I would venture to suggest that the 1986 American film "The Wraith" was remembered by most of the motorists who watched it. This is the story of a mysterious "turbo interceptor" methodically killing a gang of evil street racers who terrorize the town. Formally, Charlie Sheen played the main role in the film, but, perhaps, the real star was his unlikely car.
Dodge M4S as a turbo interceptor
Black, very low and streamlined, it did not look like anything from the series of the period, not even Vector, so its origins were a mystery to viewers of the 1980s and 90s who watched this film on television or from VHS cassette long before the mass the spread of the Internet. Perhaps for some, the history of this car is still a mystery. After all, "Turbo Interceptor" from the cult film is by no means a props from the set, as one might assume. Moreover, participation in "The Spirit of Vengeance" was not the main episode in the car's career. Her real name: Dodge M4S. This abbreviation stands for "Mid-engine 4-cylinder Supersport", which quite accurately describes the design and purpose of the project. And here we will have to make a separate excursion into history.
In 1883, the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company was founded in Pittsburgh. By 1968, this specific name was officially shortened to PPG to reflect the diversification of the business, as in addition to glass, the company produced paint, fiberglass and various chemicals. In 1975, its Automotive Finishes Group began supplying paint for Indianapolis 500 racing cars, and three years later, an annual prize was instituted for the team to come up with the best design for their car using PPG materials. For this reason, after 10 years absolutely all cars in the peloton were painted with PPG paints. However, a coup was brewing within the Indy 500. Several teams led by Penske, unhappy with the rules of the USAC sanctioning body, by 1980 decided to create an alternative racing series - the CART Indy Car World Series.The specifications of the cars remained identical to the Indy 500, but instead of this proprietary track, the new championship was adopted by other tracks, and there were much more races. Roger Penske was able to attract PPG as the title sponsor of the series. And here the fun begins. According to the rules, in each race there must be a pace car, that is, a car that brings the peloton onto the track and sets its pace (that is, "pace" in English) before the traditional running start. This sets the Indy 500 and NASCAR apart from FIA races, including Formula 1, where a standing start is not required. That is why the Indy 500 pace cars have become a cult among collectors, while the Formula 1 safe cars remain less famous.Roger Penske was able to attract PPG as the title sponsor of the series. And here the fun begins. According to the rules, in each race there must be a pace car, that is, a car that brings the peloton onto the track and sets its pace (that is, "pace" in English) before the traditional running start. This sets the Indy 500 and NASCAR apart from FIA races, including Formula 1, where a standing start is not required. That is why the Indy 500 pace cars have become a cult among collectors, while the Formula 1 safe cars remain less famous.Roger Penske was able to attract PPG as the title sponsor of the series. And here the fun begins. According to the rules, in each race there must be a pace car, that is, a car that brings the peloton onto the track and sets its pace (that is, "pace" in English) before the traditional start. This sets the Indy 500 and NASCAR apart from FIA races, including Formula 1, where a standing start is not required. That is why the Indy 500 pace cars have become a cult among collectors, while the Formula 1 safe cars remain less famous.in English) before the traditional flying start. This sets the Indy 500 and NASCAR apart from FIA races, including Formula 1, where a standing start is not required. That is why the Indy 500 pace cars have become a cult among collectors, while the Formula 1 safe cars remain less famous.in English) before the traditional flying start. This sets the Indy 500 and NASCAR apart from FIA races, including Formula 1, where a standing start is not required. That is why the Indy 500 pace cars have become a cult among collectors, while the Formula 1 safe cars remain less famous.
1983 PPG Pace Cars at Laguna Seca: Dodge Daytona Turbo Z and Chevrolet Camaro Z28. You can see that they differ from the serial ones not only in color, but also in body kit.
And so, the need for pace cars (very noticeable on the track and receiving their dose of TV time during the broadcast of the race) for the PPG / CART series was combined with the choice of a paint manufacturer as the title sponsor. Unsurprisingly, this spawned a very flamboyant collaboration, literally. The first two pace cars, a black and white Chevrolet Camaro Z / 28, were bought by PPG for their own money, but then they began to actively use this program to strengthen their relations with automakers. By 1984, all four American corporations (General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and American Motors) supplied their own pace cars for the CART series, and PPG developed completely different paint options for them, reminiscent of Hot Wheels toy cars in ingenuity and brightness.
