DETROIT -- Mark Trostle was out testing the 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat recently when a Challenger fan approached him.
"Do you know you're missing a headlight?" the man asked.
Trostle, head of design for Chrysler's SRT performance division, was astonished that someone noticed one of the four headlights in the 2015 Challenger's grille is hollow inside. You have to look closely to notice there is no glass covering over the center section.
On other Challenger models, the left inner headlight has a clear plastic center section. But on the Hellcat version, what looks like a headlight is actually a combination turn signal/ parking lamp and air scoop that Chrysler calls an "air catcher." It's an example of how designers and engineers are working more closely together these days to solve problems.
One problem was the Hellcat engine's huge appetite for air to cool the engine and to feed the intake system. At full throttle, the supercharged Hemi Hellcat engine can suck the air out of a 10-by-13-by-8-foot room -- about 1,040 cubic feet of air -- in a minute.
"The engineers kept saying to us: 'This thing has got to have as much cooling as possible. We want to get as much air into the cooling module and airbox as possible. What can you guys do? How can you help us?'"
The Hellcat has a functional hood scoop and ducts in between the headlights and below the bumper. But more are was needed for the intake.
Trostle said Chrysler designers revisited a Specialty Equipment Market Association show car, the 2009 Challenger 1320. The bright yellow car had a hollowed-out light that doubled as an air duct.
The idea to use the light area to feed air into the engine dates back decades and is a popular trick used by racers and hot rodders.