Owner and driver of the longest running Hurst HEMI Under Glass (H.U.G) Barracuda, Mike Mantel, may have a knack for the wild wheelstanders of the past but it is clear he is set out to influence the future with his recent announcement of a next generation HEMI Under Glass! While Mike has contemplated a modern take on the iconic exhibition car for years, it wasn’t until Mopar Performance’s release of the 1,000 horse (950 lb.-ft. of torque) beastly 426 HELLEPHANT crate motor that he was convinced to take the leap! Pair that hellraising HEMI with Dodge’s new widebody Challenger and we have a combination with the wheelbase, power, and attitude to handle flying down the ¼ mile with its nose high in the air. As his game plan began to take shape Mike still remained uncertain there would be support for a new H.U.G. It has been nearly half a century since wheelstanders were widely popular, what would the current generation think of this bizarre build?
With that thought in mind, Mike had artist Michael Barnard whip up the rendering seen above and brought a display of the outrageous image along with him to SpringFest 14 to feel out the crowd’s reaction. Not only was he impressed with the overwhelming encouragement for the project, but Mike was thrilled to see even young Mopar enthusiasts drooling over the concept. “The place was packed with new generation 300s, Chargers, Challengers, and young enthusiasts”, Mike said, “These are the cars that young people are growing up with today and driving on a daily basis”. While I love to watch funny cars and slingshots run down the track I gotta say, it will be pretty amazing to watch the same car I see driven on a daily basis pulling wheelies down the track!
The mere announcement of this build has stirred up quite the frenzy in the car community and even inspired a fan, Abimelec Arellano, to take the liberty of designing his own concept of what he thinks the new H.U.G might look like. While the image is incredibly detailed and well done it is important to clarify that the builder of the real HEMI Under Glass Challenger will be designing the car on a mid-engine platform, so the engine will sit right behind the driver’s seat much like the original H.U.G Barracuda. That’s not the only thing this newschool HEMI Under Glass will share with its predecessor either, “much of the new car’s layout will be based on the original HEMI Under Glass, I mean if it’s not broke why fix it?” Mike told me. This means the new car is planned to be back-halved with a tubular chassis and engine cradle while powering the rear wheels with the use of a Casale V-drive transfer case. With a custom fastback-like rear window, perhaps similar to the one seen in Abimelec’s concept, the newschool H.U.G will flaunt it’s potent powerhouse to spectators as it launches into the air.
While currently Mike’s only sponsor for the new HEMI Under Glass build is his own pocketbook, he is determined to make this dream a reality for people of all generations to enjoy! Displayed at events side by side with the 1968 H.U.G, this project will showcase over 50 years of Mopar’s evolution and maybe even help shine a light back to the crazy custom exhibition cars of NHRA’s glory days. Living up to it’s legendary predecessor and already building a following of its own, the new wheelstander will prove to amaze, inspire and straight up WOW fans, just as the HEMI Under Glass was born to do.