Texan tuner John Hennessey is many things, but subtle is not one of them. So when he set out to build a monster muscle car with the specific aim of slaying the Dodge Demon, only one name would do: Exorcist.
Besting a car with 626kW/1040Nm that’s capable of a 9.65sec quarter mile is an ambitious goal, but to Hennessey’s credit, it did it. The Exorcist has run a 9.57sec quarter at 237km/h, on the way hitting 97km/h (60mph) in 2.1sec and 161km/h (100mph) in 4.7sec. Top speed is lineball with the likes of the Ferrari 812 Superfast at 349km/h. This is one fast muscle car.
Of course, Hennessey doesn’t build the whole car, but it starts with a good base in the form of a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 before going to town on the 6.2-litre supercharged LT4 engine.
There’s a high-flow supercharger, custom camshaft, ported cylinder heads, high-flow intercooler and catalytic converters, stainless steel headers and midpipes, new gaskets and strengthened top end with upgraded valve springs and retainers, lifters, pushrods, intake and exhaust valves.
Boost pressure is upped to 14psi and the end result is 746kW at 6500rpm and 1197Nm at 4500rpm. The work takes around 60 hours at a cost of $87,000 and is carried out by approved Hennessey workshop KPM Motorsport.
Our test car is actually a little healthier, having been dyno’d at a mind-bending 772kW. It’s also currently the only right-hand drive Exorcist in the world. Just 100 will be built in total and KPM has a licence to build three.
So keen were the owners of this Exorcist that they imported a Camaro ZL1 from the States and had it converted by SCD American Vehicles, prior to HSV officially converting the car for the Australian market.
Its understated look is at odds with the power contained within. Remove the graphics and the Exorcist could be a standard ZL1, until you turn the engine on and an idle like a Pro Stock drag car tells bystander that this ain’t no standard Chevrolet.
The engine always makes its presence known, rocking the car from side-to-side while stationary with pronounced supercharger whine a constant companion on the move. It’s not as refined as an OEM package in terms of noise, but its manners in everyday driving can’t be faulted.
Engine aside it’s a standard Camaro ZL1, same suspension, rolling stock, brakes, gearbox, so unsurprisingly the driving experience is identical, except for the fact those components are now dealing with almost an extra 300kW.
Rolling through some corners there’s the usual heavily-weighted but accurate steering, clever magnetic dampers that deliver a firm-but-fair ride and resist body roll nicely and confidence-inspiring brakes.
There is so much power that you can only dig so deep into the engine’s reserves on a twisting road. The throttle has a major effect over the attitude of the car; if you’re a little too eager there’s power oversteer in the first five gears, and probably every gear if you’re brave or silly enough to try and find out.
Find a straight bit of road, floor the throttle and the world blurs as your senses are completely overcome. The hellish supercharger scream is now joined by a crisp V8 snarl, the lower gears disappear in an instant and the rear end squirms as it battles to deploy more grunt than a Bugatti Chiron through two 305-section Goodyears.
To be honest, it’s completely overpowered. I’ve never driven a car that requires more respect on a dry road; the Camaro ZL1 is an awesome bit of kit and quite friendly at the limit, but the monster engine can overcome the rear tyres at any moment and at any speed.
But it’s also completely awesome. Muscle cars are meant to be an event and maybe even a little bit scary; like the HSV GTS-based Walkinshaw W557, the Hennessey Exorcist takes a beautifully resolved performance car and unbalances the ledger by adding a s***load more oomph which makes every drive exciting.
Ironically, in creating a car to kill Demons Hennessey has created a fearsome beast, something truly unhinged, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget. After all, who cares about subtlety?
Check out the latest issue of MOTOR magazine to read a twin-test between the Hennessey Exorcist and the Dodge Challenger Demon.
HENNESSEY EXORCIST SPECS
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger
Power: 746kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 1197Nm @ 4500rpm
0-100km/h: 2.5sec (est.)
Like: All the power in the world matched to the great ZL1 package
Dislike: Needs respect; bit unrefined; terrifying fuel use
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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