When Chrysler replaced the front-drive LH platform cars (Concorde, LHS, 300M) in 2005 with the rear-drive LX platform cars (300C, Magnum and later, Charger) Mopar enthusiasts were, for the most part, over the moon. Sure, there was plenty of bitching to be had about naming a four-door sedan “Charger”, but overall these were the first rear-drive cars from Chrysler since 1989, when the M-body cars (Fifth Avenue, Diplomat and Gran Fury) were put out to pasture for stretched K-cars and were ushering a long-awaited return to V8 horsepower for Mopar fans everywhere. Remember, this was 2005: the 5.7L Hemi V8 had made some strong waves in Dodge trucks, and now it was in a sedan the size of a large Mercedes (not quite by accident) and priced to move. Yes, this was a car that rappers and SEMA builders flocked to for years, but the looks begged for it. But as we’ve found out with our own Project Angry Grandpa 300C, the Chrysler is a competent car even in stock form.
But even after the Chrysler 300 SRT-8 came out, there was one large, glaring omission in the LX cars: no manual transmission. Now, we know that only a precious few order manual transmissions anymore, but those who row their own know what we mean when we say that no automatic, no matter how good it is…and there are some damn good ones out there…will ever take the place of three pedals and a stick shifter. Salt was poured into that wound with the introduction of the Mopar LY platform, a.k.a. the Dodge Challenger coupe. Itself just a shortened, two-door LX Mopar, every model with a V8 has been available with the Tremec 6060 six-speed manual since 2008. So, that should make the swap into a 300C or Charger easy, right? Wrong. For nearly a decade, Mopar geeks have tried, and for the most part failed, to make it happen. In fact, up until our trip to the 2016 Mopar Nats, there were only a handful of manual-trans LX cars we knew about: the V8 SuperStars 300Cs, which were fitted with sequential transmissions; a six-speed Charger show car we saw at the 2012 SEMA show in Mopar’s area, and David Waterworth’s Viper-swapped 300C drift car. That’s it.
At the Mopar Nats, I made it a point to stop by and see the guys from Cleveland Power and Performance. For a while now, I’ve known about this company for one reason: they sell the most complete package deals for engine swaps I’ve seen. I’ve often been linked into posts that show their “full engine swap on a pallet” kits…they’re out of my budget, but the cost gets you every last possible thing you could need to make a modern engine swap happen, from the running gear itself to the gauges, fuel tank, and whatever else is 100% necessary to get everything to fire off and run right. Really, what I noticed was that they had a list of parts for sale that didn’t require purchasing the useful half of a car to get. I chatted with the guys for a few minutes before they asked if I had seen their six-speed 300C yet. Um…no, no I hadn’t. I would have remembered something like that. After a few questions that sounded like, “How in the f*** did you make that work?!”, I had to go see the car for myself, mostly because I was fully doubting this story. I thought they were messing with me. With instructions to cross over to the other side of National Trail Raceway, find the judged car lot, and to look for the B5 Blue Chrysler with black stripes, I hustled away.
Finding the car didn’t take much effort, that’s for sure, and shop manager Tim Mulcahy was hanging around nearby. Before anything, though, I had to see for myself: were his associates at the booth screwing with me or not?
Not only were they not messing with me, but they had gone about the swap in a manner I did not expect. I was fully ready to see a Challenger dash and kit inside of here, but instead the stock gauges, panels, and everything were retained, with only the shifter, pedals, and slightly trimmed console deviating from the norm. What gives?
What Cleveland Power and Performance does is scour insurance auctions for cars. Those that can be saved are, and those that are a bit too far gone are prepared to be sold as parts. In the case of this car, it is a 2010 Chrysler 300 SRT-8 that was a theft recovery. Chrysler didn’t sell that many SRT-8 300Cs (the number seems to hang around 20,000 total for the first generation, but it’s known that a good amount of those were made around 2006-07) and if you have never driven one of these bruisers…compared to even a 300C 5.7 car, they are in an entirely different league. But with the 6.1 and automatic missing (among other parts), the SRT-8 would make for the perfect swap candidate. Now, for the donor vehicle:
This unfortunate victim was a 2009 Challenger SRT-8 manual trans car that had been knocked out of commission. The needed parts were still in one piece, as were the wiring harnesses and computers that would be needed to talk to one another. With both cars acquired, the work began. This was by far and away not an easy swap…the computers had to be worked right, sensors had to be modified or relocated, harnesses had to be spliced and checked to make sure everything was going to be happy before the SRT-8 was put back together. And that doesn’t even count the actual installation of the manual trans, pedals or other modifications:
According to Mulcahy: “We had been looking for a 300C to do a manual swap with, and this was the perfect one. At the time that we bought the 300C, we also purchased an 09 Challenger manual for the driveline and other donor parts, harnesses, computers, whatnot.
