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H.O.T. Damn, Round One: ZL1 1LE vs Hellcat vs GT350R

Ross Ballot September 6, 2017 Featured, HOT Damn 33 Comments

Round One: American’s top-tier muscle/pony/sports-car trio 

Welcome to H.O.T. Damn, a new and terribly-titled segment in which your Hooniverse contributors shamelessly show their true vehicular preferences in picking which of three automotive options we would choose to Hoon, Own, and Total. Many of us are familiar with the extremely juvenile but equally amusing game of look-it-up-on-Urban-Dictionary F/M/K and more likely than not all of us have played a similar version, a much less creepy and murder-y version, in which cars take the place of people. This is that game, right before your very eyes.

[Editor’s Note: We’ve been informed that a version of this game exists on the podcast created by the gents at TeamClearCoat. They do a F/M/K game each episode, similar to what Ross has created here. Go check out their podcast if you want to hear more of these questions posed as it certainly leads to great car discussions!]

To clarify, the options in this game are: Hoon, Own, and Total. Hoon, of course, means choose the car of the three that you’d most like to drive the wheels off of on a track, mountain road, or wherever tickles your right foot’s fancy. This is designated for the car that you want to drive hard more so than the others, then leave where it sits when you run out of gas, tires, or both. Own is delegated to the car that you’d put in your garage or whatever spot it is in which you leave your personal means of transport. It’s the option meant for picking the car you want to drive with some frequency and keep for more than a single day; it’s for the car you want as part of your little automotive family. And then there’s Total, the most evil of options here, which takes the equivalent spot of the “K” in the game this one is based on. This last section is reserved for the car hat you’d push off a cliff, into a volcano, or let fly into the line of eighteen-wheeler-fire, allowing it to crumple and/or burn before your own eyes. One must die for the others to live, as they say.

Herein we will be writing in what we would do given the situation at hand and, based heavily on my capacity for putting these bits together without burning the idea out too quickly, will be playing our own less-deranged version of F/M/K with semi-regulararity. Prepare yourselves as we pick through our own brains and see what direction we’d go with the three dream cars laid out in front of us.

And here’s the thing: we’d love for you to play along. Make sure to sound off in the comments which car you yourself would Hoon, Own, and Total. And if you’ve done so with any of the three cars here, be sure to tell us and everyone else so.

Without further ado, it’s time for Round One! There’s a trio of somewhat-attainable (perhaps on the used market a few years down the road…) V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive American cars out there that are a cut above the rest and that, to some extent, occupy the same competitive space. You know the three I’m writing about: the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and Ford Mustang GT350R. As it turns out, our opinions are largely the same…but that doesn’t take away from the fun of it. Now, before I ramble any further, here’s the choices of yours truly and his fellow Hoons.

Kamil Kaluski:

Hoon – Dodge Challenger Hellcat. It’s huge, it’s stupid, it has stupid power. It’s actually really nice to own, drive casually, and just live with everyday but it falls short as a true sports car. It’s a muscle car and my roads have curves.

Own – Ford Mustang GT350R. It’s actually not a great daily driver, nowhere near as good as a the Hellcat, but the stiff ride and cup tires are a worthy compromise for what basically a super car.

Total – Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The only reason why I’m totaling it is because I have not driven it whereas I drove the other two. I just don’t know anything about it.

Ross Ballot:

Hoon – I had to think this one over many a times, but I’d Hoon the Hellcat. Having owned (and autocrossed) a Challenger R/T, I can’t help but wonder (and fantasize over) what the same car with improved suspension and nearly double the power would be like when pushed hard. I’d need about 5 sets of rear tires just to make it through an afternoon, but going sideways in a big-body Hellkitty amidst screaming blower and billowing tire smoke would be a pretty fantastic way to get back behind the wheel of a Challenger, and the best way at that, without having to own another.

Own – GT350R. It’s no secret that I love the S550 ‘Stang, and the GT350R is the absolute best of what the chassis has to offer. More playful and character-filled than the Camaro and much smaller and more focused than the Hellcat– not to mention having the best sounding engine– puts the R in a category above the other two. It’s a car that if I had the money, I’d unquestionably have in my garage. It’s a car I’d want to drive on a regular basis and to use as a platform for my increased autocross participation. The GT350R isn’t just the car I’d pick among these three, it’s a car I actually dream of and would love to own. The Hellcat, though…man, if it were 10% smaller and lighter, it would be a no brainer…I almost added a last-minute addendum to switch my choice to owning the Hellcat (those seats just lure me in…) but if I owned the GT350R I wouldn’t daily it, but rather drive the crap out of it once or twice a week. Hellcats are a dime a dozen these days. GT350Rs are still truly, genuinely exciting and future-proof cars.

