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Project SRT-4 It’s A Hard Knock Life

Our SRT-4 finds its way back onto a track

Peter Tarach
Mar 11, 2011
Photographer: Modified Staff
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Project SRT-4 is the old war vet of our project car fleet it has seen more track days than any of our cars, it’s tired (but still resilient) and it keeps on fighting. Every time we think of taking it to a track day, we’re reminded of all the stories we were told by former Sport Compact Car staffers about the beating this SRT-4 took turning countless laps. Eventually, something will fail on our SRT-4, but we’re not about to retire it from duty because of what ifs.

Modp 1104 01 o+project srt 4+right side view Photo 2/9   |   Project SRT-4 It’s A Hard Knock Life

Our annual Super Lap Battle finals held at Buttonwillow Raceway Park proved to be the perfect place for me to get reacquainted with the old girl and see if she could still turn a quick lap. Other than a set of 17x8-inch 5Zigen FN01R-C wheels mounted on 225/45R17 Continental Extreme Contact DWS tires, nothing has changed recently. With the boost on the Toys option set to the third setting (the maximum amount) and a half tank of 100-octane gas for safety measures, I hit the track for my first outing in the Orange Wonder.

As the boost gauge pegged over 20 psi, power delivery was good; there’s plenty of get-up-and-go from the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. But the power would drop off after 5500 rpm, which forced me shift more than I would’ve liked to, and the last thing I wanted to do was grab for another gear in this car. As I mentioned in previous articles, the SRT-4’s biggest downfall is the shifting it’s clunky, unnatural and too heavy but as I got used to it, and eventually I did, I stopped complaining. >>

In the corners, my butt would pucker up a bit due to the unruly and unpredictable handling characteristics. To say the SRT-4 is set up loose would be an understatement it constantly wants to oversteer, badly. While this may not necessarily be detrimental to fast lap times, I tend to like a tighter suspension setup one that doesn’t require constant overcorrection and erratic steering wheel inputs.

Modp 1104 08 o+project srt 4+left side view Photo 6/9   |   Project SRT-4 It’s A Hard Knock Life

Nevertheless, as I became more comfortable with the SRT’s quirky driving characteristics, I pushed myself and it harder. Surprisingly, it reacted quite well to at-the-limit driving, considering we were on modest street tires. Even the StopTech brake pads, which are meant more for street than track use, didn’t fade. Yet again, the SRT-4 proved us wrong by surviving another hard day at the track. It also didn’t do so bad in the timing department, running a best time of 2:08.615.

With our turbo kit plans being stalled due to lack of support, we’re going to work on tightening the suspension up a bit and then adding more power later. Our goal to make approximately 400 whp is going to have to wait, but in the meantime it will give us an opportunity to tweak the car as is and make it faster.

Our SRT-4 didn’t walk away completely unscathed from two days worth of track duty, though. On the way home, we noticed a rather awful pulsating sensation coming from the brake pedal. Upon further inspection, the right front rotor had developed a large crack and will need replacing. StopTech rotors are already on the way, and as soon as we make some small adjustments to the suspension, project SRT-4 will be back on the track living its life one hard mile at a time.

As I mentioned in previous articles, the SRT-4’s biggest downfall is the shifting.

With our turbo kit plans being stalled due to lack of support, we’re going to work on tightening the suspension up a bit and then adding more power later.

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By Peter Tarach
351 Articles

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