I only turned 26 on the 17th, but I already feel as though I am getting old. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted with reckless abandon. Now, I find myself eating much more responsibly and avoiding fried food in particular as it unsettles my stomach. When I find myself in the US, however, there are two things I am guaranteed to do: photograph a lot of cars and visit a Popeye’s.
Joseph Dennis spoke of his fondness for Popeye’s in October and I echo his sentiments—it’s a cheap, nasty, tasty, guilty pleasure. Here in Australia, the only major fried chicken chain is KFC and it simply doesn’t compare. Popeye’s absence here is probably a blessing in disguise, shielding me from the inevitably expanding waistline and declining self-esteem. But there’s something glorious about the American excesses I partake in when I visit: the hefty portion sizes; those humongous $1 sweet teas at McDonald’s; the brash and garish cars and trucks.
No car shouts American excess quite as loudly as the Dodge Challenger. The blocky, retro styling and the available V8 engines are the main draws, of course, but the Challenger also features a rear seat that is habitable for adults. Not many mainstream, relatively affordable American coupes in recent years can boast that—have you tried squeezing adults into the back seat of a Mustang or an ATS Coupe?
Perhaps the last mainstream American coupe that could accommodate two grown adults in its rear thrones was the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It’s easy to forget the Camaro took an extended leave of absence from Chevy showrooms, leaving the Monte Carlo as the brand’s affordable “sports” coupe. Oh, sure, there was a supercharged V6 engine available – even a V8 in its last two seasons – but there was nothing terribly athletic about the W-Body Monte Carlo. But not all coupe buyers want raw track performance—some simply want an expressive design. The habitable rear seat was probably a nice bonus. The last time I was in Detroit, in 2012, I was amazed to see just how absurdly common the 2000-07 Chevrolet Monte Carlo was. The traction afforded by front-wheel-drive as well as a domestic nameplate further sweetened the deal for Detroiters.
As for Popeye’s, I have a confession to make. I had a few hours between my flight to Los Angeles and my flight out of Los Angeles but a friend of mine wasn’t able to come meet me to hang out. How did I pass the time? I took an Uber to the nearest Popeye’s (in Inglewood) and had myself a feast. Oh, and I definitely partook in a few free refills of sweet tea. Ahh, American excess.
2006-07 Monte Carlo photographed January 12, 2012 in Washington D.C.
Monte Carlo and Challenger photographed November 2, 2016 in Inglewood, CA.
Snow-covered Challenger photographed in Manhattan’s East Village in 2014.