A more radical 1982 Dodge pace car based on the Charger
In total, from 1980 to 2008, about a hundred cars managed to be pace cars for the CART series, but it was the first years that gave rise to the most interesting designs. The fact is that not all pace cars of the 1980s were production cars. Quite strict requirements were imposed on the design: maximum speed over 225 km / h, effective acceleration from 140 to 192 km / h (required before the start of the race), the ability to take turns on the track at speeds of about 110 km / h … And also the willingness to drive 6 -7 km in first gear at about 8 km / h in 35 degree heat during the pre-race parade! Of all the cars of the early years, only the 1987 Buick GNX could boast that all these tasks were carried out without reworking the units. So manufacturers turned to companies like McLaren or Roush for pace cars anyway.And often the improvements went beyond the tuning of the engine and suspension - then cars were obtained that outwardly significantly differed from their serial relatives. However, even among the catchy variety of PPG pace cars, one stood out: the Dodge M4S.
PPG advertisement for the Dodge M4S as a pace car
Its history began on June 13, 1983 with a meeting of representatives of Chrysler and PPG. Dodge has previously supplied cars to PPG - Mirada, Charger and Daytona, but retaining their standard appearance or at least a semblance of recognition. The new pace car project was assigned to Bob Ackerman of Chrysler's product design department. “The approach I took for this car was to build a racing car rather than a pace car. I was inspired by IMSA designs, like the Porsche 962. And I wanted to reach a speed of 320 km / h,” he himself described his vision Bean.
Dodge M4S chassis
If this sounds very ambitious, it is. The first problem was the chassis - Chrysler did not have a finished design suitable for Ackerman's needs, and the pace car budget did not include building such a chassis from scratch. Lucky Bob had read an article in the Sports Car Graphic about a Pontiac Fiero-style racing car designed by Californian specialist Joe Huffaker. Chrysler engineers have confirmed that their 2.2-liter 4-cylinder can be fitted seamlessly into a Huffaker chassis, and PPG has approved the purchase since they have dealt with the company.
Dodge M4S engine compartment
The main work on the development and assembly of the car Ackerman entrusted the independent company Specialized Vehicles Inc (SVI) from Troy, Michigan, which was founded by former Chrysler employees Mike Koran and Tom Coddington. The company previously worked with Dodge on the 1978-79 Lil 'Red Express Truck and a previous PPG pace car project based on the Dodge Charger. Joe Hoffacker shipped the chassis they ordered in two halves, as Ackerman wanted to extend the wheelbase from 2375mm to 2548mm and SVI welded them according to that plan. The creation of the power unit based on the serial 2.2-liter unit was also entrusted to SVI. Koran and Coddington fitted it with a Cosworth 16-valve cylinder head (a few years before Dodge's serial 2.2 DOHC!), Bosch electronic fuel injection, dry sump lubrication and most importantly,two Garrett T25 turbines with intercooler. As a result, 440 hp were removed from 2.2 liters. at a boost pressure of 1.7 bar. Unfortunately, this engine was placed laterally in the chassis, following the logic of the serial Dodge with 2.2 and this sharply limited the choice of transmission. If engineers had initially listened to designer Ackerman's proposal for a longitudinal installation of the motor, it could be combined with a real racing gearbox from Hewland or ZF, which offer almost the widest choice of gear ratios to customize for a specific race track.If engineers had initially listened to designer Ackerman's proposal for a longitudinal installation of the motor, it could be combined with a real racing gearbox from Hewland or ZF, which offer almost the widest choice of gear ratios to customize for a specific race track.If engineers had initially listened to designer Ackerman's proposal for a longitudinal installation of the motor, it could be combined with a real racing gearbox from Hewland or ZF, which offer almost the widest choice of gear ratios to customize for a specific race track.
Dodge M4S body layout
In parallel, the development of the body went on. Based on Ackerman's sketches, a full-scale foam and clay model was produced by 3D Industries Inc. Next, it was digitized by Chrysler's computer modeling team in the design department and turned into blueprints for a bodywork with interesting features like Lamborghini Countach-style lift doors, moving spoilers and a 73-degree windshield. In order to save money, the windshield was borrowed from the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, and the rear from the Datsun 240Z.
The resulting mock-up was blown in a Lockheed wind tunnel in Atlanta in February 1984, but initially received an unsatisfactory .268 Cx. Then SVI employees fabricated new aluminum panels on the spot and after 17 hours of operation, the drag coefficient was reduced to 0.236 Cx! At the same time, we overcame the unacceptable rear lift, reducing it from 150 kg to zero.
