I was just 16-years-old, standing outside someone’s house at a weekend house party and talking to a gorgeous, wild, biker who was sitting on a black Harley Davidson motorcycle with an executioner painted on the gas tank (from some rock album). It was exquisite. We hear a rumbling and in the darkness see a pair of headlights coming toward us. As the rumbling comes closer my heart starts to skip a beat and I see that it’s a brightly painted orange, early 70’s, Chevy Nova with slicks on the back. I squeal in delight because I just love the thundering, cam thumping, sound of the engine and the sexy look of those 70’s muscle cars. The biker, seeing my reaction, immediately tells me not to get too excited because one day I’d look at cars as “just transportation.” He’ll never know just how wrong he was.
When I was 17-years-old, believe it or not, I was fresh out of a divorce with an Air Force grunt. The household I grew up in wasn’t exactly “Leave it to Beaver” so I rebelled a little bit and got a wild side, married young and divorced young. Shortly after that I meet another, much older, guy who was also in the Air Force and drove a 1974 baby blue Dodge Challenger stuffed with a 383 cubic inch engine. He had told me that he had the landau top removed and the roof painted to be just a hardtop. Being so young, I didn’t realize the full impact of that decision. This is the car I learned to drive in and although it wasn’t in the most pristine shape, it was fun and it got a lot of attention, even back then.
Somewhere in the haze of the next 20-years or so I’m married to a gear head and he’s got all kinds of fun stuff in the backyard. AMX, Roadrunner, Chevelle, Marlin, you name it, the guy was buying it and restoring it. Can’t say much for his personality but he certainly was one amazing mechanic. My love for these machines never died but now we’ve got a kid and my priorities changed during that time. I’m watching the movie “The Fast and the Furious” and my heart pounds and I make all kinds of noises when I see Vin Diesel pulling up that black Charger, dang, that’s like the ultimate.
Fast forward 30-years from when I first learned to drive, here I am, the proud new owner of a 2011 Dodge Challenger R/T 5.7L Hemi. The same 16-year-old who was suppose to look at cars as simply transportation. As I write this, I can still barely believe I finally made the decision to try and buy one. When the retro design was being considered, talk circulated throughout the dealerships and within the Mopar community that a new Challenger was coming out. Sometime in 2005 or 2006 I was selling GTO’s at a two point Pontiac/Suzuki dealership in Las Vegas, Nevada, now defunct. Don’t get me wrong, the GTO is wayyy sexy and the raw torque in that thing, along with the catcher’s mitts seats is pretty exciting. But, it looks a little like a bloated Cavalier. I finessed quite a few potential buyers into dropping $36K + to have the bragging rights to this vehicle. I still held out. The Camaro comes out and me being the die hard GM snob that I am, plus my kid is freaking out over the yellow one, I look at it and look at it and think it’s cool but I still hold out. 2006 brings us pictures of the concept car for the Challenger and I’m about ready to have a heart attack. I can say this much: the automotive gods smiled generously down on Dodge when Carl Cameron first created that body style and then Dodge crammed all that horsepower into it.
I had quite a few life changes ahead of me during those years from around 2006 until just about the end of 2010 when things finally settle down a little bit. I move from Vegas back to the Arizona I love. My kid gets married to a fine young man and they move to California and she’s doing well. I meet a great guy after six years of being single out of a second divorce and we get married in 2009. While we are dating in 2008 the necessity rose for me to purchase another vehicle and trying to be practical and smart I opt for a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado LT, nice truck. I tossed it around and weighed it heavily on my conscience not to give in to the impulse to go out and buy that dream Challenger in 2008 because I was trying to be sensible. A truck is much more versatile than a 2-door muscle car.
At the end of April 2011, not sure what exactly caused my heart to become thunderstruck but I spent the weekend preceding the purchase thinking and numerating and weighing the pros and cons. The truck is so nice; it’s been so good to me. We are like peanut butter and jelly. However I just can’t get this thought out of my head that this is the time to buy that Challenger. I’m close to paying off on the truck (the dealer didn’t think so, but you know those guys) and my husband is supportive, so he tells me to go to the dealership and get it out of my system. If we are good to go and the numbers work, then why not?
So, on Monday, in between work, on my lunch hour (promise), I sit down with a goofy over-sized kid only a couple of months in the business. The irony. Poor guy, I cowed him around that dealership and he was just so patient. You think he smelled a car deal? I didn’t hide it, admittedly. I was there to buy that Challenger and unlike so many car buyers I got in front of while I sold cars for four years, I wasn’t going to play that game. Make the numbers work, I’m driving that thing home I told him.
They played their little game and we cemented the deal with some money down, and what I thought wasn’t the best deal but I didn’t care.
You ask: what is the moral of the story? Be patient. Wait. It might have taken me 30 years to actually have a Challenger sitting in my garage but it was sooo worth the wait. It is almost anti-climactic. I feel like now I have reached the end of several eras where I waited and waited and drooled over 70’s Challengers and dreamed and wished and whined that I wanted one.
I bought a white one because I think Vanishing Point is just about the coolest movie ever. I would have obviously loved to have purchased the SRT8 but dang, that $48K price tag is just heart-attack pricing for me. Not wanting the 6-cylinder SE (I need more power), I got one right in the middle, the 5.7L Hemi R/T. After the financing went through and we got confirmation from the bank, it was a done deal. I danced my happy rear spoiler down to the only muffler shop game in town, and the owner, sort of remembering me from the Flowmaster exhaust system he put on my 2009 Silverado, promised me the Challenger would be snorting and spitting snot all the way down the street, at least that’s what I heard in my mind. That’s what I wanted, snorting and spitting snot. He was a bit more tactful about it though.
This beauty has the black R/T hood to fender stripes on it. Sweet. It’s the middle-line model with a single disc CD player and cloth seats. Standard 18″ Dodge wheels and tires. I’m letting those paws wear out and then putting on some nasty 20″ wheels on it. I can’t wait.
For me, this is it — the pinnacle. I can’t think of anything vehicle related that I’ve wanted more in my life; and now, I own it — my very own Dodge Challenger! I can barely sleep sometimes. And let’s not talk about the maniacal laughter that can be heard coming from my Challenger when I lay rubber or pass a Mustang or Camaro. I definitely made the right choice!
So through all of that, I can’t help but wonder, where is that biker now?
The above is a guest feature written by Beth G. She is working with us to form a Phoenix Chapter of the Southwest Challengers car club, a sister club to our own West Coast Challengers. If you are in the Phoenix area and are interested in joining a Dodge Challenger car club, please contact us for more information and we will put you in touch with Beth.