SpeedKore’s Charger: Dave Salvaggio tells the story of his favorite creation
Sean Evans is a New York based journalist who has written for the likes of Men’s Health, Jalopnik and The Drive.
“I’ve loved the Charger since I was a freshman in high school in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. My bus would go by this house that had a ’69 Charger — black-on-black — next to the garage and I said I’d buy that car one day.”
Salvaggio doesn’t know what became of the object of his teenage affection, but he has since built some 20 lust-worthy Dodge Chargers through his performance shop in Grafton, Wisconsin, including this sinister beauty, a 966-horsepower, Demon-powered, carbon-drenched fever dream dubbed Evolution.
“We did the Tantrum back in 2015,” Salvaggio says of that 1970 Charger with 1,650 horsepower coming from a Mercury marine engine. “That one was cool, but it was very muscular. I had one of my favorite customers come to me and ask for a Tantrum and I said I had another idea for a more European-styled variant.”
Salvaggio worked with his CAD guy, Lyle Brummer, and came up with a mechanical design for Evolution.
“The frame is a 1970 Charger but we widened the track width, so we could get as much tire as possible back there and fit a 4-link with a cross-link Panhard,” he says. They also lengthened the wheelbase by two inches, which helps give better clearance in the wheelhouse.
“While I love the Coke bottle look of the Charger, the front overhang was a bit more than it should’ve been, so an extra inch in the front and back helped that,” he says, adding keeping the classic and timeless look of the Charger was crucial. “You want it to still scream Charger in a decade.”
After the schematics looked good, Salvaggio and his crew of 20 built the car. Twice. “People don’t understand the process of working with carbon fiber,” he laughs to DriveTribe. “We build the whole thing out of steel, and then paint it. We need to ensure all the gaps are perfect and the fit and finish is up to our standards. Then we take it all apart to make molds of each piece. Next, we make each piece in carbon fiber and reassemble.”
The process is so intensive, it took two years. “But now that I’ve got the molds, I could build you an entire carbon fiber body in about two weeks,” Salvaggio says.
Propelling the Evolution is a “Demon-hybrid powertrain,” as Salvaggio calls it. “The Demon front drive uses electric power steering, but we used the front drive and a few parts from the Hellcat, to mesh the two systems,” noting he went for the Demon because that engine has better rods and a bigger blower.
SpeedKore turned up the boost to 18, popped in bigger ID1000 injectors, and then added a dry sump. “Dailey doesn’t make one for a Demon, so we bought one for a 6.4-liter Hemi and modified it. It hit the red so fast compared to a wet sump,” he exclaimed. “It was incredible to watch it rip on the dyno. All our future cars are going to have a dry sump.”
That mill generates 966 horsepower, which gets down via a Tremec M6 6060 six-speed manual transmission. “It could get to 1,200 horsepower, especially on race fuel, but because it weighs under 3,500 pounds, anything after 900 horsepower becomes really unusable. It’s too hard to drive,” he says. Just ask Jay Leno, who featured Salvaggio and Evolution on Jay Leno’s Garage this week.
Watch the beginning of the video to see the Evolution’s back end squirming while Leno finds the perfect amount of throttle.
“Jay’s a good driver so I wasn’t worried, but he got on it right after we started filming and the car went sideways. It doesn’t take much,” says Salvaggio, who encouraged Leno to beyond embrace the oversteer. “I wanted him to do donuts, but he declined, saying that wouldn’t be respectful,” he says. Leno had nothing bad to say about Evolution, and “if Jay sees something wrong, he’ll tell you about it.”
Evolution went to SEMA for its debut to the world – and its new owner, who hadn’t seen much beyond a few teasing photos. “He sees the car for the first time, loves it, and says ‘I guess I’d better tell my wife now.’ The guy buys a half-million dollar car and hadn’t mentioned it to her yet,” Salvaggio laughs. (They’re still married.)