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2016 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak: Mopar's 426 Hemi and Supercharged 354 V8

by Patrick Rall

The 2016 Dodge / Mopar Challenger Drag Pak boasts a choice of supercharged 354 Hemi or naturally aspirated 426 Hemi engines. The car is meant for Sportsman class racing, and costs $99,426 for the 426 and $109,354 for the supercharged V8. They are "designed to ignite the passion of the grass-roots car racers," according to Mopar's sales chief.


Neither Dodge Challenger Drag Pak is affordable for the average Joe Racecardriver, but for a serious sportsman racer, this is an affordable way to get into a car that is 100% track ready and conforms to the NHRA and IHRA Super Stock rules. Both the COPO Camaro and the Cobra Jet Mustang have a price in the low $100k range, so the Drag Pak is priced competitively for both versions.

The latest Dodge Challenger Drag Pak race car has evolved for the new model year, allowing Mopar racers to better compete with the Chevrolet COPO Camaro and the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet racing programs. The newest Mopar Drag Pak for the Dodge Challenger has a unique look when compared to prior model years, but a new look is the smallest part of the story.

The big news for the new Challenger Drag Pak is the introduction of a new supercharged engine package, as the drag race-ready Challenger from past model years only came with naturally aspirated engines, whether it was the Viper V10 or one of the V8 Hemi engines. They can cover the first 60 feet in just over a second, and do the quarter mile consistently in the eight-second range, and end up at 150 mph.


The supercharged engine uses a cast iron block with an aluminum cylinder head, a forged steel crankshaft, and a special calibration; it is based on the third generation Hemi and has the historic 354 cubic inch displacement. Cars with this engine have a blue graphics scheme.

Thanks to a Whipple supercharger, this 5.7L Hemi is the more powerful (and quicker) of the two factory-built Challenger drag cars. The company picked the engine size of 354 cubic inches as a tribute to the old school 354 "double rocker" Hemi engines, the most recognizable being the Don Garlits Swamp Rat dragsters.

The Mopar team hasn't stated official engine ratings for the new Challenger Drag Pak, but that is a fairly common practice for these factory-built race cars, as actual power outputs vary based on each team's tuning efforts.


While this doesn't have much impact on the driving world, this is a big deal in the world of sportsman drag racing, as the Dodge Challenger teams were previously unable to compete with the latest COPO Camaro and the Cobra Jet Mustang - both of which come with smaller supercharged engines, while the Challenger has previously come with a large, naturally aspirated engine. The newest COPO Camaro comes with the buyer's choice of a supercharged 350 cubic inch V8 or a naturally aspirated 396 cubic inch engine. The 426 cubic inch Challenger Drag Pak has done a fine job of competing in the latter class, but the blown Fords and Chevys still had the better times.


That all changes with this new supercharged Hemi, as a blown Challenger Drag Pak running low 8s should easily be able to battle the Camaro and Mustang drag racing packages.

Best of all, for those Mopar racers who want to run a big, naturally aspirated engine later this season, the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak from Mopar is also available with the 426 cubic inch N/A Hemi, which is a little slow, but it is also a little less expensive. The 426 uses an aluminum block and head, forged steel crankshaft, and special calibration. Pressed-in steel cylinder liners, a proven technology long used by Chrysler, provide durability. This car has a black and white scheme.


The Drag Pak cars

Improvements include a race-prepped automatic transmission, enhanced rear axle housing mounting scheme for better launches, 40-spline rear axles, redesigned NHRA-spec roll cage, Mopar gauge package, lightweight racing seats, hinged hood for one-person between-round maintenance, and integral tie-downs for easier trailering.

The front suspension uses a unique K-member and suspension geometry, with double adjustable compression and rebound struts. At the back of the car is a four-link suspension with Panhard bar, Strange Engineering 4-inch solid axle with 9-inch aluminum third member, drilled axles, shocks with adjustable compression and rebound, and an anti-roll bar. As noted, the rear axle mounting has been strengthened from the previous generation Drag Pak to help the car launch faster and harder.


The Mopar Drag Pak has 15-inch front and rear lightweight wheels with Hoosier drag radials; front tires measure 28 inches in diameter by 4.5 inches wide, and rear tires are 30 inches in diameter by 9 inches wide. Stopping power comes from slotted front and rear brake rotors, with race-specific calipers and master cylinder.

A prototype was first revealed in 2014 at the 60th NHRA U.S. Nationals to elicit feedback from NHRA Sportsman racers on potential upgrades to make the Drag Pak even more competitive at the drag strip. Past Dodge Challenger Drag Paks were both V-8 (150 sales) and V-10 versions (50 sales), with 426 Race Hemi upgrade kits sold as well.


The Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak's roots start with the factory production of Max Wedge package cars in the early 1960s, followed by 1968's 426 Hemi-powered Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda package cars. Those cars still compete in the Super Stock/Automatic-Hemi (SS/AH) class of NHRA Sportsman racing. The Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak (V8) arrived in 2008, with 50 sold that year and 100 in 2009; the 2010 version had a 6.4 Hemi and the 2011, a race-ready V10, making Mopar the first OEM to sell a 500-plus cubic-inch V-10 drag package car.


Finally, a big part of super stock racing is brand pride, and if you talk to anyone running a COPO Camaro, a Cobra Jet Mustang, or a Challenger Drag Pak, there is a good chance that they are proud supporters of the brands of car that they drive. The guys driving the new Drag Pak are proud to be representing Mopar Performance, and the Mopar team has designed the newest livery to pay tribute to the old school Mopar racers.

The new Drag Pak Challenger has a front and rear fascia design similar to the rest of the 2015 and 2016 Challenger lineup and the interior has been stripped down to only what is needed to go racing - and a roll cage. On the Drag Pak 354 models, an adapted SRT 392 style hood is painted matte black to pay tribute to the old school Mopar super stockers, while the Drag Pak 426 models get a vintage Challenger T/A hood scoop design, also in matte black. There are also package specific side stripes that mimic the design of the Cuda AAR stripes, with blue for the 354 models and black for the 426 models - both of which go well with the rest of the package-specific appearance items.


The Drag Pak has captured numerous NHRA National title wins and records, and the previous generation Mopar Drag Pak was the first modern-era package car to win the Stock Eliminator class crown at the U.S. Nationals.

The 426 Drag Pak was the first naturally aspirated package car to make an eight-second-range quarter-mile pass at a NHRA national event. During the 2014 season, the 426 Drag Pak won a majority of the factory stock naturally aspirated class races and has posted national event class wins in recent years.

I might be a little biased, but I think that the newest Challenger Drag Pak is easily the best looking of the factory built race cars. After introducing us to the new Challenger Drag Pak 354 supercharged package, we were invited outside to watch the naturally aspirated 426 Drag Pak doing its first big burnout display. We have the video below so crank up your speakers and enjoy...

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