The crowd was primed. Pier 97 on the Hudson River had been converted to a torch and cannon-lined drag strip. A giant armored cage fit to hold King Kong sat on the left side of the audience. Massive video screens convulsed and Metallica blared through stacks of speakers with demands of fuel and fire. There were explosions, there was booming bass and shredding guitars, and there were shooting flames. A TorRed Dodge Challenger SRT® Demon roared out of the cage and pulled up in front of the screens. The driver engaged line-lock and smoked out the pier with a ginormous burnout. Techs were spraying copious amounts of VHT on the launch pad behind the Christmas Tree.
“Is he really going to launch it in here?!?” I said to no one in particular, as if anyone could hear me above the roar of the megawatt sound system … let alone the supercharged 6.2 HEMI® pushing through a dual 3″ exhaust.
Amidst the tire frying induced white haze, the SRT Demon creeps up to the line. TransBrake engaged, the RPMs push slightly upwards. The motor with a blower bigger than your garage screams, the exhaust exploding in a staccato popping as the fuel and spark adjusts, 8 pounds of instant boost and 840 horsepower are held back by some madman’s right fingers.
In an instant, the rear end drops, the front tires lift, more cannons shoot more fire and the car blasts forward.
Yeah, he really launched it in here. For all the previous fury, it’s a kind of violence shockingly devoid of drama.
“I need one of those.” Again to no one in particular.
You can’t fake passion. Not as a human emotion, not through art, not in design, not in engineering. The people who care will see through you and what you do in a hot second. It’s an especially difficult thing to orchestrate the creation of a soulful object through industrial design, because to pull that off requires the touch of passionate men and women on every level of production. From the artists who first conceive a beautiful idea, to the designers who flesh that idea out into something tangible, through to the engineers who turn that tangible object into a functioning machine without losing the excitement of that first original idea. Add in the blue collar workers crafting the thing, the trust needed by the execs who fund the project, and the vision that’s vital for public relations and marketing to connect the final product with the people who will reciprocate that passion, and from beginning to end, it takes a perfect storm.
The 2018 Dodge SRT Demon is the lightning and thunder of a perfect storm. From the second I saw it burst from that cage on a pier in Hell’s Kitchen and rocket to the end of the dock, I was hooked.
I’m a passionate person. I love what I do which, in part, is welding sculptures and fabricating prototype military vehicles. I understand how rare it is to find inspired art and what it takes to build machines from steel with fire and hammers. Through my various life adventures, in both work and play, I’ve met many inspirational individuals, and often they’ve become close friends. Those relationships mean the world to me. This is why the SRT Demon speaks to me, and it’s a big part of why I feel a connection with the entire FCA Design, Dodge, and SRT team. I’ve known a couple of designers since way before they worked for FCA, and over the last few years, I’ve become friends with more of the group who built the team into what it is today. These people are “Detroit” through and through. They have the “Detroit vs. Everybody” chip on their shoulder with an eye for design and an understanding that the most compelling machines have souls. There is no greater example of this ethos than the SRT Demon.
Last summer, I was not in Detroit, however. This isn’t for certain, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person to order a Demon while in Baghdad. I had decided to spend the hottest months of the year in Iraq performing weld repairs on M1 Abrams tanks … quite the experience. There were three weeks in a row where it hit at least 125° every day! Hot as hell, seemingly apropo. When the online system went live, Kate at the Demon Concierge made sure my order went smoothly.
Shortly after returning home in September, there was a small media SRT Demon drive event at US 131 Speedway in West Michigan, close to my childhood home. My dad actually took my mom there on their first date many moons ago. When a dragster fired up where it wasn’t supposed to, she lost almost all her hearing in one ear. But hey, they ended up getting married anyways! My wife, Darla, and I made the trip over for the event. It was on her birthday: lucky her, she got to watch me drag race all day … what a gift! I ended up making maybe a dozen passes, a really educational experience. The density altitude was a little high, but the track prep was on point. With a little coaching from Erich Heuschele, the manager of SRT Motorsports Engineering and Vehicle Dynamics, I was able to pull off a wheelie and hit a 10.2 ¼-mile ET in the afternoon session. Not bad for my first time out! Doing what I do for a living, Erich knew he could geek out on the mechanical stuff with me, and I loved every second.
Once I got that taste, the adrenaline rush of the launch, my excitement meter was pegged. Michigan weather tempered that a bit, but before the holiday season, word came that MY car was about to roll down the assembly line. January 5th I took delivery, on a day where it hit zero degrees in Detroit. For those keeping track at home, that’s about a 125° difference from when the order was placed. That might be another record.
17 years ago, on my birthday, I told my wife I’d own a Viper when I was 40. We were newly married and talking about the future, living in an 800 sq. ft. apartment in Southern California. I’ve never been one to set goals, I just like to work hard and let the chips fall where they may, so it’s kind of funny that this was the one I put in stone. The insanity of those early Vipers was intoxicating. They lacked sophistication, in a good way. They have that “Detroit” soul. Darla thinks I can now just cross out “Viper” and pencil in “Demon.” I think there’s still time to add to the collection.
Last week, we celebrated my 40th birthday with family and friends, and then the gods smiled down with a sunny, above freezing weekend. Detailing wizard Marc Harris had just put the finishing touches on Demon #40’s Maximum Steel finish, and she looks stunning. I added plates and Darla and I put down about half of the 500 break-in miles driving around Detroit on Saturday, then north a bit to Lake Huron on Sunday. I think people are really gonna dig the ride of this car. With the soft suspension, it cruises like an old Chrysler Newport. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. It handles the crappy Michigan roads better than many vehicles I’ve driven.
So that’s where we are. Almost exactly a year after the SRT Demon’s coming out party in New York City, I’m getting ready to drive the wheels off of my own. I love the passion of the people who made the car and the people who will push the limits of what it’s capable of, and I’m looking forward to sharing in the story of the Dodge SRT Demon.