Story behind SpeedKore and Ralph Gilles’ custom 1968 Dodge Charger

From the grit and heat of the Deep South to the expertly cut putting greens and cool ocean breezes of Monterey, California; from dirty hands and blue collars to pink and baby blue sports jackets; from service technicians and car enthusiasts to the titans of the industry; Hellucination does not discriminate.

The latest creation from the Grafton, Wisconsin-based custom automaker SpeedKore Performance Group welcomes everyone. The redesigned 1968 Dodge Charger is as impressive for a 6-year-old girl seeing the seductive weave of exposed carbon fiber for the first time as it is for Horacio Pagani, who knows a thing or two about carbon fiber magic. It makes sense given the man whose dream this car came true: Ralph Gilles. He has worked for Stellanis for 30 years and is currently their Head of Global Design.

Gilles is cheeky. He is a top executive who is not afraid to wear a jacket over a red Ferrari F40 T-shirt to deliver a speech at an evening wear dinner. And he’s also known for racing a minivan in the One Lap of America competition and he does the most ridiculous two-part epic Hellcat burnout at the Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as he is for championing groundbreaking designs. His work appeals to the imagination of urban youth and the respect of the establishment at a time when anything less likely would have spelled Chrysler’s downfall.

His car collection is as eclectic as he is, and many of Ralph’s recent builds are tastefully understated Italian classics from Alfa Romeo and Peugeot. But the ’68 Charger had been his dream car since he was a young boy, even before gaining worldwide fame as Bo and Luke’s dirt road demon on the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’.

A few years ago, at the Spring Festival of Lx in Southern California, he came across SpeedKore and his carbon fiber-built, demon-powered 1970 Charger Evolution. His vision also evolved: from a dream to a blueprint; then quickly from ink and paper to metal, carbon fiber and leather. The collaboration of SpeedKore’s experience in creating hypercar-level muscle cars, mixed with Ralph’s iconic design touch, led to an instant legend in Hellucination.

Last summer, when Ralph briefed me on the progress of this 1,200-horsepower Hellephant packaging project, I suggested that once Hellucination was completed, he would take him on the Hot Rod Power Tour. “Yes, yes,” he said. “And you can be the copilot.”

So, on the working-class Power Tour, Ralph and I took the newly built, custom, one-off monster 1,400 miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, then a detour to the Blue Ridge Mountains, to Memphis, then to Nashville, and back to Gatlinburg. . At the tour stops, Hellucination was a rock star, gathering hordes of adoring fans as soon as we walked in. Most assumed the carbon fiber was a wrap, because who the hell is crazy enough to drive a real carbon fiber car on the street? Temperatures were in triple digits and we didn’t take it easy on the roads between stops. It was a successful maiden voyage.

Back in Michigan, Gilles and his wife, Doris, took a Hellucination cruise through Detroit this summer before SpeedKore picked it up to be shown at the prestigious and exclusive The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in Monterey, California. And like the owner, it looked like home in a luxury resort next to Pagani’s collection of Huayras and Zondas, while chilling out in the interior of a NASCAR track, surrounded by big block Camaros and forklifts.

After my tour with Gilles and Hellucination, I had to speak to SpeedKore’s manufacturing team to learn more about their most intensive carbon fiber construction yet. So I jumped on a Zoom conversation with senior project manager Tom Porter, lead manufacturer Bill Jakum and carbon fiber specialist Corey Lake.

Watch the interview. The passion, soul and ingenuity poured into this project are unparalleled.

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