They say all good things must come to an end, though no one has successfully elaborated on why the Hellcat Challengers and Chargers are going away. I mean, they’ve *tried* but their reasons seems lackluster and out of touch – a mixture of bowing to pressure from the Greenies, social media humble bragging, and the evil plan of some shadowy cabal of villains who are tired of us having fun and want us all to drive slow ‘environmentally responsible” cars. Yes, the designs and platforms are getting long in the tooth, but they’re still selling like hotcakes and are arguably the most fun of all the current muscle cars available today. The all-electric Dodge Daytona that turned up at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this year was absolutely gorgeous and offered promise, but who wants an electric car? Fewer and fewer people it seems. So lets hope Dodge was smart enough to leave room under the hood to drop a fun engine into it because if this is the end of the line for the Hellcat motor, then I may just dress is sacloth and ashes and weep. But going away, the Challenger is. And so Dodge, sentimental sumbitches that they are, decided to release a series of final nostalgic “Last Call” special editions. This is one. The Black Ghost.
The name sprouts from a Detroit urban legend. Apparently back in the early seventies, when midnight street racing on Woodward Ave was the thing to do, a stock-looking black Dodge Challenger with a faux-alligator vinyl roof would occasionally show up and race. As the rumor goes, he would handily beat them and then disappear into the inky Detroit night. As his legend grew, he began to be referred to as the Black Ghost. He haunted Woodward for several years until he disappeared for good. It was only recently that he passed away and his family felt comfortable identifying him as the owner of the Black Ghost. Why did they wait? Apparently at the time he was participating in these illegal underground street races, he was employed as a policeman with the Detroit Police Dept. How’s that for irony?
Great story, huh? Dodge thought so too and decided to make a limited run of special Black Ghost Challengers as part of their Last Call series. Starting with the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, they dropped in a special higher-output edition of the Hellcat engine that makes 807 hp (instead of 797) and 707 lb-ft of torque. A good start!
The Black Ghost is, as you’d expect, black. The exact name of the paint is “Pitch Black” and it’s fitting. There’s an appliqué on the roof that resembles alligator skin. The gas cap is chrome, just like the original Black Ghost. Dodge also added a white stripe across the back deck lid of the car like the original and where the Hellcat badge typically goes on the side fenders behind the front wheels, there is instead a script badge that reads “Challenger” just like the 1970’s ones did. But that’s just the Black Ghost design details. The rest is modern Challenger Hellcat muscle car cues: the twin ram-air intakes on the hood (functional), the deep splitter along the front edge of the car, the flip-up spoiler across the rear edge of the trunk, hood pins to keep the hood on the car at 200mph, and some of the sexiest wheels you’ve ever seen on a Challenger. The car looks stunning and it got a lot of attention even while parked.
Under the hood is the HO version of the Hellcat, throwing an extra 10hp into the mix. With 807 hp, you won’t feel the additional 10 but 807 is an easier number to quote than 797 hp. It’s hooked to a stout 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel in case you want to row your own. The torque shaft is hooked to a limited-slip differential that balances power between each of the rear wheels to effect maximum grip.
That maximum grip is provided by the fat Pirelli P-Zero’s that wrap around the sexy satin silver 20 x 11” wheels. These tires are so sticky they literally pick up every stone on the road and throw it against the bottom of the car. Throw it into a corner and the tires just grip, grip, grip until you choose to overpower them with the engine and send the backend sliding out behind you.
The Ghost corners and handles like no car it’s size and weight has any right to. The competition suspension does a fantastic job of helping the tires grip the road and keep the body motion in check as it tears down winding country backroads or through the curves of a respectable road course. There are several different performance settings you can dial in – normal, sport, and track. Each has different degrees of firmness and traction and stability control to make the most powerful regular production car an absolute pussycat to drive hard.
And should a deer or an errant driver pull out blindly in front of you, or a should a police car come from out of nowhere, the Brembo 6-piston brake calipers clamp down on the most enormous brake disks you’ve ever seen fitted to a production car to provide some of the most amazing braking performance you’ve ever experienced. You can literally hang yourself up in the seatbelts as the car comes to a silent stop.
Dodge threw in a host of other performance goodies too. The Linelocker option, which locks the front brakes but unlocks the rear ones so you can get the rear tires spinning pretty good and hot before releasing the brakes; launch control, which lets you set the rpm level you want to launch at; and Chiller, which redirects the cool a/c air from the cabin to the supercharger plenum to make the charge more dense, providing more oxygen for ignition.
The son of the Black Ghost’s owner was recently asked about his memories of the car. He said he remembered his dad would tape a $50 dollar bill to the dash and tell him he could have it if he could grab it on the count of three. Three, of course, is when he’d nail the throttle and the car would launch like a Saturn rocket, pushing them both back firmly into their seats, unable to fight the momentum of their forward direction. The new Black Ghost is much the same. It’s born to run hard and fast – an exhilarating carnival ride that your neighbors will literally queue up to ride in.
We took it around to all the friends and family, giving rides, winning hearts and minds. Everybody wanted to feel the incredible acceleration, hear the fury of the Hellcat engine as it raged like some furious jungle cat, ripping the very atmosphere around it, making the fat rear tires scream like wounded wildebeests as they laid down sets of black parallel lines again and again and again. The sounds it makes might be the single best thing about the car. I’ve heard a lot of competition V8 motors in my day but there is NOTHING that sounds as angry, as powerful, as ferocious as Dodge’s supercharged 6.2L Hemi V8 engine. It makes the hair on your arms stand up, and your brain to register concern and even alarm at the sheer ferocity of the sound. It’s like nothing else on the road. Mustangs, as great as the new Coyote V8 sounds, can’t hold a candle to it. Camaro’s and Corvettes don’t come close. It’s as uniquely American as it is simply unique within the American muscle car scene. It is, in short, an ICON of American motoring.
Our Black Ghost stickered at $99,350. While that seems like a lot of money, the performance that you’re getting for the money is incredible. Plus, it does the daily commute in great comfort too.
Dodge is being super helpful about helping you secure your own muscle car, your own Hellcat – even your own Black Ghost – before they’re all gone. As production winds down, they’ve set up a special website to help you find your ideal Challenger or Charger at a dealership, whether it’s in your hometown or across the country. It’s accessible from their main webpage. My advice is to act now before inventory is gone. Because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
We don’t want to see it go. It’s our hope Dodge has something just as good or better waiting in the wings, but it’s hard to optimistic these days when every automaker is looking at electric vehicles as the next big thing. All good things must come to an end eventually. Even the things that perpetually put a smile on our face every time we got to drive them. Thank you, Dodge. It’s been a fantastic journey and it’s because of your love of fun cars that we’ve gotten to enjoy it.