Hennessey Venom GT is Now the World’s Fastest Convertible!

Ever since 2013 with the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport smashing world speed records for a production car, legendary Texas tuning firm Hennessey, and Bugatti, have been duking it out on runways with the world’s fastest “production” cars. Why “production?” Because these cars are made in extremely limited quantities.

Does that make them any less impressive machines? No, of course not. It just means that there is a very small customer base for these cars, and those who do own them rarely, if ever, exploit their full potential.

The Hennessey Venom GT Spyder won the latest battle in the speed war. It hit 265.9 mph on a 2.9-mile runway at Naval Air Station Lemoore on March 25. Who drove the Venom GT Spyder to such a high speed? None other than the Ford Performance Racing School Director Brian Smith. The feat was recorded by the independent speed testing firm, Racelogic.

The Venom GT Sypder proved to be much quicker than the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport Vitesse, which hit a still-impressive 254 mph back in 2013. That was a record-breaking run. Think that’s impressive? It is. The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport hit 268 mph in 2013 as well, and held that record for a year. The Venom GT hit an incredible 270.49 mph during a record attempt at Kennedy Space Center in 2014.

The Veyron is now out of production, and the much-hyped Chiron replacement should be out in the next year or so, according to Bugatti. Bugatti claims much higher speeds than the Veyron, along with a host of improvements. A blog post about the Chiron and all of Bugatti’s promises is in short order.

Anyways, this means that Hennessey can sit on their throne for a while. Don’t worry, Bugatti – or someone else – will come along and snatch the title.

The Venom (both versions) is powered by a twin-turbocharged 7.0-liter V8 with a dynamometer-proven 1,451 horsepower and 1,287 horsepower. That’s the kind of power you’d see in something meant to go down the drag strip. Hennessey claims a 0-60 time of less than 2.4 seconds. If something that’s RWD and has almost 1,500 horsepower can do that, put my name down for it!

Also, Hennessey’s timing couldn’t have been better. This year is Hennessey’s 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Hennessey will be selling three limited-edition Venom GT Spyder “World Record Edition” cars. How much are they asking? A paltry $1.3 million.

That’s the video of the world record for the world’s fastest convertible being smashed to pieces. Congratulations, Hennessey. Celebrate, and make the Venom even faster. Somebody is going to get that trophy soon enough.

What Makes the Monaco Grand Prix So Special?

Monaco has been called the casino capital of the world.  It’s got a lot of wealth squeezed into just 499 acres.  For reference, that’s almost five times the size of Disneyland.  It’s also the oldest circuit of Formula 1, having been a track since 1929.  The route is essentially the same as it was in 1929, which gives you a unique opportunity to see cars with nearly 1000 horsepower blasting around for first place.  It’s also one of the few tracks where race cars get to run through the tight streets of a city.

For those of you who watch motorsports, you’re likely going to agree with me that the reason that people are drifting away from watching various races is that it doesn’t seem as exciting anymore.  I think it has to do with the fact that the tracks are wide (they can usually take well over three cars at even the narrowest corner), and that the cameramen are getting pushed further away from the action.  This last fact might seem trivial and stupid to you, but think about it for a second.  Thanks to GoPros (I have nothing against them), automotive enthusiasts are getting used to punching in a search term into YouTube (again, nothing against it) and seeing POV videos of some motorcyclist or crazy driver blasting their way through traffic.  You can put a GoPro on just about any surface on a car or motorcycle so that everybody can see the action.  That’s all fine and dandy, but we need to do this in the professional racing world.

Many Formula 1 races are actually quite exciting, but they don’t seem like it on your TV. The tracks are so wide that it’s nearly impossible to get a cameraman close to the action.  It just doesn’t seem quite as exhilarating as hearing that unearthly shriek coming towards you, the whirs and pops from the turbocharger, and the crackling downshifts sending flames shooting out of the back of the car.  There’s only so much action a camera can capture when it’s 100 feet away from the action, instead of ten feet away.

I look forward to Monaco for this reason: it’s one of the few races left where I can feel like I’m right there, even if I’m several thousand miles away from the action.  It’s the closest we can get to seeing a modern car whip around one of the most historic tracks in the world.

