David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions
• One of approximately 90 factory-built • Identification plate with unique serial number sequence • Primed and painted body • 6.1L Hemi engine prepared for drag racing • Special BIW modified for drag racing and approximately 1,000 lbs lighter than production • Composite lift-off hood with functional scoop • Lightweight drag-race-only front-brake assembly • Lightweight cooling module with electric fan • Lightweight instrument panel assembly • Special cable-operated throttle pedal and linkage • Manual rack-and-pinion steering • Polycarbonate door windows • Front-chin spoiler  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2009 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Years Produced:2009–11
Number Produced:90–100 in 2009, depending on the source
Original List Price:$39,999
SCM Valuation:$25,000–$35,000
Tune Up Cost:$500
Distributor Caps:N/A
Chassis Number Location:N/A
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:NHRA
Alternatives:2012 Chevrolet Camaro COPO, 2009 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet, 2011 Challenger Drag Pak (V10)
Investment Grade:C

This Drag Pak Challenger, Lot F246.1, sold for $24,610, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Chicago, IL, sale held on October 10–12, 2013.

Let’s go racing

In 2009, Direct Connection, Chrysler’s Mopar Performance Division, made a calculated decision to design, build and release a revival example of Mopar’s factory-built race cars, reminiscent of the late 1960s. These cars were to honor the 40th anniversary of the notorious 1968 Dodge Hemi Dart and Plymouth Hemi Barracuda — cars that ruled the streets and the strips of the U.S. when they were launched.

These new Drag Pak cars were constructed on the new-generation Challenger platform, and they were purpose-built, track-prepared weapons. The 2009 models, of which 100 were reportedly built, came out of the box equipped with a factory race-prepared 6.1L Hemi V8 similar to the engine used in the SRT8, but with a bunch of performance tweaks such as 12:1 pistons, a special long-runner intake manifold, a unique throttle body, and a special hydraulic roller cam to boost power well beyond the 425-hp rating of the street versions. For 2009, that engine was coupled to the buyer’s choice of either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.

But there were no driveshafts, differentials or racing wheels. Those items were to be selected and installed by each individual end user. Other things left off included windshield-wiper assemblies, HVAC units, rear seats, body sealer, sound deadener, power steering, underbody heat shields, fuel tank assemblies and exhaust systems. The door glass was replaced with thin polycarbonate, front and rear glass was only temporarily mounted (for easy removal when fitting a roll cage), and side mirrors were deleted.

And, crucially, these cars were also built without airbags, and all side- and rear-impact bracing was removed. That may not have been a big deal in the ’60s, but it made these cars illegal for road use in today’s world. To keep everyone honest, Chrysler shipped these cars without VINs. No late-night cruising one of these downtown — you’ll never legally drive one of these on the street.

Weapons-grade lightweight

On the track, however, those parts savings added up in a big way. The Drag Pak Challenger tipped the scales at a stripped-down 3,200 pounds, compared with the tamer street-legal Challenger SRT8, which settled on the curb at 4,140 pounds. That nearly 1,000-pound diet made the Drag Pak a real-deal 10-second racer, and as delivered, these cars were sanctioned for NHRA Stock, Super Stock and Comp Eliminator drag racing. They are truly a modern-day rebirth of the factory drag cars sold in the late 1960s.

Adding to the car’s credibility and legacy, the legendary “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is reported to have purchased the first 2009 drag-race-package car and has raced it in NHRA competition. His car retained the factory white paint and blacked-out hood and added Garlits Dodge, “Big Daddy” graphics and longitudinal black stripes. Naturally, adding to the retro theme, the car is plastered with speed-parts stickers and various minor sponsor graphics. It certainly adds to the credibility that follows these cars when they show up at auction.

A promising future?

The questions most often brought up with these cars seem to center on usability and collectibility. Drag Pak cars are certainly rare, and they are also without question genuine factory race cars with great drivetrains and an aura of coolness yanked right out of the 1960s.

When new, the 2009 Drag Pak cars sold for a shift under $40,000. A few Drag Pak cars have hit the market over the past few years, and one could assume that those ones were initially bought as instant collectibles, which haven’t panned out in the short term, or as wannabe drag-racer dream cars that were never finished.

Either way, the few I’ve seen sell at auction have sold for around $30,000 each for “as-delivered” examples, with well-done completed cars finding about $65,000–$85,000, depending on their components and race notoriety.

But these are factory-produced race cars. Why don’t they sell for more? It all comes down to that crucial point about VINs and registration.

If these cars were street-legal, like the ’68s they were meant to celebrate, their valuations would dramatically change. Naturally, they wouldn’t and couldn’t be delivered like this in the modern-day nanny state we live in.

But think about any factory lightweight purpose-built drag car from the 1960s and their prices today. Part of their appeal is not only their finite production and horsepower-to-weight ratios, but also what those cars represented in the days before insurance companies and government agencies put the kibosh on them. Street cred was part of the myth, and that’s missing from this strictly race-only Drag Pak’s equation.

Build it or store it?

This car sold slightly below the current market value for unfinished, as-delivered examples. So what should the new owner do with it?

If you’re a professional drag racer, or you just want something to instill instant fear down at the local Friday night drags, you already know what to do. Finish it, strap yourself in, and let ’er rip. And with complete running cars seeing a premium over the price this one brought, building it might be the smart move, at least in the short term.

However, originality is more important than ever when it comes to muscle cars from the ’60s, and it drives the market today, especially at the top levels. If you have one of these stored away, it makes sense to keep it there. The current market has not been all that favorable for these, and that is mainly due to their limited use.

In the long run, either option will likely be a worthwhile investment. As we inch toward a world of fossil-less-fuel cars, guys who can recall the wrap of open headers in a cammed-up big block will gravitate toward the new-gen muscle cars and their race-spec versions — and I think they’ll likely be willing to pay up for them.

With that, I’d call this Challenger well bought, not only by the price paid, but as a steward of what may be one of the last runs of factory-built gasoline-powered lightweight drag cars ever built.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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