Dodge M4S - possible Viper before Viper
From the very beginning of the automobile industry in the United States, the rule was "bigger is better".
From the very beginning of the automobile industry in the United States, the rule was "bigger is better". You may be surprised to learn that the largest displacement engines existed during the 1930s when eight or twelve cylinders under the hood were perfectly normal, and the Cadillac and Marmon went so far as to debut with as many as V16 petrols.
Power took control in the post-war period, and if we had to choose an absolute leader in performance, the choice would definitely fall on Chrysler Corporation and its brands Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler itself.
Engines such as the Hemi (426 cubic inches or 7.0 liters) and Super Commando (440 cubic inches / 7.2 liters) are still highly respected and appreciated today, among other things because they allowed some cars to reach a maximum speed of over 320 km/h.
But the oil crisis of 1973, and then another six years later, completely buried almost all "truck" units. When we add the new exhaust laws, no one was surprised that the "Yankees" entered the 1980s with less power than today's Ford Fiesta provides.
But at the end of each tunnel, light can be seen, so the Americans began to consider turbo technology more seriously, whose history you can read about, but also look at here. Many will probably be shocked when we tell you that it was the Americans who had the first production car with a turbocharger (Chevrolet Corvair and Oldsmobile F-85 back in 1962), and even during the late seventies they were widely used in vehicles like Ford Mustang and Pontiac Trans Am.
Although in a severe crisis and barely surviving, Chrysler Corporation approved a $ 1.5 million budget (about 4.3 million in today's value) in 1981 to develop a prototype sports model that would demonstrate the technology. and showed the world that Americans are capable of having exotic models.
When PPG, which was the main sponsor of the Indy championship, agreed to cover part of the costs if the novelty appeared as a "pace car", the enthusiasm was even greater. The business fell into the hands of engineer Bob Ackerman, who decided that the Dodge division would be ideal for its development. Ackerman gave it the name M4S, which referred to the "mid engine", four cylinders and finally the word "sport".
The number of cylinders itself was a big surprise, since Americans were mostly known for V8 engines. But after the oil crisis of 1979, it seemed that the days of such aggregates were numbered and that the only solution was turbo technology. At the same time, Dodge debuted with its first modern 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, with which it wanted to show the world its potential.
Although it bore the label of this American company, the M4S was not a purebred Dodge. The chassis was developed by the company Huffaker from California, and the entire shell was developed by the company Special Project from Michigan. Although Dodge's designers stylized every detail, based on those drawings, the aforementioned Special Project made all the parts. The M4S was extremely aerodynamic with an air resistance of just 0.23 and certainly looked futuristic. The length was 4,720 millimeters, with a width of 1,820 mm and a height of 1,110 mm.
When it came to the engine, the engineers panicked a bit as none of them had experience with turbo technology. The base 2.2-liter engine developed only 82 horsepower, so making it an athlete with a top speed of over 320 km / h was certainly not an easy task.
But during the eighties, if you wanted high performance, everyone turned to one company, and that was Cosworth. The British company added a Garrett turbocharger (which otherwise went into pre-bankruptcy proceedings), and the total power was between 400 and 445 "heads", depending on which sources you believe.
It is achieved at a very high 7,000 rpm, and the M4S could boast of 600 Nm of the highest torque. The only transmission on offer was a six-speed manual that was taken from the economical Dodge Dayton model. This was just one of many details borrowed from some cheaper model, and we will mention that the 15-inch wheels are also identical to those used by the serial Plymouth Voyager minivan.
Road & Track magazine was the first to have the opportunity to test the M4S. They praised the ideal (50:50) weight distribution on the axles, as well as the acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds, but the athlete failed to reach a maximum of 320 km/h as promised and stopped at " only ”312 km/h. It is also interesting that the tested consumption, which during "normal" driving was 7.8 liters per 100 km on the highway, or 2.5 liters more in the city.
The M4S attracted a lot of attention with its appearance when it debuted in 1984, and soon Dodge could not defend itself from orders, although at that time there were still no plans for serial production. The car spent the next few years at rallies and as a "pace car" for the biggest races on the American continent, and its popularity exploded when it appeared in the 1986 film "The Wraith".
In this low-budget film, young Charlie Sheen plays the main role, and M4S was "renamed" Turbo Interceptor and will remain famous under this nickname to this day. Six copies were made, four of which were destroyed during filming, and the remaining two survived and are in private hands today.
So what happened then and why didn't this ambitious project come to life in serial production? Contrary to the belief that the time of the V8 engine "rang" and that gasoline would never be cheap again, by the mid-1980s the opposite had happened. A liter of fuel was again cheaper than a liter of water, and in such conditions, the everyone again wanted eight cylinders.
Dodge realized that despite all the praise, the M4S would never find many buyers, so he decided to throw all the cards at the new Viper model. It has retained many of the characteristics of the American school from the 1960s, with the V10 engine, and will receive a lot of praise during its long history. Fortunately, the original M4S has survived and is now part of the private owner’s collection after being housed in the Chrysler Corporation’s official museum for decades.
An old proverb says that the audience should be offered what they are looking for, and in this case Dodge had two choices. One of them is a modern and exotic athlete with whom Americans would delight the world, and the other is a traditional "hot rod" with twenty years of technology.
Viper eventually came out as the winner with good reasons, and i doubt that Dodge ever regretted such a decision. And M4S serves as an example of what can be done when you want…