Total – Sorry, Chevy– the ZL1 1LE is dying a fiery death. Put simply, the Camaro just doesn’t do it for me the way the other two do. Factor in the solid-mounted suspension that rides back-punishingly hard according to those who have experienced it, which would murder my already-struggling spine, and I wouldn’t want to drive the super-focused Chevy for more than an hour or so based on this alone. As for ownership: in real life the visibility becomes genuinely aggravating, and the lack of a usable back seat and a trunk designed as a total afterthought only hampers the possibilities. I want to love it, but I can’t find any reason to do so.

Last minute addendum: screw it, I’m changing my answer. I love the GT350R, but I’ll take hooning it for a bit and be content. The Hellcat just calls to me. It always has. I want to own one, badly. Dark red, six-speed, leather seats…I’m taking this thing cross-country and hitting triple digits every chance I get. It’s a great daily and can still boogie. Yeah, Hellcat for me, at least in terms of long-term relationships. [Ed. Note: Screw you cheater… you’re stuck with your original choice. -JG]

Source: Motor Trend

Patrick Hoffstetter:

Hoon: How could you not hoon the life out of a Hellcat? I don’t even like the thing, but the idea of a one-night stand with a widebody Hellcat drives me wild. Hell, just give me a parking lot and like, an empty highway and I’ll be a happy boy.

Own: Now, I might be a bit of a Ford fan over Chevy, but I honestly think that the GT350R is going to be a benchmark car for a generation. It’s going to be a Mustang that is looked back on forever. That motor has a soul, a genuine personality that begs to be used at the limit. Combine that with the excellent carbon wheels and the stunning work Ford did on the Chassis and you have a daily that can do it all.

Total: I’m gonna be honest. The Camaro has never done anything for me. It’s too big, the looks aren’t right, and the LT/LS family of motors are about as bland as can be. Granted, I do enjoy how bonkers Chevy has let the Camaro team get over the past couple years, but I still don’t think it has the soul or joy the other two provide.

Source: TFL Car

Greg Kachadurian:

Hoon – It’s gotta be the Hellcat, the car whose very existence was justified in a board meeting with the words “it can do sick burnouts and stuff”. Of the three, that has to be the most fun to destroy a set of tires with.

Own – GT350R without question. In Lightning Blue with the white stripes, please and thank you. That’s the kind of car that’ll still feel special decades from now.

Total – Camaro ZL1 1LE Z28 Z71 ZR1 ST Lariat, on a race track by crashing into another car that I couldn’t see.

Source: Motor Trend

Jeff Glucker

Hoon: I’m torn… This is a tough game, especially with these three cars because they’re all pretty amazing. I believe I’m going with the ZL1 1LE here. I drove the SS 1LE and I was blown away. Now add in way more horsepower, a massive whine from the engine, spool-valve suspension (Greg, I’m getting the full track package here and this suspension is what God himself would drive were he a real thing), and all the other goodies, and I’m going with the Camaro here. Even as I sit back and think about my choice, I’m curious if I made the wrong one…

Own: I’m going to own the Hellcat. I want that 707-horsepower madness on a daily basis, and I’m getting it in the package that will be far and away the most comfortable on a consistent basis. Those cozy Napa Leather seats, the softer suspension, the non-race car setup. I’ll own the Hellcat thank you.

Total: I kept going back and forth between the Mustang and the Camaro. I have never been much of a Camaro fan, but the current generation is just so good. The Mustang still, I believe, looks better on the outside and you can see out of it. Plus that flat-plane crank in the GT350 makes terrific noise. Yet the ZL1 1LE is more insane, and we’re talking about Hooning the crap out of it, so I will have to total the (admittedly awesome) GT350.

Source: Motor Trend

Alan Cesar:

You’re all wrong, and it seems so obvious, too.

Hoon the Mustang. It’s the better track car here. It’s a solid 800 pounds lighter than the Hellcat, has that great engine sound, and visibility so you can actually place the car. It’s also entirely possible I’m missing the point of the “Hoon”option.

Own the Hellcat. If you track this thing, you’re going to be chasing heat soak problems and emptying your wallet on consumables. It’s got to be the better highway mile eater. Use the horsepower to make effortless two-lane passes.

Total the Camero because process of elimination. And Cameros suck. Yeah, I said it.

