Depending on your cinematic tastes, the Fast and Furious films are either the epitome of four-wheeled celluloid coolness, or a corny clown show that jumped-the-shark years ago. After the death of Paul Walker, many thought the franchise would simply fade away, but like Keith Richards, Madonna, and cockroaches, it seems impervious to death.
The last few installments have become big-screen video games with gunfire, bloody fight scenes, point-of-view action, and gravity-defying cars hurtling through space. The wooden acting and hokey storylines unabashedly remain, but this formula still prints oodles of money so for better or worse, here we are. The franchise has also become a repository for aging or hard-to-cast actors like Ludacris, John Cena, Charlize Theron, and British grand dame Helen Mirren, not to mention Vin Diesel.
Originally exploiting the Los Angeles sport compact car scene from decades ago, the films have evolved over the years. When imports fell out of favor, the producers mercifully pivoted to American restomods, late-model Mopars, pony cars, and some exotics and Japanese models peppered in for good measure.
Whatever your take is on this billion-dollar enterprise, the series has given us some wild Pentastar builds, and now it looks like Dom Toretto will pilot the most outrageous Mopar to date in Universal Studios latest installment of the series, F9, which hit theaters June 25th.
Performance car builder SpeedKore out of Grafton, Wisconsin, hits a new milestone with a crazy, mid-engine 1968 Charger dubbed “Hellacious.” Think a modern Hemi-Under-Glass and you get the idea. This big B-body now sports a blown, 6.2-liter Hellcat V-8 behind the seats, pumping out 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission pilfered from a Lamborghini Gallardo. The new-age Elephant is force-fed by an intercooled, 2.4-liter supercharger and exhales through custom headers, and an elaborate, high-mounted MagnaFlow exhaust system.
“This Charger is one of our most extreme builds to date,” said Jim Kacmarcik, president and owner of SpeedKore. “After commissioning renowned designer Sean Smith to design the car and working with F9’s picture vehicle coordinator Dennis McCarthy to build the nine chassis and vehicle bodies for the film, we wanted to bring the movie magic of F9 to life. ‘Hellacious’ is a road-going version of the movie car with the functionality of a purpose-built performance car. We couldn’t be more excited to debut ‘Hellacious’ alongside the movie as yet another unique representation of our design and engineering capabilities as a custom car builder.”
The foundation of this exotic Charger is a one-off SpeedKore perimeter frame with tubular, double A-arm front suspension from Detroit Speed and an equally elaborate, double-wishbone rear suspension from Race Car Replicas. Damping is provided by QA1 and Ididit supplies the steering column which turns a Detroit Speed steering rack.
Brembo 6-piston calipers up front and dual Brembo 4-piston calipers out back help “Hellacious” come to a quick halt while a hydraulic hand brake assists with drifts and slides. Custom HRE 18-inch “Hellacious” center-lock wheels with Nitto 275/35R18 front and 345/35R18 rear tires complete this one-off setup.
The original Charger’s proportions are squashed and sectioned with the greenhouse skewed toward the front wheels, and the roughly hewn, squared-off wheel wells and cutout front fenders add a brutal touch. The slammed-in-the-weeds stance lends a missile-like vibe to the build as well.
SpeedKore tells us more, “Hellacious” is rendered in full carbon fiber-like our previous Chargers but adds a bespoke wide-body styled by Sean Smith Designs. Unique body siding and a glass rear hatch to expose the engine compartment complete the aggressive bodywork while BASF Glasurit matte-black paint adds sinister style.”
Inside, the bare-bones interior is all business. Low-back racing seats and Simpson Racing harnesses keep the occupants planted, while the aluminum dashboard with Classic Instruments keeps tabs on the car’s vital information. An integrated roll bar and rear-facing bulkhead are insurance in case anything goes awry. The gated-shifter adds another dash of Italian seasoning to the mix.
To balance all the broad brushstrokes, SpeedKore zeroed on the finer points too, “In addition to extensive body modifications, we included subtle details as well. The vertical-slat grille uses factory 1968 Charger hideaway headlights and is finished with metal brightwork, complimenting the brushed steel front and rear bumpers. Shaved rain gutters and flush-mounted glass present a seamless side profile while a rear fascia with round quad taillights and a bronze stripe keyed to the color of the wheels finish the look.”
The SpeedKore “Hellacious” Charger might be the standout muscle car in F9, but it’s not alone. SpeedKore’s 1970 Dodge Charger “Tantrum” also appears in the movie, having made its first appearance in 2015’s Furious 7. Whether you’re a Furious fan or not, it’s impossible to ignore the wild custom cars this series has inspired.
Lastly, the Dodge Charger has played such a pivotal role in F&F films, that any discussion of a Dodge B-body hero car would be remiss without mentioning the backstory of this automotive icon. One of the reasons “Hellacious” is so cool, is that the original design was an automotive masterpiece from the golden era of 60’s Chrysler design.
After years of false narratives from key players at Chrysler, the identity of the designer responsible for penning this car was unclear. Although many stylists worked on what would become the 1968 Charger, Richard Sias is now considered the father of the car.
According to the Midland Daily News, “Richard grew up with his parents and two siblings outside of Midland, Michigan while his father, Douglas Sias was an engineer at The Dow Chemical Co. He grew up an avid hunter, trapper, and fisherman. He attended college to study industrial design at the Art Center in Los Angeles, Calif. He then moved to Detroit where he worked as a designer for major corporations such as Chrysler where he was the principal designer for the 1968 thru 1970 Dodge Charger.”
After finishing the 1968 Charger project, he resigned from Chrysler and never designed another car, becoming the automotive equivalent of pop music’s “One hit wonder.” Sias passed away March 13, 2019 at his son’s home in McCleary, Washington with his family and his dog by his side. He was 80 years old.
If you love this mid-engine Tinseltown Charger from SpeedKore, we should give a hat tip to Richard Sias as well. His design lives on and blazes brightly in the heavily manipulated, CGI frames of the latest F&F episode, introducing a new generation of car fans to his automotive art.