Having been to Gurston Down Speed Hillclimb a few times I thought I had the competition sussed, until now. Whilst it is never going to compete for top honours, John Harrison’s late-’50s Dodge Coronet is simply badass. The 325 cubic-inch engine (that’s 5.3-litres to you and I) probably kicks out less power than a modern sports hatchback and weighing in at over two tonnes – by today’s standards, it’s a prehistoric dinosaur.
Parked up next to a race-ready Porsche 911, the American muscle car dwarfs most cars in the paddock; but when side-by-side next to a more popular hillclimb machine, it’s size is even more apparent. On the parcel shelf sits a straw hat; hammering home the Stock Car Racing stereotype that is often associated with post-war muscle cars. “That’s my G-meter”, John comments. “I know how fast I’m going, by how much that moves around behind me.”
Giving up 20mph to the adjacent 911 in the speed trap, the big Dodge struggles under braking for the first slow right-hander. Exiting the following corner, the Coronet lights up it’s inside rear tyre every run and shows off the torque from the Hemi V8. A plume of tyre smoke envelops the cheering crowd as Harrison powers up Deers Leap and onto the top section of the course.
It may not have broken any records today, but seeing this car used properly in competition makes me wish all the garage queens would throw caution to the wind and give these beasts the thrashing they were built for once in a while.
Thanks to John for bringing it out to play, I look forward to seeing it again soon!