It all started when I was a kid sitting in an A&W Root Beer in Alamogordo, New Mexico eating lunch with my folks. I was about 10 years old. We heard this loud thundering rumble, and we looked up to see “IT”.
“IT” was a new Dodge Charger R/T with a 426 Hemi. The thing just sounded evil. My Mom was appalled; she made some comment about how ridiculous it was. I could tell that Dad was curious, but he was pretty composed. Dad pretty much always deferred to Mom, but he did keep looking up at it.
I was awe-struck! The Charger was a soft yellow with a black vinyl roof (very cool back in the day). That car was giving me goosebumps. It was like looking at a college girl in a bikini. At that age I didn’t know why I liked those curves; I just knew that I liked them. The long hood was sculpted into the two doors with inset scoops. The front end was just menacing – a big wide, flat grill with hidden headlights. It was low to the ground. Behind the doors the curves continued and flowed into a massive rear hip line over the rear wheels. The roof was low and sloped down gently toward the trunk. And the back-end was a little flared. The rear tires on that charger were massive. All I could think was “Wow!”
Honestly, I don’t know what was more appealing, the aggressive curves or that sound. It was rattling the big windows in the A&W. The sound was a deep throaty, melodious rumble. It was somewhat akin to a great cat’s roar. The sound gave me chills.
That entire visual and auditory image is burned into my brain to this day. The emotions that Dodge evoked are still seared into my very soul. That day at the A&W in Alamogordo was about 50 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I have absolutely loved cars, especially big brash “ridiculous” American muscle cars ever since.
Oh, my Dad was a car guy too. The list of his cars is quite long and includes everything from a Jeep Wagoneer to a Lincoln Continental to an English Rover to a Cadillac El Dorado. He had a sweet Chevy half ton truck; it was bronze. He had a Cadillac Fleetwood too. Man, I really hated that thing; it made me car sick. It rode like a small boat on a rough lake. The Jeep Wagoneer was one of my favorites; we had so many great adventures in that. That thing would go almost anywhere. It was amazing.
One of my other favorites, and the closest Dad ever got to a muscle car, was a 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado. It was a great big 2 door coupe with a really long hood and a huge V8 engine. I was 11 when Dad got it. It was also the first American modern front wheel drive car. That thing was fast as hell, and it actually handled pretty good for the day. Definitely it was a nice solid ride. I often wonder if the Toronado had anything to do with that Dodge Charger at the A&W.
But, by the time I got my driver’s license, the glory days of the beastie American V-8 engine was gone. Between meeting the new admission standards and the admonishment from the US insurance industry to tone down the power, V-8 muscle was a thing of the past. I remember a neighbor of mine had a 1976 Pontiac Trans Am with a 454-cubic inch engine that made a whopping 140 hp. My first car was a 1976 Saab 99 with a 2.0-liter (120 cubic inch) engine that made 120 hp. With some tweaking I got the horsepower up to about 135. The little guy only weighed about 2000 pounds, so I could toast just about any V-8 that was around. I saw no need for anything with more than four cylinders for decades. It wasn’t until 2007 when I got a Jeep Wrangler that I ever owned the vehicle with an engine bigger than four cylinders. In 2012, I purchased a Ram 1500 truck with a 5.7-liter V-8 that made just under 400 hp. All of a sudden, those memories from that day in Alamogordo came pouring back. I was hooked, again thanks to modern technology and engineering! I’m a successful investment advisor, and I figured, “What the heck I can afford a muscle car, and I’m not getting any younger.”
So, the car thing is kind of in my blood. It has taken me 50 years, but I finally got my Dodge Charger. My 2016 Dodge Charger Hellcat makes 707 (that’s what I said – 707!) horsepower. For you car nerds out there, the Dodge Charger Hellcat is actually named after the World War II fighter plane manufactured by Grumman that produced 2000 horsepower. That fighter plan was screaming fast and had an incredible kill ratio.
I thought my Dodge Challenger SRT was fast. It hit 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, and made about 500 horsepower. The Charger Hellcat is demonic! 60 miles per hour comes up in 3.4 seconds, and it will go from 0 to 100 (miles per hour) to 0 in just over 13 seconds! Mashing the throttle pedal is both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. The traction control comes on trying to keep the beast in a straight line as the tires are peeled away in a cloud of smoking rubber.
And the sound! Well, it is loud, really loud! And it is angry! The car is very appropriately named. It sounds like you have been thrown into a pit full of furious, fighting tigers, only worse – or better! The sound at open throttle (which can only be done on the highway for a few seconds and only in a straight line) is so intense that you can feel it in your chest. At idle it is a tiger giving you the low, rumbling warning growl. More goosebumps.
So why? Why would I want something that is actually scary to drive all out?
I sit in an office all day long managing investments for my clients and figuring out ways to help them meet their financial goals and objectives. Don’t get me wrong here; I love what I do. I will confess that I am a nerd, a math nerd. I love numbers and analysis. But, my job does not exactly stimulate my senses. As I am writing this post, I have figured out that all of my hobbies do the same thing for me. They all stimulate my base senses. I love to go hiking; it is exciting and exhilarating to explore new places and see new things. I have been lost in the mountains in January in below zero Fahrenheit whether, and rather than being scared I was excited for the challenge of making it through the night with all of my parts intact. By the way, I had no sleeping bag or other overnight gear.
As you obviously know if you follow my blog, I love photography. I love the challenges of trying to figure out how to convey what I am seeing to someone else in such a way as to convey the same emotions to the viewer as when I made the photograph. It’s not exciting like jumping out of an airplane or something, but it is very stimulating because I am using all of my senses. I recently had a short conversation with another blogger about the differences between “winter light” and “summer light”. We were laughing about how other folks thought we might be a little off in our perceptions.
The commonality here is that all of my hobbies tend to engage all of my senses and make me feel more alive. The hobbies give me a connection to nature itself. I know that sounds a little odd thinking about how a car can give one a connection to nature. But it goes back to those basic animal instincts and senses that we all have. In 21st-century America it is very rare to feel like you’re prey to another animal. Yes, those feelings do arise from time to time out in the wild, but certainly not on a daily basis. Sitting in an office every day is certainly not the way to experience the calmness and beauty of a cold winter afternoon. It is not possible to experience the total joy and happiness of the intense red and yellows of fall foliage after a light rain unless one gets out there in the woods. And, as Dodge has said in its ads, there are no more beasts for us to tame these days.
So, it all goes back to that yellow Dodge Charger with the 426 (cubic inch) Hemi in Alamogordo. Those feelings that were seared in to my consciousness are still present. We have our senses for reasons. At one time our animal senses were critical for our daily survival. In today’s world, we use and stimulate those senses far too little. So now you know why I waited and wanted that 707 hp supercharged Dodge Charger for 50 years. Controlling this beast is a thrill. It enlivens the brain. Concentration is an absolute must, and as a result the mundane distractions of the day are wiped away. My senses are fully awakened. I am alive!