Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We’ll be taking you back in time—and possibly forward into the future—to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring “short take” reviews along with the photographs and advertisements. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! — Jack Baruth
(Originally published in Engine Fad, September 1968 edition)
One year ago, the revitalized Chrysler Corporation, under the guidance of Lynn Townsend, introduced the baddest midsize car around: the 1968 Charger R/T. Super-sleek for the super-speedway, the R/T came stock with a 375-horsepower 440 Magnum V-8. A few of you crazy people spent about $600 on top of the $3500 base price to upgrade to the rabid 426 Street Hemi. From the factory it could run a 13.5-second quarter mile at an astounding 105 miles per hour. Let’s see Chevy or Ford beat that!
What we didn’t know at the time was that the best was yet to come. The Hemi has now been fortified with Paxton superchargers—did we say superchargers, as in more than one? It’s true! That crazy chicken farmer, Carroll Shelby, did it in one of his “Cobra” roadsters, and now Dodge is doing it in a Charger!
The performance numbers will blow your mind, man—we are talking 11.9 seconds in the quarter mile at a trap speed of 124 mph. Top speed is guaranteed to be 150 miles per hour, thanks to 575 horsepower. Heavy duty 11-inch drums slow the whole party down. Want a four-on-the-floor transmission? Too bad! Only the TorqueFlite automatic can handle this kind of raw power. Truth is, if this Charger could hook up at the line, it might go even faster, but nobody makes the kind of tires that will stay sticky under this kind of twisting force.
Our road test was almost too insane to be real, like it came from far-out Ken Kesey’s “Furthur” bus and all his groovy acid trips. This Charger will spin at the slightest provocation of the throttle, no matter which way the steering wheel is pointed. We lost all of our hubcaps during the test drive. At one point we stopped and put two of them back on, only to have them fly off again! Needless to say, you’ll be filling this beast up with hi-test only, which is fine with us because there’s nothing we like better than standing at the gas pumps and inhaling that sweet aroma of top-octane fuel for minutes at a time. And unlike smoking cigarettes, it won’t do you any harm to do so!
There’s no price announced for this super-charged super-Charger, although we’re hearing estimates as high as $5,500 to start. There is a name for it, however: Dodge Charger “Hellcat”. A lot of you men reading this publication probably flew one of those in The Big One—more than twelve thousand were built. Like that tough fighter plane from Grumman, this Charger has the right stuff and then some. We can only imagine what Chrysler has up their sleeves for the future. With the economy booming like it is, gasoline priced just right, and no prospect of a “Clean Air Act” being passed any time soon, it’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead for the road-bound fighter planes of Auburn Hills!