If you’ve seen our huge photo gallery from Detroit’s Autorama, you know that the show floor was filled with some of the most beautiful and painstakingly crafted custom cars in the world. Yet somehow, in the midst of acres of custom-car beauty, Roadkill’s weathered General Mayhem 1968 Dodge Charger took home a first-place trophy in the Traditional Custom class from the show. This is of course, absolutely nuts, as it is about as far from traditional as we could imagine. Clearly the class win is because of all the work done by Mike Copeland’s Diversified Creations in giving General Mayhem a 707-horsepower Dodge Hellcat powerplant, and not the Charger’s Roadkilly exterior, which was pretty much just customized by neglect and burnouts on gravel.
Copeland had put Roadkill’s Generals—Mayhem and Maintenance—on display at Autorama in the Diversified Creations booth along with the E-Rod ‘79 Camaro Z28 that Diversified built entirely through email correspondence with Freiburger and Hot Rod Magazine, plus a custom Ford F100 that he originally bought from Freiburger before restoring. The booth also had Copeland’s wife’s daily driver, a Jeep Wrangler with a 926-horsepower supercharged LS swap.
Along with the E-Rod and the F100, Copeland said the General Mayhem brought the most gawking onlookers. Roadkill shirts abounded and fans even offered him money to sit in the car (He politely declined, lest anybody have Freiburger’s smell imprinted on them from the driver’s seat).
The General Maintenance, on the other hand, divided the crowd. “Prompted by insistence that the Maintenance was surely a wrap, Copeland had a sign put on the roof with a photo showing it in the paint booth to demonstrate that, in fact, the Dodge-y paint had been applied that way with surprising care. As for the car in general? “Everybody that knew Roadkill knew why it was that way,” Copeland said. “Literally everyone else said, ‘Why in the hell would you do that to that car?’
Suffice to say, Roadkill and Mike Copeland go way back. When Copeland called Freiburger to ask if he could borrow the Generals, Freiburger was amiable in spite of the Mayhem’s knackered transmission. Copeland offered to fix it while he had the car in Michigan. It turned out to be a pinched wire that is now fixed, so the Mayhem is headed back to California in better shape, thanks to Copeland.
That fix was, of course, no issue for Diversified Creations, which did all the legwork on the world’s first Hellcat swap. It took three weeks of solid work, but Copeland’s crew made the 707-horsepower Hellcat engine work in the old Charger. They retained much of the original car: cooling systems, steering column, and most of the wiring. However, the shop had to fabricate a number of custom parts, like engine mounts, headers, and a notch in the front K-member so everything cleared.
Still, Freiburger had all the confidence in the world in Copeland’s shop. “When he called us up, David said ‘You’re probably the only shop in the world that can do one of these things [Laughs],’” Copeland said. That’s not an exaggeration; Dodge president Tim Kuniskis said he didn’t think anybody would ever make a Hellcat swap run.
But run it did. Diversified’s pulled off the swap flawlessly, surprising Roadkill producer Julia Smart during the Episode 43 shooting at US 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan. “When we took General Mayhem to the track the first time, we went to the starting line and made a run. David came back and I said, ‘Let’s change the tire pressure and make a couple of clicks on the [adjustable] shocks,” Copeland said. “Julia said, ‘You mean it can make a second run?’”
Well, we know who to call on the rare occasion when we need reliability.
Go check out Diversified Creation’s work on their website and congratulate them on via social media (Facebook and Instagram) on making our garbage trophy-worthy against all odds. After you’ve done that, remind yourself how awesome the Hellcat swap is with Episode 43 of Roadkill: