story and photos by Ray Alexander
This year the trek to the event was different for me; on March 23rd I drove directly to the US Forged wheel plant. If we had a person transporter, I could be a delivery driver. I am sure I would be every bit as good as Kowalski was in “Vanishing Point.” [See the wheel plant event]
The hotel caters to Spring Fest, I believe they even claim to like us. The key cards are SRT. The elevator doors are decorated for the event. Evidence of the LX Forum can be seen in many places. The registration topped at 1003, it has gotten bigger every year.
Without Chrysler’s help there would be no Spring Fest. With SRT in infancy of becoming a brand, several SRT Engineers were present. I got into a conversation with them about handling. Looks can be deceiving, it looks to me as if the SRT8 Charger has more front end down force than the SRT8 Challenger. The engineers swear the Challenger has more. The engineers divulged that every SRT vehicle must be capable of making an emergency lane change at 150 mph and remain stable. This is tested on every model, every year. In the writer’s opinion, more of this type of information needs to be “leaked.”
David McIntosh invited me to roll with the Challengers to SF the next day. He requested that I acknowledge the passing of Ralph Mueller. David is not taking this easily. Ralph owned a Deep Water Blue Challenger.
Back to the hotel, I hooked up with the western Canadians; fastwater, hitachiman, a pair of Bryans, dabits, bandaid and code B5. Code B5 wanted folks to believe he was closer to code 5150 but it was all a front. This group had a large poster for Rab, a fellow from the Brampton assembly plant. Rab usually attends this event but couldn’t make it this year; the next day the poster was used to reserve his parking spot. Later, a powerful thirst over came me and I headed to the bar. There is Cam in a subdued Hawaiian shirt. We chat about the inequities of a person misrepresenting who had worked on their car. He was quite calm about it. He is already a busy guy and I guess he figures that he will get the second engine build and it will not be far away.
Cam later introduced me to Fredric, the guy from Sweden. Fredric told me the secret to keeping a girlfriend happy in a supercharged car. I am not divulging the information here; it is available for a reasonable fee.
I saw a fellow with a Razors Edge shirt on; I eased over to talk with him. He is involved in an animated conversation with another fellow but I was allowed to join. He confirmed that he was Paul Riccio from Razors Edge, I told him how much I liked his front strut tower brace. Then he wanted to know which one I had. I related, the one that replaces the computer mount and windshield wiper support. Not like this one (reader please supply descriptive adjectives) behind us. The car was a famous white Chrysler with a Mopar wet noodle strut bar that bolts to a stick of warm butter. He later looked at my car and remarked, “You have had this one for a long time.”
The near proximity of many hemis is infectious. In fact I think the warbling note of the exhaust irritates other drivers. It certainly seems to work that way for me. I wonder what a Lexus driver thinks when he pulls into this ocean of behemoths with the hoods up, painted in colors the rainbow has no hope of matching with hundreds of people milling about. It ain’t no Toyota get together.
Friday afternoon I was attracted to a Durango from Detroit. It was painted an orange color that I had not seen. It looked like Hemi Orange suffering from anemia, a closer look reveals very tiny flecks of white pearl. The vehicle is parked with the front fascia beyond the parking stop. A guy with a Mopar shirt comes out, surveys the situation, curses softly, and then reversed the vehicle. The exhaust tips have Mopar inscribed on the top but it can barely be seen. The guy said when the vehicle has just been driven the expansion of the exhaust system will put the tips and inscription in full view. This vehicle has the good Pirelli tires on black five spoke wheels having one segment painted to match the vehicle. In speaking with the SRT Engineers the next day it was related that the color does not have a name. I like the color, but while Anemic Hemi Orange describes it perfectly, it probably wouldn’t market well.
The next morning arrived right on time but seemed terribly early! I grabbed some breakfast and headed for the Challenger meeting area. A jacket was needed, after this is Spring Fest, dress accordingly. There were black bands available for taping around your rear view mirror honoring Mr. Mueller. Once again Irvine Police made themselves available for viewing in large numbers.
I began to chat with a fellow who related, “I was kind of upset when my wife rolled up in the driveway with this Challenger but she calmed me down by buying me a Harley.” She personalized her windshield banner by replacing the // with fender stripes. The Challenger was the number one vehicle in this year’s registration. It took a long time just to get the nor-cal and so-cal challengers aligned on the street. Remember the Irvine Police are everywhere.
Finally we are moving toward the event, we stopped and regrouped after a left turn. Moving again, a traffic light severed the line, suddenly there was an Irvine cruiser about five cars behind me. It turned right with the line of cars. This new park looks exactly like the old El Toro Marine Base. There were newly paved access roads to the tarmac, so that was the difference. Now the event volunteers began to question my intelligence, “Sir, why are you in a looong line of Challengers with a Charger?”
It was still early morning but I had an answer ready for the second one, “Don’t you recognize a 2006 Challenger?”
Finally parked, and with more precision than when parking for the Silver State Race. There are three major lines; one for a free SRT water bottle, one for Sam Hubinette where you could pay $20 to ride in the Charger or $100 to ride in the Challenger and a third to drive the SRT8 line up. All lines are too long so I look into taking a shift knob survey.
The administrators, at first, wanted to bar me from the survey. I tell them, “I drive my Charger in auto stick all the time.”
