The Dodge Challenger Scat Pack Is The Car That Made Our 2016 Better

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A little bit of Joker lives inside even Batman, and the Dodge Challenger is the car to coax it out.

Many pages throughout history have been slathered in writing depicting adventurers seeking youth and wisdom. Two of the most sought-after objects in the fiction section of your local book store are the philosopher’s stone and the fountain of youth. Both have claimed the lives of many warriors who have searched for them either by killing them or by robbing them of life's distracting pleasures, but I was lucky enough to forgo that quest when the fountain of youth was delivered to my front door one fateful morning.

Weeks prior, I had filled up my list of upcoming press cars with promising yet somewhat mundane people carriers when our saint of a press fleet manager phoned me up and told me there was a 2016 Dodge Challenger that was about to be phased out of the fleet to make room for the 2017 model. If no one drove it now, it would gather dust until being shipped off to be sold to a middle-aged desk jockey who wanted to live out their teenage dreams. I was impartial, not yet knowing I would soon be driving my favorite car of 2016 but agreed to it since I had a gap in my schedule. And then it arrived, a Tor Red two-door interpretation of the 1970s born into the horsepower glut of the 2010s.

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A lower tier R/T model armed with the Scat Pack and not the SRT or Hellcat models that are sold to rich kids pretending like they worked for it. The 6.4-liter V8 only helped add to the illusion that the Challenger was stuck in a time capsule and unaffected by the fuel economy regulations that are causing a downsizing epidemic. My eyes popped and endorphins flooded may brain the first time I saw it. Reinforcing my shock was a loud “WOWW!” exclaimed by a small child less than ten years old who was being dragged along for a walk by his mother. As soon as he laid eyes on the Challenger, he was the one pulling her. Recognizing myself in the boy, I indulged him, starting the engine and revving it a bit.

In that moment, it was a bit hard to tell who was more excited. That was one of the first instances where I realized that the Challenger reaches in and draws out the child within us all. It could be the red war paint or the way it growled when starting up on a cold morning, or even the way its retro design unabashedly magnetized eyeballs to it, but there was no question that it felt completely badass behind the wheel. I’ve been lucky enough to drive some pretty special cars in 2016, but none had me feeling quite as good as the Challenger. Some cars, like the Lexus RC-F, were amazing to drive on the edge, dispensing mid-corner throttle-blipping downshifts with all of the violence you’d expect in a sports car but reserving good behavior for the road.

Not so in the Challenger. Like a leather-wrapped Hell's Angel sitting on a hog, what you see is what you get. There’s no sharpening of etiquette when at a wedding or in line about to be searched by a TSA body scanner, just 485 unapologetic horsepower that won’t hesitate to throw you through the bar window over something you said about its momma. It’s that personality that held my attention until the end of the year. It’s not that I’m the type to seek the damaged bad girl that ends up dragging me down with her, it’s that, while a solid 50% of me sticks to an iron-clad routine and upholds a squeaky clean image, the other half finds myself on the dance floor at 4 am and drinking strange liquids handed to me at stranger’s houses.

The Challenger speaks to that half, the werewolf that’s usually subdued until the full moon coaxes him from my skin. The Challenger is a liberator, a Timothy Leary or Kamasutra. That’s why when I sit down to write my New Year’s resolutions and cleanse myself of this year that was full of painful losses, important life changes, and imperative lessons, I’ll remember to thank our press fleet manager for “forcing” the Challenger on me. No way would I buy one unless my budget for tires and gas grew significantly, but I found a renewed sense of life behind that slat Dodge calls a windshield. As the industry shifts its focus to user oriented vehicles with a dozen gizmos to control every variable, the Challenger is an ode to a time when real life prevailed.

A time when one would fall, add bruises and scars to the storybook that is our skins, dust off, and get back on for another ride. The Challenger is from a time when humans had to adapt to machine, not the other way around. For proving that no, cars filled to the brim with personality aren’t quite yet dead, the tail happy Dodge Challenger Scat Pack goes down as the ride that stretched my smile the most, made me cackle like an evil witch the loudest, and made 2016 a bit more bearable. Thanks Dodge for offering a cramped space where I could let me freak flag fly and sorry I ruined the brand new tires you put on that two-door festival of horsepower.

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