Can a Late Model Hemi Carry a Tune?

There exists an abundance of content and opinions on the Internet; one needn’t search very hard to find an opinion or anecdotal story on any aspect of automotive technology of which one can think.

“If you put magnets on your fuel line your gas mileage will improve,” “Front wheel drive is always better then rear wheel drive,” or, “Brand ‘X’ oil is doggy doo-doo and you should only use brand ‘Y’.”

And let’s not forget faulty causal logic, “My friend put a nitrous kit on his car and blew the motor, so nitrous is bad and will blow your motor,” or, “I put Witchdoctor Oil Additive in my engine and my next run down the track was my best E/T ever, so the additive is worth 50 horsepower.” What you don’t hear is that the “friend’s” fuel pump was worn out and they didn’t have the fuel pressure needed to support the nitrous kit they put on, or that there was a 20 mph tailwind and 50 degree dry air when that other friend made their best pass ever.

With our engineering background, we can only sigh heavily and pray for our educational system to improve the quality of science classes across this great country, because we worship at the altar of data and evidence. Magnets? “Show me the data!” A cold air intake that makes 40 horsepower? “Show me the data!” Come on, say it with us: “Show me the data!”

OK, we will. Last month, we put a nitrous oxide kit on a Dodge Magnum SRT8 and with only a 50 horsepower shot ran more than a full second quicker at the drag strip. And we showed you the time slips. Well, we have some ideas in mind for this car, which we’re now calling Project Maulin’ Magnum, and as we try out different mods, we’re always going to show you the data, either dyno numbers, time slips, or both.

But before we start, we need a baseline. Some nice,
hard data on where we started. Since the Maulin’
Magnum is almost stock, we decided to start with
dyno and track data.

Our 6.1L Magnum is stock except for a typical cold air intake and a cat-back exhaust, which are pretty much the first mods everyone makes to their cars.

Since we need to put the car on a dyno, we couldn’t help but wonder, once we establish our baseline numbers to compare to future mods, what if we custom tune the car in this baseline setup? How much power did Dodge leave on the table in the factory tune? Is there much that can be done with a tune to improve drivability?

Our friend and neighbor, Larry Rusk, who worked for Edelbrock for thirty years before retiring, suggested that we call Lyle Larson at DC Performance in Los Angeles. Larry and Lyle worked together through the years, and Lyle is an interesting guy. Lyle made his first pass down a drag strip fifty years ago and hasn’t stopped since. He’s worked for and with an amazing array of automotive industry people and companies, including Dale Armstrong, Jeb Allen, Kenny Duttwieler, Jack Roush, Vic Edelbrock, Jr., and Sig Erson, as well as companies like Edelbrock, Del West, General Kinetics Cams, Sig Erson Cams, McLaren Engines, Douglas Aircraft... well, you get the picture.

Lyle has done research and development on racing engines, chassis, drive train components and instrumentation, with his specialty being valve trains — he lists one of his biggest accomplishments in the high performance industry as designing the industry's first camshaft spin fixture.

Lyle can also drive; he has held NHRA licenses in Pro Stock and all classes up to and including Top Alcohol Dragster. He’s traveled the 1/4 mile in 6.22 Seconds at over 220 MPH. As a crew chief, he teamed with Billy Williams when they won the Grace Cup and World Championship in Top Alcohol in 1979 and for Jeb Allen when they won Top Fuel at the 1980 GatorNationals.

Lyle had us come by the DC Performance shop in Los Angeles and introduced us to President Dan Cragin. Lyle and Dan have known each other since Dan asked Lyle to race one of his Vipers back in 1995. Dan has a long automotive resume himself, and before founding DC Performance he had over twenty years of experience, including twelve years as a Dodge Viper specialist, preparing and racing hundreds of these American thoroughbreds. Dan bleeds Mopar blood if you cut him, and his Engine Calibration Specialist, Chris, has been tuning Mopars for Dan since the 1990s.

DC Performance is well known amongst Viper owners for building and tuning some of the most wicked V10s to ever terrorize asphalt and concrete. A few of their accomplishments include:

  • The first NHRA legal Viper’s in the 9s and then in the 8s. And, oh yeah, they were also street legal.
  • The first car to go over 200 mph in the Silver State High Noon Shootout - a standing start one mile acceleration event at 6,000 foot altitude
  • Numerous Viper Challenge series victories
  • Formula D Viper Championship 2005 second place
  • Shop is used by Paxton, AEM, Magnuson, and Edelbrock as a development consultant
Green means Go! And in this case, it also appears to mean, “See ya!”