Essential Mods for a 10 Second Car

"The 10 Second Target"

If you've watched any drag racing or street racing movies then you'll have heard about 10 second cars.

A 10 second car is a car that can do a quarter mile drag race in 10.9 seconds or less. This is the goal that many set out to achieve when modifying their car and has become a gold standard benchmark.

Although professional drag racing cars can do the quarter mile in less than half that time, 10 seconds remains a reasonable goal for serious car tuners. Having a 10 second car puts you in a rather exclusive set of road legal cars.

Find out what it takes to build a 10 second car.

Work out what you need power to weight wise for a 10 second car.

What does it take to make a 10 second car? Your skill as a driver will influence your time.

Changing gear swiftly and at the optimum point in the power band will have a big effect.

For now, let's focus on the basic tuning requirements to get your car in with a fighting chance of hitting the 10 second goal.

You will likely want to increase your power output, but the smart money goes on increasing the power to weight ratio. A lighter car need less power to reach the magic 10 second goal. So stripping out unnecessary weight combined with power tweaks will give you more bang for your buck.



What power to weight for a 10 second car?

There are a few assumptions made and each of these will have a bearing on the results to a larger or lesser degree.

If you take this as a general guide, it should point you in the right direction and help you to set and achieve a reasonable power goal.

Due to the varying nature of transmission losses results in our calculator will vary - we are working from flywheel horsepower in our calculator. Transmission losses are typically around 16% to 25% so we are working on an weighted average for each power band.

We are also assuming street spec tyres, super grippy drag tyres will dramatically improve your quarter mile time!

Please also note that traction is also a big issue so we have assumed higher power figures are RWD/AWD only, an 800bhp FWD car is going to have such large traction issues it will barely move at first.

For a 10 second car we recommend the following ratio as a good starting point :-

  • 400bhp per 1000kg
  • So for a relatively heavy car of around 1600kg, such as a Supra or GT-R, you would need to aim for 740 bhp at the flywheel.
  • While for a lightweight option, such as an 800kg Lotus 2-Eleven, you would only need around 320 bhp at the flywheel.

What about when we use a more sophisticated model?

So let's take a look and use a fairly sophisticated simulator where we get to play with a lot more variables and actually get an ET speed as well.

Now we have a baseline it's time for some more complex calculations. We ran some figures through more sophisticated and complex simulation software, drank lots of coffee and came back a week later to read the results. (It didn't take a week to calculate, but we were distracted by nice shiny cars and engines!)

So using Car weight at 1200kg and assuming its a RWD model as starting points we fed the following into our simulator.

Assumptions made in this next example calculation are:

  • 50/50 weight distribution
  • 245mm wide rear tyres
  • 25 sq foot frontal area
  • Drag coefficient of .36
  • 5" ground clearance
  • Gear ratios of 1.908, 1.525, 1.282, 1.085, 0.922, 0.786
  • Final drive 3.85
  • Max BHP at 6250 with gearchange at 6500
  • Max lb/ft at 5200
  • Redline 7500
  • Turbocharged
  • Runs at 300ft altitude (Santa Pod in the UK) under English weather conditions (dry but humid - yes we know it usually rains but we're trying to bring in the tourists!)

For a sub 10 second, 1/4 mile run for this car you will need around 750bhp and 650ft/lbs (ET 10.98 at 137mph). For a lighter car the power figure is lower but for a heavier car the power requirement goes up. Trim the weight by around 240lbs and you'll be hitting a 10.48 second 140mph time.

Breaking the 10 second barrier in this car will need around 1100bhp and 1000lb/ft of power - so quite a big hike.

Weight reduction is usually the cheapest and best option.

Increasing the power is a secondary consideration. Remember, grip, transmission, clutch and handling all play their part.

In terms of tuning we would suggest an engine swap, adding forced induction, head work and lowering the compression ratio, balancing & blueprinting, cryo treating the block as well as fitting fast road cams and uprating your fuelling.

Putting the power down is another factor and you can't beat some nice sticky drag spec tyres to do this.

All wheel drive cars are very good at getting the power down on the drag strip and we have seen significant amounts of time shaved off the quarter mile time with adjusted gear ratios, and traction control improvements.


Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums


Our forum is a great place to chat with our resident petrol heads and drag racers to get some pointers on how to turn your car into a 10 second car.

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Your Constructive comments on this article

2 Responses to “Building a 10 second car”

  1. Kris Sullivan says:

    I am wanting to get some money together and either get a new mustang 5.0, (which run 12s stock), and put twin turbo and do internals work, exhaust, etc….. or just buy a 1970 Chevelle and drop a 572 in it to at least get close to 10s. Which would be cheaper to accomplish…………. Thing is if I go the Chevelle route I’d have to have all cash but if I get 5.0 I can put down payment and pay cash just for the mods and make my monthly payment……. Any suggestions

    • cody pate says:

      definatley pay cash for a project car!The mustang is a bad route because the insurance doesn’t cover it if something breaks with the engine due to “modifications”…

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