I feel that Formula 1 has turned into what NASCAR used to be.  Think of NASCAR as the WWE Raw TV show, while Formula 1 is like watching a street fight.  I know this might seem ridiculous, but if you were into watching wrestling, would you want to see a scripted and pre-ordained fight, or would you want to watch a fight where nothing is scripted or agreed to other than the fight itself?

NASCAR used to hold a special magic for me, and I only watch it at Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway now, as most of the drivers are inexperienced on road courses.  I’ve talked to several friends about the boring, pre-ordained spectacle that NASCAR has become, even though it’s got just enough reality to make it somewhat worth following.

Formula 1 now holds that magic for me.  NASCAR and Formula 1 used to be the bleeding edge of technology, and now it’s up to Formula 1 to do that.  NASCAR today is this: you have a larger-than-life personality, put the pedal to the metal, and let Dale Earnhardt., Jr. or Jimmie Johnson take the win.  It was a shocker to me when Kevin Harvick became the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.  It was completely unexpected, and it helped me somewhat re-kindle my interest in NASCAR.  Formula 1 is now truly a test of a driver, his team, and their car.  If you want to make a big splash in the racing world, become a Formula 1 driver.  I know that what I’ve said has been repeated by many automotive journalists, but it’s worth rehashing.

One last thought (promise!): Monaco is a place that should be high on the bucket list of every automotive and racing fan.  It’s incredibly high on mine.  I’ve always wanted to do a road trip through Europe of all of the great European tracks (Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Goodwood, Le Mans, Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Monaco, Monza and Imola) in a Pagani Huayra.

I’d love to hear your experiences of NASCAR/Formula 1, and why you agree or disagree with me on this.  If you watch another form of motorsport that holds this kind of magic for you, please tell me in the comments section.  I enjoy watching all of the off road racing in Baja and the desert.  It’s entertaining, and it’s truly a test of a driver.

One of my friends from school wrote an excellent article about the loss of magic in NASCAR for him, and it’s worth a read, as well as this article. http://www.theoakleafnews.com/sports/2015/05/12/is-nascar-fading/

Monaco 2011

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Why the NASCAR Fight Syndrome Needs to Be Treated

NASCAR is just about the highest form of motor sports in the U.S.  I know that some of you will disagree with this but hear me out or forever hold your peace.  Think about it this way – Formula 1 has only had a few Americans compete in it over the past 60-some-odd years.  NASCAR is the American version of Formula 1.

There have been some gigantic fights in NASCAR over the years, but the one that really kicked it off was Bobby and Donnie Allison getting into a fistfight with Cale Yarborough in 1979 at Daytona.  There have been some other big fights, notably the Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin pit crew fight a few years back.  The most recent just happened to be a series of fights between Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Matt Kenseth.

Is NASCAR still NASCAR or is it WWE?  Look at the picture and decide for yourself.  Here’s the lowdown on what happened.

A restart with 63 laps to go sent Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth bashing eachother for the lead.  Keselowski thought Kenseth was pushing him and didn’t leave a line toward the wall for Kenseth, who was, in fact, trying to pass him.  Kenseth was forced into the wall and bounced into Keselowski, damaging both cars.  While that’s not uncommon in NASCAR, what happened next was.

A restart with six laps to go gave Kenseth, who was a lap down due to his damage, a free pass, which means that he was no longer a lap down.  You’re thinking score for Kenseth, right?  Not exactly.  On his way around the track, he somehow managed to “accidentally” drive around Keselowski’s nose (not his facial nose – his car’s!), damaging the car.

On the restart with two laps to go, Keselowski bashed Denny Hamlin in turn 1.  Hamlin felt Keselowski’s push, and was enraged when he fell to 11th because of this.  Keselowski lost his momentum (and his Top 10 spot), and fell to 16th place due to the now-extensive damage to his car.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s normal.”  What happened next was more than abnormal.

After the race, Hamlin jammed on his brakes directly in front of Keselowski to show his immense displeasure.  As a result of this, Keselowski floored the gas and tried to spin Hamlin.  It didn’t work.  He simply went right around Hamlin, clipping Hamlin’s rear bumper in the process.

Keselowski then proceeded to drive into pit row as he chased down Kenseth, who was unbuckling his safety belts (a common practice among drivers after a race as they come near their pit box).  He T-boned Kenseth, and then inadvertently hit the rear bumper of Tony Stewart.  Stewart, who wasn’t going that fast, stopped his car, jammed it in reverse, and rammed into the front end of Keselowski’s car, destroying the front end.  Keselowski, who was frantically trying to get away from Stewart, backed into Danica Patrick’s car.

