There are great car shows throughout the year, but when a builder or manufacturer wants to debut something truly trendsetting or game changing, they hold onto it for SEMA. The Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas is a trade-only show designed to bring manufacturers, buyers, and the media together. The general public is not allowed, except in certain restricted areas, and for the SEMA Ignited after-party on Friday night. This means it’s up to us to sort through the many halls, booths, and promenades to harvest all that good Chrysler content. It’s a magical place for the gearheads who have official business, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting for the machine-head masses. SEMA is like Disneyland, the Emerald City in the Wizard Of Oz, and Area 51 all rolled up into one—and that’s why we’re going to give you a front-row seat to the best Mopars of the 2014 SEMA Convention!
This year the turnout was the largest we’ve seen in years, in both vendors and attendees, and they brought along their latest builds to show off. The convention center was awash with amazing project cars as well as fresh and innovative products centered on making vintage and modern Mopars faster, more powerful, and more fun. Each year we can count on finding amazing cars that generate buzz and earn accolades, but this year was something special.
This year the Mopars stole the show. The buzz around the Las Vegas Convention Center centered on the extreme examples of Pentastar performance that quite literally stopped crowds in their tracks. A 2,300hp ’68 Charger that’s literally 6 inches wider? Yeah, and it’s bare metal too. The never-before-seen ’15 Challenger T/A concept? No back seat, rollbar, track ready. A twin-turbo Viper-powered ’68 Charger with a completely hand-formed body? You can’t even comprehend how much metal shaping went into this one. A ’72 Satellite restored with mostly spray paint? It looks amazingly good on a tight budget. The first stock-bodied car to run 183 mph at Bonneville? Mopar royalty and a history maker from the pre-muscle car era. A ’72 ‘Cuda infused with exotic supercar styling? Slicked-out and obnoxious in all the right ways. The best Day 2–style Hemi Challenger we’ve ever seen? It’s like 1970, but with better parts. A 1,000hp Richard Petty–designed ’15 Challenger? Of course it’s Petty Blue. Yeah, all of those were there and then some!
In the endless sea of custom SEMA cars, Mopars made their presence known and cast a long shadow over the competition. We could hardly contain our excitement, but we did manage to keep it together enough to narrow it down to the best 11 Mopars at SEMA, and we present to you the exclusive, up-close photos and details.
1972 Plymouth ‘Cuda Hellfish Builder: The Roadster Shop
The Roadster Shop crew had an interesting challenge with this build: how to blend European exotic and muscle car style into something that honors both, but disrespects neither. We think they did an excellent job.
Phil Gerber at the Roadster Shop tells us that the owner is a young guy who has always been into European modern exotics, such as Lambos and Ferraris, and he also prefers the high-end tuner style. So when he approached them inquiring about doing a ‘Cuda build, the question instantly became, “just how far do we push it?” Unlike Sliced, the thoroughly reimagined Charger, the goal with Hellfish was to actually keep the body within a very stock envelope. In fact, most people assume much more custom bodywork was performed than actually was. Gerber says, they just tucked the bumpers and reworked the valances, shaved and smoothed the body of emblems, trim, and handles, and added a rear ducktail to the decklid and quarters. All that was drenched in PPG Ferrari “Grigio Silverstone” with matte black hood and accents. That’s a short list, but the final effect looks like so much more. The interior keeps the sedate theme running with stock dash and door panels wrapped in leather, a custom center console, Recaro seats, and Spec gauges in a custom dash housing. The end product is an American supercar that not only begs to be driven, but that can push most exotics way back in the rearview mirror.
We know, we’re beating around the bush here. The part that leaps out at you first is the most polarizing part of the car: the wheels. The concave Forgelines wheels are coated in vibrant Transparent Red; something not seen much on the muscle car scene, but is much more normal in the supercar world.
