When you hear titles like U.S. Marine, Military Defense Contractor, and Vice President…What car do you think people like that drive? A lifted Jeep Commander, maybe? Perhaps a blacked-out Suburban with bullet-proof windows and doors. Maybe even a stretch limo with bomb-proof undercarriage?
If you guessed any of the above…you’d be wrong. David Stapp happens to carry all of the previously mentioned titles and he doesn’t drive any of those vehicles. Instead, he drives something much tougher – something fit for a man who spends his days conducting business with the United State’s Special Operations Command…His ride? A 1968 Dodge Charger with a gargantuan 426 cubic-inch, seven liter, supercharged HEMI Hellephant under the hood – aptly nicknamed, Dumbo.
We haven’t seen many Hellephants stuffed into high-dollar builds just yet, but the massive Mopar powerplant hasn’t been around very long. So, naturally, there are very few of them floating around. In fact, David had one hell of a time getting ahold of one for his build…but persistence is key.
After what some might call borderline harassment of his local dealerships, he got a call from Dodge and acquired one of the very limited Hellephant lumps. He already had the ’68 Charger and as luck would have it, the restoration had already reached the point when it would need a drivetrain.
We spoke with David and his builder Jimmie Anderson to get the whole story.
SM: Man, we saw your car posted on Instagram, and were totally blow away! We immediately thought, never seen it before, so who built it?
David: “We’ve been trying really hard to keep it under wraps. I kind of posted some project stuff, but i didn’t try very hard to put it out there. the car was supposed to go to SEMA last year, but you know how that went [Covid 19]. So, we kind of slowed down and took our time. Actually, Jimmie is the official builder.
SM: So, Jimmie, are you the official builder?
Jimmie: Yes, I am the one and only builder. [Laughs] Seriously though, David helps every now and then, but yeah, I am the builder. Basically, I have to fix everything he does [both laugh] no, no, just kidding.
SM: So, like every car, I’m sure this one has a story. Where does this one start?
David: Well, to tell you the truth, I met jimmy at a car show. We’re both originally from Kansas City, although I live in Ft. Collins, Colorado now. Anyway, I knew about the Hellephant. They had already announced that they’re making them, but nobody knew when they were going to be released. Of course, it was released on 4.26 Hemi Day. But back to the car, basically, I flew down to Houston after seeing the car online and flew back home the same day. But not before I bought the car right then and there. I looked at it and it was all vinyl-wrapped and stuff and it looked kind of like…whatever, but it was a solid car.
I brought it back home and then I met Jimmie, no shit, like a week later. He had another ’68 Charger on display at a car show. It had a Ray Barton Hemi that was badass. It obviously took the show. It was like the birth of a bromance I guess. [Both laugh] So, I just started talking to him, and he asked me what suspension are you running? It was magnum Force, right. As it turned out, Jimmie has a good relationship with the company… But essentially it went from there. In fact, we already started piecing out and getting parts for the car. I started buying everything before I even knew I had an engine. But I seriously called like 50 times.
I saw it on Instagram that Friday, so I was calling and leaving voicemails immediately. I had to wait until Monday and again, I had already talked to my local dodge dealer up here, and I was like, do not f**k me over – make sure I can get this engine. And they were lackadaisical. They really didn’t help me at all. So, I just kept calling, and then all of a sudden, I called my dealer and I was like, ‘dude you better call them!’ As a matter of fact, while I was on the phone with them, I had to let them go because I literally got a call from Dodge and they asked me, ‘hey, do you want this engine.’ And I was like, ‘YES! When can I pay you?’ As luck would have it, I actually had to fly out for a business meeting that day, but on the way to the airport, I had about two hours to spare. I literally drove faster than you can imagine my truck would go, went up there, and was like “please take my money!”
Then obviously, a year and a half later, the car was finished. Jimmie has done these cars before. Literally, his nickname is the Mopar whisperer. He has like, crazy builds man.
SM: So, once you had the engine in hand, did you take it to Jimmie’s shop?
