Debuting in the early weeks of 2003 at the Detroit Auto Show, the Dodge Tomahawk seems to the end result of an engineers wet dream fueled by midnight reruns of the Road Warrior and Buckaroo Banzai. The initial reaction is almost always an excited "WOA!" followed closely by, "What the hell?"
At the most basic level, the vehicle is a four wheel motorcycle that uses a 505 cu. in., 8300 cc Viper V-10 engine. With the 500 horsepower viper engine and a curb weight of engine+wheels+driver, the vehicle promises performance capabilities not seen since, well, never. The estimated 0-60 time is in the neighborhood of 2.5 seconds and Dodge claims the vehicle may reach speeds between 300 and 400 miles per hour! Just to give you a little perspective, the average take off speed of a jet liner is between 165 and 183 mph and some of the fastest production vehicles barely exceed 200 mph without some sort of after market modification.
The pictures available at Dodge's website and from a variety of sources covering the auto show, portrays a vehicle that seems to defy common sense. It does have four wheels, two in front and two in back, although they are rather typical looking motorcycle wheels, they appear to only be spaced about 4-6 inches apart. At first this may seem a little ridiculous until one takes in the rest of the vehicle and realizes that the extra width and stability is likely necessary to balance the vehicle at the stop since the driver can't appear to reach the ground while mounted.
Indeed the driver looks for all the world like a monkey, ass mounting a modern sculpture that has the capacity to reach orbit. One feels a surge of real empathy for what ever crank addled fool would consider leaning so closely over the roaring, caged fury of the V10 to desperately grasp the minimalist handlebar while letting his toes drag perilously close to the tarmac below, speeding by fast enough to render him into an inanimate pink smear across the landscape should he make the most minute of pilot error. You can almost sense a cloak of dread over the rider’s face, despite having a helmet with a deeply tinted shroud. Perhaps it's something in the set of his shoulders or the subtle arch of his back as he leans to kiss the radiator? Something in the set of the drivers body cries out, "Dear lord, what have I agreed to?"
Despite being a product of Darwinian selection, it does appear to sport several bits of technological woo-wooerey. The steering mechanism isn't typical for motorcycles and why should it be? Analysis seems to suggest that steering is accomplished by changing the lateral position of the front wheels and off setting them minutely from one another, rather similar in the manner to which some tanks are piloted. And, it remains to be seen what type of superconductor radiator is being used that can cool the mighty V10 on a paltry 11 qts of fluid and still prevent the rider, who must closely embrace the aluminum lover in a honeymoon grip, from bursting into flames or simply passing out from heat exhaustion at the till.
In fact, several questions persist after the initial surprise of the design wears off. How in gods name is some one other than a killing machine sent back in time to assassinate the leader of the human resistance expected to maintain their perch while the vehicle accelerates so swiftly? Is the pilot tethered to the vehicle in the same manner as a surfboarder, or is he lashed down by an accomplice before thumbing the ignition? If so, how far would this chromed nemesis of Ralph Nader drag the dismounted modern knight as it balanced merrily on its four tires? Indeed, in optimum circumstances what would be the stopping distance of this twenty-first century bullet of insanity? Would it even be possible to ride it anywhere other than the dried salt lake speedway?
The Tomahawk has all the trade mark signs of a vehicle that will never see the light of day. Dodge is one of the few vehicle manufactures these days that actually produce their concept cars, but I suspect that even if the executive who dreamed up this opium nightmare of MTV physics does get the design approved for production, the Department of Transportation will do little more than snicker before wrapping the vehicle up in enough red tape to choke Michael Moore.
ENGINE: 8.3-LITER, OHV, 20-VALVE SMPI V-10
Type and Description: 10-cylinder 90-degree V-type, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 505 cubic inches (8277 cc)
Construction: 356-T6 aluminum alloy block with cast-iron liners, aluminum alloy cylinder heads
Bore x Stroke: 4.03 inches x 3.96 inches (102.4 x 100.6)
Valve System: Two pushrod-actuated overhead valves per cylinder with roller-type hydraulic lifters
Fuel Injection: Sequential, multi-port electronic with individual runners
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Power (SAE net): 500 bhp (372 kW) @ 5600 rpm (60.4 bhp/liter)
Torque (SAE net): 525 lb.-ft. (712 Nom) @ 4200 rpm
Max Engine Speed: 6000 rpm
Fuel Requirement: Unleaded premium, 93 octane (R+M/2)
Oil System: Dry Sump
Oil Capacity: 8 qts. Mobil1 10W30 Synthetic
Cooling System: Twin aluminum radiators mounted atop engine intake manifolds, force-fed from front-mounted,
belt-driven turbine fan
Coolant Capacity: 11 qts.
Exhaust System: Equal-length tubular stainless steel headers with dual collectors and central rear outlets
0-60 mph: 2.5 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 300+ mph (est.)