Source: Automobile Magazine

Chris Haining

Well, it’s my job on here to have entirely the wrong opinion, so I’ll start by saying:

Hoon the Hellcat. Hoon it to hell and back, and then – if it still shows signs of life – hoon it that little bit more, until it’s nothing but a bloody, motionless shell of what it used to be. Then get it fixed and continue – free parts and labour come as part of the H.O.T package, yes? (It’s an entirely hypothetical, theoretical world we’re playing in, so…yes, free labor and parts. And, more importantly in the case of the Hellcat, free tires — Ross) The Hellcat is surely a car designed for shock and awe, and that’s what I’m asking of it. An opportunity like this comes, testing the Hellcat to its very limits comes only once in a blue moon and should be grabbed with all possible hands. Thing is, I don’t really like it, so I’d…

Daily the Mustang. Ford has said that it didn’t even concern itself with making the GT350R work on the road – and that sounds like an acceptable challenge to me. I’m not really a particularly “R” man, and I reckon there are a lot of people kidding themselves by saying that they are. Still, of the Neo-Ponies, the Mustang is my favourite, not least because it’s the only one to have been steadily developing since day one, rather than being discontinued and then cashing in on a prevailing retro fad.

I confess to only having driven one current-gen Mustang, and in lame-spec 2.3 Cabrio form at that. The thing actually reminded me of an open-top Cortina, yet even the EcoBoost wasn’t bereft of brawn and generated a pleasingly flatulent exhaust note. Even sans roof, the handling was entertainingly positive, and seemed a basis that could sensibly evolve into something wholly more furious. The GT350R is that car, and I’m rather intrigued to give it a go. And the chances are that, even if I find I can’t live with it, that’s my fault, not it’s.

Which leaves us with the Camaro to total. Conceptually, I actually prefer the Camaro to the Hellcat, but I prefer the looks and resolution of the latter and reckon I could derive more immediate thrills from it, too. So the Bowtie Bruiser gets the bullet on the basis of being the worst of the best. And if I was allowed to drive it to destruction, its death wouldn’t be in vain, either.

Source: Ericship 111 on YouTube

That’s it for Round One of H.O.T. Damn…

And now it’s your turn! Sound off in the comments and let us know what your garage, track day, and flaming piles of metal would look like given these three choices. There’s no wrong answers here so long as you have something resembling logical reasoning to back your picks. So let’s hear it: what would you do?

  • pj134

    Huh, never thought there would be a post that made me think “Yeah, Jeff’s the smart one”.

    • Jeff Glucker

      Yep. Everyone else is wrong here today. Weird, right?

      • pj134

        There was one line that actually made my eye twitch.

        “…and the LT/LS family of motors are about as bland as can be.”

        • Jeff Glucker

          Yeah, I’d certainly argue that LS swaps have become boring to a degree, but the engines are still fucking great.

          • While “ubiquitous”, I won’t blame anyone for going that route (unless it’s an insane stage – if you pour that kind of money into a, say, K-body, you should have outright started with a better base.)

            Laws can be a bummer: the wildest swap I’ve seen in person here was a W123 that went from a 3.0L I5 Diesel with 80HP to a 3.0L I5 turbo Diesel with 125HP. Direct bolt-on, though.

  • Alff

    I’d hoon both the Camaro and Hellcat. Given my lack of experience with such power, at least one would end up in the totaled category by default. Then I’d hop in my Mustang and drive home.

  • Do you need suggestions for future instances (Europe-heavy, because reason)?
    – Peugeot 604, Citroen CX, Lancia Gamma
    – Porsche 928, Jaguar XJS, same era Eldorado
    – Beetle, Dauphine, Morris Minor
    – Opel Omega, Ford Scorpio, Honda Legend

    • pj134

      2001 Century, 2001 Sable, 2001 LHS

      • Alff

        Mk1 Capri, Opel GT, Plymouth Cricket

        • tonyola

          1988 CRX Si, 1988 MR2, and 1988 Fiero GT

          • pj134

            Chevette, Gremlin, Pinto

            • Alff

              Cherokee Chief, Blazer, Bronco

              • Isuzu Gemini, Buick Opel, Daewoo Maepsy

                • Alff

                  I mark your list incomplete

              • ptschett

                Scout II, Ramcharger hardest hit

                • Alff

                  I’ll bet the Ramcharger could withstand the hardest hit.

          • kogashiwa

            ooh I know the answer to this one

    • kogashiwa

      Autozam AZ-1
      Honda Beat
      Suzuki Cappucino

    • The Rulers Of The Hooniverse (ROTH) have no excuse to drop this series now: enough triplets for the rest of the year, an interested and contributing “crowd” – Love you folks!

