2005 CHRYSLER 300C SRT-8
ON SALE: February 2005
POWERTRAIN: 6.1-liter, 425-hp, 420-lb-ft V8; rwd, five-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 4160 pounds
0 TO 60 MPH: 5.0 seconds (est.)
The 300C SRT-8 should garner a little attention from the bedazzled patrons of the big show, if for no other reason than this: Under the hood breathes a beefed-up and bored-out Hemi V8 packing a 425-hp wallop from 6.1 liters. The thrust-making machine is even decked out with an orange-painted block and black cylinder heads, just like the legendary Hemis of old, some of which are frequent travelers to Laguna Seca and the Monterey Historics, under the hoods of not only Chryslers, but also cars like Cunninghams and Allards. Both were pretty good at challenging Ferraris back in the day.
Squeezing roughly 70 hp from every liter of displacement makes the SRT Hemi the highest specific-output naturally aspirated V8 ever offered by the Chrysler Group. Sure, 70 hp per liter is about what Toyota gets out of a 3.0-liter V6 in the Camry, but we’re talking about pushrod two-valve Detroit iron here, so Dan Knott, director of SRT, is right to brag on his achievement. The handful of engineers working in his shop, hidden away in an industrial park on the other side of the freeway from the Chrysler Technology Center and HQ in Auburn Hills, Michigan, includes a lot of hard-core black-cuticle enthusiasts who tune their own performance cars in their off-hours, of which they’ve had very few lately.
Start with the basics: Bore it out by three millimeters to up displacement from 5.7 to 6.1 liters (6.059 actually), bump the compression ratio to 10.3:1 from the standard 9.6:1, install a high-performance camshaft. It goes deeper than driveway hot-rodding, though, and not only because Chrysler can make the electronics work in concert even while keeping it legal in the eyes of the feds. SRT improves the breathing with larger-diameter, hollow-stem valves and reshaped cylinder ports, fed by a new intake manifold (a thing of beauty under the hood that initially distracted us from the orange block) and steel-tube exhaust headers a quarter-inch larger in diameter than the exhaust manifold in the base Hemi. The SRT-8’s block is reinforced and boasts increased coolant flow, the crankshaft is forged steel, the connecting rods are stronger powdered-metal forgings, the pistons run on floating pins and are cooled by oil squirters, the exhaust valves are sodium-filled, and the oil pan is modified for reduced foaming. With the stronger parts, the SRT version of the Hemi spins nearly 15 percent faster than the base model, putting redline at a respectable 6200 rpm (the electronic cutoff is at 6400) vs. the regular edition’s 5400 rpm.