V10 Tomahawk: Dodge did what?
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Fiat and Chrysler were made for each other. Fiat possessed oodles of Italian heritage and passion, while Chrysler was the Gerry Brownlee of American automotive companies.
The combination was always going to create a noisy company, unafraid to throw its weight around and let you know about it.
These days it seems a month doesn’t go by without some kooky idea from “out-there” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne making the rounds.
But wind back the clock to the turn of the century and we can see Chrysler was already out there without him. And here’s why: it thought the Dodge Tomahawk was a good idea.
The Dodge Tomahawk concept was what turn-of-the-century Americans — and well, Americans in general — have always thought was everything they needed.
Introduced at the 2003 North American International Motor Show in Detroit, the Tomahawk was the epitome of American motoring ideals: an unnecessarily large engine thrown into a small platform where normal rules such as fuel economy, comfort and ability to go around a corner with ease were thrown out the window.
With the infamous Dodge Viper’s 372kW 8.3-litre V10 at its heart, the Tomahawk looked futuristic, but at the same time and in nearly every way it was completely and utterly awful.
This is what Dodge had to say at the time of release:
“The Viper-powered Dodge Tomahawk concept vehicle shatters all the barriers of conventional thinking about personal transportation.
"This four-wheel, single-passenger vehicle is a sleek, rolling sculpture that combines Art Deco styling with extreme engineering.”
Umm, Art Deco styling? I don't know about you, but I look at it and think of the dystopian future of Judge Dredd, not Art Deco as seen in Napier.
I’m not sure what the “barriers of conventional thinking” they were referring to might be either, but taking one look at the Tomahawk would suggest that any reasonable form of vehicle practicality is probably the conventional thinking barrier they thought they were “shattering”.
But just look at the thing! It is monstrously large, and weighs in at laughable 680kg.
Let's put that in perspective: the Peel P40, another single person transport, weighed in at just 56kg. That means you would need 12 of the things to tip a seesaw with the Tomahawk.
It seems fuel range wasn't a consideration either, with just
a 12.3-litre fuel tank to provide for the thirsty big V10.
Then of course there is the bulbous, dystopian styling that enhances the enormity of the thing’s size.
Who in their right mind would think people would want to look at this shiny monstrosity?
Well, apparently crazy uncle Chrysler did, and so did a small number of Dodge nuts who paid upwards of half a million dollars for one of nine replicas built.
“Tomahawk is an icon of the extreme thinking for a brand that is known not only for the legendary Viper and Ram, but also for all new, innovative vehicles such as the Magnum SRT-8 and Durango concepts,” said Trevor Creed, Chrysler Group’s senior vice-president of design at the time.
Creed did sort-of have a good point. It was extreme, and it did offer a few innovations rarely seen before it.
For instance, the Tomahawk had two front wheels and two rear wheels, which were sprung independently and theoretically allowed it to lean into corners and countersteer like a regular motorcycle.
There was also lighting provided by LEDs, a digital dash and radially mounted brake rotors on the huge 20-inch wheels each clamped by 4-pot calipers.
The whole thing was made from billet aluminium, including the monococque and crafty swing arms, but it is still hard to get past that Dodge called it “a sculpture that can be ridden”.
With a claimed (and thoroughly impossible to achieve) top speed of over 482km/h, and a promise to put it to the test at the Bonneville Salt Flats which never was fulfilled, the Dodge Tomahawk was a bonkers concept vehicle that while achieving its intended goal of creating media buzz, it can hardly be called a success in terms of rewarding Chrysler for the R&D that must have gone into creating it.
It’s a good thing the world is full of clever folks willing to build on terrible ideas like the Tomahawk and make them actually work.
In a way, we can thank the sick minds behind the Tomahawk for the inspiration for French-Swiss custom shop Lazereth’s stunning LM847, which uses the same four-wheel design principles along with a monster car engine as its heart — a 350kW Maserati F136Y V8 built by, you guess it, Fiat Chrysler.
Maybe it wasn't such a terrible idea after all?