Dave wants a HEMI car – 2006
This car has travelled a little more than 24,000 kilometres and most of that was on the highway when the car was newer. It is absolutely in its element on the highway. It is smooth and quiet except for a little exhaust rumble and it is surprisingly fuel frugal. That is unless you are passing everybody and then it starts happily quaffing lots of Shell premium just like a Boeing 747 swallows JP-4 kerosene.
This is truly a performance car. I had an opportunity to drive a Charger R/T, but that version tips toward luxury. It was indeed nice, but where was the throaty rumble? Where were the seat bolsters? Somehow, the steering, brakes and transmission were not the same. Where was the growl from the stainless steel tubing headers when you hit the gas? Where was the crisp handling? There is indeed something special about an SRT creation.
Good heavens! 425 horsepower and 490 pounds feet of torque. On the street! Wow! Now there’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and I wanted one of those. Of course at 14 that wasn’t about to happen. I was a school kid, and in 1971 when HEMI production ended, I was still a school kid. 1/25 scale model kits would have to do. Later I got married, and my motivators turned to a job and a mortgage and married life, and HEMIs drifted away, but of course I along with many others, never forgot them.
There is no chrome trim anywhere on the car and pretty much all exterior surfaces are painted Tor-red. Like every car Mother Mopar has built since Unibody monocogue construction originated in 1960 and likely before, the underside is dove grey primer with lots of body colour over-spray. Of course in this case, the over-spray is Tor-red. The wheels are SRT polished alloy with Light Stone Grey pockets. Oh yeah, there is one bit of chrome, and that’s the exhaust tips. I keep those nicely polished.
What’s this now? A new Charger? A new HEMI? A HEMI orange block and black valve covers with the sparkplugs poking through them? SRT-8? Four doors? Well…weird…but who cares so long as the thing’s not a stone, and it’s definitely not. The magazines and the internet picked up on it like crazy, and the word spread. 425 horsepower and 420 pounds feet of torque. Now, there’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and I wanted one of those. A brand new HEMI car, and at 54 that can happen. Multiply my age at the time by 1,000 and you have the price of the car. Hmmm… Well anyway, enough dreaming. Back to month-end madness at the office…
This particular car is absolutely stock, just as it came from the factory and it will stay that way. The only departures from that are the tires and the air in them, oil and Park Sense. The Goodyear Eagle F-1s that it came with literally fell apart in under 20,000 kilometres and in less than five years. I have replaced them with BFG g-Force Sport Comp IIs. Michelin invested in BFG some years ago, and Comp IIs are the same construction as Michelin Pilot Sports. I wish I had remembered to burn those F-1s down just before I changed them. Oh, but then this car is treated with respect and it never has nor will it ever, perform a burnout. Chrysler had a deal with Mobil 1 for oil, but that is since replaced with a deal with Pennzoil, and now one can get Pennzoil SRT oil. Talk about specific! I added Park Sense park assist as an accessory when the car was just a few months old. Looking through the rear window with that big spoiler on the deck is like looking through a mail slot, and Park Sense makes things easier.
This particular car is loaded with SRT packages 1, 2 and 3, Nav, Sun and Sound, and a rear seat DVD player. The DVD screen folds neatly into the centre console when not in use. The video sound can be restricted to the headphones that came with car, or it can permeate the entire interior on that wonderful SRT Kicker sound system.
Then came 2007 and Chrysler is in trouble as the financial crisis is beginning to unfold. Our friends at Daimler Benz are having second thoughts about their investment in Chrysler and the future of our favourite auto maker seems to be in jeopardy. They wanted to run away screaming, and they sold their investment for a song. Ah yes, you have to love foreign investment.
Like all SRT-8s it has the 6.1 litre (370 CID) SRT HEMI and five speed automatic with Auto-Stick manual shifting. Like all SRT-8s, the interior is Light Stone Grey with Dark Slate Grey upper door panels and premium leather seats with Medium Slate Grey suede seating surfaces and red accent stitching. They went to an all-black interior for 2008. The speedo maxes out at 310 kph. I find myself wondering if it will go that fast, but I don’t really plan to test it. It has been to 200 with absolutely no effort whatsoever. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s capable of 310 and I’m sure someone has tried it.
I thought one of those rather ominous looking black ones would be in order. I thought I would keep the cost down by buying one less than loaded. Heather my wife, said “This thing will be collectible, yes?” Yes was my answer. “Then why would you get it any way but loaded, and why would you get any colour but red?” she asked. Reasonable I thought, so Renfrew’s response with a loaded Tor-red SRT-8 was good. Heather and I went on a cold but sunny day in April to have a look at the car. Yup, red. Yup, HEMI. A quick drive told me that the car was far more powerful than I expected. Sold! If I had it to do over again, I would have bugged, annoyed, cajoled, irritated and made a general pain of myself to get Renfrew to order a car for me in Stone White. It would have been one of one… Well anyway…
Just imagine being 14 years old and seeing the new Charger in the pages of some magazine. Can you picture it? This is the car that originally was going to be the production turbine car. Hidden headlights, sloping fastback, four buckets, full length console and under the hood was not the turbine engine as it turned out but instead, amongst others you could get the engine with that huge chrome air cleaner and even huger black valve covers with the spark plugs poking through them.
I can’t believe this car is now nearly 10 years old. It has a January 2007 build date. Where does the time go? So far, it has earned a second and a first in its class at the World of Wheels, and a second at the annual Northern Mopars Show and Shine. Maybe a little extra spit and polish will make that a first sometime. When it is not being a garage queen or show queen, it is out on the open road. I will no doubt choke half to death when the first split in the leather appears, or God forbid, it gets dented, but until then full enjoyment, and I really enjoy my SRT Charger! Oh…by the way, SRT stands for Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Team, something to be respected for sure. Let’s see…Super Bee, Scatpack, Hellcat… What’s coming next?
The throaty rumble? It is just nice to listen to this car from the moment you start it until it is sadly shut. The seat bolsters? Oh, so comfortable and they do hold you in place if you are being a little “care free”. The steering is so precise. The Brembo brakes are peerless. That growl is so obvious, and all too brief if you are passing. The handling is solid and responsive, unlike any other Charger, including predecessors. There is indeed something special about an SRT creation, and it is indeed a hybrid as Chrysler called it. It burns gas…and rubber
Well anyway, I still wanted that new HEMI car. Better hurry I thought, just in case… As it turned out, Chrysler sold 119,000 Chargers in 2007, the high water mark for this version of the LX body before the 2011 restyle. Charger sales dropped by a third for 2008 and for each of the next couple of years.
I put the word out on Chrysler’s website and I quickly got an email from Renfrew. They had the car I was looking for. SRT-8s were available in Brilliant Black, Bright Silver or Tor-Red (they also ran off 300 Charger SRT-8s in Plum Crazy but I didn’t know that then) and of course there were the Super Bees, all in Detonator Yellow and limited to 1,000 numbered copies.
Dave wants a HEMI car – 1966
Why the HEMI? Chrysler’s president Lynn Townsend told his engineers in 1962, that he wanted the 1964 Daytona 500 and the HEMI was born. That’s the kind of winning that Chrysler wanted in those days, and maybe they could use some of that now. Chrysler won the 1964 Daytona 500 big time. That generated lots of hippy style protests, so NASCAR mandated that if an auto maker wanted to use some contrivance on the track for the 1966 racing season, they had to make some number available for ordinary consumer consumption. So, after sitting out the 1965 NASCAR season over HEMI issues, Chrysler dutifully bolted up the 1966 Street HEMI and rammed it down NASCAR’s throat…by way of the Charger (and other cars). The rest is legendary.