Driving Hennessey Performance’s 1,000-HP Exorcist Camaro: Battling Demons in a 217-MPH Monster
The Chevy Camaro ZL1 didn’t need extra power—but John Hennessey crammed 53 percent more under the hood anyway. The result? Mind-boggling.
You never realize how much pressing down on an accelerator pedal feels like pulling a trigger until your foot's on the gas in a car like Hennessey Performance's Exorcist Camaro.
Which is to say, you probably won't realize that very often. Because there aren't many cars out there like the Texas-based company's souped-up Chevy Camaro ZL1. Even in this power-mad day and age, when anyone with a halfway decent credit history can mosey into a Dodge dealership and plunk down the money for a 797-horsepower Dodge Challenger, the Exorcist's stats crack the cerebellum: a cool 1,000 horsepower at the crank, along with 883 asphalt-rending pound-feet of torque. (Or, if you prefer your stats expressed in power at the wheels, Hennessey's dyno read 959 horses and 756 lb-ft, suggesting that thousand-horsepower figure might even be conservative.) That's enough internal combustion fury to send this steroidal muscle car car through the quarter mile in 9.57 seconds, and onto a top speed of 217 miles per hour—as proven during a flat-out test at the Continental Tire Proving Grounds in Uvalde, Texas.
Yet unlike many modded muscle cars, Hennessey's maximum 'Maro slips almost unnoticed amongst the throngs of vehicles clotting up America's highways. It's all but identical to the stock 650-hp Camaro ZL1; indeed, clad in black, like the one the company pushed to Mach 0.29, the giant air intakes up front seem to disappear into the design, leaving it nearly anonymous at first glance. (At least, amongst the tableau of high-riding pickup trucks, low-slung sports cars, and chrome-lined SUVs filling Hennessey's 36,000-square-foot garage.) It's only once you pop the hood and peer into the engine bay that you see all the work that went into the transformation: a massive 2.7-liter Whipple supercharger in place of the 1.7-liter one that sits atop the stock 6.2-liter V8 commands center stage, but everything from the valves to the cylinder heads to the pushrods and camshaft have been reworked and rebuilt.
While Hennessey is happy to transform any color ZL1—or any body style—into a thousand-plus-pony creature, the black-on-black-with-a-dash-of-red look suits the Exorcist's name well. After all, as John Hennessey himself says, the car's genesis lay in trying to banish no less of a fiend than the 840-horsepower Dodge Demon, and the blacked-out treatment's vague resemblance to a priest's vestments lends itself well to that mission. (That said, I'm secretly hoping some bold buyer goes for a projectile-vomit-green version with the vanity plate "LNDABLR.")
The whole Exorcist experience—including a two-year/24,000-mile warranty from the shop—can be yours for a soup-to-nuts price of around $120,000 for the basic ZL1 and Hennessey modifications together. (Coincidentally, that's right around the lower end of where Dodge Demons are sitting in the classifieds right now.) But if that sounds like the way you'd like to spend your hard-earned bucks, you'd better move quickly; each Exorcist will be damn busy with ghost-busting duties, considering Hennessey is only planning 100 examples...one for every 30 Challenger Demons out in the wild.
All of that, however, you probably knew already. What you didn't know—and presumably, what you came here for—was to find out what it's like to actually drive a Chevy Camaro that puts out as much power as a Bugatti Veyron and can crack well into the nines on a drag strip. Your humble author went down to Hennessey HQ outside Houston to find out exactly that—as well as talk with shop founder John Hennessey about the project's creation. So if you want to know what it's like to aim and fire a 1,000-horsepower 'Maro...well, stop reading and start watching.