The Dodge Challenger SRT® Hellcat campaigned by the Epling Family race team and nicknamed “007” has been retired from competition and further record-setting efforts. This car currently holds the record for the world’s quickest and fastest SRT Hellcat in the quarter-mile with an elapsed time of 6.96 at 200.47 miles per hour – a record which has stood since the team made that pass in January of 2022. However, as Leon and Jason Epling move on to a new project, their 007 Challenger SRT Hellcat will no longer be competing or continuing the push for quicker times.
Today, we take a look at the incredible career of the Epling Family Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat known as 007.
The Epling Challenger SRT Hellcat
This 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat was originally purchased by Leon Epling back when the first factory supercharged Mopar® muscle car was introduced. Along with his son, Jason, the two of them shared seat time in the Challenger SRT Hellcat, working from stock times down into the 9-second range.
At first, the Epling team set the record for the quickest manually shifted Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with a 9.27 at 146.3 miles per hour in early May of 2017. A week later, they cut that time down to a 9.06 with a speed of 154.88 miles per hour, setting the world record for the quickest SRT Hellcat car and unlike the rest of the drivers who made a run at the record – the Eplings did it with a manual transmission.
The Epling team would hold the title of the world’s quickest and fastest SRT Hellcat from this point through the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons, along with the first 9 months of 2021.
The first major milestone reached by the Epling 007 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat came in October of 2017, when it became the first 8-second SRT Hellcat car with an 8.91 at 156.14 miles per hour at Great Lakes Dragway. At that time, it was still a relatively stock Challenger, with a smaller pulley on the factory supercharger, a 200-shot of nitrous oxide and a good engine tune, along with some minor weight reduction inside. The key difference between the 007 car when it broke into the 8s and a stock Challenger SRT Hellcat is that the factory manual transmission had been replaced with a Liberty racing manual transmission and a Ram clutch.
With that configuration, the Epling team got their Challenger SRT Hellcat down to an 8.68 with the stock engine in better air, but they wanted to go faster – a whole lot faster – so they pulled the factory engine and began building a larger HEMI® engine.
The Epling/Hensley 426
After removing the original 6.2-liter engine, the Eplings teamed up with Hensley Performance to create a new 7.0-liter HEMI engine for the 007 Challenger SRT Hellcat. Topped with a 4.9-liter Kenne Bell supercharger and fitted with the best parts available including ThiTek cylinder heads, this engine provided the power to dive deeper into the 8s. With the help of some more weight reduction inside, this configuration allowed the Eplings to get down to an 8.40 with just the supercharger and 8.05 with the extra power from a nitrous oxide system.
The next major milestone for the Epling 007 Dodge Challenger came on September 9, 2019, when they became the first team to put an SRT Hellcat car in the 7-second quarter-mile range. While racing at Kentucky Dragway, Jason Epling laid down a 7.87 at 176 miles per hour, so after being the first in the 8s, they were also the first in the 7s.
With further tuning to the engine, transmission and suspension setup, this configuration of the 426 HEMI engine, the KB blower and the Liberty transmission got the 007 SRT Hellcat down to a 7.33 at 186 miles per hour before the team made their next big changes. During this era, the team also “back-halved” the car, installing a custom chassis setup on the rear of the factory unibody. They also transformed the factory hood, fenders and front fascia into a one-piece, lift-off design that reduced weight.
The final iteration of the Epling Family 007 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat included the same Epling/Hensley 426 and the same Liberty transmission, but the team switched from the Kenne Bell blower to a huge single turbocharger. This allowed the team to make many runs in the 7.0- and 7.1-second range at several different tracks, with speeds nearing 200.
In January 2022, running this turbo setup, Jason Epling piloted the 007 Challenger down the quarter-mile of Houston Raceway Park, stopping the timers with a 6.96 at 200.47 miles per hour – once again securing the Epling’s place atop the list of the quickest and fastest SRT Hellcat cars in the world. As mentioned at the top of the piece, those numbers still stand as records for any factory SRT Hellcat car.
Yes, the Epling Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is heavily modified from its factory form, but this car was slowly transformed from a stock 12-second street car to a 6-second beast – which is still relatively capable of an occasional cruise on public roads. The team attends some local car shows and they drive the car on the street to get there, so while it isn’t exactly a daily driver, it maintains the ability to be driven on the street. The car still has all of the factory body panels, the factory dashboard and the factory center console.
During the 8-year span of time when the Epling Family race team was campaigning 007, their Challenger SRT Hellcat stormed down at least 22 different drag strips across the country, from east coast facilities like ATCO in New Jersey to Pomona in California and many, many places in between. During that time, the Epling Challenger held the record for the world’s quickest and fastest SRT Hellcat for all but four months from mid-2017 onward. In serving as the world’s quickest SRT Hellcat for such a lengthy period of time, the Epling family gathered loads of fans across the country, with hardcore Mopar lovers eagerly awaiting their next trip to the track and whatever new records might come of those trips.
The final build sheet for the Epling 007 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is listed below.
- 426 Epling/ Hensley Gen 3 cast engine block
- Still running water block with ice box and radiator
- ThiTek cylinder heads
- Large single turbocharger, turbo conversion by the Epling Garage
- Q16 fuel
- Holley EFI engine electronics
- Tuning by Jason Epling with assistance from Tim Barth
- Cox batteries
- Liberty trans 5-speed manual with a Liberty shifter
- Ram clutch triple disc
- Driveshaft Shop chromoly driveshaft
- 315 drag radials MT
- 5-inch front skinnies
- 1-piece factory panel front end
- Fiberglass doors
We asked Leon Epling what will happen to 007 now that it is formally retired. He believes that the car might be headed overseas to do some grudge racing, but he will maintain ownership of the legendary muscle car. As for Team Epling, they are currently building a Dodge Challenger Drag Pak with ET Tuning, and they plan to compete in the new NHRA Factory-X class with new teammate Geoff Turk. They will still be running a big HEMI engine and a manual transmission, but this time, they will be focusing on winning more than records – all while flying the familiar colors of Sox and Martin racing.