Test version of the Dodge M4S with a large wing
By the way, the active spoilers had to be abandoned: the team of Chrysler aerodynamics specialists was very inspired by this idea, but could not translate it into practice in the available budget. In general, it turned out interesting with spoilers: the director of the design department, passing the task to Ackerman, gave him complete freedom of action, but, at the same time, the vice president of design demanded that he should not be seen in profile. So, Ackerman has incorporated the necessary rear spoiler into the structure so that it does not go beyond the silhouette! In the early photos, however, the car is visible just with a huge wing in the spirit of the 1970 Dodge Charger Daytona, but this was done only for preliminary tests.
During races on the 28-kilometer oval track of the Center for Transportation Research in Marysville, Ohio, Indy 500 pilot Graham McRae reached a speed of 313.6 km / h in a Dodge M4S, thereby coming close to the goal set by Ackerman. Acceleration to 100 km / h turned out to be 4.1 seconds, and the time to cover 1/4 mile from a standstill was 12.9 seconds. The blame for the fact that the cherished "200 mph" did not obey the car, Ackerman blamed on the transmission, suggesting that with the replacement of gear ratios it would be possible to reach 340 km / h, which positively influenced the public image of the car. But according to Tom Coddington, this was not the main achievement in the development of the M4S: "We took the chassis of a racing car capable of reaching 320 km / h and instilled in it a civil manner." One aspect of this was the adjustable ride height suspension. IN "the combat "state of the M4S is very low, but the ground clearance could be increased to drive a tow truck or move around the streets. As a result, very often at exhibitions the car was forgotten to be lowered and it began to resemble a kit car … Even in the Chrysler museum, it took three years and repeated reminders from Bob Ackerman.
Dodge M4S at Chrysler Museum shows unusual opening of body panels
The final assembly of the car, which was commissioned by Special Projects Inc of Plymouth, Michigan, included making an interior with Recaro leather chairs and Stewart-Wagner appliances, and installing an air conditioner. However, the M4S was not supposed to be comfortable: inside it was more like a racing car, and getting in and out was a certain challenge, for example, for a man in a business suit.
Bob Ackerman poses with just completed Dodge M4S
Of course, the car was painted with PPG Deltron materials: mother-of-pearl bronze over a black base coat, plus five coats of varnish. The color combination was chosen by PPG and, according to Bob Ackerman, the decision was made by a woman. It backfired during the demonstration of the finished car to the head of Chrysler Lee Iacocca. Like any author of a concept car, Ackerman had some hopes of getting his work approved for serial production. He even managed to tell Iacocca that at one of the CART races, the owner of five Ferraris told him that he would sell them all if he could buy a Dodge M4S in return. But, Lee Iacocca ignored it all, but noticed, smoking a cigar: "Damn me! Almost 200 miles per hour and pink rims!" Later, Ackerman's colleague from the General Motors design team also told him that if the M4S were painted red,he would have made the cover of every car magazine, thus bringing much more fame to Chrysler. But, apparently, PPG, when choosing a color, was guided only by considerations of demonstrating the capabilities of their paints …
Dodge M4S in front of SVI building
As you can see, several third-party companies were involved in the M4S project, each of which contributed to the success of the event. In sum, their participation can be described as follows:
- SVI assembled the engine, welded the chassis, installed all the units, and also serviced the car while working with a pace car;
- 3D Industries produced the initial body layout and matrixes for the body panels;
- Special Projects produced body panels using matrices, made an interior and painted the car.
Dodge M4S acting as a pace car PPG
The first show of new items took place at the Detroit Auto Show in January 1986. Right after that (that is, even before the Dodge M4S began to serve its intended purpose as a pace car of the PPG / CART series), Chrysler marketers managed to add it to the cinema. And Bob Ackerman was against, arguing that "this is a full-fledged car, and Hollywood knows how to make some kind of laughing stock out of cars, as it was with the Lincoln Futura. I don't want the M4S to be turned into another Batmobile." However, the project cost Chrysler and PPG about $ 1,500,000 and renting it out to filmmakers could reduce that amount slightly.
The Wraith Movie Poster
The M4S was transported to Arizona in February 1986 for the filming of Spirit of Vengeance. At the same time, the company of the famous designer Gene Winfield, using original Chrysler dies, produced 6 copies of the M4S bodies, of course, without any racing "stuffing": four dummies in general and two driving models with frames of ordinary beach buggies on VW Beetle units. Because the lambo doors were difficult to replicate, the replicas instead feature a gull wing mechanism.
