V10 Drag Pack
by Steve Legel
Muscle adds new chapter to long legacy of law enforcement.
served as TV's Car 54, in the 1960s. Big, Bad Dodge Polaras served to
transport the men and women in blue during the late 1960's and 1970's. Dodge
Diplomats served law enforcement during the 1980s, while Ford Crown Victoria
and Chevy Caprice pulled duty for a couple decades. Recently, Dodge reentered
the limited market for law enforcement vehicles with Chargers and Magnums.
new entry has Dodge offered to law enforcement agencies?
Did you say
Dodge Challenger? The hemi engine, 2-door, nostalgic
icon muscle car Dodge Challenger?
Only a few
agencies have added the livery to their stables. Noteworthy, here in Metro
Detroit's Wayne County, the sheriff's office has added a 2010 Challenger RT to
its fleet of patrol cars. My request to Sheriff Benny Napoleon and the
department's media officers, Paula Bridges and Christina Robinson led to my
meeting Corporal Keith Rachwal while on patrol in the western suburban, Edward
we did comparison of my limited edition 2008 SRT and his assigned 2011 R/T. Corporal
Rachwal shared his experiences in the Challenger and then took mine for an
unbiased road comparison between the SRT and his R/T.
County Sherriff Dodge Challenger is metallic black with red front fender R/T
stripes. The interior is outfitted with a wide array of police communication,
and computer equipment. Under the hood it has not been modified for cooling
system or performance. Its massive trunk remains largely unused. It is
outfitted with hidden lights and siren. Small halogen flashers are mounted on
the front and rear fender sides. The glow in the dark and light reflective
"Sheriff" tag on the front bumper is the only, albeit, understated,
visible marker of its pedigree.
wheels and tires, stock cooling and transmission (auto/stick) are testament to
Chrysler providence in engineering as police duty so often calls for long
periods at idle. The roomy interior and front bucket seats allow plenty of room
to mount and stage the array of communications equipment and lights and siren
control switches. Rather than the hand held, push button microphone so
glamorized in old TV shows, the Challenger is fitted with GPS and hands free
radio. It is conveniently mounted low on the dash just to the left of the
driver, ironically, right on top of the trunk release button. "This has
not presented any problem and we officers simply use the key fob for trunk
entry," reports Corporal Rachwal.
Even surrounded by high tech gear, all within
arms reach, the Challenger interior still is plenty roomy. The lightly
bolstered driver's seat allows enough room for the deputy's gun belt and
The R/T has
proven itself efficient in patrol and chase situations. The Challenger provides
quick acceleration for speed trap pursuit and thus allows entry into traffic
with a wide margin of safety. It steering is responsive for negotiating crowed
highways when responding to calls, "and the braking is surefooted and
straight, " added Corporal Rachwal, about the cars performance and handling.
We got up
close to compare the SRT and the R/T and noted the long tube manifolds on the
6.1 hemi vs. the intake cover on the 5.7 hemi. The exhaust note rumble between
of the 6.1 was notably more "authoritative" than the quieter 5.7 at
idle and under acceleration. The entry and exit from the rear seats is awkward
compared to the customary 4 door platforms, but once seated, the back seat is
quite comfortable reports Texas Detective Shawn Cleary, who was on hand for our
visit. "The back seat is not used much," Corporal Rochwal reports.
"The Challenger seldom sees transport duty, but is often called for first
Corporal Rachwell and Detective Cleary took both cars out for road
test. "Man, that SRT really hauls!" reported Corporal Rachwal. "You
can really feel the additional power and acceleration — the big Brembo
brakes make a sharper more defined stop from speed."
shared several stories from his patrols in the Challenger. The most common
story is about how the very driver he had radar cited for speeding is staring
at the Challenger as the driver passes it. Often, passers by will stop and visit him while he waits along side the road. His most
interesting stop was an orange 1970 Challenger he tapped at 14 MPH over. The
driver had an excellent driving record and was let off with a warning, after
some discussion of the accuracy of the 40 year old speedometer.
Challenger sees a fair amount of media duty, having recently been featured on a
local TV news program.
with the department's media crew, our visit highlights the efforts of new
Challenger owners across the country to advocate for safe driving. "Our
two top priorities are no street racing and no drinking and driving." added author Steve Legel.
enthusiast websites devoted to Dodge Challenger, the Challenger Enthusiast and
the Challenger Talk websites along with Allpar and Red Letter Dodge, encourage
safe driving. "Our members boast more about declining street racing
challenges then boast about street racing wins," added Steve Legel. Street
racing is dangerous! There are too many uncontrolled variables such as
spectators, car control, pavement conditions, and cross street traffic. If you
want to test performance and driving skills, there are plenty of opportunities
at sanctioned drag strips. "Recently a group of Challenger owners from the
Challenger Talk website gathered in Bowling Green Kentucky for a weekend of
fellowship and drag racing at the Beech Bend Dragway," continued Legel.
is no excuse for drunk driving, and drunk driving kills," added Corporal
Rachwal. High profile cars like Dodge Challenger, and collaboration among
enthusiasts and law enforcement are positive ways that safe driving messages
can reach the public. Youngsters are drawn to the cool cars at local events,
and we can start the safe driving mindset early.
Detroit Challenger owners will be gathering for the famous Woodward Dream
Cruise in August. Nearly 60 retro styled Challengers are set to meet at
Woodward and 13 1/2 mile Rd. Corporal Rachwal, and the Wayne County Sheriff's
Challenger are likely to pay a visit and continue to promote safe driving messages.
Other Dodge Challenger police cars
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