The web is fast catching fire with reports about a rendering of what purports to be the Dodge Dart SRT4. We cut through the smoke and bring you our best guess as to the nature of this image.
Ralph Gilles, himself a true gearhead and speedfreak, has hinted in the past that an SRT4 version of the Dart might be possible--before the Dart was even named, much less revealed. So score one for the true believers.
The image itself, though small and pixelated, is also credible. Posted to Ontario Street Car as an "anonymous tipster" submission, the image has the right feel--and it's even staged on what looks like an official Chrysler in-house image frame.
Contained in that original image is perhaps the biggest tip to the truth of the matter: the name Tim Doyle in the lower right hand corner, and the "preliminary sketch" title at the top.
Who is Tim Doyle? We don't really know, but according to LinkedIn, there is a Tim Doyle who works at Chrysler, and who also holds a B.S. degree in Transportation Design from the Art Center College of Design--a well-known automotive design school. If Doyle is in fact a current Chrysler design team member, this could be his work.
And if this is Doyle's work, it could very well be an internal working document for a designer's idea of what the Dart SRT4 ought to look like. Of course, that still leaves open the question as to whether the SRT4 is actually headed for production, or is still just incubating as a possibility.
We tend to think it's the latter, at least at this point, but we wouldn't be at all surprised to see some SRT variant of the Dart come along, either--and that comes back to Gilles' very well-known and enthusiastic desire for things that go fast, if nothing else.
Add to that some sleuthing by the guys at Carscoop, who uncovered the progenitor of the Ontario Street Car image, in the form of the Neon Enthusiast forums. There, the image is posted as a photograph of a PDF file on a laptop, and it includes some tasty (though, we think, still highly speculative) information, per forum member NeonGTS, hinting that he may work for a Chrysler supplier:
"Looks like this could be the final design, sounds like march or april will be production date if all goes to plan, Also sounds like the jeeps in August will go to another plant to be produced and 2 more models to replace them for the 2014 model year. Company I work for is gearing up for the change over and possible increase in production in the next couple months. "
An interesting aside: the Dart GT revealed today and debuting at the Detroit Auto Show next week is still sitting on a page labeled "Dart R/T" in the URL and in the page's browser title. What does that mean? Is the GT the R/T that is, but never really was? Or is the GT a placeholder for the real R/T? Is the real R/T going to be what we think the SRT4 should be, with an SRT-branded, non-Dodge version as the real top model?
See, it's easy to whip this stuff out of an errant byte or two of data. Just don't take it for anything more until you see something at least semi-official.