During the 42ND Annual NHRA Gatornationals past weekend, history was made as it marked the debut of our new Challenger V10 Drag Pak in competition. Long time Mopar racer Frank Teuton of Houma Louisiana was the first racer to receive the new “Package Car” and he wheeled it to an astounding 9.78 elapsed time in the AA/SA class. Even though Frank only made it to the third round of competition in the Stock Eliminator category, it did not diminish the weekend’s accomplishments. The Challenger V10 Drag Pak ran flawless and its Viper-Powered 512 cubic inch power plant didn’t miss a beat.

The motto in drag racing (and its street-based format) was always ‘there is no replacement for displacement.’ When Dodge announced that they would be taking a page from the historical playbook and release yet another ultimate weapon with the 2011 Challenger Drag Pak, who could be surprised? Certainly not those of us who know a bit about ‘the rest of the story.’

After all, Dodge has been notorious for better race car packages over the past 50 plus years. In 1956, for example, the trick set-up was the Dodge D500-1. The original D500 had come into being in December 1955, and the -1 race version powered by a 315” Hemi featured even more serious pieces, including a 2×4 aluminum intake, big exhaust manifolds, hot cam, new Maximum Duty Chassis (consisting of the Imperial line’s heavy-duty suspension, brakes, wheels, and handling components) and more.

Debuting at the beach-based Daytona NASCAR race, factory test driver and developer Danny Eames took the NASCAR current U.S production car acceleration record at 81.78 and the Flying Mile record at an average of 130.57. In drag racing, drivers Ed Lyons, Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, and a handful of other were killers on the strip. Lyons went undefeated that year and took home the world’s first-ever Super Stock crown at the ATAA World Series of Drag Racing in Cordova., Ill., a class where the D-500-1 models took first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh. Due to their circle-track desirability, they were used very hard and are very rare today; to date, only one original D500-1 is documented to still exist.

There was a time-out for several years after the manufacturers dropped out of racing; the next shot began when a group young Dodge engineers got together and decided to go drag racing in their spare time. They called themselves the Ramchargers, and by late 1961, they had begun to apply their considerable talent and knowledge to develop the first Maximum Performance late-model stock-bodied Dodge. Powered by a 413” wedge, these cars would begin the 1960s Mopar revolution in drag racing, with pieces again tailored as a complete package, not a simple engine swap. In 1963, displacement rose to 426” and aluminum body parts became part of the package; in 1964, the second generation Hemi showed up on both the strip and the speedway to great acclaim. Frankly, they won everywhere – Daytona, Pomona, the U.S. Nationals.

Of course, in 1965, Dodge again released a factory racing package to meet the current NHRA rules in the Super Stock class, but also basically invented the nickname ‘funny car’ with a handful of specially-built ‘altered-wheelbase’ factory experimental vehicles that took the drag racing world by storm. The 1966 model year saw the Hemi re-engineered for street use, with a mild Super Stock package built around the Coronet the following year, 1967, which was also the year NHRA made Super Stock its own division.

It was 1968 that the real A-Bomb was unleashed. The Dart and sister model Plymouth Barracuda had been redesigned in 1967 to a format that allowed a big-block to wedged into the engine bay with minor effort. The factory mad scientists, working in a small shop off of Woodward Ave., created an example that used a Hemi, a full-tilt, cross-ram-intake / big compression version of the engine that had not been seen since 1965. Built by a division of Hurst Industries, Dodge drivers like Dick Landy and Shirley Shahan put it on the map during the next 24 months before Pro Stock was announced in 1970. The damage was done, though, and NHRA soon ended up factoring the A-body Hemi cars into their own division at the very top of Super Stock. Today, what is now called SS/AH remains a highlight in the class.

NHRA had learned their lessons as well. When the 1971 Demon was announced, Dodge had hoped to make a splash by creating a new Super Stock package car that used a Max Wedge-based engine. That program was shelved when the racing organization’s powers-that-be decided to factor the horsepower in the proposed car so high that they could never have been competitive.

