Marc UrbanoCar and driver
From the November 2021 issue Car and driver.
Alex Taylor started drag racing at the age of 16. Now 24, she grew up buying cars at her parents’ hot rod shop in Booneville, Arkansas, and still uses it as the home base for her automotive YouTube channel, Riding with Alex Taylor. While the shop specializes in fast drag cars with a classic look—like her father’s ’55 Chevy gasser and her 1968 Camaro—the Taylors happily take on the task of making any car faster. They got the chance to test their skills on a modern canvas when Dodge invited Taylor to take part in a Challenger build-off competition. Dodge provided competitors with a bot-stock Challenger or Charger Hellcat to customize to their liking. The winner would be the last builder standing after a street style drag matchup. The rules: standard looking body, standard engine and standard looking 2.7 liter supercharger body. Taylor went for the Lotus approach, stripping everything down and making it as light as possible. The result was a focused build with simple electronics and big sticky tires, trimmed as close to kitten weight as a big cat can get. And yes, she won.
“More power was the last thing on our to-do list,” Taylor says. “We wanted to gain weight because Hellcats are heavy. We just loosened everything that could be loosened and started cutting out what couldn’t.”
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Taylor’s wide-body Challenger came to the shop with the rear seat and a few other pieces already removed, giving it an under-stock takeoff weight of 4,500 pounds.
Take-off weight: 4300
Final weight: 3800
The Taylors cut out all the structure in the fenders, bumpers and trunk. “It’s just a Challenger shell now,” Taylor says.
Eleven-by-20-inch wheels are now 15-by-15s in the back, wrapped in Hoosier Quicktime Pro DOT drag tires. Up front, the stock brakes were replaced with small discs and covered with thin forerunner wheels and tires, for a weight saving of 70 pounds per side.
All the glass in the Challenger is standard, but after the third time Taylor broke the rear window, she may have regretted not replacing everything with Lexan.
The independent rear suspension was cut out and replaced with a drag-racing four-arm axle. shhoit’s a nine-inch Ford.
The transmission tunnel was modified to fit a Turbo 400 three-speed gearbox instead of the standard ZF eight-speed gearbox. The driveshaft was replaced to fit the new trans and rear.
Which seats? A Momo racing seat for the driver. The passenger is now a nitrous bottle.
All components, structure and wiring in the dashboard: Sayonara. Engine management is handled by a Holley stand-alone computer. Only one harness weighed almost 100 pounds.
No more stereo controls on the steering wheel, and don’t even ask about cruise control. The stock steering column and wheel are gone.
“Hellcats are designed for drag or road racing,” says Taylor. “We just wanted to do drag racing.” The front suspension was modified and simplified to focus on a straight line, and the electronic power steering was replaced with a manual rack.
Under the hood are the fans and intercooler gonzo. Taylor installed a new water-to-air intercooler in the rear for better weight distribution. Aside from the radiator, “all that’s left at the front is the engine, and we moved it four inches back into the engine bay,” Taylor says.
“We dropped over 1,000 pounds. It had dropped to about 3,200, but then we added 500 pounds in the rear to get a 50/50 weight distribution so we could launch it.” —Alex Taylor, Hellcat Diet Guru
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