The First 1,000HP Crate Motor And The Lasting Relevance Of ‘American Muscle’
Images courtesy of FCA
If you hang around the sort of people who put European sports cars on a pedestal while categorizing everything made in America as antiquated attempts at chasing performance by way of huge displacement, then it’s high time to for your car buddies to adjust their biases. Even though in the last five years Ford has won its class at Le Mans with a turbocharged V6, GM has bested supercars on the Nüburgring with a car wearing Camaro badges, and Cadillac has conquered IMSA, there is still a pervasive thread in the car enthusiast community that says American engineering peaked during the Space Race.
They’re wrong of course, and when it comes to automobiles, especially so. To anyone paying a modicum of attention it’s pretty obvious that the last few years have given us some of the best American steel (with plenty of aluminum and carbon fiber in the mix now) since the apex of the muscle and pony car era half a century ago. Whether commuter or performance coupe, today’s domestics come from the factory with forced induction engines on a more regular basis than they did in the 1960s, but aside from the efficiency gains to be had from turbocharging smaller cylinder counts, there is still room for some true brawn.
Case in point: vehicles like the Dodge Hellcat, the Demon, the Jeep Trackhawk, and soon anything with Mopar’s latest crate motor. It’s a 1,000HP, 950lb.-ft.-producing 426 HEMI called the “Hellephant,” and it’s the first time an OEM has offered customers a lump that makes four-digit power figures right out of the crate. Named in homage to the 426 HEMI that earned the “elephant” nickname back in the 1960s, the satanically powerful mill shown at SEMA last week features an all-aluminum block derived from Mopar’s class-winning NHRA drag racing V8s which keeps the weight relatively feathery considering the size of this thing.
It is unlike all other OEM-offered crate engines in terms of its stats, but like all good crates before it, this one is designed to be as easy to plug in and play with in empty parking lots with as possible. The complete Hellephant assembly comes with ancillary pumps and pulleys and whatnot to make swapping it into a pre-1976 car (we can thank California for that arbitrariness) as simple as possible. As per the press release, “The kit includes a powertrain control module (PCM), power distribution center, engine wiring harness, chassis harness, accelerator pedal, ground jumper, oxygen sensors, charge air temperature sensors, fuel pump control module, and cam bus interface device. The PCM is unlocked and tuned to pump out 1,000 horsepower and 950 lb.-ft. torque.”
In so many words, it’s significant and symbolic. Significant for the reasons illustrated above, and symbolic beyond its feat of crossing the 1,000HP mark. The extra bit comes from—obviously—the times we find ourselves in; when the electric motor seems to take ground away from internal combustion engines with each new model year lineup. It’s unlikely that push-rod V8s will disappear from our daily lives anytime soon, but the trajectory seems to have more or less been decided in favor of something other than a sequence of eight orchestrated explosions. For Mopar to offer this thing for sale to anyone who wants it (first-quarter 2019 is the plan) isn’t so much a middle finger to dainty electric driving as it is a statement on the topic of progress. If we’re going to get rid of power plants like this sometime in the future, who’s to say we shouldn’t wring everything we can from what we’ve got?
The car pictured here is another wild Mopar creation, and an appropriate platform to showcase the Hellephant. Remade with wide flares of fiberglass and parts borrowed from the Hellcat and Demon, the so-called Super Charger evokes the presence of the classic Dodge muscle car while giving it 1,000HP and the supporting goodies to handle it. The brakes are swapped out for massive six-piston Brembos, the wheelbase has been stretched two inches, and a T-6060 manual six-speed sourced from the Challenger SRT Hellcat translates the Hellephant’s snort to the street. Besides that parts bin, the Super Charger also incorporates other FCA brands into its design, like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio exhaust tips rerouted through the brake lights, and Sabelt-adorned seats pulled from the last Viper along with the snake’s steering wheel.
In keeping with the top tier of SEMA show cars, details abound on the Super Charger’s list of modifications, but the engine bay’s occupant makes the biggest statement by far. What do you think of the Super Charger? Of the Hellephant? We’re looking forward to seeing where this motor starts popping up next year, and for the accompanying videos of supercars getting trounced by a good old American V8. Perhaps this is Mopar writing the bitchin’ guitar solo for the internal combustion engine’s swan song, but we have a feeling the final draft is yet to come.