In today’s blog I want to talk about performance, or more specifically, its translation when you cross the Atlantic, thunder, raw American thunder! Now American cars don’t really do it for me personally. I get the appeal and on the TV they look great, sound great, but that’s TV. As is always the case, reality is slightly different. Especially different in the UK as they just don’t look right on our roads in my opinion.
I do however have fond memories of an iconic beast! 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 426 Hemi V8 with a 4-speed auto box. A close friend of mine was a huge fan of the show “Dukes of Hazard” growing up and when the opportunity arose to have one for the day when he was visiting it was too much to resist.
I know he doesn’t arrive until mid-afternoon so I have time to get to know this stunning and intimidating machine! First impressions…..it is HUGE! It looks literally twice as long as most cars we have in the UK and when you get behind the wheel it feels four times longer. The bonnet seems infinite. With its enormous phallic shape you feel like you are driving the car version of Ron Jeremy! That’s actually not fair on Ron Jeremy as he was far more reliable than this car. Just for your mental pictures the car is green. It is not painted like in the TV show and that’s absolutely fine by me as it feels red neck enough as it is. There are a few things you notice on closer inspection. The first does not fill you with confidence….the brakes. The brakes are tiny and the rear has drums. Drums! Not good! The car weighs the same as a family of elephants and from what I can see stopping it will hinge on sticking my hands out of the window and cupping the air along with any friction offered by the tyres.. You could put a Corsa in the boot and easily move house using the engine bay gaps. The car didn’t need to be anywhere near this big, they clearly did it just because they wanted to. What’s more American than “Bigger is Better!”
Moving inside the car now the same attitude of scale was not applied to the seats weirdly. Especially given Americans are normally on the voluptuous side…. The seat base and back section are the same dimensions. It looks like they may even be identical. The seat stops mid back at best which offers zero support but oddly it is so comfortable. The seats are basically sofa’s. They are so soft and spongy they basically suit the car. Comfortable, oddly good but nothing to do with speed or performance. And absolutely zero consideration for corners. The seats are flatter than a Take That sound check and the engine is probably louder too! All the switchgear inside feels solid and industrial which actually inspires you a little when firing her up. “Ok its built better than I thought” is what you tell yourself as you ping the door closed.
The bellow on start-up from the 426-cubic inch V8 is one of the finest things I have ever heard. It is pure mechanical pornography and if at this point, sitting in this car you’re not smiling we have nothing in common. The whole 5.2 metre-long body rocks to the sound track pouring its filth into your ears. She lives, she lives!!! So much fun. A blip of the throttle and giddy isn’t the word….. Off we go!
There’s NO power! It doesn’t even matter though because I don’t really want it to be fast having tried the brakes I feared so much. I basically have a volume controller under my right foot not a throttle. I think this car turned more heads than anything I have ever ridden in. Thumbs up from strangers, photos, kids crying… it had it all. I mainly turned heads in my trips from one fuel station to the next but what the hell. I didn’t work it out but its single figures on the MPG for sure.
I can’t help but head for a few back roads which I quickly left as the car is nearly as wide as most of our roads. It is so scary knowing that someone else coming the other way on anything other than a motorbike cannot fit past!
Its pick-up time and I am excited to see my friend’s reaction as he has no clue of the treat in store. As his 18 stone frame bounces across the car park towards me and the Charger like an excited puppy it reminds me why most of us are into cars. They make us feel alive! The delicious variety that’s out there from the sublime to the ridiculous. Today we tick the ridiculous box I think. Just heading to the local supermarket for the evenings intoxicants was an issue. It simply would not fit in ANY of the spaces so I just abandon it near the door and hope for the best. Thankfully the car is too cool to fine so we get away with it.
As we cruise back to my house, slow as you like with our elbows cutting the breeze the world was alright with us!
If you ever get the chance as a track day I highly recommend the experience. You won’t set any records but the Charger will stay with you in a way that simply can’t be explained, I promise you that!
THE AUTO VIP.