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Project Update: Hellcrate motor into a ’68 Charger

Kamil Kaluski August 1, 2018 All Things Hoon 14 Comments

Last December I wrote about a project that my friends at were undertaking. The project was to drop the 707-horsepower Hellcat crate motor into a recently restored 1968 Dodge Charger. While the Charger already had big 440 under its hood, dropping in Chrysler’s latest is a lot more than just a quick and dirty engine swap. The owner of the car and Ace wanted to this right. An obscene amount of power in a chassis that was never designed for it is a recipe for disaster. 

Much has happened since the above picture was taken. The old 440 has been yanked out. Frankly, everything from under the hood and underneath the body has been yanked out. Transmission, axle, steering, suspension, driveshaft, fuel tank and lines, all gone. The Charger is basically down to its frame and body. 

Magnumforce front K member was installed. This provides strong mounting points for the engine and chassis components. The whole front-end has been basically rebuild, with new control arms, coil-over suspension and large Baer brakes. A rack-and-pinion steering conversion will significantly improve the handling, too. 

Funny side story – the Charger was originally supposed to have Wilwood brakes. But the name of Ace Performance owner is Baer Connard. The customer therefore insisted that Baer brakes be installed, even if they have no relation to the shop or Baer the person himself. 

The rear leaf springs and everything associated with them is gone. A four-link independent suspension will be suspended by an adjustable coil-over spring setup. All of that will be bolted up to a reinforced frame. Finally, a Dana 60 rear will transfer the 700+ horsepower to the tires. Those tires will wrapped around classic, but up-sized, eighteen-inch wheels. 

Before the power gets to that the differential, however, it will have to be properly geared down. That will happen courtesy of a Tremec T56 Magnum manual transmission. Engaging the engine to the transmission will be a McLeod clutch. 


Personally, I love this project – everything about it. The Charger will retain its classic looks, down to the vinyl top, but will have the performance that surpasses those of brand new Challenger Hellcat’s. And it won’t be just power, it will handle and stop accordingly, too. 

Please don’t cry for the Charger. Yes, it was restored to original shape but it wasn’t so-called numbers-matching car and there were millions of these Chargers made. Stay tuned for future updates. 

 

  • Victor

    Quite the build , hard to imagine the cost on a project of this magnitude.

  • GTXcellent

    I’m in the minority here, and my opinion is contrary to public opinion (probably even wrong, but it’s still mine damnit) – I don’t like this and it actually makes me sad.
    This was an actual R/T Charger. Maybe it didn’t have the original 440, but it was still a true XS29 car. Dodge may have built close to 100,000 Chargers in 1968, but only 15k or so were R/T cars. Go find a regular Charger and build that.
    I also hate any wheel bigger than 15″ on any car built between WWII and the end of the Cold War.

    [and now I quietly climb down off my soap box and retreat to my isolated, desolate locale, muttering about kids these days…]

    • Fred

      I’m a traditionalist myself. I’m ok with changes to make a car more drivable. Ex: there aren’t many antique cars out there with cable brakes anymore. Then again, it’s not my car so enjoy burning rubber.

      • GTXcellent

        Oh I absolutely get it and know that I’m a full blown hypocrite here. I realize that I’m the guy 30 years ago who’d be upset that “some jackwad” cut up a beautiful 1949 Mercury to make it a lead sled – and I LOVE a slammed ’49 Merc. And a ’40 Willys turned into a gasser. And just about ever other hot rod around. But for some reason it pains me to see original muscle cars from the original muscle car era turned into restomods.
        It’s not my car, it’s not my money, and they’re free to do what they wish. I just don’t like it, and when I get home tonight I’m going for a drive in my still fairly original 50 year old Plymouth.

        • Fred

          I’m a hypocrite as well, as I have no problem with retomods on 60s-80s pickup trucks. But I’m fine with my 52 year old Lotus Elan with generator and rubber donuts and vacuum headlights.

        • outback_ute

          There is an easy solution – start with cars that have already been modified in the past

        • Zentropy

          I drove muscle cars in my teens, and still own two (in storage). My ’66 Mercury Comet Caliente was my dad’s first new car (and my high-school ride), and has 55k miles on the original 390 4bbl with a three on-the-tree. The ONLY thing keeping me from resto-modding it is the fact that it is original and holds huge sentimental value for me. The engine/tranny combo is better suited for a truck, and it handles as poorly as you would expect a nose-heavy 60s muscle car to wallow through corners. I love it, but I would drive it much more if I swapped in a modern suspension, 6-speed transmission, and fuel-injected the big block.
          However, I prefer my dad’s ’50 Chevy coupe in it’s more ancient, sedate state, and wouldn’t want it slammed and hotrodded.

      • Not counting parking brakes, the only cars I own with cable brakes are from 1978 and 1980. Avant-garde French motoring technology at its finest.

        • Zentropy

          You have an affection for death traps, don’t you?

  • Lokki

    I have mixed emotions, like GTXcellent. On one hand, Hagerty says “Charger R/T production was 17,584 in 1968”, so these are were not exactly rare prior to The Dukes of Hazard anyhow. I have no idea how many are still around today.

    And, I must say that if I had stupid money I would put a TR-6 body on a Z-3 with an M engine, so I can relate to the underlying theory of old-beautiful while more-better.

    Still, having said that, how much more power does a 1968 Charger RT with a built 440 need?

    What will you do with that extra power? Leave 40 ft burnouts instead of 25 ft?

    I understand better brakes power steering, a refined suspension set up and, of course, a modern air conditioning compressor etc. I might even be okay with hiding a modern fuel injection system instead of a carb under that big air cleaner…. But an engine transplant?

    I dunno.

  • Zentropy

    I love restomods, period. Whatever keeps the old designs alive is good with me, so long as you’re not trashing a numbers-matching car. That said, I see GTXcellent’s point, to a degree. While I don’t particularly place much value on an unoriginal R/T (honestly, I think slant-6 versions are more interesting), I’d rather see full-blown conversions be performed on otherwise scrap-heap cars. Original-condition cars (even if not fully numbers-matching) are a nice piece of history.

    I disagree on wheel size. As long as the suspension is modified to compensate, I think bigger wheels (up to about 18″) look better. However, bolting a set of 20s onto stock suspension is just stupid. It looks wrong, and it’ll jar your teeth out, along with ruining components.

  • outback_ute

    If you have the space and funds I’d prefer to build a second car. I saw a show car that had on the info board a write up that it was about to be transformed with a full rebuild doing absolutely everything. It would be the same amount of work to start with another body rather than trash all the previous work. Obviously not exactly the same case here.

    One thing though Jeff, a 4 link suspension is not independent, especially if they are using a Dana 60 solid axle. Putting in irs would be next-level though!

    • Rover 1

      Came here to post that about the four-link. Not an IRS, still a live axle, but better located.

  • neight428

    Modern engines are just so much better. I would have a crate LSA setup in my Trans Am if money were no object and would enjoy driving it more than I do working around the issues of an old engine. I’m getting to good power and drivability on the installment plan though and not complaining, so it’s really just a matter of one’s preference and resources. Either way you have an enjoyable hobby.