Keselowski then untangled his car from the small pileup and drove past everybody and went into his garage.   Hamlin followed him, making contact as Keselowski made his way into the garage, and stuck both cars together.  Keselowski floored the gas in reverse so he could get away, leaving a massive, smoky burnout mark in the garage.  He then drove across some equipment of the team’s that was laying on the ground to get to his car hauler.

The now-furious Hamlin climbed out of his now-stopped car first, and started storming towards Keselowski’s baby-blue Ford, which just so happened to be parked right in front of his black Toyota.  A Hamlin crew member led him away from the cars and handed him a towel to dry his face off.  However, as Keselowski climbed out of his car, Hamlin walked over to Keselowski’s car and threw the sweaty towel at Keselowski, hitting him in the helmet.  Hamlin then ran over to the stunned Keselowski and put him in a bear hug and started to wildly shake him.  After a few moments of scuffling among drivers and crews, Keselowski walked to his hauler.

Let’s not forget about Matt Kenseth.  Kenseth wanted blood.  He followed Keselowski and attacked him from behind as Keselowski was about to enter his hauler trailer.  Crew members of Kenseth intervened after Kenseth put Keselowski in a headlock.  Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, put Kenseth in a chokehold and started to drag him away.  Kenseth crew members immediately separated the two brawling drivers.  During this encounter, Keselowski said, “You hit me under yellow.  You hit me under yellow.  You hit me under yellow.”

Here’s what Kenseth had to say about the incident.  “(Keselowski) was doing something with Denny.  The race had ended, and he’s running into cars on the cool-down lap.  I mean, the race is over, and he comes down pit row and drives into the side of me.  That’s inexcusable.  He’s a champion, and he’s supposed to know better.”

After composing himself inside of his hauler for a few minutes, Keselowski gave a few words to USAToday.  “When we restarted fifth with no right front on it, we fell all the way back to 16th and ruined our day.  That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate.  Then, for some reason, after the race the 11 (Hamlin) stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight.  I don’t know what that was all about, and he swung and hit at my car, so I figured if we’re going to play car wars under yellow and after the race, I’ll join too.  Those guys can dish it out, but they can’t take it.  I gave it back to them and now they want to fight, so I don’t know what’s up with that.”

What Keselowski should have done would have been to take the high road and forget about it.  Why give attention to angry people like that?  Just let it roll off and forget about it.

Hamlin called Keselowski “Out of control.  He’s desperate, obviously, and it’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong because he’s pissed off everyone…that was unfortunate.  Matt was nearly out of his car, and he just plowed into Matt and then ran into Tony and then went into the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage.  Just acting like a dumb*** instead of a champion.”  Hamlin also added Keselowski “Will probably try to wreck everyone” at Talladega next week.  “He’ll just be out of control like normal.  We’ll do what we’ll have to do to get in, and that’s the big picture.”

NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said the sanctioning body had called Keselowski into the hauler.  “We asked Brad to come in and talk to us a little bit and get his take on what went on in the closing laps of the race and the post-race incidents, so we’ve got that and we’ll talk to some other people,” he said, adding Joe Gibbs Racing mechanic Jesse Sanders was also called to the hauler for his role in the altercation.

Kenseth was angry about what Keselowski did to him on pit row (for good reason).  “I don’t know if he was mad at me,” Kenseth said. “I had my HANS (safety device) off and my seat belts off and everything. He clobbered me at 50 mph. … If you want to talk about it as a man, try to do that, but to try and wreck someone on the racetrack, come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with seat belts off and drive in the side of me.”

Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, blamed Hamlin for the entire incident.  “I think Denny started the whole thing after the checkered flag,” he said. “Started pushing Brad around, and at some point we’ve got to stand our ground and not let that happen. From there, I guess some people got frustrated and the fight broke out.” ​

Kevin Harvick, the winner of the hotly-contested race showed that maybe NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship format had added pressure to the races, and that every moment matters.  When asked if NASCAR might send hefty penalties to the drivers involved, he replied, “You’re crazy; they love it.”

NASCAR announced today that both Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski were both being penalized for their actions following the race.