Engine: 1,020hp Gen III 6.1L Hemi stroked to a 392ci, twin rear-mount 67mm turbos
Trans: Tremec T56 Magnum
Suspension/Chassis: Roadster Shop Fast Track Chassis with Fast Track IFS, Penske double-adjustable coilovers, Woodward steering rack, Strange Engineering 9-inch with 3.90 gears and TrueTrac diff
Brakes: 13-inch, six-piston Wilwood
Wheels & Tires: 19×10 and 20×12 Forgeline DE3C with 275/30 and 335/30 Michelin Pilot Super Sport
The end product is an American supercar that not only begs to be driven, but that can push most exotics way back in the rearview mirror.
1968 Dodge Charger Sliced Builder: The Roadster Shop
There couldn’t be a more appropriate name for this Charger: Sliced. While the overall iconic Coke-bottle shape of the Charger remains easily recognizable, every single panel on the car is either custom fabricated or seriously modified. The result is a car that looks much like an artist’s rendering of a Charger as if it had been built in homage to the original by a supercar manufacturer. It’s not a completely “from scratch” type of build since the Roadster Shop crew did actually begin with a Charger, but everything has been reworked, widened, chopped, and stretched in so many ways that it is as close to a one-off custom body as possible while still being recognizable.
We could fill the whole magazine with the details in this car, but here’s just a taste of the sheetmetal sorcery. The front bumper and valance are hand-formed aluminum, as is the hood, which features functional heat extractors. The front fenders were widened and the wheelwells were moved forward 4 inches to minimize the long overhang of the stock car. The body cove at the front fender was exaggerated and formed into a single air extractor. The grille is CNC-cut aluminum, and backed by an elongated honeycomb mesh. To counter the radical style, a subdued Porsche color called “Grau Schwarz” gray was paired with custom mixed matte charcoal accents.
All that show can go too; underneath the custom skin is a full-tube chassis and a suspension based off the Roadster Shop’s IFS and IRS packages, but paired with a Viper centersection in the rear. The interior is as stunning as the exterior, and in some ways even more so. It’s all hand-fabricated aluminum from the dash to the door panels and includes a bevy of one-off machined components like the shifter, A/C controls, A/C vents, door handles, gauges and gauge housing.
Despite all of that unbelievable work, and tons more we don’t have space to mention, Sliced still manages to look like a Charger. It’s incredibly hard to pick a favorite component since there is so much to like about the build, but we find ourselves drawn to those amazing Greening Auto Company wheels. Recognize them? They’re a reinvention of the classic Vector wheel that has become synonymous with Chargers.
Engine: Nelson Racing Engines Viper V-10, 1,300 hp at 12 psi of boost, twin 62mm turbos, custom billet intake and valve covers
Trans: Tremec five-speed
Suspension/Chassis: custom full-tube chassis with custom Roadster Shop Fast Track IFS and IRS with Viper centersection, Penske double-adjustable coilovers
Brakes: 4-inch, six-piston Brembo GT
Wheels & Tires: 19×10 and 20×15 by Greening Auto Company with Mickey Thompson tires
1972 Plymouth Satellite VHT Satellite Builder: VHTThere’s really no two ways about it; restoring vintage cars gets pricey in a hurry. With decade’s worth of wear, tear, neglect, and general decay on everything, just getting a car back to respectable can be a challenge. Even if you happen to find a project in good running order, the cosmetic restoration can be as spendy as a mechanical one, considering how much reproduction parts cost. So what do you do if you’re on a budget, or even worse, faced with a car that has very little aftermarket support? After all, at least 50 percent of hot rodding is getting the look you want.
VHT decided to take that challenge by using their line of products on a ’72 Satellite. When the project began, the Satellite was running and driving, but still wearing the original, highly oxidized, patchy light blue paint. The interior was also blue and in the same faded, worn condition. Under the hood, the 440 ran, but looked about as you’d expect from a 42-year-old engine with minimal cosmetic upkeep. To give the Satellite a makeover, VHT stripped out the engine and interior and used their line of spray paints to restore everything from the engine bay, block, and exhaust manifolds, to the dash, seats, door panels, headliner, and carpet. Yes, all of that happened with just paint, including the carpet. It’s a good thing VHT documented all of this on their YouTube channel, because we would’ve had a hard time believing that interior was once blue. Check out the before and after pics.
