Weight Distribution
Paradise Garage

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© 2002 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

We're thinking it might be fun to turn the Paradise Garage 1970 Dodge Charger into a racecar of sorts, but of course the practicality of that depends quite a bit on its chances of ever being modified to where it's driveable at high speeds around a racetrack. Chargers used to be staples in the racing scene, and most of those modified suspension bits are still available in the aftermarket, along with some newer goodies that have been developed over the years.

But classic musclecars have a reputation of being extremely nose-heavy, which would mean lightening up the front end with tricks like fiberglass body panels, aluminum components, and specially-designed suspension bits. How much of that would the Charger need to reach close to a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution? The only way to find out is to determine the car's present weight distribution.

Lacking a set of fancy race scales, we set out in search of an alternative method.

Several friends suggested we use a truck scale by putting one axle on at a time, so we gave that a try. We found a local trucking company with a racer-friendly owner who leaves the scales on all night. According to his scales, the Charger weighs 3,850 lbs. -- 50 lbs. more than it weighed three years ago during the Spacebears Racing Weight Test. Actually, it's even more than that; in 1999 we weighed with the driver in the car, and this time we thought we weighed with the driver out of the car (although it's possible that the railing we were standing on was also part of the scale). Assuming we did not, in fact, add the driver to the numbers, then the Charger picked up some 250 pounds over three years ago! We don't have a reasonable explanation for this, other than one of the scales must be off by quite a bit.

But the weirdness doesn't stop there. We tried the one-axle method suggested by our friends, and came up with 2,180 lbs. for the front and 1,870 lbs. for the rear. Which all looks great until you add them up and get 4,050 lbs. -- 200 more than the car's overall weight! And there's that number 200 again. Something fishy is definitely going on here.

If we ignore the overall numbers and just look at the relationship between the numbers, then we get a startlingly favorable 54/46 front/rear weight distribution. If this proves true, then the car won't need nearly as much front-end dieting as we originally thought. We might even be able to get by without fiberglass.

To check these numbers, we're going back to the truck scales for a closer look. Then, we hope to find a racer kind enough to loan us his pro scales. Finally, we have some intriguing plans for a DIY weight distribution scale using a bathroom scale and some lumber.

Check back soon!