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.