Dodge shocked the world when it announced that the Challenger and Charger Hellcat would make 707 horsepower from a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. It almost didn't happen, though. In fact, if it weren't for a certain Ford Mustang, the Hellcat would have had only around 600 horsepower.
Initially, Dodge engineers targeted the Hellcat V-8's output at 600 horsepower, but when FCA executives first got word of the 662-hp 2013 Mustang GT500, a new horsepower goal was set, reports the Detroit Free Press. The Hellcat's main powertrain engineer, Chris Cowland, told executives that he'd deliver 675 horsepower-but in reality, he had his sights aimed even higher.
Cowland's team got to work on building an engine that would top 700 horsepower, but in order to prevent the news from getting out, they had to keep their goal secret. The Freep reports that even senior management didn't know the Hellcat project's goals; neither did some of the folks on the product development team. The team went so far as to hide the Hellcat's official dyno test numbers from their FCA co-workers, lest anything leak out.
The powerful GT500 also presented additional challenges for Cowland and crew: FCA executives wanted the 675-hp Hellcat to be completed in the same time frame originally approved for the 600-hp car, with the same fuel economy. Amazingly, the engineers nailed that last one-the Hellcat is surprisingly efficient on the highway if you baby it.
In hindsight, upping the Hellcat's horsepower targets was a very savvy move on FCA's part. If Dodge had only built a 600-hp Hellcat, it would have been overshadowed by the likes of the GT500, the Cadillac CTS-V, the Corvette Z06, and the Camaro ZL1. Instead, with its iconic and unbeaten-by-any-domestic-automaker 707-horsepower rating, the Hellcat is a legend.
This story originally appeared on Road & Track via Autoweek.