They don’t make guys like Bill Scharing anymore. U.S. Army veteran, twenty-year LAPD officer, husband, father, and oh yeah, at the tender age of 73, builder and racer of a fully street legal, 1000 horsepower, nine-second, 200mph Dodge Challenger SRT8!
If you’ve hung out at the various drag strips that dot the landscape around Southern California, you’ve probably met Bill, and if you’ve gone up against him, you’ve probably lost. For those who haven’t done either, allow me the pleasure of introducing Bill and his car to you.
Bill Scharing and his Challenger SRT8 drag racer.
Scharing was born in Chicago in 1944, and at the age of seven moved with his family to California. His father, a sales engineer of water heating equipment, had to start his career over out West, so he, his wife, Bill and his two sisters moved into a modest three bedroom, one bathroom house in Arcadia.
Bill Scharing (second from left) with his sisters and parents.
“Five people sharing a bathroom was interesting,” Bill recalls, “but I don’t recommend it!”
Scharing’s early years in California were consumed by a love for sports, especially baseball, and quite a bit of mischief.
Baseball and cherry bombs were Bill’s pastimes before he discovered his passion for cars and racing.
“ I was the kid blowing stuff up with cherry bombs and melting his army men.”
All of that changed though at the age of fourteen, when one day Bill’s friend, Doug Peterson, suggested they spend the afternoon at the drag strip in San Gabriel. Dropped off at the track by Bill’s parents, they spent five or six hours there, and by the end of the day, Bill was hooked.
A day watching the drag racing action at San Gabriel changed Bill’s life.
“I was blown away by the noise, the smell, the speed, and all the characters I saw there,” Bill fondly remembers. “It was the late fifties, the era of gassers and guys with grease in their hair. I loved every minute of it.”
Bill’s new passion was all consuming. He’d read up on the new car models, and then sneak in to the back of the dealers’ lots to sit behind the wheel before they were unveiled. Upon getting his driver’s license, Scharing bought his first car, an old 1940 Ford Coupe, using money he earned from a newspaper delivery route.
Bill working on his 1940 Ford coupe.
After talking to friends, hanging out at speed shops and reading how-to articles in hot rod magazines, Bill began his hobby of modding cars by dropping a modified flathead V8 in the coupe. He routinely took the car to drag strips and learned the intricacies of getting a good launch.
Scharing soon realized that he had outgrown the Ford’s capabilities. He sold it for the funds to procure his next acquisition, a used, red 1955 Chevy for the sum of $900, and immediately set to work on the car.
“I installed a 327, a four-speed shifter and a 4.56 posi rear. I learned how to do things on that car, and learned to love doing it.”
Bill’s 1955 Chevy. He would install a 327, a four-speed shifter and a 4.56 posi rear in it.
Bill continued to tinker with the Chevy and upon graduating from high school was considering a career in law enforcement.
“Watching the pursuits and stuff on TV really appealed to me, and I thought that would be a good job for me.”
But just as Scharing was planning his future, Uncle Sam came calling in 1965. He was drafted into the Army and was soon sent to basic training in Louisiana.
“It broke my heart, but I sold my Chevy because I assumed I would be sent to Vietnam after basic, and I didn’t want the car sitting for two years or more collecting dust.”
Bill wasn’t sent to Vietnam, but instead, in a case of serendipity, was assigned to Military Police duty. He served the majority of his time at Fort Lewis in Washington, the embarkation point for infantry soldiers heading to the war.
Bill Scharing as an M.P. in the U.S. Army.
“We’d get called to the local bars for drunks causing trouble. If it was an enlisted man whooping it up before heading to Vietnam, I found I didn’t have the heart to arrest him. Instead we’d drive him back to his barracks and let him sleep it off. But if an officer got belligerent because a lowly private was telling them what to do, he’d end up in the stockade!”
Scharing was released from the service in the Summer of Love in 1967, and sadly received the sort of treatment other men in uniform did.
“I didn’t get spit on like some guys, but was pretty much ignored and shunned. The world had changed a lot in the two years I had been gone…”
Plain-clothes LAPD Detective Bill Scharing at his desk at Rampart Division.
Upon returning home, Bill applied to the LAPD academy and was accepted. After training, he became a patrol officer and later a detective in the Rampart Division, adjacent to Hollywood.
“Back in the sixties and seventies, Rampart was the place to work, and I just got lucky being assigned to it. The best supervisors were there, and everyone was honest and dedicated to the job. I was very proud of that. I couldn’t wait to go to work every day.”
Scharing’s first brand new car – a mean, Matador Red, 1968 Chevy Camaro SS 396.
Having a solid income, Scharing bought his first brand new car, a Matador Red, 1968 Chevy Camaro SS 396. The car had a four-speed and a black bumblebee stripe to match the interior.
Bill soon got married, and was forced to sell the Camaro after his first child was born in the mid seventies. From that point on, Scharing owned a host of rather uninspiring, but family friendly sedans.
