Hellcat power is not just for new cars. Mopar wants to encourage DIYers and shade-tree mechanics to install Hellcrate power in their project cars, just like Roadkill hosts David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan did with their 1968 Dodge Charger, creating “General Mayhem,” in Episode 43. To entice more takers, the Mopar gang decided to build one themselves to fine-tune their Mopar Crate Hemi Engine Kit.
The search for a project car was an easy one, as FCA’s Walter P. Chrysler Museum collection was looking to downsize and was parting with a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere showing a touch of patina inside and out. This was a perfect candidate, as its engine bay is a popular size and shape for installing a 707-hp/650-lb-ft Hellcrate engine in.
Spend $2,265 for Crate Hemi Engine Kit part number 77072452AB and you’ll also get an accelerator pedal, ground cable, engine wiring harness, oxygen sensors, chassis harness, powertrain control module, power distribution center, charge-air-temperature sensor, and a fuel pump control module. All of these items were test fitted to the Plymouth Belvedere and modified as necessary. Neil Young Jr., head of Mopar accessories and product engineering noted that the lengths of the wiring harnesses connecting the engine to the various control modules were altered as a result of this effort, to allow these “black boxes” to be located down and out of sight, and yet also out of danger from steering mechanisms and such. Owners can still lengthen or shorten the harnesses, but the length Young’s team chose should work great for most folks.
This Belvedere build uses hydraulic steering, and Mopar offers a range of front-end accessory Drive (FEAD) kits to suit builds with electric or hydraulic steering, and for adding air conditioning. (For the Hellcrate, the basic FEAD kit costs $696 with an additional kit to accept AC priced at $387.)
This Hellcrate engine routes its power through a heavy duty Tremec six-speed manual transmission back to a Dana 60 limited-slip rear end with a 3.73:1 ratio, but to prevent those 650 angry lb-ft from instantly pretzeling this willowy body structure Young’s team had added plenty of reinforcement. The driveshaft is new, the leaf springs are unique and the right one adds a third leaf to resist the body’s natural torque reaction from rolling the car in that direction. There are also square-tube reinforcements connecting the front and rear subframes to further rigidize the chassis. These items can be fabricated or purchased from third-party suppliers.
The integration work is impressive. The engine and transmission work great together. The car is hell-pussycat sweet when you go easy on the gas (it’ll get groceries all day), and when you don’t it’s full of sound and fury signifying other-worldly acceleration on a scale never contemplated by Belvedere engineers and planners in 1967. Thank heaven for the racing-style seats borrowed from a Charger SRT Hellcat, which resist all such g forces way better than the original split bench would have.
The Royal Oak police attempt to fund the substantial cost of their increased Woodward Dream Cruise-week activity via $200 tickets for wheelspin, so I roll my ankle VERY judiciously onto that new gas pedal from each stop. Once it feels like I’m going 10 or 20 mph (it’s hard to tell on the super bouncy old speedometer), I mash the firewall. Then I still worry about sound ordinances a bit—these custom headers and side pipes seem to contain little baffling—but the cops appear to be ignoring that statute this week. The speed builds quickly, and the sensation of speed builds even faster with all that racket, and with the speedometer no help, I back off the loud pedal when I threaten to blow by the moving traffic.
All too soon it’s time to U-turn and head back to our Vinsetta Garage base. The four-wheel disc brake upgrade, big wheels, and fat low-profile tires do an admirable job of whoa-ing all that go, and the Belvedere turns in faithfully but this clearly won’t ever be the autocross special its builders’ teenage kids might wish it was. But then, maybe some of the installation time Mopar’s well-considered install kits save can be spent building the kids a drifter or autocrosser.