Growing up in the ’80s as a Mopar fan was challenging. (see what I did there?) While my GM friends had their Grand Nationals, Corvettes, IROCs and Monte Carlo SS’s to brag about and my Ford friends had Mustang GTs and Thunderbird Turbo Coupes, and my import friends, well, I didn’t really have any since we didn’t really take them seriously as a challenge to our blue collar neighborhood musclecar heroes yet (although we all had posters of scantily clad women draped over a Countach or a Porsche) there wasn’t much to brag about that could be found in a Mopar showroom. Chrysler wasn’t even involved with NASCAR at the time, although they were a formidable presence in the NHRA, but drag racing in the ’80s wasn’t what it was in the ’60s and ’70s.
Turbo Daytonas? Omni GLHs? No way, Chrysler, we weren’t buying it. Even us dopey teenagers weren’t falling for your half-assed efforts at making a performance car. A K-car is not a musclecar no matter how many Turbos you put on it. Only a V8 turning the wheels in the back was the proper layout for a musclecar.
The collector market agrees with me. Now that the cars of that era are more than 30 years old, they’ve long been living in the world of classic cars. Proof? Low mileage Buick Grand Nationals routinely sell for over $25K; GNX’s more than three times that. Clean, low mileage Fox Mustangs can sell for well into the $20K range and their prices are climbing. Additionally, there are dozens of examples of both to choose from at any given time.
The Turbo K-cars, however, are non-existent on the collector market. Meaning, they are generally not looked upon fondly by car enthusiasts in my age group that are looking to relive our youths in the cars that we lusted after back then. When I wrote this, a quick look at Ebay revealed that there were all of 3 1984-93 Dodge Daytonas available for sale, 2 were low mileage Turbo cars for $7K and $5K, the other was a $1500 Turbo Z. History hath spoken.
So, getting back to the 1980s, us Gen X Mopar motorheads were forced to live off the legend of our older brother’s (or Father’s) cars. By the mid-1980s, Hemi and Six Pack cars had already ceased being cheap, fast used cars and were headed into the world of collectors-only show cars, and the 383 Road Runners and 340 Dusters were not far behind. Luckily, by the time I got my license in 1989, I was able to latch on to a 383 Charger and a 340 Demon but they were well-used teenage death cars by that time and they didn’t last long under my ownership.
This was our 488 cubic inch savior. Too bad us normal guys couldn’t afford one, but it gave us something to brag about.
We had a three year lead-in from the 1989 concept car until the production Viper came out in 1992 that us Mopar kids finally had a legit car to brag and bench race about. There was the Turbo Stealth just before the Viper but true Mopar fans don’t welcome rebadged Mitsubishis into our world. Serious Mopar performance car fans would have to wait 12 more years for the LX cars to make their appearance.
And what an appearance it was! The 300C and Magnum wagon were instant classics. They were great looking, well-built cars and they were nice enough to pimp their platform out to the Challenger concept, which ultimately led to the Magnum’s death.
It was in 2006, if I remember correctly, that the first Challenger prototypes started showing up in spy shots across the internet. I made a vow; I didn’t care what it cost, I was going to own one, even though I always preferred the B-Body cars over the E-Bodys. This was the car I had been waiting for Chrysler to build my whole life.
It took a full 5 years, but in 2011, I would make good on that promise.
In November, 2011, I was recently happily/miserably separated from my soon-to-be-ex-wife. She had moved out in September and I was coping with it as best as I could and enjoying some of the benefits of being newly single. One of those benefits was not having to answer to anyone when it came to my spending.
I was on a hiatus from my civilian career and was in the middle of a 5 year hitch on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, having recently come back home after a couple of deployments, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and an extended stay at Camp Lejeune and I was now stationed close to home in Portsmouth, VA, doing some very cool assignments in support of the war(s).
At the time, my main DD was my ’72 Satellite sedan. One afternoon, one of my guys was graduating from Coxswain school and had asked me to pin his oars on his chest.
That’s an honor and I was proud that he asked me. After the ceremony, I was headed home and traffic was stopped for a drawbridge opening. As told in my Satellite COAL, the texting and driving female Marine in the SUV behind me did not and rear ended my Satellite, totaling it. Fortunately, I had the insurance check within a week.
I was home alone one Sunday night. Im a regular on Moparts.com and there was a thread several pages long about a brand new, leftover Tor-Red 2010 Challenger R/T at a dealer in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan that had been on dealer’s lot for well over a year.
These are the pictures from the original Moparts thread.
When the Challengers came out in 2008, they were red hot sellers and dealer mark-ups continued well into the 2009 model year; you were lucky if you could find a dealer to sell you one at sticker price. By 2010, production was finally able to keep up with demand but most dealers were still getting full (or close to full) sticker price for them.
