There are a lot of ways to...
There are a lot of ways to have fun with your Mopar. We got to experience one of them at the Hotchkis autocross during the Moparty at the Strip event in Las Vegas. An autocross is basically a short road course set up in a parking lot. Cars run one at a time and are timed through the course to determine a winner. Even if you don't compete, just driving your Mopar around the course can be a fun experience.
As automotive enthusiasts, we appreciate all forms of motorsports and enjoy both watching and participating in events with our own cars. While having fun with one of our own Mopars is great, enjoying a little action with someone else's car is even better. So when the crew at Hotchkis Sport Suspension asked if we wanted to not only ride along with their professional drivers, but to also drive their two E-Body Mopars through the autocross and evaluate their handling, we couldn't turn them down.
Each year at Moparty at the Strip, Hotchkis sets up an autocross and allows anyone who'd like to take their car around the track to do so. Additionally, this year they were giving rides in several of their cars including a '68 Road Runner and a pair of Dodge Challengers. Autocross is a great way to enjoy driving your car, and is really catching on as a club sport and competition. Here in Florida, we don't have to drive far to find someone hosting an autocross in a parking lot or abandoned airstrip, and no matter what level of performance you and your car are capable of, one thing is certain: You'll have fun.
For those not familiar with autocrossing, it basically involves driving your car around a short road course in the shortest amount of time possible. Autocross tracks will have turns in both directions, and short straight segments, but by design don't let the car build up much speed. This not only makes the hobby safe for you and your car, but ensures you won't wear out parts like you would on a full road course.
The first of the Hotchkis-equipped cars we drove was the yellow Challenger known as E-Max. this car is fully equipped for road course racing and autocross events. In fact, professional driver Mary Pozzi took us around the track for a warm-up lap and to show off the car's handling characteristics. Of all the cars--new, old, stock, and highly-modified--that made autocross laps during the weekend, this Challenger made the quickest lap with Mary behind the wheel.
Riding in a fast car can be even more exhilarating than driving one, due to the lack of feeling in control. This was the case while riding in the E-Max Challenger, as Mary easily maneuvered the car through the cones more quickly than an E-Body should. Traction was aided by low-profile, soft-compound tires, but nonetheless, there is no doubt that this old Mopar handles great.
We rode around the autocross...
We rode around the autocross for one lap with 11-time SCCA Solo autocross champion Mary Pozzi, and then took the E-Max Challenger for two laps of our own. We were completely impressed with the car's handling, though our times weren't quite as good as Mary's. According to John Hotchkis,
The next car we drove around...
The next car we drove around the autocross was the 440-powered '70 Challenger owned by Elana Scherr. This car truly is a daily driver, with 15-inch T/A radial tires and stock brakes, but it handled great on the autocross. Big-block E-Bodies are notoriously nose heavy, but Elana's car has to be one of the best handling street cars we've driven.
The autocross in Vegas was...
The autocross in Vegas was open to anyone who wanted to run their car, and was free of charge. A wide array of vehicles ran the autocross, including late-model Mopars and even Dodge trucks.
Driving the car was equally impressive, and was one of the highlights of this author's weekend. The E-Max Challenger is a nice blend of torque, power, handling, and braking, making it a blast to take around the autocross. In fact, we took the opportunity to make a couple of laps in the car, improving our times with each lap. We weren't the only ones enjoying the autocross, however, as cars and trucks of all types were lined up throughout the weekend waiting to make passes around the track.
For comparison we also rode in, and then drove the '70 Dodge Challenger owned by Elana Scherr. This car is also equipped with Hotchkis suspension, but has a 440 big-block, stock brakes, and 15-inch street tires and wheels. Though limited by the tires and brakes, this Challenger had tons of torque to get it off the corners, and the Hotchkis parts kept the tires firmly planted, even during aggressive cornering.
Big-block cars are notoriously nose-heavy, but this car pushed far less than other big-block equipped E-Bodies we've driven. Even better, Elana drove her Challenger to and from Vegas from her home state of California, and drag raced it during the event as well. Riding in the other big-block Hotchkis-equipped Mopar, a '68 Road Runner owned by Dan Weishaar of DTM Racing, we also noticed a nice balance, and lack of push into the corners.
We must admit driving around the autocross in Vegas has us thinking about an autocross car of our own. Even stock cars can compete, and the modifications required to improve the autocross times your car runs also make your Mopar safer and more fun to drive. We encourage you to explore all the ways you can have fun with your Mopar, including racing at autocross events. Old Mopars can be made to handle very impressively with aftermarket suspension parts like those available from Hotchkis.
We can tell you all about our experience, but if you check out www.moparmusclemagazine.com, you can see the video of the cars blistering the Autocross.
While enjoying the autocross,...
While enjoying the autocross, we took a ride in the '68 Road Runner owned by DTM Racing team member Dan Weishaar. This car has competed in the Optima Run to the Coast and Spectre 341 Challenge, and proves that Mopar B-Bodies can be made to handle.
Hotchkis makes a full line...
Hotchkis makes a full line of suspension parts for all popular Mopar body styles--classic and late-model.
In addition to sponsoring...
In addition to sponsoring the autocross, Hotchkis had staff on hand during the Moparty at the Strip event to answer questions about your Mopar project.