NASA Northeast driver Dr. Demetri Meimaris bought his Chrysler 300C SRT8 to serve as a daily driver. At the same time, he also had plans to drive it on racetracks near his home in New Jersey.
“When I told the guy I bought it from that I was going to track the car, he said, ‘You’re crazy,’” Meimaris said.
Crazy or not, Meimaris has been tracking two tons of Chrysler for a few years, and learning what it takes not only to drive a heavy car on a road course, but what it takes to keep it together. The fourth owner of the car, Meimaris now has nearly 118,000 miles on the car and it is still going strong.
For power, the car still retains the factory 6.1-liter Hemi V8, but Meimaris fitted it with an aftermarket camshaft and had it tuned. What was a car with 375 horsepower at the rear wheels is now a car with 428 horsepower hitting the pavement.
As any gear head knows, the Chrysler 300 was never sold with a manual transmission, so Meimaris has been driving it with the five-speed automatic. Any gear head also will tell you automatics aren’t the best choice road course driving. When this car was built, Chrysler was Daimler-Chrysler, so the chassis and transmission are nearly identical to an E class Mercedes-Benz, so Meimaris picked up a couple of go-fast bits from an E class.
“They set me up with basically shift solenoids. There are two of them,” Meimaris said. “They call them blue tops, and it’s the same thing as an AMG Mercedes and now it shifts hard in every gear. It also decelerates very nicely. It helps slow the car.
“When I go on an on ramp, like when I go to work, I go up an up-ramp exiting off a major superhighway, and I don’t even have to brake. The thing just downshifts on its own,” he added. “It’s a wonderful thing. So, if it’s not a wet track, I just leave it in drive and let the trans do the work.”
Mind you, Meimaris added a big auxiliary transmission cooler and a deep-sump pan to hold more fluid. He also added a Razor’s Edge strut-tower brace, a 30-inch power-steering cooler, a Moroso power-steering reservoir and a cap with a baffle he designed himself.
“Early on when guys were tracking these cars, they were blowing up the power steering reservoir, and it would actually cause a fire,” he said.
To get ambient air to the cone filter on his cold-air intake, he installed a carbon fiber NACA duct on the front of the hood. To get the hot air out from under the hood, he added vents from a 2003 Dodge Viper. The vents and the suspension modifications Meimaris made keep the car buttoned down on the straightaways and in the corners.
Of course, the biggest challenge with a heavy car is stopping it. The 300C SRT8 comes stock with uprated Brembo four-piston calipers all the way around, which are fine for the street, but not for road-course use, so Meimaris installed six-piston Wilwoods up front.
“The thing stops very well now,” he said. “I can go deeper into the braking zones.”
He had just installed the Wilwoods, and during a session on the Lightning course at New Jersey Motorsports Park, he experienced a brake-rotor failure that really got his attention. The stresses were so great, the hat separated from the friction surface. His one-piece rotor was now a two-piece.
“I was doing like a hundred and went to the brakes under the bridge on the Lightning course and right under the bridge, it starts shaking violently,” he said. “I heard something snap. I went back to my training. I stood both feet on the brake pedal, and that was it. She just started oscillating. Once I got control of the car, and I minimized the oscillation, I let two wheels go in the dirt, and as I did that, the brakes were still on and she pivoted perfectly to be parallel with the exit of the turn. I thought it was a tie-rod end or something. Since I do all the maintenance on the car myself, I was going through a mental checklist while I was waiting for a tow and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
Once he got back to his pits, he figured it out quickly and replaced the broken pieces with spares he had on hand. Call it a lesson learned for Meimaris because he’s now building a newer car — a lighter car as you might have guessed. He’s putting the finishing touches on an all-wheel-drive 1990 Eagle Talon in which he hopes to compete in Time Trials in the Northeast Region this season. He’ll keep the 300 as a daily driver, too. In either car, Meimaris is living out his dreams.
“I learned a real lesson in a heavy car and I’m able to live and tell about it,” he said. “A lot of guys who hit a wall, you don’t know if you’re going to come back from that. I started wanting to do this at a young age, and now that my kids are grown and I can do what I want, it’s what I’m pursuing. You’ve got to live, man.”
|4,360 lbs. w/driver
|6.1-liter Hemi, with tune and cam, 428 rwhp
|Front: Pedders and Whiteline bushings, adjustable BC coil-overs, Stack Performance sway bars
Rear: Pedders and Whiteline bushings, adjustable BC coil-overs, Stack Performance sway bars, Jay’s Hot Rods toe rods
|Front: Nitto 555R II, P285-35ZR-18
Rear: Nitto 555R II, P305-35ZR-18
|Front: Six-piston Wilwood
Rear: Factory Brembo
|Cool Shirts, Meimaris Sports Chiropractic