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Even Demon test cars live to be broken

by Patrick Rall on

Analysis. A video circulating through Mopar enthusiast pages this past weekend show what was believed to be a new Dodge Challenger SRT Demon (looking like the Fast 8 movie car shown here) with  serious engine problems. The people in the video were beating on the car hard, even though the engine was making a variety of very unsavory sounds. The video has been taken down from the original YouTube account, but in the short time that it was available, many people saw it.

Most people in the online automotive community passed it off as a test car which had clearly been pushed beyond its limits. Automakers put test cars through rigorous tests both before and after a new car reaches an owner’s driveway. Some tests would seem ridiculous to many people, as these vehicles are tested in ways and in conditions which a car is unlikely to ever experience.

Basically, test cars of all sorts are built to eventually break as the engineers work to see what it will take for a private owner to kill the car. Insiders confirmed that an engine failure isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Others, though, “freaked out” over the video showing what appeared to be a Demon test car with engine troubles, leading to a sort of mini-mass-hysteria as a small group of people loudly voiced concerns that this video proved that Dodge was having a problem with the Demon.

We reached out to FCA to see if they could offer any insight on the video. The company didn’t go into any details, but Dodge boss Tim Kuniskis had this to say about all of their company test vehicles:

This is exactly what separates a factory car from a tuner. We develop and test for years to find the best and most reliable combinations, and that’s why we can offer a full warranty.  The whole purpose of “development cars” is to “develop” a final product that meets our standards. To do this, we will test different parts and calibrations, and in the process, we may blow engines, twist drive shafts and break axles. We’re building a full warranty 9-second street-to-strip car, an A to B commodity.

Mr. Kuniskis echoed what others had said — that test cars are punished to the point of breaking — but the head of the Dodge brand also brought up something that hadn’t been discussed before. The company tests all sorts of different components; test cars are likely to have parts which don’t make it to production, and when a part breaks, whether a rocker arm, a driveshaft, or an HVAC knob, there is a chance that the problematic part won’t be used on a production car.

The video suggests that the car experiencing the engine issues is a test Demon, but there is no way of knowing whether the engine under the new Air Grabber hood was fitted with unique parts. That car could have had test parts which aren’t part of the production plan, so in addition to the brutal testing, this car might have broken an engine component which won’t be included on the production Challenger Demon.

The bottom line here is that test cars are built to be broken – even test versions of incredible machines like the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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