The Supra vs the Charger: Who Really Won?
The Debate That Still Rages: The Supra vs Charger Race
In the race at the end of the first movie, there was a lot going on behind the scenes. To understand who won the Supra vs Charger race, we have to set the stage so you understand it all.
For starters, the two cars NEVER ACTUALLY RACED. When you’re making a $40 million dollar movie, you don’t have time or the inclination to put at risk assets that are crucial to the making of the film. No responsible crew member would do this and if he did, he’d be out of a job right quick.
Second, you have to remember that the two actors didn’t actually do the driving – stunt drivers did.
Third, you have to understand that the cars as you saw them in that scene were NOT equipped as you might think.
Both cars we saw in the big drag race were stunt cars.
As such, ALL of the stunt Supras were NON-Turbo, automatic transmission cars. Stock, they made 220hp. The Charger, which was also a stunt car had a Chevy 350. Chevy 350 motors are often swapped into stunt cars because picture car crews usually have a bunch of these laying around their shops. The commonality and availability of parts makes it easy to run down to Pep Boys for a new starter or alternator if it fails on-set. It’s a common practice and it has been done for decades.
In a race between these two stunt cars, the Charger stunt car would have beat the Supra stunt car, but no one cares about that.
Hero Car vs. Hero Car
The discussion then must turn to comparing the two Hero cars. If you don’t know what a “Hero” car is, you’re either way late to this discussion or just haven’t done much research. THIS LINK will answer that question.
In short, a Hero car is a car that the actor will drive. It is usually the nicest, cleanest and most complete car we use. It’s generally used when the actor pulls up to a location on camera, or for close ups and even for interior shots.
In the first movie, we had two Hero cars – designated “Hero 1” and “Hero 2.” We had two Hero cars for each main character which were used when the primary Hero was being filmed in another location on the same day, or when the Hero 1 car was in the shop for repairs or touch-ups. The Hero 2 Supra hwas equipped with the NON-turbo 2JZ and an automatic transmission.
For the Chargers, we also had two Hero cars, plus stunt cars.
ENGINE VS ENGINE
We all remember the first time we saw the Charger – Dom slides back the garage door, and there is this black beauty with a massive motor sticking out of the hood. As we got closer, we all saw the big Hemi motor with the shinky BDS blower.
What you don’t know is that it was faked – the Charger car never had that motor. It was a loaner motor, borrowed from sourced from Chuck Taylor’s Racing Engine. (Chuck passed away in early 2019 and his website is now down). The motor was either a 426 hemi or 572 Hemi (there are conflicting reports – David Marder’s book, “It Takes More Than a Donut To Make a Movie“, pg 240 & 241 says it’s a 462 cubic inch motor, but I think that he just juxtaposed the numbers in his head – I think he meant it’s a 426). Either way, such a motor with a blower and the right fuel could easily support 900hp. So, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s pretend the Charger being raced had a 900hp Hemi.
For the Hero Supra (my personal car), we know that car made 560hp WITHOUT the nitrous.
My Supra was a six-speed, the Charger was an automatic. The video below, at the 1;38 mark, shows clearly that the car was an automatic (no clutch pedal but instead, a big, fat, wide brake pedal as found on automatic Dodge Chargers. For those who STILL want to argue whether or not the car was an automatic – I was there. It was an automatic.
The curb weight of a 1969 Dodge Charger (they were indeed 1969s, but we made some tweaks to make them look like the 1970 models and as such, all of the media ran with the 1970 designation proving yet again why you should not believe the bullshit written online) is 3920 lbs with a 426 Hemi (source: https://www.automobile-catalog.com/auta_details1.php). Take out maybe 100 lbs for the interior but add it back in for the roll cage, plus add the weight of a supercharger and we’ll call it 4,000 lbs.
My Supra had a curb weight of 3417 pounds. Add in another 150 pounds for the stereo, second battery, roll cage, heavier 19″ wheels and you get 3567 lbs.
OTHER IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES
The Supra had coil overs and sway bars, both of which are designed to go around corners. This type of suspension is NOT designed to transfer weight from the front to the rear while drag racing.
The Charger had a drag racing suspension. It’s sole purpose is to transfer the weight from the front to the rear to assist in traction for the laucnh.
The Supra had 30 series tires (285/30/19) in the rear. Low profile tires are designed to NOT flex under acceleration. The whole point of these tires is to reduce flex for better grip on a road course. Since the tirees don’t flex, they are ill-suited for drag racing. If you’ve ever been to a drag race, you’ll notice that no one is running UHP street tires – at least, none of the fast guys are.
So Who Won?
As I’ve said before, when comparing the Hero Charger (and pretending it had the 900 hp motor in it) vs. my 569 hp Supra (even with a 150hp shot of nitrous) it would have been no contest – the Charger would have beaten my Supra soundly, probably by more than 5 car lengths. Sticky tires and proper drag suspension wins out every time.
Back in the early 2000s, I was Executive Director of NIRA – the National Import Racing Association. Every week, all over the USA, I saw dozens and dozens of Supras run at the strip. Many were making big horsepower – 600, 800 or more. Guess what? They were all running 1/4 mile times in the 12s or 13s – same as nearly stock Supras – because they were on street tires. Street tires are not built for drag racing. Today, there are hybrid tires (aka DOT slicks, R888s, etc) that are better, but back then, most Supra guys were running 18″ or 19″ wheel setups with low profile UHP tires.
My point is that dedicated street cars will always be at a disadvantage in a drag race against a dedicated drag race car.