According to some, I’ll have to unclench my ample “candy-ass” and pull out my head to write this, but let the record show: I wrote the Automotive News editorial suggesting a ban on the legal registration of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.
I don’t regret it, and I haven’t changed my mind -- despite what the guy whose name is on this publication and our building says, which you’ll see when his regular column appears in Monday’s Automotive News.
As a member of this publication’s editorial board, which pens the traditionally anonymous institutional opinions expressed on the editorial page, doing so is part of my job.
So, with that said, let me reiterate: It is still a stupid idea for Fiat Chrysler to outfit the Dodge Demon as a high-performance drag racer and then sell it to the motoring public in a form that makes it inherently more dangerous off the track.
Let’s make some things clear. I don’t have a problem with the Demon’s claimed 840 hp or its impressive engineering. As the editorial pointed out -- a point that was apparently lost in the Internet’s collective panty-bunching -- there are plenty of higher horsepower vehicles that are rightly sold and legally registered.
I also don’t have a problem with Dodge or with Fiat Chrysler trying to squeeze every last ounce of profit out of a 9-year-old car by juicing up the Hellcat engine with a larger supercharger. Dodge brand boss Tim Kuniskis might be the single best car-marketing guy I’ve ever met. He had success selling Fiats, for God’s sake. What other bona fides would a resume need?
No, my issue is this: Outfitting the Demon, from the factory, with nearly treadless drag radial tires is both irresponsible and inherently dangerous in all but the most experienced hands. Tires such as these are prone to lose traction in even a light morning mist under that much torque -- regardless of electronic intervention.
Couple that with a suspension that purposely lifts the front wheels off the ground under full acceleration, add an inexperienced idiot behind the wheel, and it’s a recipe for disaster that not only endangers the idiot’s life but those of other motorists.
And as for the imbroglio about the Demon’s alleged “banning” from the National Hot Rod Association, which Dodge prominently claimed in its Demon presentation: It stands. That organization says that any car that can do a sub-10-second quarter mile has to have a roll cage and other safety equipment to legally race at a sanctioned event. Dodge isn’t going to add the roll bar and other equipment from the factory, so owners have to do it.
Their own claim
Don’t agree there’s a ban? Take it up with the NHRA and Dodge, because it’s their claim, not mine.
Yes, we live in a free country -- and from what I have read this week, it’s now called “Murica,” where the word “freedom” is permanently substituted for the word “responsibility.”
But every freedom in this nation has a legal limit. We have freedom of speech, yet do not have the legal freedom to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. We have the freedom to keep and bear arms, yet do not have the freedom to legally own shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
Fixing these problems with the Demon is relatively simple.
To borrow from Kuniskis’ Demon playbook, outfit the car from the factory with safer fully treaded street tires, and make the drag radials another $1 option, as are the front and rear seats. Or do it the other way around to protect the “stock” claim -- I really don’t care which.
Also, make it a more laborious process to shift the Demon into its top-performing drag mode -- perhaps introducing a two-minute delay -- so that lunkheads on the street can’t make the instantaneous transition at a stoplight whenever they’re stopped next to a Tesla or a Corvette.
Every automaker has for decades made tremendous strides to improve vehicle safety. Admittedly, it took them a while to get started and some cajoling to convince them that it wasn’t a good idea to kill their potential repeat customers.
Is there more work to do? Hell yes. See: cellphones.
Yet I still don’t understand why any automaker -- including FCA -- would ever want to purposely go the other way.
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