First Peek Into Hells Charger

» Posted by on Jan 21, 2012 in Current projects and Tech Notes | 2 comments

First Peek Into Hells Charger

After a long day of design judging at the 2010 Formula SAE California competition, there was a message on my cell phone from someone named Jim Peruto, who was one of the first to read my book Think Fast. From reading the book, he had concluded that I was the right guy to help him develop a car for an attempt on the Guinness World Record for open road racing. I had never even heard of that before, but it sounded really dangerous. Still, it sounded like it might be an interesting engineering challenge, and the way that Jim phrased what he said in the phone message made it sound like he would be a great guy to work with. Both of those guesses turned out to be very, very right.

This program is a perfect example of what ThinkFast Engineering is all about: taking on crazy, complex engineering challenges that are scary enough that few would make the attempt, and succeeding spectacularly in the process. We will talk about the car in detail later, but first let’s talk about the Man With The Plan.


The Man With The Plan

… … well … this is turning out to be harder than I expected. After quite a while of reflecting on this, it’s hard for me to come up with an adequate way to describe who Jim Peruto is, and they way that he does what he does. Let’s try this: When I grow up, I want to be just like Jim. He has crystal-clear goals, rock solid conviction in following through with the steps that are necessary to achieve those goals, the clear-headed humility to know what he doesn’t know, the willingness to really listen to anyone who might have the answer he is looking for, and the real world experience to know whether or not that answer makes common sense. Above all that, his friendly and inviting nature makes him seem like a perfect father figure, or perhaps the best uncle in the world, mixed together with a very close fun-loving racing buddy. That’s the best description that I can come up with right now, but it’s still not adequate to tell you who Jim is. I will have more to say about him later, so stay tuned.

Jim has the means to do pretty much whatever he wants, and one of his many goals is to make his mark in auto racing in a way that will last. The current Guinness record has stood for 12 years, and Jim has a real passion for the Silver State Classic Challenge, so this quest is perfect for him. Knowing the typical racer’s mentality, I recommended that he re-set the record so high that no one will ever even attempt to beat it. If he only bumped the current record by a little bit, all that would do would be to motivate his competitors. Absolutely crushing the record will make it last.


Given the extremely lofty goals for the program, it takes real gumption to start with this:

The end of one life, the beginning of another

Yes, really. A 1969 Dodge Charger that had lived a long, hard life, finally descending to wear the humiliation of brushed-on paint and the fully earned patina of geriatric despair, whose only hope was the merciful ministration of the crusher. Many of Jim’s most treasured memories from the good ‘ol days revolved around a ’69 Charger, so he and the metal magicians at Hot Rods to Hell rescued this tortured soul from its end as scrap, giving it a name and draping its crusty shell over a very stout NASCAR-like tube chassis that is perfectly suited to its new life as a road rocket.

I joined the quest while this transformation was under way. While the safety regulations for the unlimited class of open road racing are rightfully very stringent, the performance regulations for the Guinness world record consist entirely of this:

1. It must have an internal combusion engine that runs on pump fuel.

2. It must have the appearance of a production car or truck.

That’s it! There are no rules that place meaningful limitations on the performance potential of the car. Anything goes. Given such a free hand, I had the opportunity to open up the trade space and do a lot of things that would not be legal at any other racing event. Whatever the idea was, if I could explain it in a way that made sense to Jim, it went on the car. There is a brief glimpse of the car in progress if you scroll down to “1970 Dodge Charger” here.

For now, I will leave you to ponder what you would do given such a rare opportunity. Feel free to tell us what you would do in the comments, and come back for updates on how the program actually went.


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    • Thanks! The theme is called “instyle” by Elegant Themes. I really like it too!