Keselowski has been fined $50,000, and been placed on probation from driving for the next four races for violating the following penalties:

Section 12-1:  Actions detrimental to stock car racing.

Section 12-4.9:  Behavioral penalty – involved in post-race incidents

Stewart has been fined $25,000, and has been placed on probation from driving for the next four races for violating the same penalties.  I disagree with NASCAR giving a penalty to Tony Stewart.  In my eyes, Stewart did nothing more than what most drivers do – back into their car as a warning.  Yes, he did ruin the front end of Keselowski’s car, which there was no need for at all.  He would have been better off leaving it alone and going on to his pit.  I feel that NASCAR was unfair in their penalty assignment, and should have given a penalty to Matt Kenseth.  Kenseth’s actions, as well as the rest of the drivers involved, were highly unprofessional and childlike.  His actions were foolish and will most certainly hurt him in the future.  I feel that Keselowski’s fine and probation are completely deserved, and he needs to seek treatment for this.  I understand that drivers in NASCAR are highly impulsive, but playing bumper cars with big-boy toys that can kill people is unacceptable and foolhardy.  All of these drivers need to have more than a slap on the wrist and a fight among themselves.  They need to talk it out to each other in a civil manner a couple of days after the incident, and I hope that we will see apologies from all drivers involved in this blemish on NASCAR in the near future.

Here’s the entire video of what happened.

 

 

Bad Boys: Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Vs. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chevrolet’s had the 5th-generation Camaro ZL1 out for a couple of model years now, and it’s only real muscle car competition was the now-defunct Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.  The GT500 is now out of production, as the 2015 Mustang will go into production soon.  Dodge’s heavy Challenger SRT8 is a great car for cruising the boulevards and highways of America, it’s just not a handling muscle car like the ZL1.  The ZL1 is meant to be a car that you can take to your local track day without a trailer, win, and drive home.  Dodge desperately needed a competitor to the ZL1, so they rolled out the awesome Challenger Hellcat.  The Hellcat is the most powerful stock American V8 ever.  It makes a thundering, throaty, screaming, 707 horsepower.  That’s right.  However, a dyno test by Motor Trend showed that the Hellcat actually makes more than that.  Back to that later.  The Hellcat is meant to be a car that you can drive to your local drag strip, win against other bone-stock cars, and drive home.

The Camaro uses a detuned LS9 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that pumps out 580 horsepower.  It puts the power down to the ground through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.  Plus, you can get it as a convertible, which would eliminate most of the visibility issues associated with the 5th-generation Camaro coupe.  While the Camaro may make far less horsepower than the Challenger Hellcat, it makes up for it in a trick suspension and 400 fewer pounds than the Challenger Hellcat.  Sometimes less is more.  Besides, the Camaro beat the 662-horsepower Mustang GT500 in it’s last shootout.

The Challenger uses an all-new 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 that pumps out a claimed 707 horsepower.  It puts all of those raging ponies down to the ground through either a six-speed manual or a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic adapted from the ZF 8-speed slushbox found in many cars nowadays.  It also comes with a trick suspension adapted from the Viper, and a variety of cool driving modes (like Valet Mode, which lowers the horsepower to 300, limits the revs to 4,000 RPM, and turns all of the nannies on).  Plus, it comes with more street appeal than just about any other new car on the market.  Well, with the exception of the Pagani Huayra…

If you want to kill them with consistency in the acceleration department, go for the ZL1.  It thunders to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.  It then goes on to slaughter the 1/4 mile in a stonking fast 12.2 seconds at 116.6 mph.  Whatever way you look at it, that’s pretty fast.  Enter the Hellcat.  It makes the Camaro feel slow.  That’s not surprising.  What makes it’s times even more impressive is the fact that it puts 707+ horsepower down to the ground through relatively skinny 275 millimeter-width tires.  Granted, the tires are Pirelli P Zeroes, but that’s a lot of power going to the ground through not very much tire.  This, of course, makes the Hellcat a difficult one to launch.  Even with launch control enabled, the Hellcat’s best 0-60 run was “just” 3.7 seconds to 60 mph.  It’s probably best to launch the Hellcat in 2nd gear, as that much power can get the Hellcat up to speed quickly, plus it eliminates a time-sapping gearshift.  It then goes on to absolutely embarrass the ZL1 in the 1/4 mile by doing a crazy-fast 11.7 second at 125.4 mph run.  That trap speed won’t only embarrass a Camaro ZL1 owner – it will embarrass a Porsche 911 Turbo S AND a Nissan GT-R Nismo in the 1/4 mile.  America for the win.

