by Ray Alexander
This address is downtown Los Angeles and the event starts at 4 P.M. I thought about it for a couple of days before accepting the invitation. When I worked, I had several occasions requiring me to be downtown. It is much easier to get there at 4 A.M. but your life expectancy is considerably shorter. It wasn’t terrible navigating downtown traffic but I am glad I am not covering the LA Auto show.
The purpose for the event is twofold; to let SRT customers mingle with people responsible for the SRTs and to reveal two new SRTs. A hospitality tent was erected across from Staples Center. There was an attendance maximum, governed, I believe, by the size of the tent. I planned to arrive about an hour early and visit the “showcase dealer” that opened near the auto show last year. A couple of wrong turns put that plan far on the back burner. I did pass it on my way out of LA. There at least three levels of vehicle displayed to the Harbor Freeway traffic. This was not obvious last year but construction wasn’t finished at that time.
Roughly 300 guests were expected. A large percentage was press people covering the LA Auto Show. That accounts for there being fewer vehicles than I had anticipated. However, even a casual observer would quickly have realized the area was saturated with testosterone. I would have liked to know the total number of speeding tickets issued to the cars present. We are simply doing our part to help with revenue shortfall.
Food and drink is abundant and close at hand. There are many comfortable places to sit. The outside enclosure has four production SRTs and since you are twenty feet from the refreshments inside everything is replicated out here. It also has outdoor gas heaters; these began to feel good after six. I had to drive back to San Diego so I couldn’t use any of the personal anti-freeze.
I met Scott Vandekerckhove, who writes for Modern Mopar. We chatted with Dave McIntosh about the “Vanishing Point” Challengers. The movie, ending with a white Challenger crashing into two bulldozers in Cisco, Utah, has a cult following. There were ten numbered “Vanishing Point” Challengers built, white with blue racing stripes. Mike Haislet has number one and Dave has number two. There was another white Challenger with blue stripes in the lot with a plate that misspelled Kowalski (the driver of the Challenger in the movie). Even with my car being a SRT8 Charger, I took it to Cisco and told it to never, under any circumstances, run into a heavy piece of machinery. I got out of the car and stood in the headlight to deliver this message because I wanted the car’s full attention.
SRT is now a stand-alone brand. I spoke with Russ Ruedisueli and he indicated that there were about 20 dedicated SRT people from various disciplines present. He felt it important for people directing the evolution of SRT to exchange ideas with the fiercely loyal SRT customers. We exchanged ideas about rubber compounds in tires, importance of wheel alignment for all four wheels and legal road racing. I don’t think I convinced him to come to the Silver State Open Road Race.
We also discussed a past SRT Event, the Long Beach Grand Prix, this event and possible future events. The SRT population has such varied demographics that not even a stack of $100 bills would appeal to all.
There was a game-like video of four SRTs starting life as prison gray then taking a jump causing the gray to fall away revealing “Toxic Orange.” Then real people provided action on a road course showing a lot of smoke and two-wheel drifting (if you are going fast enough physics will set up a four-wheel drift for you, no need to snap the steering wheel). Enough entertainment, now show me lap time improvement. Ralph Giles has proven that he is an excellent driver but there was one sequence showing him open palm with the heel of his hand on the steering wheel. Hey, Ralph, I can get you a spinner knob for the steering wheel.
We also talked about the new Power Control Module (PCM) and Russ was amazed when I related there are people that are not buying because the car can’t be tuned. He indicated that relief might be on the way through partnering.
I spoke with one owner of a new 6.4 L Challenger and he said the power is considerably better than the 6.1 L. He further stated that the SRT Engineers claim there is little to be gained in the entire airflow path. The intake path does look larger and well sealed but the air still has three changes of direction. It requires major design changes but I am convinced there are gains to be had. I am sure that SRT engineers would like to see inlet air have a straight path to the throttle body but they are constrained by structural members, radiators, and condensers.
Time has come for the reveal. Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations for SRT and Motorsports, takes the stage. She describes herself as “just another one of you car guys.” She has been with SRT for only about six weeks and thanks all the SRT people for making her feel welcome. She calls all of the SRT people to the stage then turns the program over to an engineer.
The reveal is a Super Bee Charger and a Challenger Yellow Jacket, the yellow is a new color named “Stinger Yellow.” There are many other external visuals that distinguish these from other yellow cars using bee monikers.
Most people that I heard expressed a preference for the Yellow Jacket. Even with SRT being a separate brand I suppose a two door SRT Charger is unlikely.
When things calmed I was able to talk with Beth about SEMA and the SRT part of Mopar Alley. I think the lack of a current SRT4 is totally wrong. When I go to the drag races I see a lot of investment in the small cars. I assume this also occurs in autocross and other types of racing. I would be happy to champion a new SRT4.
For more photos, see the Special Challengers (including Yellow Jacket) and Charger SRT8 (including Super Bee) pages
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