Summernats 36 Grand Champion-winning Dodge Charger

Joe Bauer’s 3000hp Dodge Charger took on Street Machine Summernats 36 and emerged as Grand Champion

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Stunning looks and a great personality? Yep, such a combo does exist, as evidenced by Joe Bauer’s Summernats 36-stomping, Grand Champion-crowned Dodge Charger. With a body worthy of a supermodel and an extremely persuasive 3000hp emanating from its blown Hemi heart, Joe’s Charger rocks beauty and brawn in equal measure.

First published in the March 2024 issue of Street Machine

“I wanted to build an iconic American muscle car to an elite level,” Joe explains. “I also wanted to incorporate the performance and handling usually lacking with cars of this calibre.” Given the swag of trophies the Dodge picked up at ’Nats 36, along with the car’s performance in the Grand Champ driving events, it’s fair to say Joe well and truly achieved his goal.

Joe’s a long-time second-generation Charger fan, so it’s no surprise that a 1968 example caught his eye while he was scouring the ’net for a suitable base for his build plans. “I only had photos to go off, and the car looked to be in reasonable condition,” he recalls. “Once it landed here and was nestled in the garage, I stripped it down and sold off pretty much every part that bolts to the car before having it sandblasted. There was not one panel on it that wasn’t rusted or damaged.”

Joe knuckled down and got on with the job. “I spent the next 16 months building the car at home to a fully driveable mock-up stage, starting at what felt to be the most logical step: cutting out everything from underneath the car and from the firewall forward, then starting fresh.”

The body mods enhancing those beautiful Charger hips are extensive, while not detracting one bit from Mother Mopar’s vision. The roof has been chopped 1.5 inches and the gutter rails deleted. The front and rear guards have been widened, with the former also stretched two inches longer and the latter treated to new sheet-metal end caps. The doors no longer have quarter glass and now sport recessed Kindig It door handles, while flush-mounted bumper bars further tidy each end.

A ’69 Charger tail panel now graces the rear, chosen by Joe because he felt the ’69’s curvy tail-lights better suited the car’s lines than the originals. With the welder still running hot, Joe tubbed the rear and stretched the adjacent wheelarches, before fabricating a full chassis, firewall, inner guards and floor, along with converting it to right-hand drive in the process. Phew!

Part of the chassis fab included custom mounts to locate the Miller Brothers tubular front end and full complement of Hydroshox coil-over shocks. Brakes all ’round are whopping TBS six-piston calipers on equally generous rotors, actuated by an underdash BHSS master cylinder. Out back, a Hillman Race Components sheet-metal nine-inch is filled with a 40-spline, Truetrac-equipped Strange centre and 3.5:1 gears.

It’s hard to miss Joe’s choice of rolling stock. The fronts are 20×9 custom billets wrapped in a 245/35 Pirellis, while the rears are ginormous 20×20-inch billets – yes, you read that correctly – wearing equally steamroller-spec 565/50 Mickey Thompsons.

Getting those obese rear tyres to spin like they’re 195s on butter takes a seriously healthy donk, so Joe turned his attention to blown Hemi power, opting for a methanol-swilling, 3000hp 604-cuber built by Australian drag racing icon, Victor Bray. “I would have to say the most memorable part of the build was turning spanners with the legend himself,” Joe enthuses.

The monster donk starts with a water-coolable Keith Black Gen 2 Hemi block, which sports a Callies stroker crank attached to GRP aluminium rods and JE pistons. Up top you’ll find Stage V Engineering cylinder heads and a For Hemis Only intake.

Not many punters would know that an 18/71 blower even exists, let alone seen one on a street machine, but Joe’s DMPE 18/71 pumps out a hectic 45psi of boost, with the attached EFI system controlled by an Emtron ECU.

“I tasked Rob from Definition Motorsport to try and tune the engine on E85 to achieve 3000rwhp,” says Joe. “At 2100hp on 25lb of boost and limited timing on the engine, we made the decision to swap to methanol, as the 18/71 blower was getting too hot. I didn’t want go to down the mechanical fuel pump route, as I wanted to keep a nice clean engine bay.”

That’s why Joe went with two Elixir 2760gph brushless in-tank pumps, twin M12 inline filters, and –12AN fuel lines feeding 16 Atomizer injectors, eight of which are for the Joe Blo hat. “I mounted the injectors externally underneath the blower so there’d be no intake air interference, then plumbed 10 fuel lines just to keep the blower cool,” Joe says. The other eight injectors are fed via a custom fuel rail by Joe Blo that goes directly into the manifold, which had to be drilled to accommodate the larger fuel injectors.