In the end, the guys block sanded the body and filled any dings, then rolled it into a budget spray booth built from 2x4s and plastic, and sprayed it in Dulpi-Color Chrome Yellow with Metallic Clearcoat, paired with Jet Black accents. After a little wet sanding and polishing to bring out the shine, the results are quite impressive, especially considering how affordable the whole makeover was.
Engine: stock 440 big-block, 4-bbl
Trans: stock 727 TorqueFlite
Brakes: stock disc and drum
Wheels: 18×8 and 20×8.5 Boss Motorsports Style 338
1964 Plymouth Valiant Violent Valiant Builder: Hot Rod Chassis & CycleCelebrating their 10-year anniversary in 2014, Hot Rod Chassis and Cycle announced the formalization of their “Race Car Division” as the Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle Skunkworks. Though the shop has always been centered around 1964 and earlier hot rods and customs, the race car division has always been a little under the radar. Kevin Tully joked that it was their Skunkworks top-secret stuff that goes ridiculously fast while still keeping the shop’s vintage style intact.
The first official car to come from the new HRCC Skunkworks is this ’64 Plymouth known as the Violent Valiant (No relation to Reline Gaugework’s ’69 Valiant, or Mopar Muscle’s Violent Valiant ’68 Plymouth by the same name). We have to say, we’ve never seen a second-gen Valiant look so aggressive. But why a Valiant in the first place? Tully explained, “While at autocross and road course events, we noticed that they were dominated by GM cars, a few Fords, and almost no Mopars. We decided that we wanted the first Skunkworks car to be unique.” Fair enough, but a Valiant? “Well, it was actually already sitting around the shop,” Tully laughed.
Taking inspiration from vintage Trans-Am racers of all makes and models, the HRCC team formed a vintage-inspired identity for the body including a custom lift-off fiberglass hood from VFN with an AAR ‘Cuda scoop, a front valence and air dam reminiscent of a Shelby GT350R, and a ’69 Camaro rear ducktail spoiler to break up the airflow over the sloping trunk. Underneath the skin things get very serious. HRCC hacked off the subframes and built a full-tube chassis with their own road race suspension.
The interior has a very Trans-Am feel with its array of Stewart-Warner gauges and vintage style warning lights in a custom steel dash paired with stock door panels and low-back seats.
Engine: 528ci Indy Maxx aluminum block with Indy EZ-440 heads, K1 Technologies crank and rods, Wiseco pistons, Hilborn EFI-R injection with Holley HP computer and harness, COMP Cams valvetrain, Crane Ignition, distributor, and wires
Trans: Temec Magnum T56 six-speed with QuickTime bellhousing, McLeod RST twin-disc clutch and hydraulic throwout bearing, Hurst BlackMagic shifter and stick
Suspension/Chassis: full-tube chassis with RideTech StongArms on HRCC/Skunkworks tubular 4130 cradle, RideTech TQ coilovers with HyperCoil springs, Hoerr Racing 1.5-inch hollow sway bar, and Flaming River race rack up front. HRCC/Skunkworks Mk4 rear suspension with Hotchkis lower links, RideTech TQ coilovers with HyperCoil springs, HRCC 9-inch with Moser aluminum centersection, 3.73 gears, WaveTrac diff, and Moser 35-spline race axles in the rear
Brakes: Alcon 6P race calipers with Hawk pads on 13-inch rotors up front, Alcon 4P in the rear
Wheels & Tires: 17×9.5 and 17×11 American Racing 200s with 275/40 and 315/35 Nitto NT05
Taking inspiration from vintage Trans-Am racers of all makes and models, the HRCC team formed a vintage-inspired identity…
2015 Challenger 392 Scat Pack Rapture Builder: RM Motorsports
No matter how long the build time line, so many SEMA build stories end with everything coming right down to the wire with barely enough time to get the car to Las Vegas and loaded into the show. That was compounded with the AMSOIL-sponsored Rapture Challenger since there was an extremely short amount of time to make the build a reality, only a couple of months.
