The names behind the brand: Brian Cojocari helped lay the groundwork for SRT®.
Part of the roots of the SRT® brand can be traced back to a single proposal put together in 1998 and presented to the senior management team at Chrysler, seeking to form a performance vehicle group. One of the key players in creating and presenting that document was Brian Cojocari who would later go on to become the Program Manager for Viper and a number of other projects, helping to lay the groundwork for what is now the SRT brand.
At the end of 2012, Cojocari retired after 28 years of service at Chrysler Group LLC and 38 years overall in the auto industry. Most recently, the native of Shelby Township, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, served as the Program Manager for the Challenger SRT. Cojocari hired into Chrysler straight out of college in 1974 and spent a large part of his career with the company, along with a stint working for Carroll Shelby in California.
"When I look back, I have no regrets," said Cojocari. "I had an opportunity to work on some pretty neat stuff. The opportunity to work on performance cars for as long as I did, then to spend some time working for a guy like Shelby and then come back and work on SRTs; how can you not be satisfied with the decisions that you've made?"
After spending nearly a decade out west, Cojocari returned to Chrysler in 1994 and began to work on the small car platform and an upstart vehicle called the Neon, which would debut in 1995. "Cojo," as he's affectionately known within the walls of Chrysler World Headquarters, became the Program Manager for Viper in 1997. Team Viper and Prowler merged in 1998 to form Specialty Vehicle Engineering, which was renamed and rebadged Performance Vehicle Engineering (PVO) in 2002. That moniker changed to SRT Engineering two years later, and in 2011 SRT became a brand of its own.
"There were a lot of the different aspects of the program that I was involved with as the Program Manager," shared Cojocari. "I was involved with timing, cost, investment, product content, service, marketing, manufacturing and processing among other things. Being the Program Manager, you are kind of the chief engineer of the vehicle and are part of all the aspects of the vehicle from top to bottom. It's really an all-encompassing process and role."
The first vehicle that the Specialty Vehicle Engineering group was involved with was the aforementioned Neon, which morphed into the Neon SRT4. Cojocari was also involved in the Ram SRT10 project, which saw a Viper V-10 engine and manual transmission installed into the truck. In addition, he worked with the Challenger SRT, Charger SRT, Magnum SRT8, Caliber SRT4 and the 300 SRT.
"The SRTs really needed to be something special," explained Cojo. "They needed to command the respect of the owner and really get their attention. In regards to performance, powertrain was one of the core pillars, along with braking, ride and handling, the interior and exterior. All of those aspects of the car are what we focused on putting into every SRT and all of those still hold true today for SRT vehicles."
Cojocari always took great pride in being part of the SRT family, with the close-knit nature of the group, and the passion that each member shared. If he had any questions or needed pertinent information, all he had to do was walk a row or two over in the office and he would find exactly what he was looking for in a timely manner.
"I think having a small group really helped maintain focus and a consistency from model year to model year with respect to the products and even across the products, because everyone understands clearly what the objectives are and they are all in agreement that that is what an SRT needs to be," he noted. "Sometimes having such a small group is a challenge, but people are willing to do what needs to be done to get the job done."
While Cojo always enjoyed the driving aspect of being involved with SRT, he found an even greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when customers took delivery of their new vehicles and hit the street. When he saw one car come off the production line, the wheels in his head would already be spinning as he looked ahead to what the next vehicle to enter production would be.
"My passion was probably a little different than the engineers that work on the cars," explained Cojocari. "I liked seeing the production cars go out the door and get into the customers hands, which is ultimately the person you are trying to please most. I was pretty fortunate to have such a great career and work with so many amazing people."
Thanks to dedicated and passionate personnel like Cojocari, a solid framework was established for the SRT brand and the indelible mark he left has paved the way for future generations of SRT employees and vehicles.