Then, you go onto a skid pad.  This is where the intended functions of these two cars show.  The Camaro ZL1 pulled 0.99 G’s on the skidpad.  This is probably thanks to the cool Delphi magnetic shocks, and the quick steering in the ZL1.  While the ZL1 may behave like a sports car, the Hellcat doesn’t.  As Motor Trend‘s Scott Evans put it, “The Challenger handles just like a Challenger.  Understeer into the corner, oversteer out.”  The Hellcat may handle like a boat, but it sticks.  Just ask the 0.94 G’s pulled on the skidpad.  The Challenger may not be the best choice for corner carving on a tight, windy race track, but it will put to shame many well-tuned drift cars as it shreds its skinny rear tires.

I literally couldn’t stop laughing when I heard this, but it’s 100% true.  Motor Trend‘s Kim Reynolds said that the Camaro felt like something developed by Infiniti’s Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team or McLaren’s Formula 1 team.  The Hellcat, on the opposite side of the spectrum, “feels like it was developed by HOT ROD’s Freiburger and Finnegan.”

Should you choose to road-trip either of these two cars, invite me or some friends along!  The Camaro has visibility akin to a solitary confinement prison cell at Abu Grahib, but it’s V8 hums along, the cool shocks absorb anything any road can throw at it, and it’s got a great sound system.  The Challenger Hellcat is THE ultimate road trip car.  I’ve heard that it’s ride is a bit busier, but it keeps you more alert than the quiet, subdued Camaro ZL1.  It’s seats are something that you’ll want in your living room.  The supercharged Hellcat Hemi has an absolutely demonic supercharger whine when you step on it – batten the hatches when the Hellcat comes to town!  The 8-speed automatic transmission is found in almost every new Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/SRT product these days, and it is more beefed up in the Challenger Hellcat to handle the crazy power numbers.  The Hellcat’s engine note when you step on it sounds like somebody supercharged Roadkill’s Blasphemi 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air gasser.  It sounds absolutely spectacular.  The best part is, Dodge has released a Hellcat Hemi engine note ringtone.

Inside, the Challenger is definitely the car of choice.  Aside from the crazy powerful engine and the sinister sheetmetal that looks straight out of 1970, the Challenger is really quite the ticket to being comfortable.  It’s got one of the best interiors in the segment, which it has had since day 1, an intuitive infotainment system, an even better Boston Acoustics sound system, plenty of room for five adults, and a stunningly low entry price of $60,995.  Then, the Camaro ZL1 enters the room.  Sure, it’s got Alcantara all over the bloody cabin, and snug, comfortable Recaro bucket seats, but you can tell Chevy cared more about what was under the hood.  Dodge didn’t have to try very hard to update the cabin in the Challenger.  If you can’t swing $60,995, no worries.  Chevy has a great Camaro ZL1 with your name on it for just $57,650.

While these two cars have traded blows in straight lines, in the curves, and elsewhere, street appeal is definitely part of what muscle cars are all about.  In a nutshell, the Camaro looks like just another Camaro with big black wheels and a vented hood, while the Challenger looks like it just stepped out of the Trans-Am racing series.  It just looks like pure evil.

This is America.  Just like basketball (and many other ball sports), there are NO ties.  There are only winners and losers.  In my humble opinion, the Challenger Hellcat will always come out on top.  It’s got a focus on power, presence, and straight-line performance define what a muscle car is supposed to be.  It shows that the boys over at Dodge know how to make a world-class muscle car after years and years of being pushed around by Ford and Chevy.  While I like the ZL1 as a capable and well-balanced sports car, it just doesn’t really seem like as good of a muscle car of the Challenger Hellcat.  Like the muscle cars of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Challenger Hellcat is built to dominate the streets with some serious power under the beautifully sculpted hood.  The Hellcat proves to me that the ultimate muscle car wasn’t built in the 1960’s or 1970’s – it is now, and here to stay.

