ExoMod C68: A carbon-fiber Charger with Hellcat bones
Modernity can be a real party pooper. That 440 Six Pack Charger you had in high school looked badass and would blow the doors off of Johnny Junior Varsity’s Camaro. Time marches on, though. The Charger will always look the business, but it isn’t that great to drive compared to today’s muscle cars, which are faster, handle better, and are more comfortable.
That’s probably why some people spend lots of time, money, and resources to make their classics go, turn, and stop like new cars. Restomods—what these updated classics most commonly go by—and more track-focused pro-touring variants, are big business these days. They accounted for nearly half of revenue at Barrett-Jackson’s Arizona auction last January and included heavily modernized takes on everything from a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette to a 1956 Lincoln Continental.
Blueberry-farmer-turned-high-end-Mopar restorer Rick Katzeff was one of the restomod faithful until he actually built one. One day a client, for whom Katzeff restored many rare Hemi cars, commissioned a blank-check ’69 Charger build.
“One year, and 3000 hours later, I had created a beautiful pro-touring Charger,” Katzeff explained. “But when I was shaking it out after it was completed, I noticed right away that it had harsh ride—even if I softened up the coilovers.” And the problems didn’t stop there. “The Charger was powerful, but it just broke the wheels loose. So it was tough to get any traction.” Katzeff concluded that “it just wasn’t as comfortable and enjoyable of a driving experience as my 2017 Hellcat Challenger.”
And then a lightbulb went off in his head. Instead of trying to make an old Mopar perform like a new one, why not make a new Mopar look like an old one?
The resulting 807-horsepower creation—dubbed the ExoMod C68 Carbon—is what rolled off Katzeff’s enclosed trailer at our Ann Arbor office on an overcast summer morning. Its moniker is a nod to the car’s fully carbon fiber body.
“Is it alright if I take Maura for a walk?” Katzeff asks, as I’m snapping photos. He and Maura—his Chihuahua traveling companion—don’t quite give off the vibe you’d expect for an outrageous muscle car. Indeed, Katzeff has the politeness of a Midwesterner with a hint of surfer or rock climber. But in a way, the C68 has the same no-fuss attitude.
The C68 Carbon is far from the first attempt to retrofy a modern car. You might recall attempts to convert fifth-generation Camaros into Firebirds, or 2000s Corvettes into an older first- or second-generation model. These retro rebodies live or die on their proportions and execution. Design is subjective, but to my eye, that’s where the C68 really succeeds. Only the modern belt line and door handles give away its present-day origins. The key is the proportions: The modern Challenger rides on the same-length wheelbase as an 1968–70 Mopar B-body. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to make the retro bodywork look right. But that’s not to say the final form came easy.
ExoMod, the company Katzeff builds the C68 under, didn’t have a car designer on the payroll to create a blueprint for the design. So the team took a trial-and-error approach to the looks. With Katzeff’s personal Hellcat. In steel.
“We started by widening the [Charger] tail panel 4 inches, and then we tacked on the quarter panels. The roof skin was next, and we built the car forward from there. My foreman, Scott Gregg, is a metal and welding master. He did a lot of tacking, cutting, stitching, welding, moving, grinding, and retacking to get the shape right.”
After 3000 hours of work, the prototype C68’s body was ready to be 3D-scanned. The files were sent to a Seattle-based firm that does a lot of parts for Boeing in order to create tooling for the production car’s carbon-fiber panels. Note that “production” is a relative term here—it takes a team of six 1500 hours to build one. The conversion involves stripping a stock Challenger Hellcat down to its safety cage, at which point and the carbon fiber is bonded on.
All this work comes at a price. A C68 based on a Redeye edition, like the one in this article, starts at a cool $349K. If you already have a Hellcat Challenger and want it converted, you can knock off around 100 grand from the price tag.
None of this work touches the oily bits; the C68 provides the same shotgunning-a-beer kind of experience as the Hellcat. It does have 400 fewer pounds to haul around, so the C68 will send you to jail faster than the car it’s based on. Wanna blow off the rear tires? Just mash the skinny pedal and listen to the glorious sound of squealing rubber and supercharger whine. Traction control and steamroller-sized tires (315 section width!) be damned. They can’t keep up with the grunt from the Hellcat 6.2-liter V-8.
On the test drive, there was road work, and the twisty bit of tarmac went down to one lane. The flagger managing traffic lit up when he saw the C68 approach. After I safely passed the workers, the flagger motioned to spin the tires. I obliged, of course, and we both wore the same stupid grin as the C68 broke traction.
But also like its Hellcat underpinnings, the C68 is a perfectly comfortable tourer. Its automatic transmission shifts smoothly, and if you keep your foot off the floorboard, the supercharger whine isn’t too loud.
There’s not much behind the steering wheel that would indicate you’re driving something other than a stock Challenger. The interior, other than the Italian leather upholstery, remains unchanged. Which might seem contrary to how much was changed on the exterior. And, it must be said that nothing about the Dodge’s interior screams six figures. That said, having all the modern conveniences of a Hellcat is nice, and the team at ExoMod took great pains to make sure everything from the climate control to the infotainment system still works. “We still utilize the backup camera and parking sensors, but they had to be relocated to the carbon-fiber rear bumper and rear diffuser,” Katzeff explains.
Your high school 440 Six Pack will never drive as well as you remember, even if it’s still pretty to look at. But if you have the means and want a car that lives up to how you remember your Charger—one that still looks the part—ExoMod’s C68 Carbon makes a lot of sense. With only 11 sold so far, you’ll likely never see another on the road.