Keep in mind the Rapture is based off the ’15 Challenger, a 392ci Scat Pack model, no less. In fact, it was only the second car off the assembly line. When Chrysler put the word out that it was going to donate this car for a SEMA build, 50 shops jumped at the chance. The winning design proposal was submitted by Pfaff Designs and Downforce Motorsports and they took delivery of the Challenger in September. That left about six weeks to finish it before the 2014 SEMA show in November.
Built specifically to be an Optima Ultimate Street Car Association competitor, Pfaff’s design is a mix of vintage and modern visual themes. Though the overall look is definitely Trans-Am and modern rally and road-race inspired, the aggressive paint scheme is actually a nod to the “Candymatic” paint schemes used by the Ramchargers on their record-breaking Dodge Super Bees. Also designed by Pfaff, the PPG waterbourne Plum Insane tint sprayed by That’s Minor Customs is an amped-up Plum Crazy Purple.
The stock Challenger’s aggression is dialed up already thanks to the Scat Pack, which has a more aggressive front splitter and decklid spoiler, but RM Motorsports crafted an even more aero package to push the Challenger into the road at top speed, and added hood heat extractors and unique front air ducts to complement the Hella lights. Underneath, an Air Lift Performance air suspension adds cornering prowess while lowering the Challenger’s center of gravity.
As for the name, Pfaff says he looked for something that was as genre-busting as the “show car meets street car meets race car” that he wanted the Challenger to capture. Blondie’s 1981 hit Rapture came to mind since it changed the way many people viewed the established rules.
Fast Facts Engine: stock 485hp “Apache” 392ci Hemi with shaker, Kooks headers
Trans: Tremec T6060 six-speed with McLeod RST Street Twin Clutch and Barton Industries shifter with Flat Stick
Suspension/Chassis: Air Lift Performance suspension with Petty’s Garage front and rear sway bars and tower braces, Speedlogix rear control arms, and sway bar endlinks
Brakes: stock Scat Pack Brembos
Wheels & Tires: 20×9.5 and 20×11 Forgeline RB3, 275/40 and 315/35 Nitto NT05
…the Rapture is based off the 2015 Challenger, a 392ci Scat Pack model, no less. In fact, it was only the second car off the assembly line.
1968 Dodge Charger Maximus Builder: Nelson Racing Engines
While it sounds unreasonable for a street car, Nelson Racing Engines has become known for creating four-digit horsepower twin-turbo engines that are actually surprisingly driveable on the street, thanks to lots of tuning and real-world testing, along with the ability to adjust the power in-car from 600 to 2,000-plus, thanks to controllable boost and dual-octane fuel systems. That’s not just a one-off deal either; NRE sells those engines as packages to drop into your dream machine. Well, “drop-in” is a bit liberal considering the packaging requirements, but if you need help there, NRE can also provide the dream machine too via the Nelson Supercars side of the business.
This extreme, yet surprisingly subtle ’68 Charger is one of those dream machines. The unbelievably straight bare steel body is impressive, but it’s even more so if you realize how much modification has been performed. Most notably, the whole car is 6 inches wider. Check out that upper body line to the window frame; no standard Charger is that beefy. Also, note that the quarter-panel endcap is part of the body rather than a separate piece, and how tight those bumpers are to the body. We’d love to point more modifications out, but Nelson and his crew blended old and new steel together so seamlessly that without a stock Charger sitting beside it, it’s almost impossible to discern the changes. Seriously, you cannot find a trace of weld or splices anywhere; every panel truly looks like it was one piece of stamped panel. How much work does that take? Over 2,000 hours to date, and it’s still not ready for the coat of clear that will suffice as paint. “I have to give credit to my crew,” Nelson said. “I have rounded up some of the very best metal craftsman in the country to work on this car.”
Maximus actually had its street debut just a few months before SEMA, as well as its big screen debut; it’s one of the hero cars in the upcoming Fast 7 movie. While it’s still in the shakedown stages, once Maximus is complete it should be capable of 8-second quarter-mile times and a top speed of 200 mph.
