By on October 3, 2017

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There’s only one reason for the Dodge Demon to exist, and that’s to go fast in a straight line, preferably at a dragstrip.

Which is why I haven’t fully understood the point of the car, at least up until now. And maybe I still don’t. I mean, how many dedicated drag racers are out there that want to spend a pretty penny ($85K, give or take) on something that’s factory-ready for the strip and easily streetable? Back in the muscle car days, sure, that was a thing, but today’s drag racers are probably either finding a cheap Fox-body Mustang and decking it out, or, if they have the means, going whole hog and buying something from an OEM that isn’t street legal.

That’s just a guess on my part – I’m not as in tune with those who drag race on weekends as I’d like to be. Maybe there’s been a clamor for a car just like the Demon for a long time. Either way, Dodge isn’t going to build many – just 3,000 for the U.S. and 300 for Canada.

I can understand why the Challenger, including the Hellcat version, exists – it looks cool on Woodward, the V8 models sound badass, and it’s the closest thing FCA has to a “pony car” (in my ideal world, Dodge would sell a true pony car alongside the Challenger, but I’m no Sergio). But unlike most sports cars, which can give you at least a taste of their track prowess on the right public road, the Demon’s skillset can’t be safely applied to the street.

That doesn’t mean I think the car should be banned – Automotive News got that wrong – just that, on paper, I didn’t quite get the hype.

Then someone tossed me the red key.

(Read More…)

By on September 22, 2017

BMW acceleration, Image: Bigstock

Did you notice that TTAC was short one article by yours truly this week? Probably not — but if you did, allow me to explain the reason. I’ve spent the entire week doing testing for Road & Track’s Performance Car Of The Year issue. Today, I drove 10 mostly brilliant and remarkably capable vehicles against the clock around the NCM West course, ranging from a Honda Civic Type R to a Lamborghini Huracan Performante and a McLaren 720S.

I think that a lap around NCM West is a good indicator of a car’s speed, insofar as it includes everything from a straight-line drag race to some unpleasant off-camber turns that can send a car sideways at freeway speeds or well above. If you asked me how fast a car was, I would suggest you let me drive it around NCM West — only then would I be able to tell you.

Since doing that is expensive and often impractical, most people measure automotive speed the old-fashioned way: they read Car and Driver. But that still doesn’t settle the issue: what is the proper yardstick of automotive pace?

(Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge dropped another unsubtle hint at the drag-focused Challenger SRT Demon’s power output this week, inserting it in a teaser that showcased the car’s unique performance data recorder for its Uconnect infotainment system.

After saying “nothing is a coincidence and everything means something” in an earlier press release, Road and Track speculated that a stamped serial number, reading 0757, was likely the the number of horses hiding beneath the Demon’s hood. Today, FCA let loose another video that showed the “Performance Pages” application in action, with the clock set for 7:57.

FCA has issued loads of cryptic messages over the last couple of months, but with the biggest question seemingly answered, perhaps it will be a little more straightforward when it comes time for the next announcement. I wouldn’t bet on it. As for the performance app, Dodge says the Demon will have graphical interfaces for just about everything a spec-hungry amateur drag racer could want, along with some extra bells and whistles for the strip.  (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2017

Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge has been parsing out minor details on the Demon, slowly shaping its identity, for what seems like decades, when it has actually only been about a month. In today’s publicity sprig, Fiat Chrysler indicated that — unlike the Hellcat — the Demon will be strip-focused with a suspension setup specifically designed exclusively for straight-ahead speed.

With Dodge claiming that the Hellcat is the “ultimate do everything muscle car” with an intention  “to strike that perfect balance between drag strip brute force, road course competence and street car civility,” I am left wondering just how streetable the Demon could possibly be. Like most purpose-built cars, dragsters are wonderful at doing exactly one thing and absolutely terrible at everything else. For Dodge’s new hype machine, the added forward momentum might come at the expense of hanging a right.  (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2015

Our recent post asking what possible relevance most automobile racing has to the consumer side of the auto industry has me thinking about a race series idea that’s been percolating in my head for a while. The goal of the concept is to come up with a racing series that will resonate both with consumers (read: auto manufacturers) and racing enthusiasts. So far, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of cars, rules, tracks and schedules would be involved, but as yet I haven’t come up with some kind of catchy acronymic name.