Jimmie: So, David was out of town, but he called me up and said, “I just heard the engine is in,” so I ran up to the dealership because we couldn’t get the engine delivered straight to a business, it had to go through a dealership. When I got there, I told them I was there to pick up a motor, and of course, they acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about. I actually saw the motor sitting in the back, and told them, ‘hey, that’s mine! Give it to me, I’m taking it home.’ So they loaded it up on my trailer and I waited until David got here and we un-crated it.
David: So, to answer your question, we did not have a clue what the block was going to be. But I worked directly with Mopar’s special projects department. I talked to them and they were phenomenal. I kept asking a lot of questions, and I also worked extensively with Bowler transmissions. They did the Ring Brothers Hellephant engine install as well. Mark bowler helped us out immensely. I love that dude to death.
I was calling him, I was doing research, and actually, believe it or not, I had to figure out what the block was, and I guessed correctly. I emailed this lady at Bowler, and she would go talk to their engineers and ask, “hey, is this going to work?” until we got it all figured out. The headers we got from TTI, I bought them sight unseen, we had them special made, I didn’t know what it was going to look like, so I took a huge risk buying all these parts – even the intercooler system.
Schwartz Performance came in with a really solid product for us. When we put the engine in, we had the supercharger on top which made us worry about fitment. But the back of it makes to where you don’t have to cut up the firewall. We were really worried because the car was done. Like, it was completely painted, wheels on and everything way before we got the engine. Almost a year before we got the engine.
Then we went to put this thing in and, no joke, I’m laying on the floor, and I’m a big guy, I weight 240 pounds, and I can bench press a lot of weight, but I’m under the car literally cranking as hard as I can on the transmission with Jimmie at the front and we’re trying to stab it in there, and after all that wrestling, we did no modifications to the hood – it fits like a glove.
SM: so were you guys able to use any Hellcat mounts or anything like that to make it fit?
Jimmie and David: Magnum Force! [In unison]
Jimmie: Yeah, Magnum Force made us a custom set of mounts for it. We had to move the motor forward and down to make it fit because we didn’t want to cut up the hood. They had to make two different sets of mounts before they finally got it right. They did an awesome job. I made a custom transmission mount for it myself.
SM: So you guys mentioned working a lot with Schwartz Performance, tell us about that?
Jimmie: As you know these cars are uni-body, but we’ve made it into a full-chassis. So, we sub-framed it, and the subframe connectors connect to the front and run all along the bottom, all the way to the back. The rear has been four-linked and has a set of 335’s out back.
David: There’s a guy named Dave at Strange Engineering, and he’s the man! He hooked us up on the rear end and brakes. It’s got a Dana 60 in it.
SM: So you said the car was pretty much done before you ever had the engine, but you already knew at that point, that you were going to put the Hellephant in there, or..?
David: Yes, so I bought that car before I even had that engine because I was gambling that I would be able to get one.
Jimmie: The only thing we really had to change was, once we got the motor and everything in, the transmission didn’t fit. So, I had to recut the tunnel and then weld a new tunnel in to allow the 6-speed Bowler to fit. Other than that, we got lucky, because the firewall was already smoothed out, and everything fit pretty well.
SM: So when they send it to you, is it ready fire, what kind of ECU are you running, and what kind of management system?
David: So, Mopar had an issue early on. I talked to them, and basically, they shipped the controller units after we got the engine. So we got the engine and then the company that they subcontracted to make them went out of business. So they were like, “oh my god! what are we going to do?” They quickly reached out to another company to make them, but that caused delays. Eventually, they shipped them in order, so I was number like 60-ish…they won’t tell you the exact number of the engine, but I do know that mine is the only Hellephant in Missouri. I do know that because she told me that. Anyway, the controller unit is pretty identical to the Hellcat one, but it’s a completely different BIM module. They set it up specifically for this engine and the tune.
Jimmie: The motor was pre-fired and dynoed at the factory.
SM: So you guys didn’t have to do any tuning, it basically plug and play?
Jimmie: Nope, it came tuned. It actually made a little over 1,000hp from the factory. I mean it sounds so much different from anything else out there.
And the rest, as they say, is history…
Shortly after we spoke with David and Jimmie, the two of them won a very well-deserved Best Of Show Award at the World Of Wheels car show. You can follow Dumbo on David’s Instagram account at @dumbo_charger and keep up with Jimmie’s latest builds on his own account at @wildthings03 .