Engine: 2,000hp all-aluminum 9.4L Hemi with Nelson twin-turbo system
Trans: Tremec T56
Suspension/Chassis: custom coilover front suspension with extra tall forged drop spindles, splined sway bars, and triangulated four-link rear suspension with adjustable instant center
Brakes: Wilwood six-piston front and rear
Wheels & Tires: custom solid billet wheels with Mickey Thompson tires for now. Full slicks for testing
Maximus actually had its street debut just a few months before SEMA, as well as its big screen debut; it’s one of the hero cars in the upcoming Fast 7 movie.
1970 Dodge Challenger Less Is More Builder: Pure Vision Design
Pure Vision Design actually had three cars on display at SEMA, all of them on 15-inch wheels. One was a vintage-style racer, but the other two, including this Challenger were remarkable for their lack of custom parts. In fact, this Challenger may very well have been the mildest vintage car in the entire show.
That doesn’t mean it lacked for attention, though. It actually had a ton of feedback, way more than builder Steve Strope ever expected. He heard nothing but positive reviews and stories about cars people remembered from their youth. It’s that kind of car.
Notwithstanding, don’t mistake it for a restoration with some Cragars on it. Strope’s version of Day 2 focuses on choosing the right modern equipment to augment a nostalgic car and make it even better than they were without changing the vibe. For example, the body is stock other than the ’71 sidescoops, but that color is actually ’11 Charger Toxic Orange Pearlcoat. It looks so surprisingly era-appropriate that we didn’t even question it. The Hemi is actually a mild stroker to make good torque, but has a small cam for easy driveability. The stock-appearing engine bay has throwbacks like the ACCEL Super Coil and Super Stock wires, but also a Billet Specialties Tru Trac system to spin modern accessories, like the Vintage Air compressor. Underneath, the chassis benefits from a full bolt-on Hotchkis suspension package. Inside it looks completely stock other than the B&M shifter, but there is a hidden stereo with speaker holes drilled in the door panels. Everything has been Dynamat covered for isolation.
“It’s cool to have all the high-dollar extreme stuff, but it’s just not necessary to have a cool car,” Strope told us. “You can take advantage of all the über Pro Touring nonsense and subtly integrate it into a stock-appearing car. You don’t have to be on track with it to enjoy it; you can have a throwback street machine, it doesn’t ruin the vibe, and will drive better than they ever did. Not everything has to be a watershed car. It’s not trying to be, it’s just a nice car.” We guess that just shows the power of checking the right boxes.
Engine: 472ci Hemi, ACCEL Super Coil and Super Stock plug wires, Billet Specialties Tru Trac accessory drive
Trans: A727 three-speed automatic with Gear Vendors overdrive
Suspension/Chassis: Hotchkis TVS system minus subframe connectors, Firm Feel steering box, Dana 60 with 3.55 gears
Brakes: stock discs and drums
Wheels & Tires: 15×6 and 15×8 Cragar S/S wheels, 215/65 and 275/60 BFGoodrich Radial T/A
You can take advantage of all the über Pro Touring nonsense and subtly integrate it into a stock-appearing car. You don’t have to be on track with it to enjoy it…
1970 Plymouth Superbird A Bird With More Bite Builder: Restorations by Julius
Yet another near-stock Mopar that stopped us in our tracks was this ’70 Superbird in the Hotchkis booth. As highly as most Mopar lovers regard these cars now, it’s amusing to remember that in 1970 they were considered a bit extreme for the average muscle car buyer. Many of the 1,920 Superbirds built in 1970 to pass NASCAR’s new homologation rule of one car to be sold for every two manufacturer’s dealers in the United States, were hard to sell. In fact, some were converted back to ’70 Road Runners just to move them; and of those that kept their aero work, quite a few lingered on the lot as long as 1972.
