About a year ago I traded in my daily driver and my Yamaha R6 to buy a used 2010 Challenger R/T Classic. Some people think this might have been a silly mistake, and sometimes I might just have to agree. But to really understand all of my decisions, you have to go all the way back to 2002, back to 6th Grade.
I remember walking into class, overhearing a group of my friends talking trash to each other. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it. Why in the hell would GM kill the Camaro and Firebird? Bullshit, it has to be bullshit.
It wasn’t bullshit.
I was born to an F-body nut. My dad owned a Black 1978 Z28 in his late teens, and traded that for a brand new Trans Am in 1984. This wasn’t just any Trans Am either, my dad watched as people from the dealership unloaded one of 1,321 1984 Recaro Edition Trans Ams, his Trans Am. Of course, a gaggle of children got in the way, and he was forced to depart with this rarity. But that didn’t stop him from continuing his passion. While I was in grade school my dad started buying a bunch of old cars. He slowly added 2nd generation F-bodies, in varying condition, to his stable. It didn’t take long for him to pass that love onto me. But I wasn’t quite the same. I didn’t want an old school Thunder Chicken. No, at age 12, when I discovered their discontinuation, I vowed to one day own a fourth generation Trans Am WS6. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I had a chance to actually get behind the wheel. A used 2001 WS6 Trans Am, black, six speed, perfect. My hands shook as I started it up. I nearly ripped my own face in half I was smiling so hard, that is, until I priced the insurance. The purchase fell on the back burner. I’d have plenty of opportunities to purchase another in the following years, but I just...didn’t.
Flash forward to 2016. That spring I made another vow, a slightly different vow. I’d been working at a Chrysler Dealership for the last two years. I’d successfully climbed the ladder, obtaining certification after certification. And, of course, had my first encounters with the Dodge Challenger. I’d never thought much of the car until I drove it. I mean, it looked cool, but Chrysler stuff was crap, right?
The thing about the Challenger was no matter which V8 I drove, be it the 5.7 liter or the balls out 6.4, if the car had a manual transmission I didn’t want to stop driving it. Sure, it wasn’t the fastest car in the world, but my head didn’t touch the roof like it did in the 5th generation Camaro either. I mean, I could see out of the damn thing, and it was comfortable. I loved the fact that it rode like a luxury car, because, well, technically it was (*cough, thanks Mercedes, cough cough). It wouldn’t tear the Nurburgring a new asshole, sure, but that isn’t the point of the Challenger.
I did some simple math, and discovered if I didn’t buy anything stupid for the next two years, I could pay off my debt and finance a lightly used SRT 392 by the spring of 2018. And that became my goal. Soon, however, I got the itch. I had built up some equity, sort of. My 2009 Yamaha R6? Hardly rode the thing anymore. That 1993 3000GT VR4 I bought a year ago? That project looked more frightening by the minute. My 2007 Pontiac G6, which I loved unashamedly and will hopefully write a post about soon, rounded up a trio of vehicles I could, if I wanted to, transform into just one badass car. A Challenger, perhaps.
The Dealership I work for is part of a large conglomerate, 22 separate dealerships selling and servicing almost every brand available in the United States. On a typical day the network, which is mostly local, has somewhere around 1,700 used vehicles in stock, collectively. Every couple of weeks I would find myself checking the listings, seeing if there would be anything interesting to catch my eye. Well, there it was: a used 2010 Challenger R/T classic, complete with every R/T option with a bonus of a TR6060 manual transmission. It was at one of our Ford dealerships, about 45 minutes up the road. It was Saturday, my Saturday to work. I walked straight up to one of the used car managers, asked him to get the car brought down and work an estimate. About four hours later I drove it home, happy as a clam.
I’ve had a year with this car, and I have a few observations. First and foremost, as an owner, you’re going to catch a lot of shit from other car people. The Challenger R/T isn’t the fastest car in it’s class, or the best handling, nor does it have the best interior. Plain and simple, this car is no Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen, (it’s not number 1) But that’s just it. This car knows, Chrysler knows, the whole world knows this car isn’t perfect. This car isn’t supposed to be perfect. This car is supposed to be enjoyable, it’s supposed to be driven. This car is supposed to remove your focus from pretty interior quality, infotainment, or tricky technology. This car is just built to DRIVE, plain and simple. It’s meant to be your trusted puppy dog, old reliable, that one friend that never let’s you down. This car is mashed potatoes and gravy in a world of Risotto and Orzo. Second, it’s stupid reliable. Many people might scoff at Chrysler quality, but after three years in a Dodge shop I can tell you that the two vehicles that never break are the Ram trucks and the Chrysler LC/LX platform cars. If it isn’t in for routine maintenance or an airbag inflator, it’s in because somebody ran out of talent and destroyed something. Third, people love these things. I can’t tell you how many people have complimented this car. It’s really cool to see some little kid light up at the sight of it. Finally, these cars aren’t meant to be fiddled with. It’s not that you can’t throw a cam, or heads, or suspension and exhaust at it. It’s that, after seeing the price, you won’t want to. I thought about doing some upgrades, getting some used eagle heads, getting them ported professionally, getting the intake runners machined to fit a 6.1 intake, and a better camshaft. After pricing everything, I realized for about another $2,000 I could just buy an Edelbrock E-force supercharger. I can’t afford a $7,000 supercharger kit.
At the end of the day I’m happy with my purchase. I thought if I don’t buy a car like this now, I never will. Basically, I said screw it. It’s an experience I had to take a shot at. I’m glad I did. Talk all the crap you like about the Dodge Challenger, it doesn’t care. It knows it’s barbaric. It knows it’s fat. It doesn’t care, and neither do I. That’s why I bought one. I don’t want to have to care. I don’t want to sweat about if my car is the best, or the fastest, or the prettiest. All I wanted was something loud, fun, and comfortable. The Challenger, well it delivers that in spades.