One of the first Barnstormin’ columns I ever wrote was about the fact that domestic manufacturers are obsessed with selling performance cars using numbers and performance data literally no normal person understands. GM and Ford continue to do that but Dodge finally figured it out and decided that the majority of us knuckle dragging performance fans out there would freak the hell out if they built the most audaciously bad ass production muscle car of all time. Lo and behold, look what happened! The internet blew up last week with the final reveal of the Dodge Challenger Demon a car that can run 9.60s in the quarter mile at over 140mph basically as delivered to the showroom. It goes 0-60 in 2.3 seconds. It is ridiculous in every shape, form, and fashion and people are loving it. The more important thing here is that Ford and GM have been caught completely pantsless with this car. COMPLETELY.
Yes, they sell COPO Camaros and Cobra Jet Mustangs but those represent a total of less than 120 cars per year. GM knew that they were about to get sledgehammered and rolled out some Camaro “drag race development cars” ahead of SEMA. I give them credit for doing something but as soon as those cars were “debuted” they completey disappeared from any sort of news updates, rumors, or hot dish from the company. Why? Did they know that pound for pound they were going to get ground into dust by the Demon? Were they a quick diversionary tactic trying to lessen the blow of the Demon rumors? Tough to tell really. At this point the assumption is that they have buried those cars or gone back to the drawing board. From some information we have coming from inside the company (GM), there’s been somewhat of a shift on the ethos of what direction the muscle car platforms will take in terms of how they are promoted. We’re not talking Demon level stuff (yet) but somewhere a light bulb went on and drag racing has become a much larger and brighter blip on the radar screen.
Ford is in basically the same boat as Chevrolet. The Mustang GT350 with its high winding engine has been sold like the the last generation Boss was with road racing as the primary focus. Before someone jumps down my throat about me hating on road racing or cars that can actually turn, cool your jets for a minute. I think as time has shown, I have a massive appreciation and love for those cars. The GT350 is not a bad car, nor is the Camaro Z/28 or the ZL1 or whatever machine you want to pick but let’s be brutally honest here. There are a way higher percentage of GT350 owners hammering a drag strip this coming weekend than a road course and the same can be said for the other cars as well. Do we hear about the first guy to run 2:10 at Road Atlanta in a Z/28 Camaro or do we hear about the first guy to run 10s in one? Exactly.
Not to double back on that point of the original column those many years ago but when we hear that the ZL1 beat the GT350 lap time at the Nurburgring by running 7:29.6 does anyone really know what the hell that means? Yes, the test driver and a few hundred race drivers who have ever had the “Green Hell” all to themselves. Even those fun seekers who lap rental cars or their own junk have no conception of that because they are too busy trying not to be killed or kill others who are renting the same space that they are. No one has ever leaned on the fender of their car at a car show and told someone that their Challenger runs 7:56.4 around the Nurburgring. ZERO PEOPLE.
We rightfully cry and scream about how the bean counters wreck all the cool OEM stuff with their penny pinching ways but in this case it sure seems like a group of engineers that were completely obsessed with turning left to right drove the product in a direction that left a gaping hole which Dodge saw and has exploited with the Hellcat and now the Demon. Ford and GM have no answer to this situation at the moment. Word is that there’s a 7.0L engine headed for the Mustang which would be awesome and if they pull their heads out of a dark, warm place they’ll offer a version of that car on the street that (if nothing else) at least nods to the drag racing side of things.
GM has the engines to build a Camaro that’ll run single digits out of the box but I’m wondering if the half century plus rule of leaving the Corvette the king of all things performance will hamper those efforts. Remember, the 6th generation Camaro weighs 1,000lbs less than the Challenger so they can get away without the prodigious horsepower numbers needed to move two tons in that direction swiftly.
So…the table is set for Ford and GM to do something, anything to answer this car from Dodge. Using history as a guide, the 3,300 unit announced Demon production run is a clever smoke screen to help their dealers juice the price of these cars. Remember when Hellcats were going to be limited and then demand exploded and the company cranked them out like they were skittles? We’d be shocked if that did not happen again.
The bottom line is that we are living as the most spoiled generation of horsepower junkies to ever turn a tire or a wrench. Seriously. An LS6 Chevelle or Hemi Challenger may as well be a Smart car compared to the Demon. Actually a ZL1 Camaro of GT350 Mustang are too I guess.
Shots fired Ford and GM….are you going to fight back or not?