At the 2017 SEMA show, Mopar released the Hellcat engine into the wild, so to speak, announcing that it would sell crate ’cats to anyone with 15 grand and a skateboard large enough to strap it to. Also at SEMA, the Ringbrothers of Spring Green, Wisconsin, showed a car that could serve as the veritable model for Mopar’s new adopt-a-Hellcat program: a 1972 AMC Javelin AMX called “Defiant,” built for antifreeze giant Prestone. It’s powered by a Hellcat Hemi tuned by Wegner Motorsports to an utterly feral 1036 horsepower. The car looked amazing up on the stand, but we all know that cars like this always look (and sound) better on the street, so when we were offered a quick spin in the beast at Point Dume, in Malibu, California, we said, “Hell, yes.”
Based on a 1972 AMC Javelin AMX that is said to have been trolling the Rings’ hometown for decades, Defiant is described by its builders as “arguably the wildest custom vehicle ever crafted” by the Ringbrothers team. Not only does it host a Hellcat with four-figure output under its carbon-fiber power-dome-on-a-power-dome hood, but the Ringbrothers have gone to extraordinary lengths to perfect the Javelin’s styling and stance.
If Defiant doesn’t look quite like Javelins you remember, that’s no accident: Ringbrothers moved the front axle forward a full 6.5 inches, then crafted all-new front bodywork out of carbon fiber, complete with the Javelin’s distinct front fender humps in their relocated position. Another difference involves the wheel arches, which on standard Javelins were tucked beneath the horizontal character line in the body’s midsection; all four have been enlarged considerably to contain Defiant’s huge 20-inch wheels, which are a full 11 inches wide in front and 13 inches across at the rear. So the arches now reach above the midsection character line and are finished with a delicate, natural-looking lip. Meanwhile, the bumpers, taillamp trim, and numerous engine-bay components are veritable works of art, milled in house from solid blocks of aluminum. With respect to any Javelin purists who may be out there, the Ringbrothers’ modifications have markedly improved, if not corrected, the Javelin’s most awkward design aspects, virtually eradicating the beaky front overhang and widening its elephant-in-ballet-slippers stance into something more akin to a modern muscle-car posture.
Beneath the skin is a mechanical melange of muscle-car machinery, including a front subframe originally designed for a Chevrolet Camaro by Detroit Speed, which also provided the rack-and-pinion steering. RideTech shocks, sway bars, and side exhausts were also installed, as was a completely custom four-link rear suspension by Ringbrothers. A Chevy 4L80E automatic transmission and a carbon-fiber driveshaft were tasked with delivering the wrath of the goosed Hellcat motor to the 12-bolt rear end (also Chevy sourced), where a pair of 335/30R-20 Michelin tires are pretty much doomed to short lives.
We arrived about an hour before sunset, when the sky set the Jalop Gold paint aglow. It’s quite the color, and thankfully there’s enough matte black on the roof and hood to keep it from being overwhelming. Stepping up for closer inspection revealed details one might not notice from afar, such as a notch in the leading edge of the carbon-fiber hood, the sexy door pulls, the beefy hood anchor pins, anything and everything in the engine bay, and those exquisite taillamps! This car really is spectacular.
Then there’s the rumbling idle, which gives way to a riotous wail on acceleration that you can feel as it passes by as if it were a stampede of 1036 actual horses.
For our drive, we were allotted a 12-mile maximum. Alas, 12 feet was sufficient to scare us sideways (literally) after we depressed the gas pedal perhaps a fraction of an inch too far on entering the busy Pacific Coast Highway. The spectacularly loud but heavenly exhaust note did nothing to calm our nerves as we tried to make friends with this steroidal beast before a twitch or a sneeze might send us spinning. Even at highway speeds, the rear end would hop around without much provocation—with the feather-light gas pedal not helping matters, particularly for unfamiliar drivers. The fearsome jumpiness resembled one’s first experience of a Dodge Viper in the rain, only this car is much heavier and nearly twice as powerful. In the event something goes awry, the only protection is a 1972-period-correct lap belt.
Clearly, it would take more than 12 miles to learn this beast’s wiles. With that radiant paint and thunderous exhaust tipping off any constabulary within five miles that something Defiant their way comes, we decided to save the tires and our driver’s licenses for future use and chilled for the balance of our drive. This gave us time to appreciate the low-backed white leather chairs, the surprisingly amenable ride quality, and the light, precise steering. The car tracked nice and straight as long as we remained judicious with the throttle, and the six-piston brakes at each wheel slowed the car elegantly as we approached stop signs and traffic lights, where we enjoyed considerable deference from fellow motorists, who often waved us by, either to get a better look at the car or out of utter fear. As we crept through a posh Malibu neighborhood on our return to Point Dume, involuntarily setting off car alarms and scuttling flocks of birds from the trees overhead, all we could think was how much we hoped that all wayward Hellcats might find homes as epic as this.