Fast and Furious 9 had some of the greatest cars of the franchise. But arguably the most stand-out car was Dom Torettor’s mid-engined ’68 Dodge Charger. This is everything you need to know about it – who built it, what engine it has, and how much power it has.
If you hadn’t caught on, this thing is real unlike the Ice Charger from 2017’s Fate of the Furious. “We actually built nine,” Dennis McCarthy, picture car coordinator at Universal, told MotorTrend. Dennis and his shop are behind a number of famous Fast and Furious cars from the past 7 films.
“Now, when I say we built nine, they’re not all identical,” he noted. “There’s two of them that were built with the mid-engine design and the transaxle. The rest, the name of the company leaves me at the moment, but there’s a company that makes a plastic Hellcat motor. So the rest of them have the [fake] plastic motor in place. And we actually used an LS3 with a manual-shifted Turbo 400 automatic and a Ford 9-inch rear end for our stunt cars that we just use and abuse. But yeah, a total of nine cars, two different platforms. I’d say four and a half months, they were all done and headed off to different countries.”
The two hero cars, which were driven by Vin Diesel in the film, are powered by Dodge’s Hellcat engine, which boasts 707 horsepower. They were then boosted to Demon specifications thanks to an uprated pully and 110-octane race fuel tune from Performance Tech, the company that tunes all of the Fast cars.
This highly tuned engine was then mated to a six-speed manual gearbox from a Lamborghini Gallardo.
“I feel that the clutch pedal is a key ingredient to the cool factor,” McCarthy reveals. “In my opinion, it just has to be that way. An automatic just wouldn’t have the same impact.”
Rich Waitas from Magnaflow then built the custom exhaust system for the cars that route up and over the transaxle. This leads to hidden tips behind the back bumper. And because there was, therefore, no room for the gas tank at the rear of the car thanks to the engine being mid-mounted, an 8-gallon fuel cell was placed under the bonnet. To get to it, a chrome cap was fixed to the front fender.
Too make it easier to kick sideways and stay there, a high-angle steering rack was used at the front. And because of this and the transaxle, an entirely custom suspension setup was built for each corner.
“I’m always into the lowest stance possible [for the cars],” McCarthy says. “I might have gone a little too far on this one. It’s definitely the lowest Charger we’ve ever put together, which is great. It looks awesome. But sometimes you get that high-center issue going in and out of the driveway with such a long-wheelbase car. But for a movie car, that’s great; for a daily driver, you’d probably want to raise it up a couple of inches.”
What made this car possible, however, was the custom chassis that was built by SpeedKore Performance of Wisconsin. They also built the carbon fibre body panels that were draped over the top of it to show off the beautiful powerhouse at the back and they stretched the wheelbase by 6-inches to reduce the front overhang.
HRE wheels sit beneath the huge flares, and these cover high-performance Brembo brakes. This car needs it:
“It’s without a doubt the fastest Charger we’ve built,” McCarthy says. “There have been a lot of Chargers that look like they have 1,000 horsepower; this one in reality is probably the highest horsepower Fast and Furious Charger ever built.”
A mix of plexiglass and metal shielding stops the heat from the engine coming into the cabin, and a host of design elements from the Ford GT40 were used to build an interior worthy of the car.
“The tricky thing is always trying to come up with something new,” McCarthy admits, “because there’s only so many ways you can build a Charger, and we’ve done most of them. And on top of that, not only have we built numerous Chargers in different styles, but we’ve used the Nelson Racing Engines Charger, that unpainted Charger, we’ve borrowed other Chargers from SpeedKore, so there’s a long list of Chargers that have been featured in the franchise over the years.
“Like I said, it’s always trying to come up with something new. When I was at SEMA, the SpeedKore guys were showing me what they were working on, which looked pretty badass. And then, I don’t know who owns this car, so I can’t give him credit for it, but there was a Mustang—I want to say it was maybe a ’71ish Mustang—that had a mid-engine setup in it, which was very impressive. I don’t want to take credit for other people’s ideas, but I get a lot of ideas at SEMA. One thing led to another, and I just decided that’s something we haven’t done yet. Let’s move the motor to a new location.”
For a movie car, which usually aren’t the greatest examples of quality, these cars are in good nick. This is incredible, considering it took the team only four and a half months to build all nine of them from scratch.
“As always, our biggest challenge is just trying to get it done in time,” McCarthy says. “Guys are working on the car for sometimes 14, 15 hours a day, and trying to keep sane for weeks and weeks and weeks on end. But they have a lot of practice. And obviously these were extremely labour-intensive cars to build. You talk to a guy, for instance at SEMA, who built a car, they’ll go, ‘Oh, we worked on it for three or four years.’ We’ll build 180 cars in five months. It’s a whole different style of building cars, but the nice thing is you don’t have to get each door gap exactly perfect. So there are some advantages. But they do have to perform and be reliable. And they were very reliable; they had no problems during filming. They fired right up every time.”
Unlike a lot of cars used for Fast and Furious, these cars returned from filming without a scratch.
“I was adamant with the guys,” McCarthy says. “Don’t kill the mid-engine car. They both came back unscathed. No damage, nothing. It was great. And that’s not normal. Usually even the cars I don’t want to get damaged end up getting damaged one way or another.”
While these cars will eventually end up being sat at a Universal theme park somewhere after the Fast 9 press tour comes to an end, McCarthy is eager to get them on the track.
“The only thing I regret is, we didn’t have a lot of track time,” he says. “Normally we’ll build these cars, and we’ll head out to Willow Springs for the day and run them through their paces. With this car, we were just in such a time crunch to get them shipped out. I think I made one pass up and down the street in front of my shop, and everything felt good. Into a shipping container it went, and that was it.
“Hopefully, when we get a little bit closer to movie release time [on June 25], we can take this car out and put it through its paces and see what it does. I have a bad feeling it’s going to have a little bit of an understeer push characteristic to it, because it’s just a ton of power, real sticky tires, and we never even scaled the car. I got to believe it’s 62, 63, or 64 percent rear weight bias on the car. But hopefully, with a little track time, we’ll get that tamed and see what the thing can really do.”