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A Brief History of Dodge’s Scat Pack – From late-60’s marketing masterstroke to modern muscle machine
The 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack is my pick for the best of the breed when it comes to the retro-themed muscle car. The Scat Pack checks all the right boxes: 485 horsepower from a 6.4-liter Hemi V8, the quicker steering, stiffer suspension, and bigger brakes found in the standard Super Track Pak package, a louder exhaust system, and the availability of the ‘Shaker’ intake option, which sticks up through a hole in the middle of the car’s hood and rumbles every time you rev the engine.
Almost as important was what the Scat Pack brings to the table is what it chooses to leave behind. Unlike the SRT 392 model, the Challenger R/T Scat Pack doesn’t ask you to pay more for a ‘track ready’ chassis, adaptive suspension, or 6-piston Brembo brakes up front, gear you don’t really need because Dodge’s chunky coupe simply isn’t intended to be enjoyed on a road course. Instead, the Challenger comes into its own as a comfortable, style-first driver, and the acres of bad attitude that come with the Scat Pack edition are perfectly suited for boulevard cruising or drag strip histrionics.
The most fun version of the 2016 Dodge Challenger actually has a history that goes deeper than most of the modern marketing used to move muscled metal. The ‘Scat Pack’ was once one of the most feared groups of street machines every to rumble from one stoplight to the next, and the Challenger Scat Pack is a fitting tribute to that exciting period in Detroit’s high performance history.
Let’s take a quick look at the history of the Scat Pack.
The late 60s represented the fiercest period of competition between the Big Three (and to a lesser extent, AMC) for the attentions of speed-thirsty American buyers. By the time 1968 rolled around, Dodge was in the catbird seat with its line-up of fierce street machines, including the Dodge Coronet R/T, the Dodge Charger R/T, and the Dodge Dart GTS, each of which could be ordered with an (underrated) 375 horsepower, 440 cubic inch V8 under the hood. A 340 cubic inch Dart Swinger was also available, and of course 426 Hemi power was also in the cards for all three models.
What was missing, however was a way to unify each of these uniquely-named models under a single, world-beating banner – an issue that would only get worse with the introduction of the Dodge Super Bee mid-year. The problem was put to the talented team at the Ross Roy Ad Agency, which came up with the idea of the ‘Scat Pack’ designation that would encompass each of these cars. It was a play on words – the Rat Pack had been Sinatra’s gang of Hollywood pals that became legendary for their partying and the pictures they made together – and as such Dodge also created an actual Scat Pack Club that both owners and Mopar fans could join for the very affordable price of three dollars. For the money, members received a monthly newsletter, a quarterly magazine, a wallet card declaring their loyalty, a bumper sticker and jacket patch, and a racing guide.
The Scat Pack logo was a variation on the drag-racing Super Bee found on, well, the Dodge Super Bee, and collectively the group of cars was referred to as ‘the hive.’ The marketing team went on the warpath, blanketing dealerships, magazines, and television with references to ‘Scat City’ and the full line-up of Scat Pack cars. By 1970 the family had ground to include the Charger Daytona and the Dodge Challenger, and when the final year of the Scat Pack came to pass the Dodge Demon 340 was also included. So successful was the entire initiative that Plymouth got into the act with its ‘Rapid Transit System’ which would run from 1970 to 1972, and included the ‘Cuda, the GTX, the Superbird, the Duster 340, and the Roadrunner.
1973 spelled doom for most American muscle cars as insurance concerns and emissions regulations slowly choked the life out of large V8s – a sad state of affairs that would last until the mid-80s. Still, for a brief shining moment the Scat Pack demonstrated what could be accomplished with just a little creativity and a lot of horsepower, and paved the way for its own revival many decades later.
THREE STAGES. ONE LEGEND.
MRC Performance Tech Repair Tips
THE SCAT PACK PERFORMANCE UPGRADE KITS
With a large number of late-model Challenger, Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles turning up in the used car market, opportunities for 2011-and-newer 5.7L HEMI® engine LX/LC-platform performance upgrades are heating up.
With the Mopar® Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits now hitting dealer shelves, expect things to get that much hotter.
That’s great news for Mopar performance enthusiasts as the factory-engineered kits can add up to 75 horsepower* to the stock 5.7L HEMI engines, while maintaining the factory warranty and reliability.
So if owners want to mildly personalize their rides — or want a full-bore street machine — Mopar Performance Parts offers three stages of Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits from mild to wild that can be installed by a dealer. Keep in mind, stage 2 and 3 kits are not street legal.
Mopar Powertrain Engineer Sean Simpson is the chief tech of the Mopar Performance Parts team that created the much-lauded Drag Pak Challenger, and led the new Scat Pack design team.
“Scat Pack is the realization of the performance kit concept we announced at the 2013 SEMA show and is the next step in the transformation of the new Mopar Performance line,” he said.
In designing the new Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits, the team’s goals were to deliver performance gains that were attainable without interfering with the original warranty, emissions and overall factory robustness. While the stage 2 and 3 kits are not 50-state emissions legal, the Scat Pack 1 Performance package bolts on without violating Federal O.E. certification or CARB emissions requirements.
“Our goal was to design products that work reliably in all sorts of conditions and environments while delivering optimum performance gains,” Simpson said. “We tested these products extensively on our factory dynos and leverage our powertrain engineering resources from FCA US LLC to ensure we deliver on that promise.”
Unique among the Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits are the factory performance-tuned PCMs that come with the Stage 1 kit. This delivers the best of both worlds: dynamic performance gains paired with factory reliability and SAE J1349 dyno-tested robustness.
Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits are sold individually and require progressive stages to install. However, Mopar offers “Bee-Liever” kits for Challengers and Chargers. These combo kits contain all the components of Scat Pack 1, 2 and 3 except the PCM. Plus, the Scat Pack 3 badges.
