I hear ya both- I’m already stationed up there, just on yet another business trip for work. Since there are literally no hellcats currently in the area for sale, that means ordering one, waiting, and paying destination there or shipping it from the lower 48 and trading mine in locally.
I understand the financial argument, but it’s the tertiary concern. I realize it’s an ultimate loss, but this car was a dream the last deployment, and it’s damn near paid off about a year later. Idea is that it gets some work done over time, turns into a 10-20 year car, and gets work as it needs it. It will become a third vehicle here in the not too distant future, so getting the work done and making changes are more geared toward having a good time at the strip and hopefully some HPDEs when I get back down to the lower 48.
If I wanted to go cheaper than the planned mods over the next 5 years, literally could have bought a Demon for MSRP and won out. But, where’s the fun in that?
So, this is one to learn on, do the work that I can while I have almost free access to tools and a lift, and start living the hobby a bit when the wife is out of town. To that end, azimuth check-
Not doing the pistons yet. I only have another two years on station, so it is more likely I’m only going to get to drive it for less than half of that because of work. Between time in the field and whenever I’m out of town, I can afford to work with a builder for access to a CNC machine and a Dyno, and do a lot of the rest of the work with some guys around the shop that are literally 20+ year ASE mechanics and gear heads that are working at the auto craft center as a retirement gig. With email tuning the way it is, that’s really opening things up. If I knew for sure I could do the drop ins myself right now without having to do a hone or screwing it up, I probably would. As is, that will probably go to fund a new driveshaft and rims as it is.
Will be sitting at about 28k miles when I get back. ***** for it is, if I crack the heads off, I might as well do the rods, too... and port the heads... and change the compression ratio... it never ends
Not doing that puts me at an artificial stopping point until I can get some other things in place, like the fuel system. Otherwise, I’m going to be tempted to try putting 12 lbs down at the strip, because I can, even though it’s a terrible idea for so many reasons.
So, blower and water meth on low boost for now, stay above 11.5 ETs at the strip, and work with somebody on a long block build concurrent to watching prices and options for a transmission as the next two years go by. I would love to do drop ins, but that requires trusting a builder up there to do it while I’m deployed. Hence the above post- rapidly losing faith that anyone up there can act professionally and accomplish the mission on time. At this point, I’m confident that I could do a trans swap with some help, and that I will be in a location and position to order one here after a while.
If I get stationed back on the east coast next go-around, Luke is the first person on my list to go meet in the general area. If I end up getting out and going home, OST Dyno is a day trip each direction- wife and I can go take a vacation/road trip, and schedule some work. Either way, it’ll be time for a block refresh, and from either shop I have some serious options that have only gotten better the last couple of years.
I’m waiting to see if Mopar drops a factory 426 offering for street vehicles. They do, price and parts should be coming down anyway. So, I can spend car payments on a hellcat, or I can go slow and end up spending a little more over time to have what I’m really working toward over time- a car that I know how to set up, tear down to the last bolt, and rebuild as needed. An engine that will be bulletproof to 1200 hp, and a second motor I can drive on the street more comfortably. A chassis I can adjust and continuously fix for street, novice strip, and SCCA fun events as desired.
This is a 10-15 year project car now. Resale value be damned. I haven’t gotten much hobby time the last 15 years or so, and I’m trying to change that. I have made the same argument about the Hellcat for damn good reason- Dodge built an awesome platform there, especially for mods. I just would rather get the experience of putting the 20k price difference into customizing my car, and then the 15-20k that would likely get put into a Hellcat... and so it goes
It’s not like I wouldn’t want to mod the shit out of a kitty, too. So, now I can do it to my car slowly, on a budget, with no car payment and no kids yet. And, if I need to stop for budget reasons. I can hold off and keep to basic maintenance.
So, yup, short block is in the plan if shipping and finish it isn’t cost prohibitive, and so is either selling the 392 shortie there to recoup, or holding onto it as a project block for the next build up. If the pistons a forged by then, so much the better. If not, project block. I would really like to be able to learn how to strip and build a block on my own- and the Army will eventually end up paying for it to go back down south either way, so no worries if it’s sits for a bit. So, if it’s becomes nothing but a stack of parts, no worries. Hopefully it turns into a 440 NA later if that happens, but no worries if it doesn’t.
