alex taylor widebody dodge challenger

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

From the November 2021 issue of Car and Driver.

Alex Taylor started drag racing at 16. Now 24, she grew up around cars at her parents’ hot-rod shop in Booneville, Arkansas, and still uses it as a 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 dad’s ’55 Chevy gasser and her 1968 Camaro—the Taylors are happy to take on the task of making any car quicker. They got a chance to test their skills on a modern canvas when Dodge invited Taylor to participate in a Challenger build-off competition. Dodge provided competitors with a bone-stock Challenger or Charger Hellcat to modify as they pleased. The winner would be last builder standing after a street-style drag matchup. The rules: stock-appearing body, stock engine block, and stock-appearing 2.7-liter supercharger housing. 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 yeah, she won.

“More power was the last thing on our to-do list,” Taylor says. “We wanted to hit weight, because Hellcats are heavy. We just unbolted everything that could be unbolted 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 a starting weight under the stock 4500 pounds.

Starting weight: 4300
Finish weight:
3800

Bodywork

The Taylors cut out all the structure inside the fenders, bumpers, and trunk. “It’s just Challenger shell now,” says Taylor.

Rolling (Un)stock

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 skinny front­runner wheels and tires, for a weight savings of 70 pounds per side.

Glass

All the glass in the Challenger is stock, although after the third time Taylor broke the rear window, she may have regretted not replacing it all with Lexan.

Rear

The independent rear suspension was cut out and replaced with a drag-racing four-link live axle. Shh, it’s a Ford nine-inch.

Transmission

The transmission tunnel was modified to fit a Turbo 400 three-speed instead of the stock ZF eight-speed. The driveshaft was replaced to fit the new trans and rear end.

Seats

What seats? A Momo race seat for the driver. The passenger’s is now a nitrous bottle.

Dash

All the in-dash components, structure, and wiring—sayonara. Engine management is handled by a Holley stand-alone computer. Just one harness weighed almost 100 pounds.

Steering

No more stereo controls on the steering wheel, and don’t even ask about cruise control. The stock steering column and wheel are outta here.

Front

“Hellcats are designed for drag or road racing,” Taylor says. “We just wanted to drag-race.” The front suspension was modified and simplified to focus on a straight-line approach, and the electronic power steering was replaced with a manual rack.

Engine Bay

Under the hood, the fans and intercooler are gonzo. Taylor fitted a new water-to-air intercooler in the back for better weight distribution. Aside from the radiator, “the only thing left up front is the engine, and we set that back four inches in the engine bay,” Taylor says.

“We dropped over 1000 pounds. It was down to about 3200, but then we added 500 pounds back to the rear to get a 50/50 weight distribution so we could launch it.” —Alex Taylor, Hellcat Diet Guru

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