That brings us to the 21st century. In 2008, the factory announced the first Drag Pak Challenger, creating 100 units and allowing various engine configurations in a special body design to cover a maximum number of possible classes. Modern Super Stock racing uses the classic ideas but takes advantage of a lot of new technology. Those cars, under the tutelage of ‘Big Daddy” Don Garlits and others, have begun to make a mark in the sport, but the 2011 machine is something else.

Afterall, nobody has EVER offered a factory drag car with 500 cubic inches; the Drag Pack cranks out at 512”. Nor with more than eight cylinders for power. As we speak, the subcontractor (Rousch Industries) is preparing to produce the first of the 21st century version of the Dodge Rebellion; once they hit the track, we’ll witness first hand the rewriting of racing history by Dodge…again…

This 1956 D500-1 showed up for sale in Denver some years ago. When shot at a Mopar show at Bandimere Speedway, owner Tim DuPort had done very little except clean it up and add some homemade race lettering as the car was not restored. The engine was a 315” version of the Hemi with a special 2×4 intake that had been created by Karl Kiekhaefer’s Mercury Outboard manufacturing concern using a Dodge part number. Hosting a pair of WCFBs carbs, the intake outfit alone listed for a very hefty $425.50.

Here is what 1962 looked like; the first of the Max Wedge 413s were based on the 1962 Dodge models, which featured unibody construction. This one was once owned by former Chrysler manager Ron McDaniel, and is seen on Woodward Ave. at the Vinsenta Garage.

In 1963, guys like Bill Maverick Golden had begun to make real waves with aluminum-paneled versions of the Max Wedge, now at a 426” displacement to meet the then-current ACCUS/FIA seven-liter (427”) limit. This is the car after its restoration

The 1964 year found Max Wedge cars early in the season, but the Hemi cars came on strong after the middle of the year. This is Roger Lindamood winning NHRA’s U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend.

Image: Ray Mann Archive – quartermilestones.com.

In 1965, the Hemi was available in a Super Stock package that is often referred to as the A990 package, based on the code. Dodge drivers like the late Dave Strickler helped make them popular…

Image: Ray Mann Archive – quartermilestones.com.

…but the real deal was the specially-modified factory experimentals like Stricker’s other Dodge from 1965, seen here after its restoration. It is presently owned by Nick Smith.

Street Hemi cars were the rage in 1966, and some were put into drag racing with a good deal of success. This is factory Plymouth racer Don Grotheer at the 1966 NHRA Nationals.

Image: Ray Mann Archive – quartermilestones.com.

Then in 1967, a somewhat mild package car arrived using the inline Street Hemi intake in modified format and minor changes. This is Dick Landy’s Hemi Coronet, which Erik Lindberg has recently restored back to its glory.

For 1968, things got very serious when Dodge released a special race-only Dart with Hemi power. This is female pilot Shirley Shahan on a hot lap at the NHRA Nationals at Indy late that summer.

Image: Ray Mann Archive – quartermilestones.com.

The new Dodge Demon was originally slated for possible production as a special Super Stock package in 1971, but that effort did not happen due to NHRA’s rules making. The Demon instead made its waves in Pro Stock; this is driver Herb McCandless and his family with the car he made famous in 1972, now restored and owned by Todd Werner.

Courtesy All-Hemi Reunion / Geoff Stunkard photo.

Today, NHRA’s special SS/AH is devoted to the 1968 models, of which there were over 150 examples built, more than any other Super Stock package offered by any manufacturer. Their big weekend is still the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, with Bucky Hess racing Charlie Westcott .

This is Roy Johnson, father of Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson, in action at Bristol Dragway during an NHRA National event in 2010.


Here is legendary racer Don Garlits and Mopar’s Dale Aldo talking about the new 2011 Challenger Drag Pak at the 2010 Performance Racing Industry show. Garlits is presently running one of the original 2008 Hemi Drag Paks.

Article Courtesy of RedLetterDodge.  Written by:  Geoff Stunkard