Now for the dyno results.  The Challenger Hellcat is rated by the SAE (Society of American Engineers) at 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque at the crank.  Dodge is lying through their teeth.  This engine is almost as powerful as an engine in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.  The Hellcat Challenger puts down 635 horsepower and 591 pound-feet of torque at the wheels.  Factor in a 12% driveline loss (automatics are getting more and more efficient every year), and the Challenger Hellcat makes about 722 horsepower and 672 pound-feet of torque at the crank.  Both of those are more than advertised.  Some other cool things about the Challenger Hellcat:  When Motor Trend did their dyno test at K&N Air Filter’s Riverside, CA dyno shop, the Hellcat was the fastest car ever strapped down to the massive rollers there.  The speedometer topped out at 202 mph, but the Hellcat accelerated to 225 mph, which is the fastest the dyno can possibly go there.  While the Hellcat will never, ever get up to 225 mph stock (a brick goes through the air better), it’s cool to know that the SRT team of engineers didn’t bother fitting a speed limiter to the car.  Not only is it the fastest, but it’s also the hottest.  The Hellcat took five industrial fans pointed at it to keep it cool for it’s dyno pull.  An interesting fact to know about the Hellcat is that it will suck all of the air out of a 10 X 13 foot room in just one minute at full throttle.  It will also drain all 19 gallons of it’s fuel tank in a minute at full throttle.

Now on to the Camaro ZL1.  The ZL1 makes only 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of SAE-rated torque.  The car that Motor Trend tested made just 472 horsepower and 482 pound-feet of torque at the wheels.  K&N noted that that’s about 20 fewer horsepower than they are used to seeing from a stock Camaro ZL1.  Assuming a 10% driveline loss for the Camaro, it’s making a still-impressive 524 horsepower and 536 pound-feet at the crank.  That’s almost 60 horsepower than rated.

Why did the Hellcat need five industrial fans pointed at it?  Well, the Hellcat needs a LOT of air to operate optimally, and superchargers throw off lots of heat.  This 2.9-liter supercharger shoves 11.9 pounds of boost into the engine.  This supercharger is common in tuned muscle cars, and it’s not uncommon to see more boost out of it.  However, I just think that the Hellcat’s engine can’t easily make more power before it presses the self-destruct button.  It’s like the Nissan GT-R, where the engine has been tuned so much that Motor Trend found in a test last year that the engine kept loosing 5 pounds of boost from the two massive turbos.  That’s a lot of boost, so you’ve got to wonder if engines this powerful are tuned to within an inch of their life.

What about the ZL1?  Was it a dud car, or has GM just been radically overrating their engines?  Who knows?  Dyno results range anywhere from far more than what the manufacturer says to far below.  It depends on the dyno itself, the way the car is strapped down, if it has enough air going into the engine, the temperature of the air, and what gear the car is in.  There are literally thousands of different factors in dynoing a car.  It probably wasn’t in Motor Trend’s best interest to dyno two powerful cars with heat-making superchargers in the end of a SoCal summer in Riverside.  While Dodge does say that the Hellcat will last 20 minutes in 100 degree heat at a track and get consistent results, one has to wonder if the Challenger can really last that long without overheating.  Time will tell (pardon the pun) the reliability of this powerful engine.

The engine technology in the Hellcat Hemi goes back to 2002.  That’s a really long time for a cylinder head design to be around in one basic form or another.  Granted, that design works – really well, but Ford and Chevy have definitely stepped up their engine game.  The Mustang GT500 used an aluminum block, which took off 100 pounds off of the front of an already-heavy car, and a bunch of other really cutting-edge engine technology.  Chevy’s LS9 and LSA V8’s are really beasts of engines, but obviously not in the ZL1 dynoed by Motor Trend.  The Hellcat engine block was originally going to be aluminum, but was vetoed at the 11th hour by a Dodge executive.  It’s a shame.  The aluminum engine block would have shaved at least 100 pounds off of the front of a nose-heavy car, bringing it’s curb weight down to about 4350 pounds or so, which would be almost 100 pounds heavier than the also-chubby Camaro.

