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

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?

By |2017-09-06T06:30:00+00:00September 6th, 2017|Featured, HOT Damn|35 Comments

About the Author:

Ross Ballot
Automotive ADHD, personified. Current owner of an NC Miata Club PRHT. Lover of all things off-roading; amateur autocrosser. Perpetually looking for the next vehicle he will regret.