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Behind the wheel is a small man in a black crash helmet. The car is a rakish nightmare, narrow tires up front and oil-drum semislicks out back; the latter cast off bales of smoke whenever the Demon rolls to the starting line.
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With every pass, the front end yawns farther from the ground, the rear tires bunch up more violently, full throttle comes on sooner. After a dozen runs, the car coasts into the staging area. Now 86, he lorded over the sport from the early s to the late s, winning every event of consequence, routinely obliterating speed records and racking up national championships. So when the Hemi-powered Demon set a new production-car quarter-mile record—9.
We dropped him a line, proposing to bring together the two drag-racing titans in his home state. Dodge agreed to provide a preproduction test car.
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- From The Don Garlits Collection.
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Based on the hp Challenger SRT Hellcat , the Demon is the most extreme street-legal factory drag-racing proposition ever built. The 6. The torque converter, driveshaft, axles, differential, and rear gears are all beefed up. Line lock holds the front wheels independently for tire-warming burnouts, and a dedicated transmission brake allows quicker launches. Hollow anti-roll bars, smaller inch wheels, reduced sound deadening, and a minimalist cockpit drop curb weight. All told, Wilder says the Demon is about pounds lighter than the Hellcat, not counting the tire-rubber marbles it has so obviously lost.
Inside are supernarrow front wheels, a floor jack, an impact wrench, an air filter, and assorted hand tools.
Also a controller that allows you to unlock special high-octane fuel mapping for the engine-management system. Duly equipped, the car is a terror. It pumps out hp and lb-ft of torque. On a cool day at a tacky strip, the Demon pulls wheelies and sees 60 mph in 2. Were the car any more awesome, its ignition chime would be a Steve Vai guitar solo. Garlits is impressed. In the paddock, he circles the Dodge, sizing it up.
The rear tires necessitate gargantuan rear fender flares. When Garlits shoves an arm into a wheel well to inspect them, the car appears to swallow him whole. He works methodically, examining the suspension and aero pieces like diamonds or produce. When Garlits started racing in , volatile nitromethane and benzene fuels were still mixed trackside by trial and error. Tire shake often knocked drivers unconscious. Safety was all but nonexistent. Period photos show men in T-shirts driving through debris storms at mph.
Predictably, calamity is central to the Big Daddy legend. This is a man who has nearly burned to death twice, trapped inside a nitro fireball after high-speed engine explosions. One particularly harrowing incident, a planetary-gearbox failure at 25, rpm, mutilated his lower legs. The dragster rolled, went airborne, and landed across a set of nearby railroad tracks.
Spectators pulled him from the wreckage.
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Pieces came off along the way. Bits of fingers. Half his right foot. One of his ears is dead, and the other has a hearing aid snugged inside. His eyes have been surgically repaired; repeat violent descents from mph caused his retinas to detach. None of this appears to have slowed the man down. Two weeks before I met Garlits, Hurricane Irma felled a massive oak in front of his house.
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He promptly marched outside with a chain saw, cut it into pieces, and built a bonfire. In Gainesville, he hops into the quickest mass-production car ever made, no drama or pomp, and drives the hell out of it.
He has few notes. He is grinning. The decision to purchase should be based solely on the buyers personal inspection of the lot at the auction site prior to the auction. Please click here if you are not redirected within a few seconds. Toggle navigation Menu. Kissimmee Auction Search.
Reset Search. Popularity grew steadily but drag racing still remained largely an underground pastime. Races frequently took place on disused military runways with the first organised event dating back to at the Goleta Air Base in California. Things were simple and low-tech in those days.
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Cars were driven to the track or towed in makeshift trailers. Drivers raced over a quarter of a mile, the length of a city block, but without the aid of safety barriers or regulated track conditions.
The spectators in particular got a raw deal with no proper grandstands or seating. As the decade turned drag racing began to get organised. As the sport grew the first drag racing superstars emerged. The Albertson Olds and Dragmaster Dart were the cars to beat.