Charger Hellcat births 10,000-hp Funny Car dragster
All Hellcat is about to break loose at the drag strip.
The first family sedan to boast 707 horsepower and a demonic 204 mph top speed, it only seemed a matter of time before the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat would inspire an NHRA Funny Car dragster. Emphasis on “inspire.”
The 2019 Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car that will make its debut at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals outside Denver this weekend shares nothing with its production parent except wicked looks and raw speed.
True to the production Hellcat’s outrageous horsepower specs, the Funny Car — the drag-racing world's second-fastest class after Top Fuel — will pump out more than 10,000 horses (that’s not a misprint). Where the showroom four-door Charger Hellcat will hit 60 mph in a sports car-like 3.4 seconds, its Funny Car offspring will cross the finish line of a 1,000-foot drag race (less than two-tenths of a mile) in under 4 seconds at about 330 mph.
The production Hellcat's gas-guzzling 16-mpg V-8 is a fuel sipper next to the nitromethane-sucking dragster. In a single, rib cage-rattling, drag-strip run down Colorado's Bandimere Speedway, the Hellcat Funny Car will consume some 15 gallons of fuel.
The Funny Car is the product of race development between Dodge, Fiat-Chrysler parts shop Mopar, and Don Schumacher Racing. Indianapolis-based Schumacher, the premier Funny Car race team along with John Force Racing, has previously managed Dodge’s Charger R/T dragster. Two-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan will be the first to pilot the Hellcat at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals. He'll be gunning for the Funny Car record of 3.8 seconds at 339 mph.
“The Dodge/SRT brand is all about performance, and the introduction of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat NHRA Funny Car body showcases our commitment to performance and excellence at the dragstrip,” said Fiat Chrysler passenger car brands chief Steve Beahm.
You won’t find any doors on the dragster — drivers get in and out after the whole body is raised from the skeletal chassis. Unlike the rear-engine, Top Fuel “slingshot dragsters,” front-engine Funny Cars must have full body work to resemble a current production car.
But Charger design cues abound.
Like a NASCAR that mimics the front of, say, a Ford Fusion, the dragster’s stick-on grille graphic echoes the production car’s fascia, including an embedded Hellcat logo. Other Charger-inspired details include scalloped side-bodywork and a front splitter.
All is not decoration, however, as the body scallops help to avoid “body burn” from the four, flame-spitting exhaust pipes that emerge behind each front wheel.The dragster is crafted from carbon-fiber and Kevlar which is significantly lighter than the production 'Cat’s steel wardrobe.
“This new Funny Car body is something that Mopar and Dodge//SRT have put a lot of work and support behind, from R&D to wind tunnel testing,” said driver Hagan, who has spent all 10 years of his drag-racing career behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge Charger. “We’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage."
The new Hellcat Funny Car body replaces Schumacher Racing’s current-generation Charger R/T racer which has claimed 50 wins since its introduction in 2015. Driver Ron Capps won the 2016 NHRA Funny Car World Championship in the Charger R/T.
Muscle-car fans fans might wonder why Dodge does not field the iconic Challenger SRT Demon badge on its Funny Car. The Demon debuted last year as the fastest production car in the quarter-mile ever, clipping the tape in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph. So fast is the Demon that it is banned at NHRA events unless equipped with a roll bar.
But the limited-edition Demon is out of production. And, for nearly a decade, the family sedan Charger has waved the brand flag in the NHRA. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.