In 2013, there were probably some sad-sack faces at Dodge. Then parent FCA was investing millions in bringing Fiat back to America — a certified bust now, which took development money away from Dodge. Plus the new, compact class Dart was an underwhelming effort that tarnished the brand.

Yet one can image the “good ole boys” in the powertrain engineering department were busy doing some late-night bench-racing that created a wild scheme to revive the cornerstone brand at FCA.

Chris Cowland’s team, at the urging of Tim Kuniskis — now the Dodge brand manager — was secretly working on a high-output engine for the Dodge Challenger and Charger, a monster-motor that would sway consumers to revisit the infamous MOPAR brand for high performance. Perhaps Chris joked to Billy-Bob and Todd, “if we bolt a supercharger pumping oh, 30,000 liters of fresh air a minute into a beefed-up 6.2-liter iron block V8, used twin air-to-liquid intercoolers pumping say 45 liters of cold fluid a minute to keep the mix cool, we might need a half-inch fuel line to feed the beast. Do you think, Billy-Bob, we can wrangle 600-hp out of it and beat those Ford guys?”

Well, by late 2014, the secret more than snuck out of the bag, as Chris, Billy-Bob, and a whole bunch of serious engine masters created the most potent production-ready V8 engine ever built up to that point. They crushed the output goal, creating a monster that produced upwards of 750-hp in repeated testing. De-tuning the motor slightly to 707-hp — so Dodge could comfortably offer a warranty — the new engine was ready for 2015 model year Challengers. The motor’s name would be Hellcat — after the infamous Grumman WWII fighter planes.

Six months later, the Hellcat engine debuted in the four-door Charger. Why, you might ask, would the brand need muscle cars with 707-hp? Because they could. And it’s what the original Dodge brothers would do.

Today, it’s hard to fault the decision leading to the whole Hellcat series — which has gone on to power special versions of the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram’s wild TRX pickup. The Hellcat series saved the Dodge brand, while making Challenger and Charger SRT’s legendary performance cars for a generation that missed out on the 1960’s.

If Hellcat powered Dodge cars are only 25% of the mix, that is okay, too, as these special editions increase margins as well as brand loyalty. Doubt it? While Charger sales remain strong, where is Chevy’s Impala, once the top selling vehicle in the whole country? Where is Ford’s full-size Taurus? What happened to the Toyota Avalon or the Buick LeSabre? The Charger played the “go wild” card and won the war.

Just in time for an early birthday present to me — in case you can’t tell I’m a big fan of the Hellcat series — our effervescent Go Mango Charger SRT arrived in late July. It was just as sizzling as the summer sunsets.

Now packing 717-hp in wide-body trim — almost 6-inches wider than stock due to the need for larger tires all around — the SRT also sports front and rear color-matched spoilers, 11-inch wide 305/35R Pirelli’s mounted on black 20-inch alloy wheels, plus one of the larger hood scoops in production. Heat-extractor vents atop the hood are included, plus the raucous dual-mode exhaust system that barks out the Hellcat’s melodious screams under pressure.

The look is sinister, menacing, and also exciting. Every stop for fuel — which can be frequent if you like to exercise the Hellcat’s prodigious acceleration — generates enthusiastic dialogue with other drivers.

But wait, there are two more Charger Hellcat’s available — just in case 717-hp isn’t enough ($79,595 base, $85,960 as shown). The SRT Redeye, with 797-hp, ($88,195) is an option, plus the “sportier” Redeye Jailbreak ($89,190) apparently comes with a bail bondsman on speed dial.

When the Charger Hellcat debuted, it was the quickest, fastest 4-door sedan in the world. Others have challenged that title, but none of those competitors can match the Charger’s visceral feel. The SRT can turn, brake, and fly like few others, but it is not a nimble sports car. It is a buttoned-down and comfortable 4-door in grocery-getter mode, or, if you insist, a tire-shredding grin machine in hair-on-fire mode. Just think versatile Dodge Charger 4-door with a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

Next year is it, Dodge says. Hellcat production will end in 2023, as Stellantis — Dodge’s current owner — says powerful EV’s will debut next. Rumors persist of a going-away present from Dodge, perhaps a 900-hp Hellcat to end a very memorable era of full-throttle fun.

Thank you for the special memories, Dodge.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.