2018 Wide-Body Hellcat Truths & Rumors!
You may have seen these spy shots floating around of a wide-body Hellcat that looks strikingly similar to the new Dodge Demon . Lots of wild guesses have been thrown around as to what it actually is. We finally have some hard intel, which when combined with other facts and off-hand comments by Dodge people, come together to make for some interesting scenarios.
At the center of attention is an interesting set of photos taken recently by spy photographer Brian Williams. The images were taken outside of SRT’s building in Auburn Hills, MI this June. The undisguised vehicle is badged as an SRT Hellcat with a Hellcat hood and grille. It has Demon-style wide-body fender flares and extra-wide 20-inch tires in the 305 – 315 range. Clearly seen are the larger Brembo brakes from the current Hellcat. What you don’t see are the larger air-grabber hood scoop and accompanying air tract that would be required for the Demon’s 840 hp Hemi. Within days of these shots, a car carrier was seen unloading six or seven more identically outfitted Hellcats in the same SRT parking lot. Photog Williams tells us the cars look like preproduction prototypes. They are developed well beyond mule status, with what appears to be factory fit and finish, and wheels that are decidedly different than either the new Demon or the existing Hellcat.
What’s so unusual about this set of photos is that unlike most spy shots of test cars, which are usually festooned with body cladding, migraine-inducing graphics, porch-screen grille mesh, and mud from stem to stern. This car is completely uncovered, well-presented, very clean, totally finished, and shown not in some far-away desert-scape, but in Detroit at SRT’s main office. That only happens when it’s really close to production and putting camo on it could damage the paint or bodywork. No sirree. This is in all likelihood a car that will likely be dispatched to important news organizations for review—Latino Ladies Home Journal, Billybob’s Hellcat YouTube Vlog, and the Jalopy Network Mailing List to name a few. That alone tells us this is no long-range, far-flung concept or test mule—it’s the real thing, and it will be revealed not in years hence, but in mere months as a 2018 model (assuming scenario 1 or 2).
Here’s the mystery wide-body Hellcat in profile compared to the 2018 Demon. Note how the wide-body fender flares in the spy shot and the fender flares on the Demon are identical, but the wheels are very different. The Demon sports an 18-inch wheel which affords it a taller, more compliant sidewall for hard drag launches. Nevertheless, the 18-inch Demon wheel forces it to use a smaller brake package. No such problem on the mystery car with 20-inch wheels and Hellcat-sized brakes.
We have three scenarios as to what the new model could be, listed here in order of likelihood:
1. New Hellcat “Plus” Model
Writes spy photographer Brian Williams: “With the release of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, the regular Hellcat suddenly looks pretty plain. So what can Dodge do to keep Demon fans who don’t need a Demon happy? They can put out a wide-body Hellcat. You know, a poor man’s Dodge Demon. I suspect that this could be a wide-body Hellcat made to placate customers who want the Demon to be more of an appearance package than a full-on drag racing package.”
A Hellcat “Plus” model would fit in the line-up between the Hellcat and the Demon much like the Grand Sport fits in the Corvette line-up between the Stingray and the Z06. The strategy has certainly worked within the Challenger line-up with the Shaker editions (both R/T and Scat Pack) being big hits.
A revealing insight comes from no less than Dodge president Tim Kuniskis himself. In a YouTube video from the Demon’s debut on April 11, 2017, Kuniskis is heard saying: “That’s the hidden little secret of [the Demon] … the handling of this car is amazing. It will pull 1.0g on the skidpad. It will actually out lateral accelerate a regular Hellcat. It’ll brake faster than a Viper ACR. Sixty-to-zero is 97 feet.” Serving as a backdrop to these comments is the fact that there is no more Viper, and that the Hellcat is currently the flagship product Mopar guys are expected to take into battle at autocrosses and road courses. Of course, in the face of the better handling, superior power-to-weight ZL1 Camaro, the Hellcat loses. With the Demon outperforming the Hellcat on a road course—at least on paper—you can easily see how the situation would need fixing—and quickly. A Demonized wide-body Hellcat with extra-wide, extra-sticky rubber—and in possession of its full-sized Hellcat brake package—would be the rightful path.
A wide-body Hellcat with wider, stickier rubber would erase the on-track road-course performance gap between the Hellcat and Camaro ZL1. It would also prevent the embarrassing default scenario of a drag car—the Demon—being faster around a road course than the Hellcat.
Our final piece of evidence supporting this scenario comes from asking the question, “what about the base-model SRT with the naturally aspirated 392 Hemi?” Ever since the Hellcat’s debut in 2015, we’ve not heard a peep about the entry-level SRT model. We’d guess sales of the 392 SRT ($50,195 base MSRP) are dismal with the 392 Scat Pack at a $38,995 starting price. Plus, the SRT’s natural rival—the GT350 Mustang—is more powerful, lighter, faster, and less expensive. If SRT cedes all of the 392 SRT’s performance features to the regular Scat Pack and repositions the current “narrow-body” Hellcat as the entry-level SRT vehicle, then the “wide-body” Hellcat as an intermediate between base Hellcat and Demon makes sense.