  • Maymar

    I’m going with Alan’s answer – I don’t live somewhere with exceptionally twisty roads, so the Mopar makes for the best daily driver. And the current generation Mustang irrationally appeals to me in ways the Camaro doesn’t, even if it’s often the better car (maybe it’s not feeling like you’re sitting in a pillbox), so that’s the one I’m hooning.
    Maybe save the Camaro for swapped destruction if I ever go out in a Vanishing Point-style blaze of glory.

  • smalleyxb122

    Individually: ZL1, GT350R, Hellcat

    As a group: GT350R, Hellcat, ZL1

  • Andrew_theS2kBore

    Hoon: Camaro. Run it around the track until it either cords the tires or overheats (or both).
    Own: GT350. Mustangs aren’t my thing, but of the three it’s the smallest, lightest, and rev-happiest.
    Total: Hellcat. Maybe I’ll get Youtube-famous like Roadkill.

  • Hoon: Head says spool valves, adjustable ride height, adjustable camber, and flight mode.

    Own: Heart says flat crank and carbon wheels.

    Total the Hellcat, because I expect it to be the rarest, most venerated, most collected of the three. This will drive up the value for those of you who chose to own one, increase the regret for those who merely hooned, and otherwise make you all impossibly angry.

    • If you’re looking to provoke anger, don’t total the Hellcat. Turn it into an art car by pop-riveting nearly every available surface* with scale models of the Grumman F6F. Or, if you’re really out for blood, use the F4F. Then daily it.

      *Not the badges. Leave those exposed.

  • Stephen

    Hoon: GT350R. Looks good. Amazing engine. Built for the track.
    Own: Hellcat. I have a kid and occasionally need a backseat. Don’t want to daily a track focused car.
    Total: Camaro. I acknowledge that the current Camaros are great drivers, but they are so ugly that I can’t get around that very superficial fact in this company.

  • jeepjeff

    I have nothing to say that Alan didn’t already nail.

  • ptschett

    Gosh, I thought Race, Daily, Restore was hard and you weren’t destroying any of those even if you wanted to…

    Hoon: Mustang.
    Own: Challenger Hellcat, with the ZF automatic. (Though my R/T is sometimes a bit unhinged as a daily driver with only its 372 HP’s.)
    Total: Camaro, but regretfully. I think I’d own a Camaro before I’d own a Corvette.

  • wunno sev

    none of the site authors picked it, but i’m going with the popular comments answer of hoon the Camaro, own the Mustang, total the Hellcat.

    the ZL1 is an amazing car and i’m sure the 1LE package ups it even more. i’ve seen regular SSs ripping up the track and tearing past everyone else like they were standing still. the Camaro is way better than it’s ever been….but having driven a V6 for a few days, it’s just such a stupid car style-wise that i couldn’t own it. nobody would see me through the gunslit windows, but i know i could see me.

    i like the current Mustang, and the GT350R is dope. it uses cool technology, has a flat-plane crank, and generally just gives off a more refined vibe than the Camaro. not sure if this is reflected at all in the driving experience, but who cares? a sports car is a Statement. it should reflect a style its owner likes. i like the Mustang because it’s the least cartoonish car here.

    it pains me to have to total any of these cars, but i’ve decided that i get to do the totaling. i’m sliding that Hellcat sideways into a tire wall, stepping out, and throwing the deuces to the cheering audience as the cloud of tire smoke dissipates and guys in Nomex put out the flames.

    • SoldierofaDifferentStripe

      Well put. My choices are the same.
      Yeah, the Camaro is a mechanical & technological marvel, but the styling just puts me off. Be fun to play with for a day tho. The Mustang would be the easiest to live with and enjoy on a daily basis. The Hellcat doesn’t impress me in the least. It’s a straight line machine, not a driver.

  • Zentropy

    Drive the Mustang. Does anything else matter?

    • cap’n fast

      you miss the point of the exercise! think of chopping up a camaro with a Ma Duce! water cooled heaven with automatic lube and a 10,000 round battle box chock full of .50 caliber API and HE! Such goodness is not to be denied!!!OOOooo…the burning of the carcass and burying the remains in a radioactive landfill to the end of time! simply cannot be topped.
      and on top of that driving the GT350, does the thought not excite you to riot in your mind?

      • Zentropy

        I was just throwing out a brand-loyalty grenade, just for fun. Despite my exceptional academic performance in the English language, after multiple readings of your comments I have no idea what you are trying to convey.

  • cap’n fast

    let us face the reality of H. O. T. totalling a camaro of any ilk is my idea of a fun time so long as a Ma Duce is involved. then burn it and bury the remains in a radioactive landfill. owning a mustang-been there done that. GT350? Hoon it forever. that way i would not drive my Hellcat until it looked like a soiled dishrag. what FUN! would this be heaven?