Of hyperbole and hot-rod Hellcats

Sections: Aftermarket, Powertrain

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat burnout press photo

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat will be one barn- (and rubber-) burner of a muscle car, but “The Most Powerful Muscle Car Ever,” it ain’t. (Photo courtesy Chrysler)

If you follow any of the buff books’ online counterparts, you likely already know about the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. A Chrysler press release called it, in bold print no less, The Most Powerful Muscle Car Ever.

Really? The most powerful muscle car ever? The value of marketing hyperbole is not lost on us, but we have to say it: The folks marketing the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are ignoring a whole lot of muscle cars whose developers have poured a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears — not to mention cash — into good old-fashioned hot rod horsepower tech to make muscle cars whose horsepower runs into four digits.

We mean no disrespect to the all-new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. At 707 horsepower, and with all its HEMI-engined rumble and roar, it’s a car we’re sure is possessed by a demonic force that should be experienced to be fully appreciated. The videos, like this one, make us want to stand up, wave Old Glory, and shout ‘MERICA!” at the top of our lungs.

That being said, let’s also point out numerous muscle cars before the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat have eclipsed that 707-horsepower number. Let’s take, for instance, the “Drag Rat,” a Brazilian ’34 Ford Coupe that is Dodge-powered — only instead of the monstrous, 6.2-liter HEMI V8 of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the Drag Rat has its roots in the venerable old 318-cubic inch Dodge V8 that powered everything from pickup trucks to your grandpa’s 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. Then, they installed a supercharger and electronic fuel injection, according to Rod Authority. The result is a claimed 1,000-horsepower machine that is part Ford, part Dodge, and all muscle. Muscle, in car form, so “muscle car,” right? We think so. Here’s a fun video of the Drag Rat in action:

As for more recent, production car examples, who could forget the 2013 New York Auto Show’s Shelby 1000 S/C? Based on the Ford Mustang, the Shelby utilized the same 5.8-liter Ford V8 as the one found in the Ford Mustang GT500, then kicked things up a notch with a whole host of tuning upgrades that made it both more powerful than the conservatively named 662-horse GT500 and a better handler, to boot. The final power number was said to be approximately 1,200 horsepower — up from the reported 950-horsepower Shelby 1000 model that debuted a year earlier at NYIAS. At the time, the Shelby 1000 S/C was said to be the most powerful production, street-legal muscle car in the world.

Those are but two examples of muscle cars that eclipse the 707-horsepower figure quoted by Chrysler in the case of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. Lots of old- and new-school muscle car technology went into both to make them true four-figure horsepower icons. Do a Google search of your own for the term “1000 horsepower muscle car,” and you’ll likely turn up many more examples of muscle cars with four-figure horsepower ratings, just like we did.

The point is this: With enough time, know-how, and money invested into aftermarket performance parts, any car can become a “muscle car.” And even if you follow the traditionalist’s definition of “muscle car” as being one based on a two-door, rear-wheel drive, V8-powered American car, there are numerous examples of those cars that would be more powerful than the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

When you over-promise, your customers are gonna be at least a little bit disappointed when they find out you under-delivered. As Chrysler ought to know from its 1970s muscle car heyday of underrated Plymouth Superbirds, it’s far better to do things the other way around.

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  • RJ

    You do realize they mean the most powerful production muscle car right. You can’t get any of those other cars mentioned off an assembly line with a full warranty. For example you have to buy a GT 500 first then send it off to Shelby to get the super snake treatment. No different than a tuner shop for lack of a better term. Pretty much like the 1200 horsepower American made Hennessy Venom that is a Lotus that has been tuned and isn’t considered production.

    • Lyndon Johnson

      If they do mean that, they certainly aren’t saying it. I quote directly from the press release, which makes no such distinction. As I said, hyperbole:

      “The all-new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT, with its supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI® Hellcat engine, produces an unprecedented 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, making it the most powerful Challenger ever, Dodge’s most powerful V-8 ever and the most powerful muscle car ever.

      “The Challenger’s new 6.2-liter Supercharged Hellcat engine is also the first factory supercharged HEMI, as well as Dodge and SRT’s first application of V-8 supercharger technology. For the first time in Chrysler Group history, the all-new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with a Hellcat engine comes standard with two key fobs — red and black. The red key fob is the only key that can unlock the full 707 horsepower and torque potential of the Challenger SRT Hellcat engine; while the black key fob limits the driver to a reduced engine output of 500 horsepower.”

  • Steve V.

    I agree with the other comment. It is certainly taken by me, and most I would believe, that the meaning is “The most powerful production muscle car” of all time. Regardless, it is an amazing performer, and has really race-inspired features like the adjustable shift light points for each gear, and other features that have also been on other cars like adjustable rate suspension and traction control. I say allow some poetic license to SRT and I hope they sell a lot of them. Congratulations to Mopar for being able to crank out such an animal in today’s regulated auto industry!!

    • Lyndon Johnson

      Like I said, I’m all in favor of the Hellcat. I just think if they meant “the most powerful PRODUCTION muscle car ever,” then they should take half a second to insert that into their press releases and marketing material. Because as it is, muscle car tuners and aftermarket performance parts providers everywhere have got to be laughing at that claim almost as much as they’re laughing at the “unprecedented 707 hosepower” line in the same press release.

  • Bill Clinton

    Your post serves only to reinforce the adage (sadly, widely ignored) that people who don’t know cars shouldn’t write about them. Of COURSE the writers of the press release expected people to understand “production” without its being inserted for self-aggrandizing nit-pickers. They should have used the adjective, but it hardly qualifies as a basis for your denial of their claim. No other mass-production car from a big manufacturer has cracked 700 hp, as any car guy already knows.

    • Lyndon Johnson

      That’s as absurd as me saying that by merely commenting here instead of writing hundreds of articles per year for an automotive website, you must not “know cars.” Come on, Slick Willie. I liked you better in the “that depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” days.

      You clearly don’t know anything about me, by the way. In addition to being fully immersed in automotive culture and news for the majority of my life, spending countless hours on automotive web forums, working for a mobile lube business where I did routine service work on everything from Geo Metros to Peterbilt semis, and writing for two automotive websites over the last three years, I’ve also spent years as a public relations writer who has penned more than a few press releases, newsletters, and other marketing collateral for large corporations. Good PR writers understand the weighty consideration that must be given to any claim of superiority. In PR, you never assume your audience knows what you mean — because they won’t.

      It’s all about your frame of reference. I’ve done the job the press release writer is doing, and I know it would have been my neck in the noose if I made such a “self-aggrandizing,” to use a term you threw at me, claim on behalf of the company for which I wrote. The fact that the chain of command in Chrysler’s PR wing signed off on what in most companies would be an oversight is either naivety on a scale I didn’t think possible within such a large, global company, or a thumbing of the nose at everyone who has ever built a more-powerful car, no matter how limited-production.

      Shelby is probably giving Sergio the finger from his grave right about now.