To begin with, it would be based on production cars in North America and the races would be run in all three countries that make up the continent — Canada, Mexico, and the United States. That should get some manufacturers involved, if not fielding works teams, at least in terms of funding, PR, and technical support. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2014

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Motorsports enthusiasts sometimes don’t realize that behind the glamour of car and motorcycle racing we see on television there is an extensive support industry that makes everything from specialized dipsticks to complete racecars. Much of that industry is located in three locations around the globe. England’s so called Motorsports Valley is where 8 of the 11 F1 teams have their race shops within about an hour’s drive from the Silverstone track, in  Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and the South Midlands. About 45,000 people in the UK make their living from motorsports. In the U.S., the racing industry is primarily centered, not surprisingly, around Indianapolis, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR, respectively. It should also come as no surprise that Indiana’s Purdue University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have both examined the economic impact of motorsports in their states. Purdue reports that more than 23,000 people are employed directly by the motorsports industry in Indiana which in turn are responsible for another 423,000 indirect jobs. A decade ago UNC Charlotte found that motorsports then contributed $5 billion to the North Carolina economy. (Read More…)

By on December 17, 2013

2015 Mustang

I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super car market. I also remember the very first question that was asked: Will a Ford 9″ bolt in? It was the first question, right out of the box … and it seems like someone at Ford remembers. The new-for-2015 Mustang is going to hit dealers with a new independent rear suspension late next year, and it seems like Ford Racing will have a 9″ live axle option ready.
(Read More…)

By on September 13, 2013

1970_Toyota_Corona_Commercial-Picture courtesy of Toyota USASince my first car was a 1969 Toyota Corona sedan, I always look for these cars in junkyards. I toy with the idea of getting another first-gen Corona sedan someday, into which I will swap a 1UZ-FE engine out of a Lexus LS400, so of course I check the internetz for old Corona ads. Here’s a good one! (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2013

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Personal opinion time here: I hate trailer queens. Let me clarify the term “trailer queen” before anybody gets the wrong idea. Trailer queens are vehicles that leave the safety of a garage, enter the safety of a trailer and head out on the street in an enclosure towed by another vehicle.

I saw a very nice car being shoved into a covered trailer this weekend and it just kind of set me off on the topic of trailer queens. Don’t get me wrong, there are many other vehicles beyond broken-down cars that should be towed behind another vehicle. A barely street legal quarter mile ride should be trailered for practical reasons like: microscopic gas mileage, finicky track motors, an earnest desire on the part of their owners to remain in one piece.

(Read More…)

By on June 12, 2013

There’s something powerful about this video. The violence of the launch. The frantic revs, the merciless shifts, the fact that the driver hits fifth gear before crossing the line. The only question is: how fast is he going?

(Read More…)

By on November 10, 2011

Summer, 1999: I’d managed to get the Impala into the 14s, barely, with a screamin’ 406-cubic-inch small-block under the hood, but I knew the car would do much better with more traction. Meanwhile, my desire to tell the car’s story coincided with a job move into the maelstrom of dot-com madness. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2011

After dropping the hopped-up 406 small-block I’d built from scratch in place of the worn-out 350 I’d swapped in 1990, I was geared up to take the car to the dragstrip and see if I could better the high-16-second ETs I’d managed in Atlanta; an important part of this process involved stripping a lot of unnecessary weight out of the car. At the same time (early 1999) I was reevaluating the Impala Hell Project’s role in my life, and thinking about how I might best realize my original vision for the car which had gone from art project to daily driver. (Read More…)

By on September 29, 2011

After I moved from San Francisco to Atlanta and then got a job writing Year One’s catalogs, rubbing elbows with all those drag-race-crazed Southern gearheads on the job meant that it wasn’t long before I took the Impala to the dragstrip. (Read More…)

By on September 4, 2011

Having the Falcon next to it for scale makes identification of this crazy, small-block-Chevy-powered drag car much easier. It’s not the kind of vehicle you expect to see at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway on Test-n-Tune Night. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2011

The D15B7 engine that Honda installed in my beater/daily-driver ’92 Civic DX was rated at 102 horsepower. Car and Driver managed to get the ’92 DX down the quarter-mile in 16.7 seconds… but that was at sea level, in a brand-new car. With its tired 200,000-mile engine gasping for air at 5,280 feet up, my Civic is definitely short on power in its new Colorado home. The good news is that I have an Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in the garage, and it’s getting swapped into my Civic very soon. That means I needed some “before” dragstrip numbers, so I can see just how much improvement the new engine will bring. Time to visit Bandimere Raceway for Test-&-Tune night! (Read More…)

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