Considering that the only reason the street-legal versions of the Plymouth Superbird—and its sibling the Dodge Daytona—even existed was for NASCAR racing, it’s odd to think that they need help in the handling department, but it’s oh so true. While the racers had serious suspension packages, the street cars were essentially the same Road Runner package underneath. Not terrible for its day, but certainly lacking now.
This particular 440 six-pack Superbird was a product of West Coast Mopar restoration expert Julius Steuer of Restorations by Julius. Known for his meticulous detail and for being a real stickler for OEM correctness, the fact that Steuer was willing to bolt on Hotchkis’ Total Vehicle System (TVS) to such a rare and coveted street machine says quite a bit about both the quality and ease of installation of the parts. You can be sure he wouldn’t go beyond pure bolt-on parts for a car like this. The TVS package nets new and larger diameter sway bars with poly bushings, heavier-rate leaf springs, subframe connectors, and geometry-corrected A-arms with improved caster/camber angles. To give it a Julius touch, though, all the parts are somewhat disguised for a stock-ish look. The result is a very correct looking and feeling Superbird that will be much more enjoyable to drive. Hotchkis was so pleased with the result that the theme of the booth was “Time Machine.” It asks the question, what if the Superbird had come factory-equipped with Hotchkis suspension and adjustable shocks?!
Engine: 440ci Six Pack
Trans: A727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic
Suspension/Chassis: Hotchkis TVS
Brakes: OEM disc and drum
Wheels & Tires: 15×8 and 15×10 Wheel Vintiques Mopar Rally with 235/60 and 275/60 BFGoodrich Radial T/A
It asks the question, what if the Superbird had come factory-equipped with Hotchkis suspension and adjustable shocks?!
2015 Dodge Challenger T/A Concept Builder: Mopar Performance
Mopar Performance came on strong this year at SEMA with several performance cars to get the faithful frothy over the future. This Sublime Green Challenger represents a serious street fighter package that is a very real possibility for showrooms. Dipping into the parts bin for both production and factory performance bolt-ons already available, the T/A pays homage to the original 1970 version we all love so much, specifically Sam Posey’s #22 Challenger. The color palette of Sublime Green and matte black is the most obvious nod, but the rest of the upgrades are all about function. If you’re into stripped-down, no-nonsense muscle cars, this is your Mopar.
Mopar Performance says that the race-inspired design will focus on weight reduction as well as increased chassis rigidity and a more visceral driving experience. As we go down the list making up the T/A package, it reads exactly how we’d want Dodge to build one: 392ci Hemi, Viper-inspired SRT hood with hoodpins and functional cold air induction, air dam and splitter, Gurney Lip rear spoiler, Air Catcher headlights, lightweight 20-inch Hellcat wheels with sticky 295-series tires, D-shaped Mopar steering wheel, carbon-fiber race seats with harnesses, rollbar, front and rear strut tower braces, front and rear coilover kit, upgraded sway bars, rear seat delete, Pistol-Grip shifter, 180-mph speedo, side-exit exhaust, and Brembo six-piston calipers. Yes, build it exactly like this, please.
Currently the T/A is just a concept, but as far we can see, there’s no reason it couldn’t be a reality in short order. Maybe if we all make enough noise, Ma Mopar will hear us and make the Challenger T/A an orderable reality.
Engine: 392ci “Scat Pack” Hemi with shaker cold-air induction
Trans: six-speed manual
Suspension/Chassis: four-point rollbar, front and rear strut tower braces, front and rear coilover kit, upgraded sway bars
Brakes: four-piston Brembo
Wheels & Tires: 20×9.5 Hellcat with 275/40 Pirelli P Zero Nero
As we go down the list making up the T/A package, it reads exactly how we’d want Dodge to build one…
2014 SRT Dodge Challenger 50th Anniversary Petty Challenger Builder: Petty’s Garage
To mark one of the most significant anniversaries in the Mopar world, the 50th anniversary of the debut of the 426ci Hemi, Petty’s Garage (PG) decided to build the ultimate version of one of their specially prepped new Challengers. Beginning with a ’14 SRT, PG essentially threw their entire catalog of exclusive parts at the car to create something that can impress on all fronts.
