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Exclusive details on the burned F8 Challenger at Woodward

by Patrick Rall on

If you attended the Woodward Dream Cruise and hung out at the incredible Modern Street Hemi Shootout area in the Pontiac Loop, the odds are good that you saw the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye in F8 Green that caught fire after a smoky burnout. Also, if you are active in any modern Mopar social media groups, you likely saw the sad pictures of the dark green Mopar monster with flames pouring from the underside, but oddly, there were very few details on this car, the owner or exactly what happened.

The modern Mopar community is a fairly tight one thanks to several large, active online communities, but as the pictures of the burned F8 Hellcat Challenger traveled around the internet in the days following the Woodward Dream Cruise, speculation and rumors as to what happened ran rampant because we just didn’t know anything about the car or its owner. Many people were sure that this was “another transmission failure like the red Demon at Milan”, but a few days after the Dream Cruise, AJ Berge sent me a message explaining that the car was in his possession. Out of respect to the owner, he couldn’t go into any detail, but he assured me that the F8 Green Hellcat did not succumb to a transmission fire like the Demon at Milan Dragway. He messaged me because he had seen so many Demon and Redeye owners worrying that this was another transmission failure, leading to growing concerns of problematic gearboxes, but to help put the community at ease, he wanted to give me some information to put the owners’ minds at rest.

I thanked Berge for the information on the behalf of the community, letting him know that if the owner was interested in sharing his story, I would be happy to share that story. This weekend, I spent some time on the phone with James Golden, the owner and driver of that now-infamous Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye and today, Allpar brings you the whole story.

Building a Redeye

When James Golden bought his gorgeous F8 Green Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, he had plans to build on the stock output of 797 horsepower. He did some research online and compiled a list of upgrades that would help him put his supercharged Mopar muscle car into the 9-second range, turning to a mechanic local to his New York home to install those components. Then, being unfamiliar with the leaders in the modern Mopar tuning world or the importance of having a tuner who knows how to tune these cars, Golden went to a guy in his area who was experienced with tuning performance imports and other models.

It was during the time with that tuner when Golden realized that something might be wrong. The tuner explained that he made around 90 dyno runs while trying to figure out some tuning issues over the course of a few weeks, but after that, he sent the car home with around 830 rear wheel horsepower. That number was reached with a 2.72 Litens Hellraiser upper pulley, a 95-millimeter throttle body, a Fore triple pump fuel system, long tube headers and a catted mid-pipe, leading to a quarter mile time in the 10.40 range while running on E85.

Anyone who is familiar with the Hellcat Redeye should immediately recognize a problem here with that mod list “only” leading to 830 horsepower at the wheels and 10.4 quarter mile times. Those mods with proper tuning should lead to far more than 830 horsepower and time well into the 9-second range. Shortly after, Golden was having some problems with the Litens pulley, so he contacted the company and Hellraiser-brand-boss Paul Georges reached out to help with the problem. In addition to diagnosing the installation issue with the pulley, Georges sent Golden a new pulley under warranty, but that wasn’t where their interaction ended.

With Georges owning a Hellcat and a new Demon, along with being heavily involved in the modern Mopar world, he made some small talk with Golden about his Redeye. During that discussion, Golden shared the problems that he had been having coupled with the disappointing numbers at the track. When Golden told Georges where he was from, the man who brought the Hellraiser pulleys to market put the F8 Green Challenger owner in touch with AJ Berge. Golden took his car to Berge, who got the car in proper running order.

While with the well-known “Hemituner” had the car, he added a new lower pulley and the proper fuel injectors, leading to improved dyno numbers of 914 rear wheel horsepower. After getting the car all squared away, Golden headed to Lapeer, Michigan for the Hemi’Nsanity event of the Modern Street Hemi Shootout, which included a day of racing at the track and a day at the famous Woodward Dream Cruise.

