We’ve had a lot of correspondence from readers, web visitors, and Facebook followers since we began building our ’10 Dodge Challenger, and the response to this project has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course some of our readers find it hard to believe that the owner of this car opted for a late-model, especially since the cost of acquisition can be higher than older Mopars, but by starting with a car that had been wrecked and then selling the parts that wouldn’t be used, this Challenger project didn’t cost as much as you’d think. If you’ve followed previous issues of Mopar Muscle, you’ve seen the upgrades and modifications we’ve made so far. If not, we’ll recap the work we’ve done, and then finish the project in this issue. Of course a race car isn’t truly finished until it’s made a few passes at the track, so we’ll also take our Challenger to Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, to see how it runs. Fred Menditto, who owns this car, and his son Rick, who will drive it, are happy with the results, and we think you’ll be impressed as well.

The ’10 Dodge Challenger used for this project started out as an R/T model equipped with a 5.7 Hemi. With only 18,000 miles on the odometer, the first owner rolled the car, causing some extensive damage to the sheetmetal, glass, and some of the suspension components. While this meant the car would need to be repaired in order to be raced, it also meant that the price was right, and there were plenty of low-mileage components that could be sold to offset the cost of the car. Before we did anything, we took the car to a frame shop to ensure the chassis was square. With that task complete, we enlisted the help of Steve Miller Fabrications to install a round tube, chrome-moly rear frame, frame connectors, and rollcage. Applied Racing Technology (ART) supplied the rear four-link suspension and rear end, which was also installed by Steve Miller Fabrications.

With suspension and chassis work complete, we moved on to the sheetmetal. Luckily, all of the body panels for this car are readily available from a variety of sources, and relatively inexpensive. With the help of Silverking Collision Center, the roof skin, door skins, fenders, and hood were replaced and the car was straightened and painted in the original Tor-red (PR3) hue, utilizing BASF Glasurit 90 waterborne paint. In general, waterborne paints are safer for the environment and require fewer coats for coverage, so less material is required. We were impressed with this paint job, and most people who don’t know the car was rolled simply assume the Challenger is wearing its factory paint.

While the chassis and paint work were being accomplished, we concentrated our efforts on the driveline of the car. Having old-school roots, it was tempting to install a big-block or second-generation Hemi in this Challenger, but knowing the late-model Hemi offers killer potential, we opted for a 426-inch version of Chrysler’s latest elephant engine. Working with Indy Cylinder Head, we started with a 6.1 block, adding a Compstar crankshaft and rods, and Diamond pistons for a displacement of 426 inches. We then installed a Comp Cams hydraulic-roller camshaft, and bolted on a set of 6.4 “Apache” cylinder heads that had been treated to Indy’s Windjammer CNC porting.

A nice feature of the new Hemi is that it incorporates nearly the same bell housing bolt pattern as the LA small-block, requiring only a special flex-plate to bolt the two together.

With a Milodon oil system, MSD ignition, Mopar Drag-Pak intake, and Holley 950 carburetor, this third-generation Hemi made some 720 horsepower on Indy’s Superflow dyno, running on 93 octane gasoline from the station right up Southeaster Avenue from Indy’s shop. While you might be wondering why we built a pump gas engine for our race car, we had several reasons. First, gasoline, especially race gas, is expensive these days, so we wanted to keep operating costs down for the Mendittos. Second, we wanted to show the prowess of the late-model Hemi, and prove that these engines can make killer power with a relatively mild combination. There is really nothing exotic about this moderately-sized Hemi engine, and all of the parts we used are readily available, off the shelf parts. In fact, Indy sells this combination in ready-to-run form, and if you check pricing, you’ll find it very reasonable given the engine’s performance.

To handle the power, we decided to bolt a 904 TorqueFlite behind the engine. A nice feature of the new Hemi is that it incorporates nearly the same bell housing bolt pattern as the LA small-block, requiring only a special flex-plate to bolt the two together. Tod Struck at Inline Performance Specialists handled the transmission rebuild, and we used TCI components throughout our automatic, along with a TCI trans-brake valve body. For our stall converter, we contacted ATI, since they have experience racing their own late-model Dodge Challenger Drag-Pak car. Our decision paid off, and ATI built us a converter that efficiently transferred our engine’s torque to the transmission and rear wheels, resulting in hard launches and impressive 60-foot times at the track.

To provide fuel to our Hemi, we installed a foam-filled fuel cell in the trunk, and installed a Holley HP150 electric fuel pump and dual filters. Nylon braided fuel line was installed from the back of the car to the front, and a Holley fuel pressure regulator was installed in the engine bay. We then fabricated additional nylon braided fuel line from the regulator to our Holley Ultra HP 950-cfm four-barrel carburetor.

We covered all of the work outlined above in detailed articles in previous issues of Mopar Muscle, but there is still a lot of work involved to finish the car. Since our Challenger’s entire electrical system was removed during the build, we re-wired the car using a dual battery installation kit from ART, as well as a fabricated switch panel and wiring. Dual Optima Red-Top batteries were installed in the trunk, along with the required push/pull on/off safety switch. The MSD ignition box was located under the dash area behind the glove box, making it convenient to route the ignition-wiring harness through the firewall to the engine. This location also allowed the ignition’s DIN wire to be located in the glove box for easy access, since the MSD Hemi 6 tuning is programmed with a laptop computer and provided software.