Based around an actual hearse from a 1996 Chevrolet Caprice originally converted by Superior Coaches, Madness has been the ongoing project of AMS Performance Vice President Arne Toman for years. The idea was partially inspired when he saw the Guinness Record for the fastest hearse was a a 13.72-second quarter mile, and that seemed quite beatable.
In the video above, under the hood of this beast is a Chevy LQ4 6.0-liter V8 out of a van with light mods like new cams and valve springs. However, it also has a turbo running at around 23 psi that brings power to around 1,000 horsepower. It makes this hearse go like a bat out of hell, It can hit 60 miles per hour in about 2.3 seconds at the strip, but the interior still has air conditioning, a stereo and all of the original equipment to carry a casket in the back.
Since shooting this video, AMS has installed an upgraded 6.0-liter mill, a new rear differential and stronger transmission, and they reportedly allow power to be bumped to 1,300 hp. It should make the quarter mile go even faster. Check out this clip to see what a 1,000-hp hearse can do at the drag strip, and scroll down to read even more about it.
I always dream of strange auto projects. Builds that are different and completely unique. You would think being Vice President of AMS Performance, I would drive a Nissan GT-R since that is what we are most known for. Instead, I wanted something different. Off the wall. Something that leaves an impression no matter what.
One day the idea of building the world's fastest Hearse came to me. In 2008, I looked into who had the world's fastest Hearse for the first time. I was pretty surprised that the record was only a 13.72 @ 98 mph recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2005. A Hearse named "Undead" from Australia held the record. With our experience in performance auto engineering, AMS thought we could beat that record easily. The search for our Hearse began.
I wanted to avoid the standard old Cadillac Hearse. I wanted something that looked sportier, so we targeted the late model Chevy Caprice and Buick Roadmaster as possibilities. It had to be black with a red interior because to me that is how a classic Hearse should look. It actually took over a year for us to find the one we wanted. It was difficult to find the black-red color combination. What I eventually found was a 1996 Chevy Caprice converted by Superior Coaches. It was in Stellar condition from Knoxville Tennessee.
The plan was not to build some gutted out race Hearse. We made it a requirement to keep it as a fully functioning Hearse. This includes a stereo, air conditioning and most importantly, the rear deck and rollers for a casket. In fact, after the build, the Hearse weighs an additional 350 pounds more than it originally did when we started due to the turbo, intercooler, roll bar and other additional equipment.
The other criteria was we did not want to run the car in just the quarter mile. The AMS Hearse had to be capable of running at half and full standing mile events to really make sure it was the fastest Hearse on the planet.
For the new engine, we sourced an GM LQ4 6.0 Chevy V-8 complete with 4L85e transmission and wire harness from a 2006 Chevy Van. I kept it simple by just adding new metal head gaskets, head studs, a cam, and valve springs to the stock engine.
As work continued on the build, a new contender "Stiff Shifter" entered the field (the Hearse from Transylvania smashed the world speed record with an 11.6 in March of 2010). We began to worry that it would be difficult to beat the new record Stiff Shifter set.
In 2011, when LS engine experts Larry Hamilton and Lance Cain joined the AMS team is when things really started to take shape. Progress was still slow because their great ideas and attention to detail added to the complexity of the hearse. They saw new ways to make the car even more unique than the typical turbo LS engine swap. A couple years later, we were ready.
The AMS Hearse netted us much better performance than I could've ever thought possible:
0-60 mph: 2.26 seconds
Standing 1/4 Mile: 9.94 @ 137mph
Standing 1/2 Mile: 161mph
Although some may say we ran the stock GM 6.0L engine on the ragged edge it never skipped a beat. AMS Tuner Chris Black had it dialed in at around 1000 hp on 23 psi of turbo boost for its 9 second passes after careful monitoring of the tune. This whole project is a true testament to careful planning, execution and tuning by the AMS team. I never dreamed my Hearse could be run this fast.
The AMS Hearse is completely streetable and can be driven anywhere comfortably with the A/C on and is really quiet through the mufflers yet pulls a wheelie on its way to a 9 second pass and easily hit over 160 mph in the half mile. As fast as it is, there is still room for improvement. My 5 year-old daughter loves to cruise in it. The Hearse is her favorite car of mine.
Since its last outing and 9 second passes, we have installed a mild forged 370ci engine from AES, a new rear differential from Strange Engineering, a stronger transmission from Andy's Performance Trans and a bigger drag radial to push it a lot harder. The new set up allows for 1300 hp on tap. My future goals include a 9.5 second quarter mile, 175 mph in the standing half mile. The goal is to someday eventually attempt a 200 mph run on a closed airport runway.
In the end, I was worried our Hearse would have a hard time breaking out of the 11's in the quarter mile. Everywhere the Madness Hearse goes, it turns heads and draws a crowd. It is the most entertaining car I've ever driven. At the race track it blows people away. They don't expect to see something so big go so fast.
Superior Hearse Body
1000 HP on 23psi of boost
0-60mph: 2.26 sec
0-100mph: 5.20 sec
60-130mph: 6.43 sec
¼ Mile: 9.94 @ 137.36mph
½ Mile: 161.46mph
GM 6.0L LQ4 short block stock including OEM rod bolts
LQ4 / 317 stock unported heads with Comp 918 valve springs
Edelbrock Super Vic intake unported
LS2 90MM TB
90 degree Alum elbow by Aaron @ 6061
GM MLS head gaskets
ARP head studs
Speed Inc. custom camshaft
GM stock rockers
Comp Cams hardened pushrods
Street & Performance modified oil pan and pickup
GM stock truck coils
ID 2000 injectors
255lph in-tank fuel pump
AMS custom surge tank
2 Bosch 044 fuel pumps
AEM Methanol Injection
GM truck manifolds flipped
80mm Borg Warner S480R from Forced Inductions
AMS Custom 4.5" FMIC
Tial 38 WG's
Tial 44 BOV
4" QTP electric cutout
4" merge to dual 3"
3" dual exhaust to 3" Vibrant mufflers turned down at the axle
Yates EFI custom engine harness
3 bar HPT software
MSD 2 step
AMS tuned by Da Man "C. Black "
4L85E by Andy's Performance Transmission
3600 10.5" FTI stall converter
DSS 3 3/4 "CF driveshaft
Moser 9" , Wavetrac Posi, 35 spline axles, 3.73 ring and pinion
AMS custom trans oil cooler
B&M Bandit billet shifter
Hurst roll control
Strange front 10 way single adjustable shocks
Strang rear 10 way dbl adjustable shocks
Metco adjustable upper control arms
Metco lower alum. control arms
Eibach lowering springs
Fredico 3/8" front sway bar
Fredico 1.5" rear sway bar
Air Lift rear bags
Wilwood front 6 piston disk brakes
Wilwood rear 4 piston disk brakes