Dream Cruise Nightmare

James Golden’s weekend in Metro Detroit started off strong, with his 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye running a 9.66 right off of the trailer. Mind you, prior to AJ Berge working his magic, the car was stuck in the 10.40s, but as the day went on, Golden’s Redeye got even faster, finishing up with a best time of 9.53 in the quarter mile.

After finally getting into the range that he had planned to run with his Redeye, James Golden woke up on Saturday, August 17th looking forward to a day at the world famous Woodward Dream Cruise. He drove to the MSHS area along the cruise route in Pontiac, Michigan, with the intention of parking the car and watching all of the craziness that takes place on the street surrounding the parking area. As he approached the parking area and saw people doing big, smoky burnouts, some of Golden’s friends talked him into doing a quick burnout before he parked.

When he pulled into the stretch of Woodward Avenue that is directly in front of the Modern Street Hemi Shootout area, he eased into the impromptu water box, pushed the brake pedal to the floor followed by a quick punch of the throttle. He had never done a burnout on the street with a set of race tires and he expected some resistance but instead, the tires spun effortlessly through first gear, bouncing off of the rev limiter before he was able to shift into second. As he let the Challenger roll forward, it still did grip at all, allowing the engine to rev freely through second gear before Golden was able to shift into third.

The supercharged Hemi once again bounced off of the rev limiter, but before Golden to lift, the lights on the dash lit up, the car filled with smoke and the crowd lining the road began frantically yelling at him. With so many people, it was surely hard to make out what everyone was yelling, but they were all yelling about fire. By the time that James Golden got his Hellcat stopped a short distance from where he did the burnout, smoke and flames were pouring from under the car, but he didn’t have a fire extinguisher.

Fortunately, all of those people along the road, carrying coolers full of cold drinks where quick to help. Golden opened his hood and passersby attacked the flames with bottles of water, coolers of ice and anything else that might slow the flames. Less than a minute later, a swarm of racers including Modern Street Hemi Shootout boss Dan VanHorn had run from the parking lot with fire extinguishers to battle the fire while other members of the modern Mopar community dug into the trunk to remove the fuel pump fuses in order to prevent the fire from continuing. All said and done, it only took a few minutes before the flames and smoke were gone, with the crowd gathering around the burned muscle car sitting in the “fast lane” of Woodward Avenue.

In our call, James Golden pointed out that the only damage from the fire was a couple of wiring harnesses in the engine bay, but if not for the help of the people sitting along the cruise route and the folks from the Modern Street Hemi Shootout, he is sure that he Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye would have been a total loss. The quick thinking of the automotive community helped to minimize the damage and save his muscle car. While I didn’t have my fire extinguisher, I was in the crowd of people standing back, letting those who could help do their best to put out the fire and it was remarkable to see how quickly the people in the parking lots sprang to action to stop the fire.

The car would eventually be loaded into a trailer and hauled to AJ Berge in New York for a complete diagnosis of what had happened. Once he got the engine out of the car, he found that the connecting rod for one cylinder had broken during the high-RPM burnout, leading to a huge hole being blown in the side of the block and that unplanned vent to the atmosphere led to the post-burnout fire.

Of course, that damage was enough to ruin the engine, but shy of the engine bay harnesses, there was no other damage to the F8 Green Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. In fact, this car is already nearing completion with the new build, with that engine bay wiring harness being the hold-up that prevented Golden from running at the MSHS event in Virginia this past weekend.

In addition to thanking the folks along Woodward and the Modern Street Hemi Shootout crowd for putting out the fire, James Golden thanked Paul Georges for both addressing the issue with his Hellraiser pulley along with putting him in touch with AJ Berge.

Once Golden’s F8 Redeye is up and running, we will bring you the full details on the new build, but we can give you a quick bit of information as a teaser – he plans to set records when this Dodge Challenger is back on the track thanks to an elaborate build by AJ Berge. In the meantime, you can follow this project on his Instagram channel by clicking here.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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