Epling Garage Hellcat Challenger
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Epling Garage Hellcat Challenger sets New Manual Transmission Record

Late last month, the Epling Garage “007” Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat set the new quarter mile record for the quickest manual transmission Hellcat car – running a 9.272 at 146.3 miles per hour – and this morning I had a chance to talk to Leon Epling about how this father-and-son team reached this record.

Over the past few years, we have talked about a great many quarter mile records from the Dodge Hellcat community and for the most part, the quickest Hellcat cars in the world have been fitted with the 8-speed automatic transmission. The 8-speed automatic makes the Hellcat Challenger and Charger easier to launch while the lightning-quick shifts erase the shortcomings of old school automatics.

However, there is still a proud contingent of drag racers who opted for the Hellcat Challenger with the 6-speed manual transmission and late last month, one of those 3-pedal Hellcat cars laid down a quarter mile run of 9.272 at 146.3 miles per hour. When the “007” Hellcat Challenger from the Epling Garage ran that 9.27, it not only became the quickest manual transmission Hellcat car in the world, but it also claimed the title of the quickest Hellcat car with stock engine internals and the stock blower.

Really, shy of the TopCat Hellcat Challenger from High Horse Performance, the Epling Challenger is the quickest Hellcat car in the world and this father-and-son team got their monster Mopar muscle car into the 9.20s while rowing their own gears without any sort of electronic aides.

The Quickest Manual Transmission Hellcat in the World
I had a chance to speak with Leon Epling earlier today, who is the father in this family racing team and the man in charge of the Epling Garage in Bean Station, Tennessee. This shop offers diesel tuning and Hellcat high performance builds, but more importantly for this story, the Leon and his son, Jason, are both hardcore drag racers.

Leon bought his Hellcat first and it was the black manual transmission Challenger shown above, but when Jason drove it, he went out and bought a Hellcat of his own. Jason opted for the Hellcat Charger, but both father and son know how to get down the quarter mile in a hurry with their Hellcat cars. In fact, Jason’s Hellcat Charger is among the quickest in the world, running 9.40s and claiming his class championship in the 2016 Modern Street Hemi Shootout.

After running in the 9.40s last season, Leon and Jason spent the winter working on the Hellcat Challenger and when Challengerfest 2017 came around, the family headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky to see what their beefier Mopar muscle car could do. Unfortunately, midway through the day, Leon fell ill, so Jason had to run both cars, but in addition to winning the Unlimited class in his Charger – he set a new world record for the quickest manual transmission Hellcat in the world.

To be exact, Jason Epling ran a 9.272 at 146.3 miles per hour and he did so with a 60 foot time of 1.435 and an 8th mile pass of 5.992 at 120.2 miles per hour.

What Makes it Fly
What makes this record even more impressive is that the Epling Garage Hellcat Hemi has not been altered internally, nor has the factory supercharger. To make more power, the supercharged Hemi of the 007 Challenger has a smaller upper pulley, bigger injectors, a Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump, a nitrous system with a 200hp setup and a tune for all of these changes plus Q16 racing fuel. It also has exhaust cutouts, but there are no other power-adding modifications. While Epling Garage has handled the build of their record-setting Challenger, it should be noted that Josh at High Horse Performance provided the record-setting tune for this car, along with so many others.

Where the Epling Garage Hellcat Challenger differs from your “average” Hellcat Challenger with a manual transmission is, well, pretty much everything downstream of the supercharged Hemi. The 6-speed transmission is based on the factory unit, but it has been completely rebuilt with stronger parts and unique gearing. That transmission is mated with a prototype shifter, a prototype slave cylinder/housing and an externally weighted, externally adjusted pro stock clutch.

Behind that fully built transmission is a Knoxville Driveline 1 piece steel driveshaft, a 9” rearend from the Driveshaft Shop, 35 spline axles from the Driveshaft Shop and lightweight Holeshot 15” wheels wrapped in29 inch Hoosier slicks. To make those smaller wheels fit, the Epling Challenger has smaller front and rear brakes, which allows the team to run 15 inch wheels up front as well.

Before Jason Epling ran a 9.27 and his dad’s manual transmission Hellcat Challenger, the quickest “stock engine” Hellcat car was the TopCat Challenger from HHP. That car has since gotten a new camshaft and some other goodies while setting a new overall Hellcat quarter mile record of 9.15, but among the cars with untouched engine internals and/or the manual transmission – the Epling Garage is the quickest in the world.

Best of all, Leon believes that the car has more left in it, so we could see the Epling Garage Challenger making a run at the overall Hellcat quarter mile record as the racing season continues.


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