Written by independent automotive journalist Steve Magnante
Nines With Light. If you knew what this meant before the 2017 New York International Auto Show (where the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was officially announced), you were one of the tightly knit team of Dodge engineers and designers tasked with bringing the already ferocious Challenger SRT Hellcat to the next level.
As the once ultra-secret code name suggests, the Demon’s goal was 9-second quarter-mile times and reduced vehicle weight to help it happen. But get this: While any other car capable of 9-second quarters has traditionally either been a million-dollar exotic supercar or a gutted single-purpose drag machine, the Demon is fully equipped with luxury items like power steering and power windows. It even has mandatory air conditioning, and is just as much at home doing the morning commute as it is cleaning house at the drag strip.
What the Dodge folks have done is pretty amazing. Once word got out, virtually every single one of the 3,300 Demons slated for construction found a buyer. But lucky for you, two of them (Lot #672 and Lot #728) are headed for the Barrett-Jackson auction block in Palm Beach, Florida, both selling at No Reserve.
The winning bidders will take possession of nothing less than the world’s only regular-production passenger car capable of pulling a wheelie, which is what happens when traction and horsepower dance just the right way.
Thanks to collaboration between Dodge SRT and Nitto tire engineers, the Demon’s standard-issue DOT-approved soft-compound drag radials can harness every bit of the 6.2-liter HEMI’s 840 horsepower. Of course, it takes a properly prepared drag-racing surface to make full magic, but when hooked, the Demon’s front tires gently leave the ground for a few inches as it rockets forward, hitting 60 mph in a mind-warping 2.3 seconds, quicker than anything from Italy, Germany, Britain, Asia or America. Simply put, the Demon has reset the bar and toppled many legends of the past from their thrones.
Speaking of thrones, much has been made of the fact Dodge specifies just one high-back bucket seat for the driver in its base configuration. It was a bold move for the Nines With Light team to go so far. But after all, drag racers don’t think twice about dumping every unused seat in the quest for enhanced power-to-weight ratios. That said, for just one extra dollar Dodge will install the second front bucket seat, and for another buck a full-size back seat is also available, making the Demon (and all Challengers) Detroit’s only true 5-passenger pony car. The pair of Demons offered at Palm Beach depict the Demon in both configurations, with seating for two in one example and the full five-seat layout in the other.
And as the two lucky buyers of the Demons offered here will discover for themselves, the car is much more than a one-trick, wheel-standing pony car. The ultra-sticky Nittos – which come embossed with Demon sidewall logos – are teamed with a suspension capable of generating plenty of grip on corners. As much as 1g can be pulled on a skid pad. That’s right up there next to the Dodge Viper!
In total, at 4,250 pounds, the Demon is 215 pounds lighter than a typical Hellcat. Add in the supercharger boost bump, elevated red line, steeper Scat Pack rear-axle ratio, a second fuel pump, higher stall-speed torque converter and more aggressive computer program, and you’ve got a Challenger that’s considerably quicker than a Hellcat. But is it faster? Nope.
This is where we have to remind ourselves about the difference between fast and quick. Fast is about terminal velocity. Quick is how much time it takes to get there. Since Demon’s mission objective is to focus on brutal, fun, glorious straight-line acceleration in a quarter mile, Dodge electronically limits top speed to 168 mph. By contrast, the Hellcat’s speed limiter is set at 199 mph.
But here’s the thing. A typical mid to high 9-second drag-strip pass generally comes with a speed of about 140 mph. So at 168 mph, there’s plenty of room left for those who want to “run it out the back end” on a closed course. Another thing that’s sure to be quick and fast is the bidding when these instant legends cross the block!
For up-to-date information on these and other vehicles on the Palm Beach docket, click HERE.