Not so with the Misfit. Apparently, this dealer in MI was a sponsor for a golf tournament and the Challenger was used as some kind of promo car. At the end of the 2010 golf season, the dealer put the car on the showroom floor with about 500 miles on the odometer. The car still didn’t sell as a 2010 leftover throughout the 2011 model year and was still for sale when I saw the Moparts thread in November.
Now this was Northern Michigan in the middle of a major economic depression. Not many people were buying new vehicles, and the ones that were selling were 4X4 trucks and minivans, not RWD toy cars with a stick shift. Since I had an insurance check burning a hole in my account, I was curious. I followed the link on the Moparts thread to the dealer. If I remember correctly, the dealer didn’t even list the asking price for the car, it was simply “make offer.”
I liked the way the car looked and thought to myself, man, if it was a stick, I’d be seriously interested…
Uh oh, whats that sticking up out of the floor? The Magic Wand Of Power. It’s what sold me on the car.
For grins and giggles, I emailed them a ridiculously low offer, one I was sure they wouldn’t accept.
I got the car for roughly 30% off, which was still unheard of for a new Challenger in 2011.
I initially really had no intention of buying the car, but I guess now I pretty much had to. At the price I was getting it for though, I figured I could drive it a little and then sell it and make some dough.
I called my bank, got the loan and they issued a check to the dealer. I made arrangements to ship the car to VA and I was so happy to tell the Moparts world that I was now the owner of the Misfit Challenger.
So why is it a Misfit? Its an oddly optioned car, which probably helped in its failure to sell. Its a base model R/T with a 5.7L Hemi and a 6 speed transmission (which itself is an option) and its only option is a sunroof and the Mopar Appearance Package, which included the non-functional T/A-like hood scoop (which is not open to the engine, btw,) the “Go Wing” rear spoiler, strobe stripes, an interior chrome trim package and a factory custom car cover. Otherwise, it has cloth seats, a basic stereo, no infotainment system, and it came with the basic 18″ wheels that looked more at home on a pickup than a modern musclecar. It seems most people like their Challengers with some juice, I guess. I added the 20″ Cragar-like chrome Mopar wheels just after I bought it.
I bonded with my oddball car pretty quickly. I feel like it was built for me and it was waiting for me to spring it from dealer jail.
Its funny, a lot of guys say they wish they could buy a stripped out new musclecar with roll up windows, etc., but when it comes to actually buying one, that must not be the case since my car sat on the lot for over a year.
What happened the morning after I got it was a definite win in the world of ex-husbandry.
I was so giddy. The transport company dropped the car off late one night, I think it was a Tuesday and for whatever reason, I was off the next day and I brought my kids to school. I drove them to school in my new shiny red Challenger, even though I hadn’t gotten the plates for it yet. My ex-wife was a teacher at my kid’s school and as a result, I knew most of the teachers there as she was friends with many of them. The teachers have to pull bus duty and curb duty in the morning as parents drop their kids off. When I pulled up to the curb to drop them off, all of my X’s coworkers came over to see the car (new Challengers were still a big deal in 2011) 10 minutes later, I got a call from my X wanting to know if I got a new red sports car. I wound up going out with one of her coworkers not long after that.
For the next few months, I felt like a legitimate rock star in my new Challenger. People everywhere would stop and look at the car, even almost 10 years later, it still gets compliments everywhere it goes.
Our secretary at my unit called it mid-life crisis red.
In the Coast Guard, I’m whats known as a Mustang Officer; that is, I was a commissioned officer that was previously enlisted and was commissioned through Officer Candidate School. As a result, in the fleet, in dealing with the crew operators on the Cutters and Boat Stations, the Mustangs generally come with a little more ‘street cred’ than the Academy grads and the off-the-street officers since we’re the ones that came up from the deckplates, or in my case, the bilge, since I was an engineer when I was enlisted. And since working with the crews and getting underway with the various ships and stations that were in my domain at that time was a vital part of my job, I needed all the street cred I could get if I was going to have a successful tour.
Luckily, my cars added to my repertoire with the guys. Its a requirement to have a college degree to be an officer and since musclecars tend to lean more towards the blue collar crowd, there are just not many military officers that are wrench-turning motorheads. So when the guys would see me roll onto the pier in a 1969 Charger or my rumbly big block 4 speed ’68 Coronet with a couple of Good Conduct awards on my chest (GCs are only earned by the enlisted) it gave me a good in, but the rest was up to me. When I added the Challenger to my fleet, it was like instant hero status.
