by Ray Alexander
SRT, through its driveSRT Facebook page, had an offer for a limited number of SRT drivers to attend the Barrett-Jackson Auction to support the auction of the first new production Viper for the Austin Hatcher Foundation. I applied and soon received notification that I was accepted, on condition I drive an SRT to the event and display it from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We were asked to shine up our ride. I thought I would be lucky if I got all the drag race rubber from Friday night off the rear quarters.
Having never been to Costa Mesa fairgrounds, I used MapQuest for directions. An hour and forty-five minutes was the advised driving time. The next morning when I got to Irvine, I realized I didn’t have the directions, but it wasn’t difficult to find the fairgrounds. Finding Gate 4 was a bigger chore.
We were being lined up outside a gate and several familiar LX members rolled in. I counted 12 cars before J.R. Thompson employees moved us to a grassy area and parked our vehicles with precision. Some time later a much larger group of Vipers were moved in and parked behind us.
Then the haranguing began. The president of SoCal Viper club hassled the J.R. Thompson employees about, “This is a Viper event and all of those crappy cars are in front of us.” The argument went on;
J.R. Thompson, “They got here first.”
President, “You knew what time I was rolling.”
I volunteered to move my car. In my mind SRT owned this event, not Viper. Eventually, the entire front row was moved, with most of us were lined at an angle along an asphalt strip with food/beer vendors on the opposite side. The end result was five contiguous Chargers along this asphalt path, two with colored halos. These cars attracted a lot of attention, and we all got to break the rule about not moving before 5:00 p.m. People who were truly interested walked through the cars row by row. SRTs present by model; SRT4 Noen, SRT4 Caliber, SRT6 Crossfire, SRT8 Jeep, SRT8 Challenger Gen 1 and 2, SRT8 Chrysler Gen 2, SRT8 Charger Gen 1 and 2, and the SRT10 Viper.
As expected there were hundreds of beautifully prepared automobiles, ready for sale. The unexpected was the party atmosphere. Several bars served hard liquor, beers were served in huge containers and one establishment served only wine. Some folks got an early start with the beers that required both hands for adequate support.
It was still hours before the Viper would hit the auction block. I wandered off and discovered Bondurant instructors were giving hot laps. When they have done this at SEMA the line was far too long. The requirement here was to drive a non-performance GM product before getting your 45 seconds of rubber-shredding adrenaline rush. A breath analysis was administered as a first step in qualifying to drive.
I drove some kind of Buick and it was definitely non-performance. Then I got into the Velocity Yellow Corvette with Rob. About 20 of my 45 seconds were sideways. GM had a very nice looking concept car on display. Drop a LS7 engine in that, make it handle, and I still wouldn’t buy it.
Since this was a SRT - drive SRT event, I reasoned that Beth Paretta would be there. Her title is a mile long and possibly ends with SRT marketing. Early on, I asked about and looked for her. I didn’t find her until about 2 p.m. I had prepared some questions the evening before, which she agreed to answer. The following is not written as an interview because it is much more like a conversation.
My first question was regarding the, “rolling code in the PCM for 2011 and 2012 vehicles”? For those who do not know, the 2011 and beyond vehicles cannot be tuned or modified.
She immediately responded, claiming no knowledge, and called Mark Trostle, a SRT engineer, to answer.
Mark also claimed no knowledge but said, “I can tell you it is very pretty.”
I was mildly disappointed. I didn’t say you can bury your head in the sand, but this is costing sales every day. The CTS-V is near the same price point and it whips Mopar badly.
My next question, “Will the Dart cure the SRT4 identity crisis?”
Beth replied, “A decision has not yet been made, but the Dart is being considered for SRT4.”
“Is there a NASCAR team identified for the 2013 season”?
Beth replied, “No.”
We then discussed the amount of time a NASCAR team needs to change makes. Richard Petty announced his decision to move to Ford about mid-season.
I then asked, “How is SRT going to exist”?
Again Beth replied, “It will exist on a platform but SRT engineers will do all of the SRT differentiation.”
I remarked, “That is a huge job.” Mark quickly agreed.
My last question was phrased rather crudely and was about managing accountants. Mark understood and answered.
Mark replied, “Since Fiat placed their top management in Chrysler the accountants had been made aware of the value SRT brings. A business case must be made for each change, but in general they are easier to sell.”
Some of the people attending the auction were Jim Thor, a realtor, Dan Cragin, President of DC Performance, and Jim Deiss, seller of dead fish. Also, Jon Welfringer and tmagnum who are cofounders of SoCal Lx.
Virtually none of the people here notice if someone was trying to take a picture of a car, not of their bloated carcass. It took me all day to get a relatively clean shot of a ’56 Lincoln Continental.
The SRT Viper that had been donated looked like the one that was photographed inside an old barn. The Viper was beautiful but when I first saw the photo I noticed the sun was shining at two angles.
Beth led a pep rally for the people who were to go on stage with the Viper auction. The Viper was cranked and off everyone went. Jim Deiss was asked to bring his Challenger to accompany the Viper, but he didn’t make it on stage in time. He parked near the line of cars set to go on the block. People came up and looked over his Challenger as a sales prospect. Jim tried to sell it. I told him if someone bought it I would drive him home.
The Viper sold for $300,000. There can be no nostalgia associated with this vehicle; nobody got his or her first speeding ticket in one just like this. This vehicle will have a limited number of siblings, but we have no idea what that number will be. So, you make the call - was the price a steal or about right?
I very much enjoyed the day, as did many others. Maybe even the SoCal Viper Club President smiled after the crappy cars were moved.
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