Flash-forward to the late 2000s, and Bill was cruising down a SoCal freeway one day.
“I thought I saw an old Dodge Challenger up ahead, so I sped up a bit to catch a glimpse. It was a Challenger, but it wasn’t an E-body, it was a brand new one! I thought, ‘That thing looks great!’”
With that chance encounter, and his kids now grown and moved out, Bill’s old passion took hold again. He found himself at a Dodge dealer the very next day. He specced out a 2011 Challenger SRT8 392 Hemi Inaugural Edition in Deep Water Blue with white stripes and a six-speed transmission. The car was delivered a few months later.
Bill gleefully took the car to the drag strip at Fontana and Irwindale and recaptured some of his lost youth. The mod bug soon followed, but that’s when Scharing’s fun stopped dead. He learned that for 2011, Chrysler had installed encrypted PCMs in the 392s in an effort to cut down on warranty fraud associated with heavily modded cars. A cat-back exhaust and a cold air intake aside, there was very little Bill could do to the car without the ability to tune the computer (DiabloSport cracked the 2011+ PCM about a year later, and now has a line of tuners for all Challengers.)
Tuning was done on Terribilis using a DiabloSport Predator handheld.
It wasn’t long before Scharing made up his mind what he would do: keep the rare, Inaugural 392, and buy a used, pre-2011 Challenger SRT8 that was tunable. The latter would be transformed into a full-blown drag car. Bill procured a bone stock, Hemi Orange 2010 SRT8 with the 6.1L Hemi, and a five-speed automatic. He dubbed the car “Terribilis” and set to work.
Bill’s first mod on Terrebilis was this chromoly roll cage.
His first mod was to install a custom, chromoly, NHRA certified roll cage. Next up, Bill contacted Josh Schwartz at High Horsepower Performance and designed a new custom engine for Terribilis – a mean 426 Hemi equipped with a blower cam, ported and polished heads, H-beam connecting rods and an ATI damper. Stack Automotive in Yorba Linda pulled the 6.1, and installed the new Hemi along with a set of Kooks headers and mid-pipes with high-flow cats, and a Zoomers cat-back exhaust.
Terribilis taking shape…
Scharing broke the new engine in with routine cruises on Pacific Coast Highway, varying his speed and revs.
“It was a very good engine and build. Didn’t burn a drop of oil,” Bill recalls proudly.
The built 426 with the Kenne Bell 4.2L blower.
For the next stage, Bill took the car to Spankin’ Time Motorsports in San Bernardino, where Adam Montague installed a Kenne Bell 4.2L supercharger with an intercooler, set the boost to a 15lbs. and tuned everything using a DiabloSport Predator tuner. Terribilis pulled 850bhp on Adam’s dyno. A set of Nitto drag radials was slipped on the Challenger’s stock Alcoa aluminum five-spokes, and the car was ready for some drag racing!
Bill got to know the car well, making dozens upon dozens of runs at Irwindale, Fontana and Bakersfield. He learned the best techniques for launching the car, and eventually set a best time of 12.14 seconds at 125mph. Pretty solid stuff, but nowhere near where Bill wanted to be.
Shredding some rubber at Irwindale.
A beefy Paramount Performance five-speed auto replaced the stock tranny, along with a Precision Industries torque converter, and a Mopar 3.73 ring and pinion kit for the diff. An Alky Injection Systems 50/50 water and meth injection system was installed to aid in reliability and wear, and the boost was dialed up to 18lbs. A lot of runs resulted in a best quarter mile time of 9.97 seconds at 137 mph
Terribilis’ engine in its current configuration with the 4.7L Kenne Bell supercharger.
About a year later, Terribilis was back at Spankin’ Time for a major upgrade. Kenne Bell had just released a 4.7L supercharger with an improved intake manifold and larger intercooler, and Bill snapped them up, along with a Kenne Bell 168mm throttle body. Adam fabricated an eight-rib pulley system where the supercharger ran directly off the crank hub, and added a separate belt for the alternator and a/c system, ensuring no power loss at the extreme 20lbs. of boost the blower was running.
Terribilis at the SpringFest Mopar show at Angel Stadium.
After things were properly dialed in, Terribilis pulled 1018hp on the dyno, and Scharing christened the upgraded car with a dramatic run at the Mojave Mile where he tripped the speed traps at an incredible 201mph! For the feat, Bill was inducted into Karl Schello’s Magnificent 7 club for Challengers that broke 200 in the mile.
Suited up and ready to break 200mph at the Mojave Mile.
These days, Scharing spends a lot of time with his club, Challengers Unlimited (https://www.facebook.com/Challengersunlimited/), where they call him The Modfather. He continues to run Terribilis around SoCal drag strips and his current best in the quarter is 9.56 at 147mph, but he admits that he isn’t through.
Bill (back row, third from left) with his club, Challengers Unlimited at a “dyno day” event.
“There’s still more room for improvement in the car,” says this magician of speed.