Last month I wrote about what I felt were the ten best low cost mods for the 2008-2018 LC Challenger, and the response and feedback was tremendous. Many of you suggested additional mods that you installed and enjoyed, and asked that a “Part II” be scribed to include them. Never one to disappoint a loyal reader base, I’m pleased to present to you a continuation of the column, albeit with a few changes to the criteria that makes a mod worthy of being listed here.
Whereas my prior column stipulated that a modification must cost less than $2,000 and be limited to mods you can do in your driveway, this time around I have decided to release the hounds and focus solely on what constitutes the biggest bang for the buck irrespective of price or technical difficulty to install. Whatever yields the best handling improvement, the most horsepower gain, or the maximum in tactile driving improvement is what we’ll focus on this time around. So let’s get right to it and explore these awesome Challenger mods!
Clutch Delay Valve Delete
The Clutch Delay Valve Delete is a mod that could have been on the first list as its cost is next to nothing and installation can be done in under ten minutes. All six-speed Challengers have a device installed from the factory called a Clutch Delay Valve, or CDV, a one-way resistor which works to let the clutch slip ever so slightly before engaging to allegedly reduce wear and shock to the driveline.
That sounds all well and good, but it also results in a vague friction point and annoying notchiness going into second gear. Fortunately, the solution is simple: a ten-minute visit under your car to remove the CDV results in a clutch that engages at the same point every time, and smooth-as-silk transitions between gears. Numerous YouTube videos detail the procedure, so do a search and get ‘er done.
I once spoke with former President and CEO of SRT, Ralph Gilles, who said that by far the biggest performance choke on the entire car was the catted mid-pipes. In what is otherwise a highly free-flowing exhaust system, the design of the mid-pipes imposed upon on the Challenger by the EPA restrict flow, therefore robbing the car of a considerable amount of power and torque.
The remedy? Replace the stock mid-pipes with a straight pipe or a set of mid-pipes with high-flow catalytic converters. I will tell you right now that doing so will render your car illegal for driving on the street in most states owing to emissions regulations, it is nonetheless a mod worthy for Challengers used specifically for the track. Many of the same manufacturers who produce cat-back exhaust systems for the Challenger such as Magnaflow, also make mid-pipes and a web search will yield an abundance of choices.
The cost can range anywhere from $150 to $600 depending on how the pipes are configured and the materials they’re made of. Installation is straightforward, though requires a bit of muscle.
Sway Bar Kit
Challengers are big, heavy cars and can often be a handful through high-speed corners on the road or the track. The best way to reign in your beast is by fitting a sway bar kit such as the one offered by Hotchkis.
Constructed from lightweight steel tubing that is CNC bent for a precise fit, the Hotchkis system includes polyurethane bushings and all required hardware to get these babies on your car. Once you perform the simple installation, this $500 kit will astonish you by how it reduces body roll and understeer, resulting in crisp turn-in and overall better-balanced handling.
Line Lock Kit
Here’s one for Challenger owners who like to test their reactions and the sheer acceleration of their car at the drag strip. A roll control or line lock kit such as the one manufactured by Hurst is used to lock the front brakes without having to provide pressure on the brake pedal, allowing for more consistent pre-race burnouts and reducing the chance of “rolling the lights.”
Simply depress the brake pedal and activate the brake-control solenoid switch, then remove your foot from the brake, and the solenoid maintains maximum line pressure to the front brakes. This system allows you to rev the engine to the rpm you want, and then trigger the launch by simply releasing the solenoid switch to experience near perfect launches every time.
The Hurst kit runs about $300, but plan on spending double that on labor for the extensive installation, unless you are an advanced mechanic.
Big Brake Kit
If you’ve got an SXT or R/T Challenger, you’re gonna need some bigger brakes to make the most of that line lock kit. Mopar offers their own kits that enable you to upgrade to SRT rotors and calipers, and Brembo, Baer, AP Racing and others offer kits of their own. I have a 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, so I’ve got some big rotors and four-piston calipers on mine, but I was in a buddy’s R/T not long ago, and was able to check out how his car performed with the new Baer system installed. I’ve got to say that I was duly impressed by the stopping power afforded by their $2000 Pro-Plus front brake kit, which comes complete with 6 piston billet aluminum calipers available in a choice of colors, 14-inch slotted, drilled and zinc plated rotors, and all the other equipment needed for installation.
