How Alex Taylor’s Dodge Challenger Lost 500 Pounds
Marc UrbanoCar and driver
Extract from the November 2021 issue of Car and driver.
Alex Taylor started drag racing at age 16. Now 24, she grew up around cars at her parents’ hot-rod store in Booneville, Arkansas, and still uses it as the basis for her automotive YouTube channel, Riding with Alex Taylor. While the store specializes in fast cars with a classic look, like his father’s Chevrolet 55 and his 1968 Camaro, the Taylors are happy to take charge of making any car faster. They got a chance to test their skills on a modern canvas when Dodge invited Taylor to participate in a Challenger construction competition. Dodge provided competitors with a stock Challenger or Charger Hellcat to modify as they saw fit. The winner would be the last builder standing after a street style clash. The rules: Original body, original engine block and original looking 2.7 liter compressor crankcase. Taylor took the Lotus approach, stripping everything down and making it as light as possible. The result was a focused build with simple electronics and fat, sticky tires, trimmed as close to a kitten’s weight as a fat cat can get. And yes, she won.
“More power was the last thing on our to-do list,” Taylor says. “We wanted to save some weight, because the Hellcats are heavy. We just unbolted everything that could be and started cutting out what couldn’t.”
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Taylor’s widebody Challenger arrived at the shop with the rear seat and a few other parts already removed, giving it a lower than stock starting weight of 4,500 pounds.
Starting weight: 4300
Finished weight: 3800
The Taylors cut out the entire structure inside the fenders, bumpers and trunk. “It’s just a Challenger hull now,” says Taylor.
(De) rolling storage
The eleven-by-20-inch wheels are now 15 by 15 at the rear, wrapped in Hoosier Quicktime Pro DOT drag tires. Up front, the stock brakes were replaced with small discs and covered with thin front wheels and tires, saving 70 pounds per side in weight.
All the glass on the Challenger is original, although after the third time Taylor broke the rear window, she may have regretted not replacing everything with Lexan.
The independent rear suspension was cut out and replaced with a four-arm drag stroke drive axle. Hush, it’s a nine inch Ford.
The transmission tunnel has been modified to fit a three-speed Turbo 400 instead of the original eight-speed ZF. The driveshaft has been replaced to fit the new drive and the rear end.
What seats? A Momo racing seat for the driver. The passenger is now a nitrogen bottle.
All components, structure and wiring of the dashboard – sayonara. Engine management is handled by a stand-alone Holley computer. A single harness weighed nearly 100 pounds.
No more steering wheel stereo controls and don’t even ask about cruise control. The original steering column and steering wheel are out of here.
“The Hellcats are designed for drag racing or road racing,” says Taylor. “We just wanted to do a drag race.” The front suspension was modified and simplified to focus on a straight-line approach, and electronic power steering was replaced with a manual rack and pinion.
Under the hood, the fans and the intercooler are gonzo. Taylor installed a new water-to-air intercooler in the rear for better weight distribution. Aside from the radiator, “the only thing that’s left up front is the engine, and we set it back four inches in the engine bay,” says Taylor.
“We lost over 1,000 pounds. It was at around 3,200, but then we added 500 pounds to the rear to get a 50/50 weight distribution so we could throw it.” —Alex Taylor, Hellcat Diet Guru
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