Watching the California desert sun set over two of the most special cars we've ever tested, it hits us just how lucky we are. We're lucky because, as enthusiasts, we're experiencing great times. Not long ago the cars in our market were nothing more than tarted up econoboxes and the idea of manufacturers building one-off hot rods was laughable. Today, plenty of manufacturers are giving time and money to building such specialty vehicles.
These factory hot rods push the performance envelopes of the manufacturer's chosen platform, motivate the gearheads in the engineering department who are usually stuck designing cupholders, and shout to the world, "We get it. Speed is cool. Buy our stuff." Yes, it's a good time to like cars.
Today, the sun is setting over Dodge's SRT-4 Extreme Lightweight and the Lexus IS 430 built by Rod Millen Specialty Vehicles--two of the coolest factory hot rods we've ever experienced. Both offer unique insight into what can happen to a car's performance when a manufacturer like Dodge or a specialty shop like Millen's sinks effort into going quickly.
And since going quickly is exactly what we like most at Sport Compact Car, we ran these two machines through our usual round of instrumented tests. Then we took them both to the Streets of Willow Springs road course, where they were substantially flogged. Naturally, we included a stock version of each car for comparison. Enjoy.