(This story was originally published on March 20th, 2016 and is being republished in honor of Hellcat Day [7/07] - Ed.)
There is joy indescribable in a man's eyes when he is handed the keys to a Dodge Hellcat. "707…horsepower," he stammers, mouth tripping over that palindromic, oddly specific, exalted, magical number: "707…707…" Steam emerges from his ears. His brain nearly snaps trying to make sense of it all. His fingers twitch. He may wet his pants. When our man climbs aboard the port side of the S.S. Hellcat, and he gently activates that hallowed red key—unleashing 707 horsepower—you can bet that his feet will instinctively reach for both pedals at once. (707 horses under that right foot!) He will shift into Neutral. He will rev that 6.2-liter supercharged V8, baby, 707!, to around 5,000 RPM. And he will perform a burnout that, he believes, will be the burnout to end all burnouts.
Whether at the dragstrip or the K-Mart parking lot, there is no greater cliché in the whole of automobildom than a heavy, rear-drive, V8-powered car burning out. The burnout is a necessary staple of drag racing, which suggests that it is always accompanied by a series of whoops and hollers. And yet, anyone with access to 707 horsepower (was that mentioned, by the way?) must find out whether the Dodges Charger and Challenger Hellcat can still perform one.
America, we get it. This is well-trod territory. Automotive tastemakers of the world: y'all could stand to be a lot more original.
Recently I talked to a few automotive journalists who reassured me, in no uncertain terms, and with no shred of irony or self-awareness: "the Hellcat does great burnouts!" They showed me pictures of their press-driven Hellcats doing said burnouts. They were very proud of their accomplishments, that is, namely, performing a burnout in a heavy, rear-wheel-drive car with more horsepower than a Ferrari F40. "Just picked up a Hellcat for the weekend!" reads the caption of every auto writer's Instagram feed, every Twitter photo, every Facebook post. "Burnouts are imminent!"
The Hellcat actually drives well. In a past life, —on a road with corners, no less. I likened it to steering a BMW M4 through the roof, which may sound like damning with faint praise, because it is. No less an automotive tastemaker than Matt Farah, a man who knows his way around burnouts, : "the Hellcat is a much better GT car than the [Mercedes-Benz] C63 AMG." Grand Touring implies the taking of corners. The Hellcat is not : it does not need to smash through things.
If you've got a Hellcat for the weekend, lucky you. It's a great car—it really is. But please, give it more credit. You want to impress today's savvy automotive media consumer? Do a burnout in a . Do a burnout in a . Do a burnout in a Jeep Renegade while atop a rock in Moab. The world needs more frivolity, more originality, more senses of humor. Following a path covered with the black lines of elevenses just isn't special anymore.
I get it. The Hellcat is entirely immune from mocking, satire, or self-parody. No Lee Greenwood lyrics or pixelated forum signature can bring it down. Dodge knows exactly what they are doing, exactly what they've done, exactly what they will do. America needs the Hellcat more than it needs Guy Fieri. More than it needs Ted Nugent. More than it needs a revival from Netflix, or a Sammy Hagar guitar solo. Within its Coke-bottle lines long and straight like a Nevada highway, the Hellcat drills like a fracking arm deep into our nation's psyche—everything loud, pure, joyful, simple, stubborn, intractable, and grotesque about America.
And like America it is more than the sum of its parts.
Here, then, are 14 GIFs of Dodge Hellcats doing burnouts. Watch them all. Let them soak into your mind. Feel that calm sweeping over you. Everything is pure, everything is golden, nothing can hurt you. Smell that tiresmoke? Cough, if you have to. Now. Wash that away from your system, and you'll feel better. Liberate Te Ex Inferis: Save Us From Hellcat Burnouts.
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