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BOTB Visits 51st State Autos. A review. {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

30 Nov 2015

This week as it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. we have decided to discount some of our American cars, so Tim Oldland set out to find some proper U.S. muscle. He met up with Charles Partos of 51st State Autos, one of the UK’s premier importers of American cars to have a chat and take a look at the Dodge Challenger Hellcat he has in stock. All 707hp of it…

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As I arrived at 51st State Autos it was a typical November day in Essex – cold winds and driving rain, so sadly I knew from the off that I wasn’t going to get to drive the Hellcat – 707hp and cold wet roads are not a good mix – but was still extremely excited about taking a look around it for the first time. The idea that a ‘normal’ car manufacturer (as in, not a supercar company) could produce a fully warranted car, on sale to anyone with a licence that has more power than a Lamborghini Aventador, for just $60,000 (in the U.S.) is absolutely incredible and would blow the mind of any petrolhead 10yrs ago. But here it is, sitting in the rain looking incredibly menacing in triple black – body, interior and wheels.

The styling is fairly similar to the normal challenger, but there are a few key things that mark it out as a Hellcat (isn’t that the coolest name ever?) – there’s a bigger front splitter for a start, while the front left inner light also acts as a forced air intake and there’s a new more ventilated bonnet. There’s a small Hellcat badge on the side and a bigger fixed bootlid spoiler, and a set of gorgeous multi spoke 20-inch alloy wheels to finish off the package. The inside also gets some bespoke elements and a fantastic infotainment setup. There are loads of modes and they’re all configurable. There’s also a g-meter and lots of other special tech to play with.

Sitting under that massive bonnet is a supercharged 6.2 litre V8 producing the aforementioned 707hp and a staggering 650 lb/ft of torque – which even though it weighs just over 2 tonnes means crazy performance is just a flex of your right foot away. 60mph comes up in 3.6 seconds (with the 8spd auto, the manual is 0.3secs slower), 100mph in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 199mph though some have seen over 200. Of course one of the best things about any American V8 car is the noise and the Hellcat doesn’t disappoint as you’d expect. A deep bellow with a hard raspy edge, it’s loud and suits the car perfectly. Here’s a walkaround and some nice sounds….

Dodge Hellcat Walkaround and Revs YOUTUBE LINK

Of course 51st State isn’t just about the Hellcat, they have a load of other stock like the Charger Hellcat, Dodge Rams and the new Ford F150 pickup. I had a poke around the Platinum spec 4×4 model they had out and came away really impressed. The interior was a huge improvement over previous models, access was great, loads of room in the back and I’m told it’s a great drive too. This one surprisingly didn’t have the V8, but the new 3.5 litre turbo Ecoboost V6 engine which still gives great performance, towing ability and economy thanks to the new F150’s aluminium construction and the 365bhp it produces. It’s still a truly massive vehicle, but I could see myself driving one over here!

So after drooling over the cars I sat down with a coffee and asked Charles a few questions…

Tell us a bit about 51st State Autos

I started the business about 13 years ago now. I had tried to buy a Corvette several years before and was frustrated by just how poor the offering was. The dealers here just wanted to sell me what suited themselves without listening to what I actually wanted. When I left the city and was looking to start my own business it just seemed an obvious space with plenty of scope to improve the availability and service levels.

What do you think is the appeal of American cars and why have they become so popular?

If I think back to when I started 51st State, the customers were all existing American car enthusiasts and in a sense we were preaching to the converted. This has changed dramatically over the past 6/7 years. Now the cars have a much wider appeal and this is down to the sheer quality of what has been developed by the manufacturers. The beauty of the cars we sell is they are different from anything else available in the price segment they occupy and this is what appeals to people. Ultimately you are going to get an awful lot more attention driving an F150 Raptor than you ever will in a Ford Ranger! Some of our Challenger customers have previously owned Porsches and Ferraris and are blown away by the level of interest in the Challenger!

If you could choose two American cars – one new, one classic – what would they be?

That is a really tough one! I have always loved the Challenger in whatever guise- having grown up in the 70’s it just has such a strong resonance and Dodge have been so respectful to the original when developing the new models that it feels like a time warped version of the 70’s icon I grew up with. I guess if I had to put two on my drive and money was no object it would be a 2016 Plum Crazy Challenger Hellcat and a 1970/71 Challenger RT in Plum Crazy as well. I think with those two I would just open the garage on a cold frosty morning and grin from ear to ear!!

What’s the best car to have come out of America?

That is a crazy question!! The best car ever in the history of the USA- I am definitely not qualified to be definitive as there are just so many that could easily and justifiably qualify- the Dodge Viper, The Ford GT 40, The Corvette C3, the Shelby GT500 but in terms of the best for the here and now, I will be slightly controversial. In my mind it has to be something that completely rewrites the history books, a design that is so totally “out there” yet actually fulfils a firm purpose without compromise and with this definition in mind my nomination would be the Ford  F150 Raptor. The design and attention to detail when it first launched in 2010 was extraordinary. It was bold, brash and sheer engineering brilliance (as so many SVT vehicles have been over the years). Just search YouTube for videos of what it can actually do and bear in mind it is a 3  tonne pickup truck!!!

What new US cars are coming out that excite you?

Leading on from the previous question the new Raptor arrives in late 2016 and I cannot wait. I go to the Detroit motor show every year and I was lucky enough to have seen the pre-production model last year and it did not disappoint. The new set up will be a 3.5 Litre Twin Turbo V6 (the same as in the new Ford GT) with a 10 speed auto. Exact performance numbers are still under wraps but rumours suggest output of more than 450 bhp – which is significantly more than the 2014 version with a 6.2 V8. It will also be at least 500 pounds lighter than the previous model so the performance should be truly incredible.

Staying in the light truck segment there are rumours of a more powerful Ram 1500- maybe even a Hellcat version and this is something the UK market is crying out for.

Muscle car wise all the marques have had very recent refreshes so over the next couple of years I expect just modest launches- convertible Camaro, new ZL1 Camaro, the Mustang GT350, maybe a 4wd challenger.

Are the V8s days numbered?

Yes sadly although I think we are a few years away from absolute extinction in the US. The developers and engineers are performing miracles with V6s these days so it is hard not to see a future for the muscle car market just utilising these to minimise weight and to improve fuel efficiency. It is sad but I think we are a way off yet and the aftermarket product designers will somehow ensure we still get our fix of “that sound”!!!

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