“But, do you drive a stick shift vehicle”?
“Yes, I do, I drive a Corvette.”
“Okay, then you can take the survey.”
I answer several questions aimed to find if I valued function or appearance. A succinct summary, “I don’t care if it is solid gold, if I can’t make a good shift every time it is worthless.” As speed increases the downshift becomes more important than an up shift. A good heel/toe downshift is a thing of beauty, keeping your vehicle under control going into a turn while getting your engine at the proper RPM for exiting the turn. I have to thank my wife for the car and the training that allowed me to drive the crap out of it. I wish she could have afforded a Viper.
I climb in a Challenger and Mary asks me to run through the gears. I don’t like to shift a manual with the gears still. The transmission shifted well, it felt familiar. Then I realize this is a Tremec six-speed, the Corvette is a Tremec six-speed. I am sure the internal ratios are different. I will not contaminate future surveys, all I will say is that hitachiman and I picked the same knob.
Every time I check the driving line it is either too long or they are taking a break. These guys can’t eat seven times a day. I guess people don’t understand the need to let tires cool.
I keep checking around for Beth, I saw her yesterday at the hotel. I became aware of her at the LA SRT event that revealed the Yellow Jacket and the Super Bee. She is the boss of SRT. I found Ralph Gilles detailing some of the Chrysler display vehicles. I tell him, “I am looking for the SRT boss, where is Beth?”
After he stops laughing he replies, “She is at the hotel doing some marketing to NASCAR.”
The NASCAR Charger for 2013 does have a striking resemblance to the street version. Isn’t NASCAR worried that the side indents might give a side draft advantage? So for next year I am looking forward to someone jumping out of a medium blue Dodge, taking a sip of Coke, and saying, I want to thank all my sponsors.
Lunch is free and is barbequed pork and chicken. Many, many years ago I lived in Arkansas and at that time barbequing was not a recognized method for cooking chicken. I still hold to that tenet so I get pork and some tangy, tasty beans. Wind has been a component for several Spring Fests, so for next year I respectfully request that the dining tent have drop sides on the south and west. If that does not defeat the wind, next year I will eat my lunch, plate and all.
Early in the afternoon a guy climbs onto the stand for the public address system and proposes to his girlfriend. Now, that is a first. So in the future there will be a Spring Fest wedding, then Spring Fest babies, who knows where we are headed? Spring Fest could be responsible for some divorces as well. As an example, a few years back a fellow spent some serious coin on Friday for tires, on Saturday afternoon both rear tires were essentially missing after he won the burn out contest.
I see a Charger with a windshield banner declaring “Queen Bee.” This is not one of the queens that heads for San Francisco. She is a real lady and does her own designs and installs her own modifications.
The day is winding down and the driving line is getting short. I go over to find Cam and Fredric in line but soon the announcement comes, “We gotta take a break.”
This time I don’t wander very far and when they return they guestimate the crowd at 75, and announce, “Everyone here will get through.” I get a card and enter a ton of information, swiped my drivers license. I had difficulty answering, when do plan on purchasing a new vehicle? I purchased a new Dodge van in 1972 and still own it. I purchased a new Charger SRT8 in 2006. I am not going to live another 34 years.
I get the Challenger; darn it doesn’t have a clutch. I do like the pedals, they let elevated rubber mounds grip your shoes. Not racing pedals, but Roush has that covered nicely. I adjust the seat position, the wheel is a little too vertical but I leave it alone. Then I test for maximum turning, can my right hand go to where left hand was while still gripping the wheel with both hands? I let a lot of people drive my car and I hate it when someone does that. Oh boy here we go! I cannot jump into an unfamiliar car and drive it to my maximum.
The guy at the start gate says, “You look familiar, have you been to any SRT Track Experiences?”
I look at him and say, “You were at the Auto Club Speedway.” I have been to three and I know he was not at Laguna Seca and I don’t think he was at Phoenix International Raceway.
He then tells me, “This is like the SRT Events except the length is 45 seconds.” My turn to go, I feather the throttle out of the hole. Why can’t I do that at the drag strip? The first maneuver is a symmetrical chicane, looks bad but you can carry all of the speed that you have built, just roll through it. My first, last and only try I get 41 seconds.
The line for Sam Hubinette is very short. I go over and find the line is short because they have used all of their tires; I just saved $20. I can say the same thing about being out of tires. I ordered rear tires just before leaving for SF. Concussion helped me get rid of some rubber and he wants me to come to the east coast to race in good density altitude (DA). Can’t I just up my nitrous shot?
Back at the hotel people are vowing to be here again next year. Hatachiman is loading his 1020 rwhp Detonator Yellow Challenger. It attracts a crowd every time he fires it. Getting it in the trailer is a challenge and getting out of the car after it is loaded is an even bigger challenge.
Also at Springfest: USW Forged Wheel • Related pages at Allpar: Dodge Challenger • Dodge Charger • Dodge Magnum • Chrysler 300C
Chrysler Heritage • History by Year • Chrysler People and Bios • Corporate Facts and History
2018 Wrangler bodies
2015 Challenger SRT
All Mopar Car and Truck News
Chrysler 300 Letter Cars
The Engine Cleanup Committee