Ralph Gilles’ 1000 HP Dodge Charger “Hellucination” is tempting

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Ralph Gilles’ 1968 Dodge Charger, “Hellucination”, is a two-seater. The removal of the rear seat is just one of many changes from its muscle car origins. However, despite the roll bar which blocked access to the rear, four personalities were present: Gilles, me and the angel/devil battle which was taking place on my shoulders.

Never has a car been built to be more tempting than this high-powered, carbon-fiber pavement striper. The whine of the compressor is like a Thanksgiving dinner left on a table at shoulder height to a Labrador retriever. The slim leather-wrapped steering wheel fits delicately in the hand like a champagne flute during a bridal shower. “Go ahead,” he gestures. “Reject it and take another one.” The accelerator pedal is firm underfoot: wet sand at the beach, waves coming. “Press more”, shouts the devil who, in this scenario, looks a lot like Gilles himself. “It only gets really good at 4000 rpm. See if you can find an underpass and really get into it.” The angel, who appears to be a conglomeration of Car and driver chief editor Tony Quiroga and the entire Hearst legal department, shake their heads. “This is how your career ends,” said the angel. “In a cloud of carbon shards and shame.”

Back to reality, I solved the problem by getting stuck behind a tractor-trailer on a winding road – a serious disappointment for the heck of a shoulder but a good opportunity to talk to Gilles about what motivated the construction and the difficulty of designing the perfect hood bulge.

Gilles is a favorite of the automotive industry. He’s sleek, poetic and always enthusiastic, whether he’s talking about his own work on vehicles like the Chrysler 300, SRT Grand Cherokee and Dodge Viper, or his wife Doris’ love of vintage Alfas, Viper track days and classic cars. rallies.

Gilles started working at Stellantis (then Chrysler) in 1992. He is currently President of Global Product Design, overseeing new vehicles across the product line. This charger was a personal project, a partnership with Wisconsin-based customizing store SpeedKore. SpeedKore’s team specializes in composite work but also 3D printing and CNC machining, so in addition to the bodywork, various aluminum trim parts, like the smoothed fuel filler cap and the handles of elegant doors, were designed and manufactured in -house.

The car sits low like a channeled NASCAR racer, giving it a wide stance, although the body lines are unchanged aside from the French in the bumpers. The car’s final weight is around 3990 pounds, with a weight bias of 55/45. Interior features leather-trimmed Recaro bucket seats and custom door panels, rear storage tray, dashboard and roof liner – all colors and materials Gilles approved via Zoom calls and FedEx packages at three-year construction course.

This is the fifth carbon-bodied SpeedKore Charger built. Surprisingly, for a man who worked on the design of the novella, this is the first classic Dodge in Gilles’ garage.

“I’ve never had an old car. I’ve always wanted one,” Gilles said, quickly adding the caveat – after making argumentative noises about his ownership of classic Giulias – that he hasn’t “never had an American beast”. Like many older Charger enthusiasts, Gilles had a crush on a Coke-bottled Dodge as a kid, watching The Dukes of Hazard. “It’s controversial now,” he said, “the flag, but I don’t think it appeared that way back then. Well, my dad didn’t like it, but I just noticed the car.” He laughed and gave me a cheeky smile. “It would be quite flexible for a black man to lead a General Lee . . .

If Gilles considered the orange paint and welded doors on a ’69, he resisted in favor of a more subtle flex with a modern take on the ’68 model. “To me, the 68 is the sleekest of them all. I admit the taillights of the 69 are more interesting, but as a designer, the first version is usually the purest statement. After that, it’s a marketing question. The clean and quirky front of this one, I love that. Discreet.

It’s not a wrap

Understated might not be the word you’d first find for an unpainted carbon-fiber body with matte gunmetal and gray accents, mounted to custom HRE wheels in 19- and 20-inch offset, but somehow the end product is both sophisticated and subtle, while promising downright savage performance from the 7.0L box under the hood. From a distance, it appears completely black. Only when you get closer can you see the weave, beneath deep layers of amber-tinted clear gloss. “A lot of people give me a thumbs up, like just ‘Cool Charger’ and when they get close you can see it in their eyes the moment they realize it’s a unique thing.

“Some of them can’t understand it. They think it’s a wrap. I had to stop a guy who had his thumbnail in the corner of a bumper, trying to peel it off. In the ‘together people understand, however, they understand the I’ve had other cars, I’ve had a Ferrari 458 for a few years, and it’s been respected, but this one gets…[he mimed the look of a muscle-car enthusiast who’s just had their mind blown.]”

Number 1

While Gilles had wanted a Charger since he was a kid, the Hellucination build started with an engine and no car at all. When Mopar Performance announced that it would be offering a 1000 horsepower version of its Hellcat V-8, Gilles was the first to place an order. “I bought it as soon as they were available. I bought it before I even got the car. It happens to be number one, the very first audience.” It took years to put the crate engine in the engine compartment of a loader. There have been COVID issues, parts delays, and design talks. “We went back and forth on a hood about four or five times. They actually made two different balls. I hated them. Too square, the Kleenex boxes. I ended up doing sections by hand until that we have succeeded.”

Somewhere around this point, the truck in front of us has died down, and the next few minutes of the recording are just compressor screams, various swears and laughter, and finally Gilles says, “Oh hey, I found this rattle that bothered me, it’s the fire extinguisher pin.”

Riding the Hellucination, especially as the owner of a ’69 Charger, is like meeting someone as an adult who you already hung out with as a teenager. The same personality is there, but chiseled and refined. Corners where a classic muscle car would lean and squeal can be taken with confidence, thanks to both the Detroit Speed ​​coilover suspension – which replaces the stock torsion bars and leaf springs – and the sticky Pilot Sport 4S rubber. The 345/30Z-20 rear tires take on an unexpected amount of power without coming off, although there hasn’t been a straight in town long enough to put it down and stay there. Gilles asked SpeedKore to detune the motor, perhaps when planning media players, but even with around 800 ponies there’s no sense of restriction; most drag races could be won without ever going over half throttle.

It’s not accurate to say it drives like a new Charger, though the Brembo brakes and eight-speed ZF automatic transmission look familiar to anyone who’s driven a Hellcat or Redeye. It has the sharpness of a new car, but the view is completely classic. The carefully crafted hood scoop, the landscape of the dashboard and front, the breeze of the triangular fender windows: it melds with the modern engine and suspension to create something that allows for a more vigorous ride than a classic car but feels special at any speed, like a cartoon rocket streaking past a jumble of floating satellites.

“It’s actually quite civilized,” Gilles said as we pulled into the parking lot. “Doris and I wanted something we could take on trips, really enjoy.”

The shoulder devil sat up. “We could also take it on trips and really enjoy it,” he said. “Don’t give him the keys.

And really, I was tempted.

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