Making Lifelong Memories – The Demon Drag Strip Simulator

Designing and building a car as outrageous as the 2018 Dodge SRT® Demon is only half the battle. The other side of the coin is promoting and advertising the car to attract buyers. Happily the Demon’s record-setting performance and unprecedented attitude have done a great job of attracting publicity from Hollywood action filmmakers, producers of TV commercials and car magazine editors seeking the latest hot topic. News of the Demon keeps spreading like the automotive wildfire that it is.  


To help keep the ball rolling, Dodge created perhaps the ultimate interactive automotive publicity generator of all time: the Dodge SRT Demon Drag Strip Simulator. While a set of the latest 3-D goggles can partially recreate the thrill of a 9-second quarter-mile blast at the wheel of a Demon, there’s nothing like the real thing. That’s why Dodge transformed a pair of actual Challengers into full-size ride simulators and took them on a nationwide tour of major NHRA drag races and related car shows.  

Starting life as early-production Challenger test cars, they’ve been reconfigured with powerful electric struts at each corner that subject the vehicle – and occupants – to realistic movements meant to duplicate a full-throttle drag strip pass. And since one of the real-world Demon’s most exciting traits is the ability to pull a wheelie, each simulator car is designed to lift its nose a full 14 inches in the air. From inside the car, the effect is incredibly realistic and treats participants to over 1 g of forward thrust.  


And while the Demon simulator was preceded by road race simulators using similarly modified Viper, Challenger and Charger bodies, the Demon exhibit (like the Demon itself) is focused on the uniquely American sport of quarter-mile drag racing. As such, riders look through the windshield and see a realistic drag strip scene, complete with the Christmas tree starting light, race officials, sponsor banners and grandstands packed with virtual spectators. Activating the Demon’s first-ever-in-a-production-car trans-brake and flooring the accelerator pedal triggers the Christmas tree countdown (three yellows and a green).  

When the green light flashes on, you release the right-hand shift paddle and gasp with surprise as the nose shoots skyward. Keeping your wits about you — and an eye on the functional tachometer — tapping the paddle again at 6,500 rpm engages second gear while the realistic soundtrack fills the cabin with supercharged HEMI® V8-sourced automotive music. Throughout the sub-10-second thrill ride, the four-corner active suspension jiggles, swerves and shudders in response to real-time steering wheel and gas pedal inputs.  


FCA/Demon development engineer Jim Wilder says: “The sounds are all real. We outfitted a Demon test car with microphones under the hood, inside the cabin, by the exhaust tips and other places to capture everything from the stuttering sound of the Torque Reserve function to the shrill whine of the 2.7-liter supercharger at full boost. All of the sounds were generated by a real Demon then captured in digital audio files that play immediately in response to how the driver manipulates the gas pedal and shift paddle.”  

Each simulated race has three rounds and the total ride time is about 5 minutes. Over the course of a typical 8-hour day at a car show, about 100 lucky participants will take the wheel and each simulator will rack up about 300 passes. Admission to drive the Drag Simulator is free (drivers must have a valid driver’s license) and passengers are welcomed. In many cases, friends compete against each other in best-two-out-of-three showdowns and kids are allowed to ride shotgun. Those are the best races. Kids never fail to emerge from the Demon Drag Strip Simulator with ear-to-ear grins – and memories of hot Dodge vehicles that last a lifetime.  


Jim Wilder continues: “When the simulator construction was about done, the engineers brought me in to judge how accurately it represented a true drag strip experience. I race a 1965 Plymouth in my spare time and know drag racing pretty well. I complimented them on how they set up the electronic struts to make the body quiver a little bit at idle and best of all, how you get the best pass by shifting into second and third while the nose is still up in the air.”  

One addition suggested by Wilder turned out to be very popular. “I suggested the addition of a win light on the guard rail so it is clear to each driver who won the round from inside the car, and it’s a staple at drag strips. I also asked them to add a display for driver reaction time since many bracket racers cherish any opportunity to hone their starting line skills. The Demon simulator is as valid as any professional practice tree.”  

If you see the Dodge SRT Demon Drag Strip Simulator at the strip or car show, be sure to spend a few minutes registering to participate. It’s the next best thing to the real thing.


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