When it comes to transmissions, the ZF 8-speed automatic is the best transmission in a muscle car now.  Chevy’s six-speed automatic doesn’t like to downshift, even when told to.  Ford didn’t offer an automatic transmission in the GT500, but it used a TREMEC TR6060 six-speed manual.  This is a great six-speed manual.  It’s used by Ford, Chevy, and Dodge.  It’s also common in road-racing cars.  It’s beefy, reliable, and has good gearing for almost any engine.  The fact is, the Hellcat with the 8-speed ZF transmission is probably the best combination.  It’s going to be hard for even an experienced driver of a manual transmission to put 635 horsepower and 591 pound-feet of torque down to the ground.  That’s why Dodge offers 3 power settings – 300 horsepower, 500 horsepower, and 700+ horsepower.  In daily driving, the most power anybody will ever really need is 150 horsepower and about 200 pound-feet of torque.  Plus, the Hellcat with the automatic transmission will get 24 mpg on the highway.  The Camaro only gets 21.  The Mustang only got 22.

If you get a Hellcat, please, please, pretty please, let me know!  I will feature you on my blog, but ONLY if you either take me for a ride, or let me drive it!  If you do either of these, I will interview you, take wonderful pictures, and wax poetic about being in a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat for the rest of my life.

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Dodge Revives Classic Shaker Hoods and Scat Packs!

While it’s been a couple of months since the 2014 SEMA show in Las Vegas, I only recently heard about the legendary Shaker Hoods and Scat Packs returning to Mopar!

Since the 2014 Dodge Challenger looks like it’s 1970 ancestor, it seems fitting that the Challenger should have the legendary Shaker Hood.  Like the original Challenger, the 2014 Challenger can also be fitted with a hood that has the air scoop directly attached to the engine.  This Shaker Hood isn’t just a useless piece of retro jewelry, either.  It provides cooling air to the thirsty HEMI engine under that beautiful hood.

What makes the Shaker Hood even more accessible to enthusiasts who want a 2014 Challenger is the fact that it comes as its own special model!  It’s called the 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker, and it comes with it’s unique graphics, a period-correct Satin Black Shaker Hood, plus the optional Super Track Pack performance package and a few other cosmetic changes.  It also comes with a spectacular creamsicle-orange color that is a must!

Also returning for 2014 is the Scat Pack.  The last time the Scat Pack was seen on the 1968 Challenger, Charger, and Dart.  Back then, it was called the “Scat Pack Club” package, and it collectively referred to all of the performance models, and it also encouraged camaraderie among enthusiasts and owners.  This time around, however, Dodge is using the moniker as a performance package for, you guessed it, the Dart, Charger, and Challenger.

Each Scat Pack package is available in three stages, with each stage offering additional performance enhancements for the mighty 5.7-liter HEMI V8 on the Charger and Challenger and the turbocharged 2.4-liter four cylinder on the Dart.

These performance enhancements include enhanced ECU tuning, and freer-flowing intake and exhaust systems.  The V8 cars come with more serious modifications:  Not only do they come with what’s mentioned above, but they get new Iskendarian camshafts, and ported-and-polished cylinder heads – in the upper levels.  The Dart has to make do with brake and suspension enhancements.  All three Scat Pack cars come with cool graphics and custom interiors done up with Katzkin leather.

The Challenger R/T Shaker and the Scat Pack Challenger, Charger, and Dart will arrive in dealers by mid-May 2014.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Black Bess Headed to Beijing Auto Show

Bugatti’s recently gotten into the habit of making special-edition Veyrons.  The special-edition Veyrons are a six-part series of limited-edition Veyrons offered to the public.  The one I am talking about, “Black Bess,” is installment number five in the series.

The “Black Bess” Veyron pays homage to the Bugatti Type 18 “Black Bess.”  Like the original Type 18 Black Bess, the new Veyron Black Bess is painted black with gold accents throughout the exterior.  I’ve got to say it looks pretty darn good.  Some of these gold accents, believe it or not, like the grille and rear badge, are made out of legitimate 24-karat gold!

Inside the Veyron Black Bess, it’s got beige leather seats, contrasting brown leather trim, and a red steering wheel.  All three of those are homages to the original Type 18 Black Bess.  The inspiration for the Veyron Black Bess is notable everywhere, especially on the  interior door panels, which feature hand-painted scenes of the Type 18 Black Bess in action.  Each of the six Veyron Black Bess’s will feature different artwork to ensure that no two are alike.

As for the Type 18 Black Bess, it got it’s name from it’s original owner, French aviation pioneer, Roland Garros, who named it after a British race horse of the era.  The Bugatti Type 18 was one of the original supercars.  It had a 5.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine making around 100 horsepower.  That gave it a 100 mph top speed, and all seven Type 18’s had (or still have) an impressive racing pedigree.

