Just how good is the new Dodge Challenger with the Drag Race Package?

"It's a 'scorpion!' says 17-time Top Fuel champ "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. " That thing runs good, let me tell you."

So good that his best elapsed time in it, on the strip at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colorado (over 5000 feet above sea level) was 11.24 seconds. Garlits says that would make it a ten-second car at sea level--right out of the box!

And Garlits should know a thing or two about factory-built Dodges for the strip. "I got one of the first ones in '62--I got one of the first thirteen," he says of that 413 Max Wedge-powered B-Body Dodge 330. "That car would run 13.50 seconds at 108 miles an hour, right out of the showroom. The Challenger is lots faster, though the cars are about the same weight. Those '62s weighed about 3100 pounds, and so does this Challenger."

"Big Daddy" says that the race-only Challenger benefits not just from its stout powertrain and factory-weight-reduction program, but it also incorporates a lot of tricks that racers back in the day did. "They've got everything on those cars that we used to do to the Max Wedge cars after we got 'em," says Garlits from his Museum of Drag Racing near Ocala, Florida. "All the lightweight stuff, all the special suspension. They don't have cast-iron headers and exhaust systems on 'em, they've got tubular headers and dump tubes--that all comes off the showroom floor."

The "lightweight stuff" Garlits mentioned includes a composite lift-off hood with functional scoop, Viper-style front seats, polycarbonate door windows, lightweight cooling module with electric fan, manual rack and pinion steering, a special lightweight front brake assembly and cable-operated throttle linkage and pedal assembly. Good stuff like that, plus leaving off major components like the HVAC system, sound system, back seat, airbags, door beams and other major weight-adders, Ma Mopar got the nearly-two-ton Challenger down to around 3100 pounds in ready-to-race trim--which also includes a fuel cell and full cage.

If you're thinking of getting one of these to drive anywhere else but the strip, think again. "These are not cars to be driven out on the street at all," Garlits emphasizes. "They're race cars."

If you're looking to go racing with one of these, you're in luck. Dodge will build 100 of these race-ready Challengers, with your choice of either a 5.7 liter or 6.1 liter HEMI engine, or a 5.9 liter Magnum Wedge, with your choice of a manual or automatic transmission. Ma Mopar says it'll be eligible to run in as many as 40 classes in NHRA's Comp, Super Stock or Stock Eliminator categories.

The order books open in late August, with the price tag starting in the low $30s.

If you're looking for the next Race Package-equipped Challenger to be built after the ones that Garlits and "Miss Mighty Mopar" Judy Lilly drove at Bandimere, it's already spoken for. "The third car is mine--personal," Garlits says of the Challenger that he should have later this summer.