This Friday, September 25th marks the one year anniversary of my crossing off an item from my bucket list. A year ago this Friday I took possession of my 2015 Dodge Challenger.
First and foremost I want to thank my wife for her support, patience and understanding, for without all three (okay Baby, a little more patience would be nice) this experience would not have been either possible, or so enjoyable.
It’s been a year full of making new friends, meeting people from all over the country, and learning both how much things have changed since I last was immersed in the car culture, and how much has stayed the same.
I’ve driven 11,817 miles so far in Renny, my Steel Curtain Challenger (but who’s counting?) and have travelled as far south as Charlotte, NC for a car show, with another long trip scheduled for this Friday to New York as well. In those miles, I’ve reconnected with the sheer joy that driving can be, and have multiplied that joy a thousandfold by taking my car to the strip to legally (and in compliance with my warranty) to run my car the way Dodge built and intended it to be run. Fast. Not really fast yet, but that’s my fault, not the car’s.
You see, cars aren’t just mode of transportation. They are, or can be, extensions of the owner’s personality. Too many people have lost the connection between driving and getting some place. Some have diminished car owning down to simply wearing the price tag as a status symbol; others have made ownership an extension of their conservancy beliefs. To the former who have always existed to one degree or another, I take pity; to the latter, I can respect these folks for walking their talk, as long as they get out of the left lane.
The price-tag pimps deserve pity because they’ve stripped the souls out of their cars. To them, what’s important is throwing into other people’s faces how much money they have. News flash guys; there’s always somebody with more money who will trump your car with an even more expensive model.
Of course you get a similar defect in car enthusiast themselves. The Best of Show winner in a recent event was a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner with an insanely built engine that never sees the road. It’s strictly a show queen. The owner has added a high-rise manifold with dual 4 barrel carburetors and racing slicks, but trailers the car from show to show and puts it up on stands.
Not for me, and not for Renny. She’s never going to be just another pretty face.
Yes, I’ve “dressed her up”. I’ve made and bought modifications to her, to make her one of a kind. But, some of those mods are performance related (Barton shifter, Mopar Stage 1 springs, Petty front strut brace) that are just the cornerstone of what I’m planning to do over the next few years.
Yes, I’m taking my car to shows; I enjoy the events, the people and their reaction to what I’ve done so far. And I’ve been relatively successful. Seven awards in eight shows, with only two shows where I’ve driven away empty handed. Some of my wins have been major ones; at MoparPalooza 8 in Virginia (a major regional show) I placed First in Class for 2015 Challengers, and at the Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, I placed Third in the 2011 and up Modified division and received a Sponsor’s Choice award.
Am I seeking recognition or validation? Maybe a little. Who doesn’t enjoy acknowledgement of their vision and hard work? But I'm also trying to create something; call it performance art in a way, and I think it's working. My awards indicate that it is, as does the partial sponsorship I've just received (more on that in a subsequent post).
But Renny is more than just a pretty face; the "why" I elected to purchase a muscle car is based far far more on performance than just appearance. I’ve run her over 30 times at Test and Tunes, albeit unfortunately only on street tires so far. I scored my personal best this past weekend on the ¼ mile track at Virginia Motorsports Park at the Tidewater Mopar Club’s Mopar Madness event with a 13.73 @ 105.98 mph (don’t laugh, street tires, remember---and a newbie driver). I also took first place in the Modern Challenger – Wild class in the car show component.
My car is an extension of my personality, and my interests. I’m a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan; a member of Steeler Nation from birth. And I love to go fast, to feel the thunderous roar of a powerful engine under my control following my commands. The way my car looks, handles and performs is a reflection of my tastes and an extension of my body and who I am as a person. It’s a chance to both step outside myself, and at the same time immerse myself in what speaks to my soul.
As Dodge likes to advertise; if you get it, you get it.