The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Legends Black Bess  made it’s debut at the 2014 Beijing International Auto Show alongside the original Black Bess on April 21.

A Lincoln Town Car for the Modern Day

Fans of Ford’s Panther platform will no doubt cry “blasphemy” and a whole other host of names.  Haters gonna hate.  If you’re a Panther fan, keep it to yourself and read this blog post, or come back next Tuesday.

Not only does the Hyundai Equus Ultimate serve as Hyundai’s flagship, it also costs as much as a premium midsize sedan like the 2014 Cadillac CTS.  I’m not suggesting a comparison – the CTS is in a completely different league than the Equus.  While Hyundai’s execution of a fullsize flagship sedan is good, it’s not quite as good as the Lexus LS460, Mercedes-Benz S550, and BMW 750i/Li.  It’s just that you can’t really build a value-oriented flagship and expect it to compete against manufacturers that have at least 25 years of practice.  It’s the equivalent of In-n-Out going completely vegan.  You just don’t expect it to be good.

Panther platform enthusiasts will be quick to point out that the 12.3-18.3 inch-shorter Equus doesn’t have body-on-frame construction.  The Equus DOES, however, have a 2.7-inch longer wheelbase than ANY Panther platform car.  Like the Town Car, the Equus is styled much more conservatively than the love-it-or-hate-it Cadillac XTS and bulbous Lincoln MKS.  The Equus has a roomy, comfortable interior filled with amenities and options that the Lincoln Town Car never offered.  It’s also rear-wheel-drive, and it’s got a smooth, very powerful V8 shared with the Hyundai Genesis.  It’s the only modern car to have clear Lincoln Town Car DNA in it.  It’s obvious who Hyundai is trying to attract.

Rear seat passengers can now individually control the infotainment system, look up restaurants on the go, and even enter destinations while moving.  All 2014 Equus models get a standard three-zone climate control system (driver, passenger, rear passengers) standard.  Ultimate models now seat five people instead of four.  Very few of its competitors offer four seats instead of five in top-of-the-line models.  Ultimate models also come with cruise control with a unique 0 mph stop-start function, front, rear, and multi-view cameras.  It also comes with a proximity key that turns the exterior and interior lights on and off, as well as unfolding the side mirrors.  The doors automatically close a la minivan, and power lumbar support for rear outboard passengers.

For those drivers who want to have performance, fear not.  The engine is a 429-horsepower 5.0-liter V8.  The front bushings are completely new.  As for the Sport and Tour modes, they have been revised for improved ride and handling, respectively.

Because its cabin is so insulated, and its powertrain is so smooth, the optional heads-up display is justifiable.  Since the suspension is engineered for comfort, lots of brake dive and body roll make it less than ideal for back road barnstorming.  It also probably diminishes driver confidence on the street, especially in the city.

While the Equus isn’t quite up to par with the Lexus LS460 in terms of interior quality, it has a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with separate lumbar controls.  The front passenger seat has 10 ways to make you more comfortable.  Outboard rear seats have four ways and lumbar.  Like the S-Class, the Equus has many of its front and rear switches conveniently located high on the doors.

Up until the end of the 2013 model year, the Equus Ultimate only sat four people.  It had a massage function for the driver and the right rear passenger (where many passengers sit).  The 2014 model offers seating for five people, but no massaging seats.  The 2014 model also has controls for the:  Infotainment system, rear climate control, and rear seats on the fold-down center armrest in the rear seat.  A “Relax” button moves and tilts the front passenger seat forward before reclining the rear passenger seat.  The “Return” button returns both seats to their previous positions.  Now that both rear seats recline, the available power footrest is no more.

Like the Lincoln Town Car, the Hyundai Equus Ultimate offers full-size space and all of the luxury touches one would expect in a flagship.  Another similar thing between these two vehicles designed for those like to be chauffeured around – neither lives up to the standard set by the Lexus LS460, Mercedes-Benz S550, and BMW 750i/Li.  While the value-oriented Equus can be compared to a modern Lincoln Town Car, it does have something that the big Lincoln never had – a 429-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission.  In my mind, the Hyundai Equus picks up right where the Lincoln Town Car left off.  Now, the one thing that Hyundai has left – the monumental task of convincing everybody the virtues of a bargain-priced flagship sedan.