Kevin Whipps July 08, 2022 All Feature Vehicles
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve heard of Gas Monkey Garage, and its eccentric owner, Richard Rawlings. Even if you haven’t seen his hit Discovery Channel television show “Fast & Loud,” you’ve probably seen Richard in commercials for Dodge and its lineup of powerful cars. His “Dodge Law” shorts have tons of hits on YouTube, so chances are you’ve stumbled across them at one time or another. Point is, you should know Richard Rawlings and Gas Monkey Garage, and if you don’t, this might be a good time to do some research on your ol’ Google machine.
Since Rawlings and Dodge are tight, Dodge gave him a preproduction ’15 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack even before the models showed up at dealerships. We assume that he drove the car only doing the legal speed limit and never once did a burnout that fried the tires off, because we’ve seen his TV show and we know that’s never happened—or maybe that was another show—either way, it was a fun car to cruise. But, because it was a preproduction model, it had no VIN. Therefore, there was no way to register the thing, and it was, more or less, a cool thing to drive semi-legally before it found its way to the OE crusher.
We assume that he drove the car only doing the legal speed limit and never once did a burnout that fried the tires off, because we’ve seen his TV show and we know that’s never happened—or maybe that was another show—either way, it was a fun car to cruise.
Rawlings is an enterprising man. He’s built up a small empire of his own, between Gas Monkey Garage and his various other ventures, and he knows how to move cars. But he couldn’t really sell the ’15 Scat Pack, and he couldn’t drive it daily. So what was the next best option?
Flashback a few months prior when Rawlings picked up a ’71 Challenger at an auction (one of many he attends every year). The car was previously an attempt at a Concours restoration. It was in great shape, with excellent paint and bodywork. It was slated to undergo a mild restoration at the Gas Monkey shop before being sold to make some cash. That was the plan, anyway.
Things got in the way, as they tend to do. The ’71 was scheduled behind a few other rides before it went under the knife. That meant Rawlings and the guys had some time to start asking questions, the kind that make you want to ditch the original build concept and go with something different.
That’s when the decision was made to take the motor out of the ’15 R/T Scat Pack and swap it into the vintage Challenger. It was a plan that was just crazy enough to work.
Since the exterior was already in great shape, the focus of the Challenger build was almost entirely on the engine and suspension. To start, they went to Magnum Force Suspension to source every component they needed for the build. They went with a new k-member up front and a parallel 4-link out back, with Viking coil-overs all the way around.
What’s great about the k-member kit is that they were able to get custom mounts built in for the motor, plus they sourced a Magnum Force Suspension transmission cross member as well to work with the T-56 transmission from a Dodge Viper. This also gave them power rack-and-pinion, so between all of the upgrades, they were in great shape. The car now rode and handled like a modern day muscle car, but still had the classic looks.
Now about that engine, it’s a 6.4L, 392 Mopar pulled straight out of Rawlings’ ’15 preproduction model Charger R/T Scat Pack. With the help of the Magnum Force Suspension k-member, it bolted right up. The aforementioned Dodge Viper T-56 tranny was mated to the motor with an adapter, and then the gas pedal was installed so that they could control the electric throttle body. Nothing’s been done to the engine internally, other than the TTI long tube headers and a custom Magnaflow exhaust, it’s as stock as it gets. Now that said, stock still means 485 hp and 475 ft-lb of torque, so it’s certainly no slouch, even under all of that heavy metal.
The finishing touches on the car were a set of 18×8 wheels up front and 20x10s out back. They’re the U.S. Mags RestoMod ’Cuda U438, but before they had that fancy name, they were just an idea in Rawlings’ head. He wanted some big rollers that looked just like the factory models, and he turned to U.S. Mags (an MHT company) to make it happen.
The end result is a car that offers the same great lines as it always did, but with better handling, a lower stance and a strong, reliable motor.
Now that the car was done, everything was going strong. It was a good-looking car, it’s gotten a ton of attention and it would probably fetch Rawlings and his shop a good price. Then in comes the buyer, money changes hands and everything is golden. Oh, and that buyer? Havoline. Yes, that Havoline.
Their plan is to give away the car at the AAPEX convention during SEMA week. Contestants can visit the Bad to the Chrome II Facebook page and enter to have a chance to win the ’71 in all its glory. Entries must be received by Oct. 16, 2015.
This means that soon the ’71 will have a new home, and someone other than Rawlings and his team will be able to lay fat tracks down the road. Or maybe Rawlings will teach the new owner how to do it the right way, or not, who knows. Either way, someone is going to get very lucky soon, and we’re more than a bit jealous.
Builder: Gas Monkey Garage