Next upgrade round is going to be mostly self-install anyway- driveshaft, half’s, frame and tower braces, rims and tires. IF a piston starts to go, and I don’t think it will on 6-7 lbs on meth inside of 15k miles with very controlled tuning and occasional strip pulls, then it’s going to be time to work that end, ship it back home/builder back east anyway, and drive a shitty pick-up for a season or two until I PCS.
Side note- I have a giant dog. She no longer fits in the back of the car easily, so I’m looking in other directions so I can pick her up when my wife needs me to pick the puppy up. Of course, also looking at a backseat delete and a puppy bed for the back, too
. Not at all practical, but I didn’t buy this thing to be practical- waffles on test driving one all last deployment, and my wife basically told me I was going to buy one after I got home and we test drove a few cars to replace my Murano. To clarify- I wanted one, but wanted to be practical, and she basically told me I needed to do something for myself, and that she fell in love with the damn thing after getting in one. It didn’t hurt my feelings to have the support. Also didn’t hurt I found one at an obnoxiously good deal in the middle of winter back home. Back story is, my wife liked it a lot more than sitting in a corvette, which was her dream car since she was a teenager and We had talked about a “why the hell not, once in a lifetime splurge car.” (Yes, she’s awesome.) She saw but never sat in a ‘73 stingray when she was 17, and fell in love with it. Got her to sit in a 2017 GS, and she hated it, loved the Scat Pack, and scared the hell out of the guy at the dealership when’s we did the test drive. I was laughing my ass off. To be fair, we asked him if he had any heart, knee, back, or other issues before he got in, and he’s had some time with me driving for a warm-up. To be fair though, he was 30+% body fat, middle aged, and sitting in the back seat, so... I’m certain the pit stains weren’t just from us, but I will admit to us both contributing to that problem. We didn’t beat up the car, but it did get a fair road test and some parking lot time. Either way, she loved it, we bought one, and road tripped it from Mass to Colorado. Now it’s mostly sitting and it’s gotten a few winter miles, but not many from her.
I suspect that if I can get her in the seat out in Palmer when’s I get home, I may be having to puppy sit a lot more as she will likely realize that she has figured out what drag racing is, and I doubt I will get to have my car to myself on test and tune nights.
So, this will also have to serve the purpose of her being able to drive it when she wants, and probably more likely that it will be a starter drag car for her as well. She grew up on the north 95 corridor- I couldn’t keep up with her on the highway when she had a SXT rental, and I used to have blue lights on the top of my work car. Trying like hell to get her onto the track, and it may take a summer or two to convince her. Means making it more stable, controllable, and above all predictable. And then I have to get used to the idea that she’ll likely kick my ass at the track in my own car.
It begins, and I’m taking it slow. I’m also mentally writing off the value of the car as a resellable object, and making peace with the financial piece there. Much easier to do for less than half the cost of what a hellcat would have cost me to start with, and probably the only time I would be able to do so. Not rich, but got lucky on a few things over the last ten years. Wife and I will be okay if I retire, and I’ll have the budget to indulge an occasional hobby. I wouldn’t have that leeway if I had started on a hellcat, traded up to one, or had to keep making payments on this the next five years. As it is, I will definitely keep the boost down until the supporting mods are in place, and there’s a bunch to put in myself just for the joy of doing so. Hopefully, if anyone is in the area, we’ll have an opportunity to share the experience if anybody wants to, or at least laugh at my pain in person
This has been the best damn ownership and driving experience I’ve had. To the point that I bought some shares in FCA, and not because I think it’s going to be a great financial investment. I will keep lurking here with an occasional post to try and find common sense advice and the best way to go about it, but I got the bug, and have the financial position after working the last 20+ years to support doing a little bit at a time. So, pay to play, right? But, life is short, and I’m at the point where I’m willing and able to pay for the experience of having a modern hot rod muscle cruiser that’s unique through some work, busted knuckles, and joy in learning.
That being said, if anyone from MMX is reading this, has a second opinion of being able to ship pistons on the cheap there, and can give me a warm and fuzzy on getting that job done on a lift in a weekend with some basic tools and a torque wrench... I’m all ears