interiors are blown out with Kicker acoustics and neoprene seats.

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Next was a banana-yellow Fiat 500 “Stinger” with checkered top and subtle changes to the “mustache.”
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Black chrome accents the body and it rides on Abarth Hyper Black alloy wheels and 205/40R17 performance tires. Inside, it’s enhanced with black and yellow Katzkin leather seats and a Mopar ball shifter. Stage Two adds more power (no numbers, sorry) from improved cold air intake and cat-back exhaust plus heftier brakes and cross-drilled rotors.

Tricia said you don’t have to take Stinger yellow. In their custom kit you can create hundreds of thousands of combinations, individualization that includes color.

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Arguably the star of the show was the Dodge Dart “GTS 210 Tribute” with its startling light-weight carbon-fiber hood and matte black trim around the chin,
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tail spoiler and side rails, and 18” forged titanium colored wheels. Even more appealing was the Ruby Red and black Katzkin soft leather seats, door panels and accent surfaces. The IP brow is sueded for low glare and with the programmable dash, this car drew gasps and crowds.

Under the hood, should you go beyond looks, might be the stage 2 engine calibration and again, higher air intake flow and lower exhaust pressure. That will bump the normal 184 horsepower to 210.

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Jim Sassorossi, head of Mopar product development unwrapped the fourth Mopar dealer-only special. Built in Brampton, Ontario with a price tag of $49, 700, the exclusive Chrysler 300 “Mopar ’12” will be available this summer. Production will end after only 500 are built. Why would you want this black 300? The Hemi-engined, RWD sedan gets an exclusive 3.91:1 final drive ratio for better launch and a 0-60 time Mopar and Chrysler promise to be in the low 5-second range. More aggressive Goodyear Eagle F1s, massive P245/45R20s, are accompanied by high performance brake pads.

Styling for the Mopar 12 is unique with black accents, Mopar Black Chrome seven-bar grille, an A-line accent in Mopar Blue, and Mopar 75 badges. Inside, blue stitching enlivens the black leather on the Katzkin perforated leather seats. Then the whole technology and safety group is added: adaptive forward lighting, HID lamps, automatic headlight leveling, blind spot and forward collision warning, in addition to UConnect Touch through an 8.4-inch touch screen. Alpine adds 506 watts and nine speakers in 7.1 Surround Sound.

We haven’t had any opportunity to test them, nor has anyone we know, though we are surely ready and willing. We also wish a few more prices had been announced as we expect very competitive numbers.

Perhaps the most appealing idea is that, in general, you may be able to package the Stage 1 and 2 upgrades into your purchase and monthly payment with the entire vehicle wrapped in a genuine warranty.

Watch for The Auto Channel's Press Pass Coverage of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show this week for all the details and video.

© Cannell and Associates and Shunpiker Productions