A photo of the filming process in Arizona with one of the Dodge M4S body dummies as a turbo interceptor
Of the six replicas filmed, only two survived to the end of the trial. The fate of the former is unknown and it may have been destroyed after filming. Gene Winfield took the second one back. Later, this copy was bought by the California dealer of exotic cars Bob Butts and resold in Cleveland to the seller of tuning Corvette John Watson. He seriously intended, with the help of his company Air Dynamics, to begin a limited production of replica M4S with Corvette units, a Buick V6 compressor engine and a chassis from FabCar, and it should have been by no means a kit car, but a ready-made Wraith II car with a price of over $ 100,000 at the end. 1980s. But, these plans were not destined to come true. But at least the replica itself from the film has survived.
Demonstration of a not yet painted, but already restored replica of the Dodge M4S from the film
She first went to McPherson College in Kansas, known for its car restoration program, which is supported, for example, by Jay Leno. While the car was awaiting restoration, it was discovered by the "Spirit of Vengeance" enthusiast Lyle Sur, who was able to buy it for himself and restore it by 2010, and later even replace the Buick engine installed before it with a suitable 2.2-liter Dodge turbo engine. Interestingly, when Lyle Sur, at the invitation of Ackerman, visited the Chrysler Museum and carefully examined the original M4S, he was surprised: "This does not look like my car at all! (Original) is made like an airplane!" For some time, there were rumors that Lyle Sur also wants to try to produce a kit car that copies the M4S, but things also did not go further than rumors, like John Watson had two decades earlier.
The film was remembered for numerous scenes of races and chases
Despite the fact that Bob Ackerman was opposed to the filming of his brainchild, he still admitted that the Dodge M4S is remembered mainly because of the "Spirit of Vengeance" and otherwise the car would simply gather dust in the backyard of Chrysler's automotive history. At the same time, the original M4S spent almost all the time on the set just in a guarded parking lot.
Fantasy turbo interceptor engine from the movie
According to an SVI employee, once the car was filmed in motion, but these shots were not included in the film. So the only time you can see a part of the M4S is the scene where the hood is opened in the movie: the alien engine, of course, is pure special effect, but everything else really belongs to the real car.
Classic Still from Spirit of Vengeance: Start of the Arizona Desert Road Race
Lee Iacocca's sluggish reaction when inspecting the Dodge M4S ruled out any serial prospects. Soon, however, Dodge was already working with Carroll Shelby on the Viper concept, so the idea of a supercar of this brand was not at all so unrealistic. In road cars, the fame of Dodge's 2.2-liter turbo engine is also linked to the name of Carroll Shelby and a range of cars like the Shelby GLH-S, Shelby CSX and Dodge Daytona Shelby. And on the racetrack, the concept of a "mid-engined 4-cylinder supersport" (remember the M4S?) With the same engine was suddenly championed by Warren Mosler's independent Chrysler product, the Consulier GTP.
Dodge M4S and Charlie Sheen as Turbo Interceptor and Alien Spirit Avenger
So the Spirit of Vengeance was to the Dodge M4S what Back to the Future was to the DeLorean DMC-12: a man-made monument to a rare car and a great reminder of the power of the media. After all, who remembers nowadays other unusual PPG pace cars? Even the very tradition of building them has long disappeared. In the 1980s, each PPG pace car drove the peloton for three laps before the race and often had up to eight pace cars in addition to the main one for the first two laps because each PPG cost at least $ 100,000 and the company was eager to use them. more often. In the next decade, PPG began to actively attract automakers from Subaru to Lamborghini, but not a single unique design among the CART pace cars appeared and they differed only in bright colors and flashing lights on the roof …
Finally: an amateur video clip for the track Mille - "Roadwraith" with stills from the film and from the Dodge M4S tests
Read on my blog also about other American supercars:
Vector - 1st and 2nd parts
Consulier and Mosler - 1st, 2nd and 3rd parts
Cunningham - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th
Yenko parts - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th parts
Shelby and Dodge cooperation - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th parts
Other Shelby: Cobra "CSX2000", Cobra 427 Super Snake, Lone Star, Series 1, King Cobra, Corvette Italia and Sunbeam Tiger
And as a bonus: Eleanor. All you need to know about the Ford Mustang from Gone in 60 Seconds