2. Long-Rumored Chrysler ’Cuda Model
For years, rumors have been popping up that Chrysler—now FCA—will be bringing back the ’Cuda in some form. Going as far back as the 2007 SEMA show, Dodge displayed a ’Cuda version of the then-new SRT8 Challenger. Then in 2010, Chrysler filed for—and was granted—trademark protection from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the ’Cuda name. Once again, in 2015 FCA renewed its trademark for the ’Cuda, but per U.S. trademark law has now used up its final filing for the trademark. Now, in order to protect the ’Cuda trademark, FCA will have to bring an actual saleable product to market sometime in 2017, or risk losing the trademark protection forever.
We floated this SRT ’Cuda concept back in 2013 when we first heard noise about the ADR (what we now know was code for the Demon). A Chrysler-ized version of the SRT Hellcat called the ’Cuda could give the flagging brand a huge boost without cannibalizing Dodge sales. FCA’s ’Cuda trademark protection is sun-setting in June 2017 unless they produce an actual saleable product.
This scenario is essentially the same as the “Hellcat Plus,” but with a name change. It does, however, open up other possibilities that we need to consider. We’ve always thought that the alliteration of a “Chrysler ’Cuda” not only rolls off the tongue easily, it also provides a much-needed halo vehicle for a brand that for all purposes is destined for (the Pacifica minivan notwithstanding) the same fate as Plymouth and DeSoto. Recasting a Hellcat as a luxury sport coupe for the Chrysler brand could save the brand. One powertrain option could be the detuned 575hp Hellcat engine seen in the Ram Rebel TRX concept, and could be priced up-market at $55k to go head-to-head with Ford’s GT350 Mustang (with 526 hp and an MSRP of $50k). As a reminder, the Ram Rebel TRX [motortrend.com] was shown last fall as a thinly-disguised concept, and was nearly production-ready with full off-road functionality. The unofficial word inside FCA is to “Hellcat everything,” and the fact FCA went to the effort of detuning the Hellcat to run on goat piss in harsh off-road conditions shows just how wide they see the engine’s application as being.
“Hellcat everything,” is the motto right now at FCA, and that even extends to half-ton trucks. The Ram Rebel TRX concept introduced last fall and shown here is a thinly disguised production model with a detuned 575hp Hellcat engine, proving how flexible the Hellcat Hemi really is—and how committed FCA is to spreading it throughout the product line. Will a Chrysler be next to get it?
The mandate to Hellcat everything could and should eventually include a Chrysler vehicle. (Dodge, Jeep, and Ram have already been accomplished.) A Chrysler ’Cuda would be a natural. We were so convinced of this four years ago that we created a set of renderings for an SRT ’Cuda that you can see here [hotrod.com]. As a side note, a Chrysler 300C with Demon-width wheels and fender flares has also been spotted, lending credence to the “Hellcat everything” mandate. When more photos of that vehicle surface, look for them here.
3. Mopar Aftermarket Wide-Body Package
There’s always a slim chance that FCA’s Mopar division is playing the underdog hero role by offering a Demon-style body kit/wheel/tire package to owners of Challenger R/Ts, Scat Packs, and Hellcats. Once again, we make reference to a Mopar concept from the SEMA show—the 2015 Challenger GT—which has the telltale wide-body kit and wide wheel/tire package. Ever since the Demon reveal, interest in a Demon wide-body upgrade kit has taken off like a rocket. We’ve already had several requests from aftermarket companies pleading for a Demon press car to measure so they could create such a kit. (Sorry guys! We are NOT in the loop just yet!) If Mopar division has a pulse, they’d use their built-in head start to get a wide-body kit and wheel/tire package to market pronto. These photos could be of otherwise standard Hellcats on loan from SRT that have been retrofit with Demon pieces that might be offered through Mopar dealers.
Mopar introduced the Challenger GT—a wide-body version of a 5.7-liter Hemi Challenger with all-wheel drive—at the 2015 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Built ostensibly to judge consumer reaction to the wide-body look that would arrive on the Demon, it also gave Mopar the inside track to designing an in-house wide-body kit and wheel/tire package. Could spy shots of a wide-body Hellcat be of a test mule for a Mopar aftermarket package?
A Mopar wide-body kit would also give dealerships a huge pre- and post-title profit center for their service and aftermarket sales departments. We easily envision dealerships upgrading Scat Packs, R/Ts—even V6 SXT models—with Demon cladding and wheels for huge profit margins. (Maybe with this they’ll stop gouging customers over MSRP for stock Hellcats and Demons?! Nah.) Pre-sale conversions on these lesser models would allow young or at-risk buyers to get the Demon look for less, and without incurring the huge insurance and fuel surcharges. With Demon production limited to just 3,000 units in the U.S., we don’t see body kit conversions eating into sales or profits on the Demon.