SpeedKore's Carbon-Fiber 1968 Dodge Charger Debuts at HOT ROD Power Tour

2022-06-18 02:34:12 By : Mr. Rick Huang

HOT ROD Power Tour 2022 attendees should keep an eye out for SpeedKore's Hellucination—the name of the company's newest all carbon-fiber Mopar creation in the shape of the iconic 1968 Dodge Charger. SpeedKore burst onto the hot-rodding scene at the 2016 SEMA show with a jaw-dropping rendition of a 1970 Plymouth 'Cuda, named Menace, that was singled-out for its all carbon-fiber construction, a theme that the company has made into its central identity. In the years since, SpeedKore has debuted a string of carbon-fiber creations, most of them Mopars, and every single one of them jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

To call Hellucination a bona fide 1968 Dodge Charger, however, would be sort of like calling Air Force One just another Boeing 747. Not a single bolt, nut, or body panel on Hellucination is from an actual 1968 Dodge—it just happens to have (almost) the same shape as one. SpeedKore specializes in reproducing body panels in carbon fiber; their ultra-light weight, incredible strength, and high-tech appearance imparts almost magical properties to any car that uses them wholesale, as is the case with Hellucination. Carbon fiber also gives any car's engine a whole lot less mass to haul around. This car's engine is hardly ordinary, but more on that in a minute.

Of all the unique aspects of this 1968 Charger, it is the owner and pilot of the Hellucination who is likely to make you think you're hallucinating as you pull astride the bespoke ground-based arrow on the route of Power Tour: it is none other than Ralph Gilles, the chief design officer of Stellantis (the parent company of Dodge). If you've ever lusted after the earth-hugging lines of a late-model Chrysler 300—either the first version from 2005 to 2009, or the current version of 2011 to today—then you've admired the work of Gilles. (It's a car your author liked so much he bought one.)

Related: Interview With Chrysler SRT's Ralph Gilles

Of the 1968 Dodge Charger, Gilles says "The '68 Charger has been nothing short of a love affair my whole life! It has literally been imprinted in my mind since I was a child as the soul of Dodge, thanks in part to Hollywood but also because of a still-to-this-day arresting design. I salute the designers of the day!" (Richard Sias was the 1968 Dodge Charger's designer. He had a short-lived career with Dodge and spent the bulk of his design career with Boeing.)

By now, you've seen the name "Hellucination" enough to suspect something: This thing not only gots a Hemi, it's an all-aluminum 426 cubic-inch Hellephant Hemi with 1,000 horsepower, reborn in dry-sump form for max lateral handling. We've been searching for these rare crate engines (only 100 were ever produced) ever since their debut at the 2018 SEMA Show. Built under a top-secret contract with Mopar at BES Racing Engines of Guilford, Indiana, by the same crew that won the 2014 Amsoil Engine Masters Challenge (with a Gen III Hemi, no less), the Hellephant is acknowledged as the granddaddy of all crate engines and nothing less than the best would make any sense for such a conspicuous car as the Hellucination. With this kind of power beneath the hood, your transitory view of Hellucination's front end exists solely at the discretion of its pilot.

We are only about 98-percent sure that when the 1968 Dodge Charger Super Charger concept car took the stage at the 2018 SEMA show in Las Vegas as the "container" for the new Hellephant crate engine, Ralph Gilles and the SpeedKore crew were not only in the house, but were super impressed with its beauty. Seeing as how SpeedKore's own carbon-fiber "Evolution" 1970 Dodge Charger had debuted elsewhere in the Las Vegas Convention Center only hours earlier, the wheels hardly needed any impetus to be set in motion for Hellucination. With Super Charger and Evolution both in their quiver, it was only a matter of time before Gilles and SpeedKore would produce the next logical step in the evolution of the 1968 Dodge Charger form.

What arguably sets Hellucination apart from most of SpeedKore's other Mopar creations is that it is debuting publicly at HOT ROD Power Tour rather than in some static display at a convention center or car show. "The car is as visceral to drive as it is to look at it," says an enthusiastic Gilles. "It has deliciously precise steering and an abundance of lateral grip that allowed me to put it through its paces with a few laps on a closed track." (See Gilles muscle it around a closed course in the attached photo gallery.) If Hellucination was strictly a lightweight box for a 1,000-hp engine, there would still be plenty to say, but the sum of its suspension, brakes, and rolling stock make it the kind of car best shown-off in motion—and in front of the kind of folks who can truly appreciate it.

When you've got the firepower to build most parts from scratch, it's rare that off-the-shelf performance parts would get the nod without getting at least some modification. To that end, SpeedKore tapped DSE for its GM-based SLA front suspension, a GM-cum-Mopar trick DSE perfected here back in 2015. SpeedKore followed this up with a custom four-link rear suspension with diagonal stabilizer link, then set the whole thing on a custom set of 19- and 20-inch HRE wheels designed to look like the Western turbine wheels on the 1969 Dodge Charger immortalized on TV's Dukes of Hazzard. (Western Turbine wheels ironically were never offered as original equipment on a Dodge, but as factory equipment on Buick's infamous intercooled, turbocharged, and fuel-injected G-body Grand Nationals, Turbo Ts, and T-Types.)

Gilles understandably wanted to hit Dodge's SRT stockpile of nuclear-rated weaponry, authorizing SpeedKore to integrate Redeye-spec Brembo brake hardware and an eight-speed 8HP TorqueFlite automatic, which SpeedKore reminds us is actually subcontracted for Stellantis by German driveline manufacturer ZF. When you're trying to tame a 1,000-hp devil like the Hellephant, these are the kind of beefcake parts that must go in—otherwise your dream machine can turn into a nightmare in a split second. Here we might normally regale you with lists of mail-order parts, but suffice it to say that everything in sight is custom, right down to the carbon-fiber floorpans and carbon-fiber wheeltubs. There's not a stitch of OE sheetmetal in Hellucination; this is a liquid-slick symphony in carbon-fiber that must be seen to be believed.

"Believe it or not," says Gilles, "the idea of the project was to be understated. Hence the counter-intuitively quiet exhaust system and dark color scheme." And yet, it may be hard to deny that Hellucination will struggle to blend in, as it is built entirely out of autoclaved and exposed carbon fiber. "We set out to honor the Charger's timelessly beautiful lines in a way that only carbon fiber can," says Gilles. Anyone who sees Hellucination on HOT ROD Power Tour will be drawn at first to its bellicose demeanor, but you'll surely remember it for its perfection, detail, and finesse at even the smallest of scales.