Here at Mopar Muscle, we enjoy attending drag racing events, and love it even more when we see Mopars on the track being run down the quarter (or eighth) mile. The Chrysler Corporation based a lot of its research at dragstrips and circle tracks during the '50s, '60s, and '70s, leading to historical performance and industry leading technology such as the 426 Hemi engine and 833 four-speed transmission. In fact, factory-backed teams dominated drag racing during this era, and performed so well in the top classes of drag and circle track racing, that they were handicapped by sanctioning bodies, some say to the point of being non-competitive. And while we love the classic Mopars that built their heritage at the racetracks around the county, we're seeing a trend at the tracks that will ensure Mopars will still be racing for years to come. Late-model Mopars like the new Dodge Charger and Challenger are certainly here to stay, and just like the owners of classic Mopars, owners of late-model Mopars aren't scared to take their cars to the track.
There are really a couple of choices when it comes to the latest offerings from the Chrysler Corporation: You can either love them or hate them. We see the new Challenger and Charger not as replacements for classic cars, but simply as a new and different way to enjoy the Mopar brand. For this reason, we've embraced the new Dodge and Chrysler Hemi powered vehicles, and have been impressed with the additional performance provided by technology that is far superior to that used in classic Mopars. There's no denying that late-model rear-wheel-drive Mopars will run circles around Chrysler products of the past, thanks to advances in drivetrain and suspension technology, along with the use of lighter materials like aluminum and even plastic to save weight in non-structural areas of these vehicles. Since we're committed to advancing the performance of these new Mopars, and eager to see more of them running at local tracks, we've decided to help build a '10 Dodge Challenger that will be dedicated to the dragstrip.
Local racer Rick Menditto has been racing since he and his sister Rebecca were old enough to strap in to the Junior Dragsters built by their father Fred, a dedicated Mopar enthusiast. In fact, Rick was one of the first and only competitors to run the Junior Funny Car class in the southeast, and did it with a Mopar body on his entry. Performing very well in the Junior classes of drag racing, Rick racked up quite a list of wins in both NHRA and IHRA sanctioned races, and even helps pay his college expenses through scholarships he earned by drag racing. So when Fred told us he was rebuilding a wrecked '10 Challenger R/T and planned to make it a dedicated bracket racer for Rick to race while in college and beyond, we decided to team up with industry leaders like Indy Cylinder Head, Comp Cams, MSD, and Applied Racing Technology to support the family effort. While you may think building a late-model Challenger and new Hemi engine into a competitive drag race car would be fairly easy, there are actually several obstacles to the process, especially concerning the new Challenger's rear suspension.
01a This '10 Dodge Challenger was totaled in a rollover accident, which makes it a great
01b This month we'll get started building the car for local racer Rick Menditto to drag r
02 Before we could even consider installing our rear suspension, we needed to address som
One of the advancements made by the Chrysler Corporation when they designed the new LX platform vehicles was to include independent rear suspension in these cars. Though independent rear suspension definitely helps the cornering and street driving characteristics of the new Challenger, it is not an ideal choice for a drag racing application. Since the '10 model Challenger we're working on has been totaled in a rollover accident, it needed plenty of bodywork and we weren't sure the factory rear suspension was still properly located. So, while stripping the car to be rebuilt, we decided to discard the factory independent suspension and install a more race-oriented four-link suspension, with a fabricated differential housing, and coilover single-adjustable Strange shocks with 170-pound springs. Since we won't know how much weight is on the rear of this car until we complete it and put it on the scales, the 170-pound springs are a starting point and may be changed if the car's rear weight is less than our predicted 1,400 pounds.
The four-link rear suspension, as its name implies, uses two upper and two lower bars (four "links") to locate the rear differential housing in the car. This style of rear suspension not only offers multiple adjustments to ensure the rear tires are planted for the launch and all the way down the track, but is lightweight, strong, and far less complicated than the factory independent suspension the car came with. There are pre-fabricated "weld-in" four-link suspensions available from several aftermarket sources, but for our application, we decided to purchase all the components separately from Applied Racing Technology. Local chassis shop Steve Miller Fabrications was already building a chrome-moly rollcage for the car, so we decided to have them custom build the rear suspension for our Challenger as well. Because the Challenger is already fairly heavy, we opted to use chrome-moly tubing for the rear frame, in order to keep the weight of the Challenger to a minimum.
By starting our build in the rear of the car, we can ensure our chassis is square and straight and will handle the power of a planned 426-inch late-model Hemi we'll be building with the help of Indy Cylinder Head. Of course, we won't be able to properly tune the suspension until the car is complete and we've had it on the four-wheel scales, and it will need to be track tuned as well. Once we get the car complete, we'll show you how we set the corner weights, determine where the "instant center" of the car will be, and how to get the car to launch straight even with the front wheels in the air. This is going to be a fun experiment and we look forward to seeing Rick Menditto campaign one of the only dedicated late-model Challenger bracket cars we know of.
03 All LX cars like our '10 Challenger are equipped with an independent rear suspension,
04 After a lot of cutting and welding, with help from local body man Chris Taylor, the Ch
05 With the floors cut from the Challenger, we were able to position the wheels and 14x32
Putting a Challenger like this one together is fairly involved, and we'll be sharing every aspect of the process including the front suspension, engine, and transmission in future issues of Mopar Muscle. We'll also show you some creative ways we lightened our '10 Challenger as well. Our goal is to debut the car at the 2012 Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, so be sure to stop by to check out the car and say hello when you see us there. In the meantime, follow along as we replace our Challenger's independent rear suspension with a race oriented four-link from Applied Racing Technology.
|Rear Coil Springs||$38.95 each|
|Adjustable Shocks||$159.95 each|
|Four-Link Suspension Kit||$649.95|
|Fabricated Chrome-moly differential housing||$775.00|
|Labor||varies by shop|
06 There are pre-fabricated, pre-welded four-link kits available from several sources, bu
07a The four-link suspension not only gives us room for much larger tires in the rear, bu
07b We simply set our lower bars to be level with the ground, and the top bars at a basel
08 Once the pieces were all assembled and mocked up, we disassembled everything and sent
09a With our rear suspension painted and installed, we're ready to go racing...well, mayb
09b we're happy with how the rear suspension of our Challenger turned out, and the car wi