When upping the power of your Challenger by adding a supercharger and/or a hot cam and forged internals, it behooves you to upgrade other ancillary parts in the drivetrain to withstand the added stresses. One such part you should consider upgrading is the driveshaft.
I have seen numerous pictures on the web of Hellcat shafts snapped like twigs after the owner had increased the power delivery of their car via a tune or other means. Aftermarket manufacturers offer aluminum and carbon fiber driveshafts that can not only cope with the increased forces traveling through them, but are also vastly lighter in weight than the OEM shaft, thus reducing the rotational mass.
A good place to visit when driveshaft shopping for your Challenger is The Driveshaft Shop. There you’ll find a variety of shafts to suit any application. Prices range from $800 to $1800 depending on materials and design.
Long Tube Headers
Like the aforementioned mid-pipes, long tube headers are a good way to free up the exhaust flow of your car and add a significant bump in power, especially in boosted applications. Like the mid-pipes however, long tube headers are not road legal as they do not meet CARB compliance, so they really should be installed on track specific Challengers only.
A wide variety of brands and designs are out there, such as the beautiful mandrel bent 409 stainless steel and ceramic coated long tubes by SLP shown here. Featuring 1-3/4-inch primary tubes, 3-inch four-into-one collectors, 200 Cell Per Inch 3-inch High-flow bullet catalytic converters and CNC laser-cut, 3/8-inch thick header flanges, these $1500 headers will add 20 hp and 17 ft-lbs of rear-wheel torque, and make your car sound like an absolute beast. One caveat: replacing headers on Hemi engines is no easy task, so you should consider having a qualified shop install them.
Now we get to the big boys’ toys – the three final mods in our discussion that offer a serious boost in performance, albeit at a higher price and a more complicated installation than the mods previously listed. For starters, we have performance camshafts. By installing an aftermarket cam such as those offered for the 5.7L and 6.4L Hemi engines by HHP you can expect a performance boost of up to 70 horsepower and reconfigure your torque curve for street or racing applications.
With several models to choose from ranging in price from $790 to $950, HHP cam kits include the shaft, plus a phase limiter, springs, retainers, locators and an email tuning package for 6-speed cars; and a cam, phase limiter, head bolts and gaskets, lifters, springs, retainers, locators and an email tuning package for MDS equipped automatics. Obviously a complex installation requiring someone with advanced mechanical skills and tools, you should figure in considerable labor costs when contemplating this mod.
The second of our major mods is the supercharger, the most common addition amongst folks looking to seriously bump up their power. Many kits are available in the aftermarket, ranging from ones that afford a relatively modest increase but offer an easy installation and a lower price-point, to serious packages that offer the maximum in boosted performance but cost a king’s ransom.
Those interested in supercharging should visit the websites of manufacturers such as Edelbrock, Procharger, Kenne-Bell and others, but since we’re concerning ourselves here with the absolute biggest bang available, there is no need to look any further than Whipple. Their kit for Challengers can cost up to $7700, but what you get in return is a twin-screw design and the ultimate in supercharger engineering. Depending on model, tune and ancillary hardware, the Whipple can deliver a power increase in the hundreds of horsepower, and as such, almost represents the maximum in yield and cost you can put in your LC.
Hellcat Crate Engine
Yup. It’s available from Mopar, and is the ultimate in modding your Challenger. Now anyone can cram this plug and play, 6.2-liter supercharged Crate Hemi engine in their car and enjoy the very same 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque that Hellcat owners have. What’s more, on the “HellCrate,” the PCM is not encrypted, unlike the one onboard Hellcat cars, which means you can easily and cheaply tune the ‘crate for even more performance.
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 and fuel pump control module in addition to the power plant itself, all for the low, low price of $19,530. Time to get cracking, you mega-modders!