The Hemi is backed by a 3500hp-rated Turbo 400 transmission fronted by a 3000rpm stall converter, while the tailshaft is another whopping item – a six-inch carbonfibre unit. And check out that exhaust: 2.75-inch primaries feed a quad 3.5-inch crossover assembly, which in turn forms twin six-inch tailpipes.

With the fab work mostly completed and the car driveable, Joe shipped the Charger to Oz Rods on Brisbane’s south side for final finishing, panel and paint, and what a result! Oz Rods’ Bruce applied the House of Kolor Brandywine hue, and the results are droolworthy, further highlighted by an R/T-style factory stripe ghosted across the boot and rear quarters.

The interior has been just as meticulously executed. BMW E90 convertible front seats and custom rears work in with a fully fabricated dash assembly and console, which, along with the modified door cards and parcel shelf, have been wrapped in a mix of black and grey Ferrari-spec Nappa leather by Shane at Image Trimming. Horsepower is the focal point of Joe’s build, but he hasn’t skimped on luxury, incorporating electric operation for the seats, windows, steering and even air con.

Following its unveiling at Summernats 36, BLOWN RT went on to take out both Grand Champion and People’s Choice, along with a swag of other tinware amongst some very stiff competition. “I was stoked to win People’s Choice, but to take out Grand Champion as well was just surreal,” Joe says.

So, what’s next for Joe? “After spending 10-plus hours a day, six days a week in my shed at home building BLOWN RT for 16 months, and then a further four months with Graham and his guys at Oz Rods, I’m going to take a year off and spend some time with my partner, Minna, and my kids,” he says. “I’ll have the ’68 at MotorEx this year, [and I’ll] find a dyno comp to unleash the Hemi, and possibly [do] a few more car shows. However, my end goal is to take it to SEMA in Las Vegas.”

That said, Joe did just purchase another car to cruise around at the next Summernats. “I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m pretty sure there won’t be another one like it there,” he says. “It won’t be an elite level build, but it will have another blown methanol Hemi with massive feet on the back.”


A significant hurdle for Joe during the build was fitting the 18/71 blower. “The blower itself is 980mm long, so I began by removing the firewall and deleting the air intake grille on the cowl and air plenum, before fabricating a new cowl, firewall, inner guards and extending the engine bay and front guards by 2in,” Joe says. “I basically fabricated a new front end just to provide enough length for the blower.”

The knock-on effect was that Joe now couldn’t use aftermarket bonnet hinges, so he had his mate Jason fabricate new ones from scratch, which disappear underneath the dash. The air conditioning evaporator was relocated to the boot to allow for the step in the firewall. “I kept the original bonnet, but it had to be heavily modified,” Joe says.


Paint:House of Kolor Brandywine
Make:604ci Keith Black Gen 2 Hemi
Block:Water-cooled 4.500in-bore
Crank:Callies 604 stroker
Camshaft:Victor Bray custom-grind
Heads:Stage V Engineering
Intake:For Hemis Only
Induction:EFI, 16 Atomizer injectors, Joe Blo Quattro injector hat
Blower:Custom DMPE 18/71
Exhaust:2.75in primaries to quad 3.5in crossovers, twin 6in tailpipes
Transmission:Shotgun Performance Turbo 400
Diff:Hillman Race Components sheet-metal 9in, Strange hemisphere, Truetrac centre, 3.5:1 diff gears, 40-spline axles
Front:Ringbrothers QA1 tubular front end, hydraulic-controlled 4in-adjustable Hydroshox coil-overs
Rear:Custom four-link, hydraulic-controlled 4in-adjustable Hydroshox coil-overs
Brakes:Custom-made TBS six-piston 13in calipers and 440mm rotors (f), TBS six-piston 8in calipers and 355mm rotors (r)
Master cylinder:BHSS underdash
Steering:Ultimate underdash electric power steering
Rims:Custom billet; 20×9 (f), 20×20 (r)
Tyres:Pirelli P Zero 245/35R20 (f), Mickey Thompson 565/50R20 (r)

My partner Minna for her patience during the build; the legend Victor Bray for building this beast of an engine; the crew at Oz Rods for the killer paintjob and bodywork; Shane at Image Trimming for the tough but classy interior; Chris at 12 Volt Performance for the electrical work; the long list of friends who helped.