Forget acceleration. What truly matters is the evidence you leave behind. Those two black stripes across gray asphalt: the chevrons of glory, the gooey rubber scars of greatness. In the eternal battle among Camaro, Challenger and Mustang, what really matters is how long a burnout each will pull.
This wasn't a contest of advanced technique, but a battle waged with high school rules. No brakes, no throttle modulation and no soapy substances on the tires. Just a size 11 Nike cross-trainer planted on the accelerator until the engine nearly seizes, a clutch dump and a death grip on the steering wheel. The winner is the car that lays down the longest pavement lick.
This is primal motorsport: the sort of stuff you do hours after getting your license and finding a stretch of open road. By the time you're 16 and a half, you've likely blown it out of your system. Unless, that is, you're the sort of person who reads Inside Line, which means it likely remains a lifelong obsession.
"Technique?!" exclaimed Senior Road Editor Josh Jacquot. "I didn't use no stinkin' technique. I just revved them, dropped the clutch and didn't lift. Let me use the brakes and I could have had all of them running the length of the strip in a gray cloud of tire smoke."
For this seminal competition, each car — Inside Line's long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, Inside Line's long-term 2010 Chevy Camaro SS and a brand-new 2011 Ford Mustang GT swiped from Ford's Los Angeles press fleet — was allowed three runs with Jacquot piloting. A piece of tape with the car's name printed on it with a Sharpie was laid down along the Auto Club Speedway drag strip's centerline where the tire marks started and another piece of tape went down where the marks faded away. Determining where each of the marks ended was left to the subjective evaluation of this writer.
Each stripe was measured along the track centerline using a tape measure. All the measurements were then recorded on the back of the receipt from the previous night's dinner at BJ's sports bar in Oxnard, California. There were no style points awarded and the curvature of any burnout was disregarded. And if we bring the receipt with us back to BJ's next time, we get free mozzarella sticks.
At some point the "science" of this experiment was thrown aside in favor of the giddy giggles to be had from such indulgent nonsense. Yeah, this is immature and pointless, but it's a joyous and rocking immaturity and there aren't many other pointless things that are so emotionally satisfying.
Those were the rules. Now here's the rundown.
3rd Place: 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
First Run: 72 feet, 5.5 inches
Second Run: 71 feet, 2.5 inches
Third Run: 69 feet
With the smallest-displacement engine in this test, the new 2011 Mustang GT lacks the bottom-end grunt that's necessary for ultimate rubber-burning artistry.
Though the Mustang GT's new engine is rated at 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, those peaks arrive rather late in the power band. The 412 ponies require a screaming 6,500 rpm, while the torque isn't available until 4,250 rpm. This particular Mustang, a California Special Edition, wore 19-inch wheels inside 245/45R19 all-season Pirelli P Zero Neros and was packing an optional 3.73 rear axle ratio.
Make no mistake here: The new 5.0-liter V8 is a wonderful piece of engineering and likely the sweetest-driving V8 Ford has ever installed in a regular passenger car. But when it comes to infantile burnouts, it's weak sauce.
2nd Place: 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T
First Run: 101 feet, 2 inches
Second Run: 109 feet, 10.5 inches
Third Run: 99 feet, 4 inches
There were high hopes for the Challenger R/T going into this brutish competition. After all, not only does it wear skinny-ish 235/55R18 all-season Michelins that really deserve to go up in smoke, it's also powered by a Hemi.
Alas, however, the RT's 5.7-liter Hemi is modest in its output. Power maxes out at just 372 ponies while torque production is at 400 lb-ft. However, that horsepower number occurs at a relatively humble 5,200 rpm, even though the torque peak is up at 4,400 rpm.
Those peak numbers don't necessarily reflect the Hemi's low-end grunt accurately. Those numbers also don't necessarily reflect an ability to fricassee a set of all-season Michelins either.
With the help of those little, very hard tires and its deep 3.73 rear axle ratio, the Challenger laid down the longest 1st-gear stripe. It wasn't quite gutty enough to continue smoking in 2nd gear, but the Hemi pulled long enough for the oversize Challenger to go a blazing 109 feet, 10.5 inches without shifting. That has to count as some sort of conditional victory.
At least conditionally speaking.
1st Place: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS
First Run: 183 feet, 3 inches
Second Run: 210 feet, 1.5 inches
Third Run: 186 feet, 8 inches
When it comes to adolescent automotive behavior, the King, High Priest and Minister of Annihilation remains the mighty Camaro SS. All hail the Master of Mischief! The Sultan of Smoke! The Ruler of Rubber! The Baron of Burnouts!
In a contest where vehicle mass doesn't matter, suspension suppleness is irrelevant, cornering isn't even considered and the brakes are just along for the ride, it's no surprise the most powerful machine won. But what was shocking is how thoroughly the Camaro dominated the other two entrants. This wasn't even close, and the reason is simple.
Despite wearing the largest and stickiest tires of the three muscle cars (20-inch Pirelli P Zeros), the Camaro SS was the only car that continued to flambé its baloneys after the shift into 2nd gear. The Camaro SS's 6.2-liter LS3 V8 rates out at 426 hp and a thick 420 lb-ft of torque. Yeah that horsepower figure is up at 5,900 rpm and the torque number is stuck at 4,600 rpm, but the LS3 produces big twist from just off idle up to the moment the rev limiter screams "Uncle!" If your goal is the assassination of tires, the LS3 is your bestest buddy ever.
Controversy arises here (if you actually care) by the fact that the shift from 1st to 2nd gears in the Camaro SS produces a gap in the tire stripe about 8 feet, 4 inches long. But while the 1st-gear portion of the longest run ran 46 feet, 9 inches, in 2nd gear it ran a full 155 feet. That's about 45 feet longer than the Challenger's best run — in 1st.
Why does the Camaro run out so quickly in 1st? Simply because it's spinning the rear tires so hard that forward progress is impeded. The car is slowing down so much that the driver needs to shift into 2nd to keep it going.
And that's why the Camaro SS, though it may trail the others in other ways, dominates in this particular way.
So if you're still a sophomore in high school, the Camaro SS is the greatest single car ever built.
The manufacturers provided Edmunds vehicles for the purposes of burning the tires off of them.