Of course the most obvious changes are the custom BASF Petty Blue paint paired with PG knock-off Forgeline wheels, custom stainless mesh grille, and Gurney Lip rear spoiler, but the fully polished Whipple 4.0 supercharger peeking through the clear plexi in the center of the hood is what had people most excited. That monster blower sits atop a third-gen Hemi, which, of course, displaces 426ci, and huffs out enough boost to bring output to an honest 1,000 hp.
Having 1,000 hp in a Challenger is good, but it also means you need to upgrade everything else to handle the brute force. PG beefed up the driveline with 1,400hp axles, an aluminum driveshaft with a safety loop, and a McLeod clutch. For handling, a PG tubular K-member was outfitted with adjustable coilovers, adjustable sway bars, and poly bushings. PG wants customers to really use these cars, so inside it gets a PG rollcage, rear seat delete, Sabelt carbon-fiber race seats and harness, and Spec NASCAR gauges on the A-pillar. We didn’t get a chance to hear it run, but with Kooks long-tube headers and that NASCAR boom tube side-exit exhaust pipe, you can be assured that it will make its presence known.
Engine: 1,000hp aluminum 426ci Gen III Hemi with forged rotating assembly and Whipple 4.0 supercharger, PG air intake
Trans: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual with McLeod clutch and Hurst shifter
Suspension/Chassis: PG tubular K-member, adjustable coilovers, adjustable sway bars, poly bushings, rollcage
Brakes: four-pistom Brembo
Wheels & Tires: 20×9.5 and 20×10.5 PG Forgeline knock-offs with 275/40 and 315/35 Continental ExtremeContact DW
1957 Plymouth Savoy Suddenly Builder: Jim TravisWe included Suddenly in our list just because we love this unique car and its history so much, but we recently learned from the guys at Hedman Hedders that its story isn’t over. Back in 1957, it was announced that the eighth annual NASCAR International Safety and Performance Trials would include an Experimental category for standing and flying mile record runs on Daytona beach. Intended as a class for the OEMs, it also allowed for privateers. Wally Parks and Ray Brock at Hot Rod magazine jumped at the chance and managed to pull some strings and “borrow” a new ’57 Savoy. At Dean Moon’s shop, a Hilborn-injected 448hp 392ci Hemi originally intended for a dragster was dropped in, a rollbar was installed, as well as Firestone racing tires, and Bob Hedman built a set of headers. All that happened in the space of two weeks, and the Hot Rod magazine Spcl was dubbed “Suddenly,” in reference to the ’57 Plymouth ad campaign, “Suddenly, it’s 1960.”
At Daytona, Suddenly ran a best of 166.898 mph with a two-way average of 160.175 mph to beat the OEMs and set a class record. Later at Bonneville with 70 percent nitro in the tank and a special additive, Suddenly ran a best of 183 mph in an attempt to set the D/Fuel Coupe and Sedan record, but the engine let go. They didn’t get the record, but Suddenly had gone faster than any stock-bodied American car and in the process showed what hot rodders could do.
After that, Suddenly went into daily driver service, eventually being sold, and was lost to time. In 1995, Parks decided to build a clone and enlisted original builder Jim Travis. This first clone was almost identical, except it was a two-door sedan, as a suitable hardtop could not be found. At the 1995 USFRA World of Speed, Travis drove the clone to a 147mph pass but tuning issues prevented additional runs. Later, Parks made 131mph passes at El Mirage and Muroc. Brock was never satisfied with the sedan, so he tracked down a hardtop and had Travis transfer all the parts from the sedan. Clone number two has spent most of its life on display in the Petersen Automotive Museum or the NHRA Motorsports Museum—until this year, that is!
Engine: 392ci first-gen Hemi, Hilborn injection, E85 fuel
Trans: four-speed manual
Suspension/Chassis: OEM plus Traction Master bars
Wheels & Tires: Firestone 7.10/7.60-15 on stock wheels up front, 8.90-15 in the back on widened wheels