We used the floor pan design of the Challenger to fabricate the tunnel on the 300C to work with the manual trans. Other than some other sheet metal work, the rest was electronics and tuning to “trick” the 300 into thinking it was a Challenger on the inside but also “trick” it to think it was still 300 on certain aspects of the inside, ie. rear doors, speedometer, VES (Vehicle Entertainment System, the console-mounted DVD player), radio, etc. We used the stock 300 console and modified it a bit to work with the manual shifter. So the car starts, runs, drives, shift, stops like it should. Navigation works, VES works, EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Center) works.
We removed the entire remaining interior and took all suspension off to paint the car. The floor pan, underside, inside of doors, under decklid, etc are all painted B5 Blue. We purchased the aftermarket grille and shaved the embossed Chrysler logo off and we filled the small half circle in the bumper above the grille to give it a seamless look. We added gloss black stripes over the car and deck-lid and painted the entire roof gloss black. We also added our logo in matte black over the gloss black on the quarters. We used OEM R/T Scat Pack wheels and painted them Brass Monkey (a kind of coppery-bronze color seen on newer SRT products), which we mixed ourselves as the paint isn’t available yet.”
And that still isn’t all that has been done to the SRT-8. The 6.1L Hemi was treated to a custom-grind Comp Cams camshaft and valve springs, Erson pushrods, Johnson lifters, ported heads and intake, Manley stainless steel valves, American Racing headers, high-flow catalytic converters, an ATI harmonic balancer with an ARP mounting bolt, a BBK 85mm throttle body, a Hurst shifter (of course), KW coil overs, Hotchkis front and rear sway bars, a K&N cold air intake, Brembo brakes with cross-drilled and slotted rotors, a 3.92 Getrag limited-slip differential, and a Corsa cat-back exhaust. On a Mustang dyno, the SRT-8 proved to be good for 444 horsepower and 415 ft/lbs of torque.
It’s a pretty show car, and we don’t want to take away from that aspect of the build at all, but on the performance side of things, this is a 300C that would play with the heavy hitters of the hot-rod sedan market, both now and then. BMW M5? Mercedes E-class? Chevrolet SS? Bring ’em on. We can only guess just how much fun this 300C is, based on driving experiences in six-speed Challengers, but that easily amounts to “a freaking riot”. Without question, this is not a cheap or easy swap: at minimum, if you owned the 300C already, you’d be looking at purchasing an insurance wreck Challenger with the necessary parts, a full teardown of both cars, tons of hours spent covering every base, and no guarantee that the systems will tolerate each other at all. (Yes, we checked.) It takes time, money and effort to pull off what most people had abandoned as the impossible task, and Mulcahy and the team at Cleveland Power and Performance absolutely nailed the execution.
SIDE NOTE: one car that I’m associated with is another blue, manual-converted four-door Mopar sedan, a 1987 Dodge Diplomat AHB that has Internet notoriety as “Warhammer”. It was a 360 swapped, four-speed ex-cop car that I can assure you, readers, lived up to every legend that was associated with it. The car is long gone, but I put up a picture of the interior of the SRT-8 on my social media pages as a kind of teaser. It didn’t take long for someone to mention, “Modern-day Warhammer?” We sincerely hope that Cleveland Power and Performance dial in the biggest hurdle in the swap, the electronics, because if they do, look at the glut of 300Cs on used car lots and imagine them barking gears. A modern day sedan that could be used by a family, with all of the luxuries and safety, barking gears to the song of a screaming V8. Lovely sound, ain’t it?
For more information on Cleveland Power and Performance, including their parts lists, vehicle lists, and even more information on the six-speed 300 SRT-8, CLICK HERE.