The Kits: Diving into the Beehive
Scat Pack 1 Kit delivers sizeable power and torque gains along with improved performance drivability and a more throaty exhaust note.
“This is a great option for owners who want to add a mild level of customization and personalization,” Simpson said, adding that the Stage 1 kit can typically be installed in four to five hours. “It really opens the door to performance tuning.”
✓ Powertrain Control Module
✓ Cold Air Intake
✓ Cat-Back Exhaust
✓ Performance Oil Filter
✓ Two Scat Pack 1 Badges
NOTE: The Scat Pack 1 shaker hood package does not include the cold-air intake. Chrysler 300 Stage Kits do not include badges.
Further dialing up the dynos, the Scat Pack 2** Kit features a performance camshaft and valvetrain to add even more HP and torque over the stock 5.7L HEMI® engine.
“This is where the valvetrain and designing the proper springs was essential,” Simpson said. “We developed an engineering and validation process specifically for our performance valve springs, and we believe they are the best on the market.”
✓ Performance Camshaft
✓ Upper/Lower Gasket Set
✓ Heavy-Duty Pushrods
✓ Valve Springs
✓ Tie Bar Kit
✓ Two Scat Pack 2 Badges
NOTE: Requires Scat Pack 1 kit. Chrysler 300 Stage Kits do not include badges.
Combined with Scat Pack 1 and 2, the Scat Pack 3** Performance Upgrade Kit utilizes high-flow CNC-ported and polished cylinder heads and Apache (SRT®) exhaust manifolds and catalysts.
“We tested a lot of different head ports on the market and a lot of them are either race-only applications or not really affordable,” Simpson said. “We extensively tested our heads on chassis dynos and on the track, and feel our porting design is the best of all of them.”
✓ CNC-Ported High-Flow Cylinder Heads
✓ Gasket Set
✓ 6.4L Apache (SRT®) Exhaust Manifolds and Catalyst
✓ Mounting Brackets
✓ Scat Pack 3 Badges
NOTE: Requires Scat Pack 1 & 2 kits. Chrysler 300 Stage Kits do not include badges.
THE SCAT PACK LEGEND CONTINUES
Running a factory performance group is an enviable situation for any automotive enthusiast. But for Mopar Performance Engineer Sean Simpson and his team at the FCA US Tech Center in Auburn Hills, it’s never ‘just another day at the office.’ Rather, it’s living memories of the legendary Mopar factory performance groups from the 1960s and ‘70s. Their mission: build dominant street machines that would hit the drag strips on the weekend to spur showroom sales on Monday. This is how the classic Dodge Scat Pack vehicles were born.
Back then the Scat Pack vehicles featured the 1968 Dodge Dart GTS, Coronet R/T and the Charger R/T.
According to Simpson, today’s Mopar Performance group operates very similar to the legendary factory performance shops, but in much more high-tech ways. Factory dynamometers, rapid prototype test parts and telemetry systems, CAD and computer analysis are just the beginning. Across the tech center campus is an assortment of FCA US powertrain and chassis engineers, with plenty of test cars and helmets atop cubicles and stuffed in desk drawers ready to go.
“Their engineers know the strengths of the engines and platforms, so they can help us develop more awesome products,” Simpson said. “We test parts in vehicles that our program engineers can take out and beat up on a regular basis. Then we take them to the drag strips and to the track, and burn them some more on chassis dynos.”
For those parts that pass the test? According to Simpson, they’ve been brutally vetted, and if they survive, they’ll get the Mopar Performance seal of approval. And a new legendary Mopar part number.
For more information on ordering Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits, contact your local FCA US dealer.
* Maximum horsepower gains were validated based on using the SAE J1349 testing standard, however, actual power gains depend on specific vehicle applications, conditions and vehicle options. Some performance gains might be less.
** Federal law, and many state, provincial and local laws impose vehicle emissions and safety standards that prohibit the use of a motor vehicle on public streets and highways if the vehicle is not compliant with such standards. FCA US customers are responsible for complying with applicable federal, state, provincial and local laws, including environmental and safety laws, and for determining whether their modified vehicle complies with such laws. Vehicles with Scat Pack 2 and 3 Performance Upgrade Kits installed are prohibited from operating on public streets and highways.
TAGS: 2016 Issue 1 | Chrysler 300 | dodge challenger | dodge charger | Mopar | Mopar Performance | scat pack | Scat Pack Performance Upgrade Kits
Scat Pack Fun Facts
You know you want more Scat Pack facts!
- In 1969, Dodge presented the Super Bee Scat Pak Special package on vehicles with the 383 Magnum engine. That’s not a typo, the name was actually changed to Pak, though it’s unclear why. It included a Ramcharger air hood with unique paint and chrome tie-down pins, raised white letter or redline tires, and an optional vinyl roof.
- When the Scat Pack models first hit the auto show circuit, the displays were loud and proud with cars seen in HEMI Orange, Top Banana, Go Mango, and Plum Crazy, which helped create excitement around the new brand. The early displays also featured Dodge Safety Sheriff Joe Higgins and his signature warning, “Y’all drive careful now, hear?” The 1969 Chicago Auto Show even had cutouts of his face that fans could wear.
- Several other vehicles were added to the Scat Pack at a later time, including the 340 Swinger and Charger 500 in 1969, the Demon 340 in 1971, the E-body Challenger R/T and T/A, and the Charger Daytona.
- The Super Bee was a response to the popular Plymouth Road Runner and got its logo from the Scat Pack bee mascot.
- Referred to as the “premier ambassador to the Challenger Nation,” popular Dodge dealer and salesman Bob Frederick formed The Frederick Scat Pack after the Challenger relaunched for 2008.
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