One of the units was having a fund raising car wash and I brought the Challenger. None of the young crewmen knew how to drive a stick and they had to get the Chief of the Boat to pull the car into a parking spot. A sad commentary on society.
My Commanding Officer (also a Mustang, and a very well-respected one at that) was somewhat of a car fan and he and I always got along well. One day, he had to drop his F150 off at a local shop for a repair and asked me to come pick him up and I just happened to have the Challenger that day. As we headed back to the unit, he smiled and said “lets see what it can do.” Aye aye, Captain. That was all I needed to hear and he got a chance to see 120 mph briefly on an open stretch of highway. That never showed up on my eval.
Just before I finished up my orders in 2013, they threw me a bone and I got to get underway on the USCGC EAGLE (WIX-327) for a week during an Officer Candidate training cruise. I said my goodbyes and returned to the Reserves until I retired in 2015 with just over 24 years of service, both enlisted and officer, active duty and reserve. Portsmouth was my last active duty tour and it was a fun one, and I’m glad that the Challenger played a role in it, taking me on lots of Coastie adventures in those years. I finished up my last two years in Uncle Sams Confused Group at another great unit with another great crew in Wilmington, NC, mostly responding to oil spills and inspecting shipping containers.
The Challenger is also the car that I last drove in uniform as a member of the United States Coast Guard. In July, 2015, I drove it to my retirement ceremony on-board the USS North Carolina, thus ending a major chapter in the book of my life. The Coast Guard was the one constant in my adult life, having enlisted when I was 17, and now it was over. Today, I’m a part-time high school NJROTC instructor so I still get to put my uniform on occasionally and bore the kids with my sea stories. As for my COAL readers, I’ll have some more Coast Guard stories to tell in an upcoming COAL.
Back in my civilian world, I started my new job in 2013 which required that I spend almost a year in training, and yep, the Challenger carried me around to quite a bit of it. For awhile, it was the Tactical Misfit Challenger. I took it to training one week and one of my buddies was in the backseat with a drink in his hand. Not knowing he had the drink, I punched it while merging onto the highway and spilled it all over himself.
Now it gets fun. No car in my ownership history has assisted me in the world of dating as much as this car. I was never what anyone would call a ladies man or a guy that has ‘got game,’ nor do I consider myself much of a social creature but being newly single with a decent job, not living with my parents, and having a bright red Challenger actually made me somewhat of a commodity in the late 30s/early 40s dating scene.
About a year after I bought the car, I took it up to Maryland International Raceway, about 2 hours away on a Test and Tune night. MIR is a really nice, NHRA-sanctioned track where they shot a season of Pinks! and I ran my Coronet there a few times where it got its best times. I met a great-looking blonde single Mom about my age at the snack shack who was there with her son, who wanted to see the race cars and see a friend or relative of theirs that was running a car that night. Wouldn’t you know it but she was going through a divorce with her Navy husband. She watched me race the Challenger, we talked for awhile in the staging area between passes, hit it off and wound up having a good time; if she didn’t live so far away, we probably would have seen each other longer.
Then, on two other occasions, I met a couple of ladies that were admiring the car while I was just pumping gas. I also got into the online dating scene for awhile and would often show up in the Challenger for the first date if I really wanted to make a good impression, and usually, it worked. I enjoyed being single again for awhile; its certainly a lot different being single in your 40s than it is in your 20s. But luckily, I met my wife-to-be just before I retired from the Coast Guard and we met through work so the Challenger actually had nothing to do with it, but we sure went out a lot in it and we took it on our honeymoon on the Outer Banks.
Our daughter was born last year and last summer, we took a trip back down to Wilmington, NC for one of my Coastie buddy’s retirement ceremony. I’m at the point in my life now where the only military ceremonies I go to anymore are retirements. Anyway, the Durango was out of commission for a couple of days due to an air conditioning repair so we decided to take the Challenger. My wife sat in the backseat with the baby in the car seat during the whole 5 hour trip with room to spare. That would not have been possible in a late model Mustang or Camaro.
A couple of years ago, my oldest daughter used the car as part of a science project at school. They had to do something weather-related, and she chose wind buffeting around car windows. I have no idea why or how she came up with that idea. So, we took the Challenger out and measured its wind noise with a window that was cracked open and compared it to the similarly opened window in my ’69 Charger and she explained why wind buffeting is not really a thing in old cars with drip rail moldings and straight windows. I guess. But she did get an A.
My middle daughter calls it the roller coaster car. She’s a bit of a thrill seeker and likes it when I drive it ‘vigorously.’ She insists that I give her friends a demonstration of the car’s abilities when we have to pick them up. My kids are the greatest.
The Challenger is my primary road trip car. Its been up and down the east coast, as far south as Florida and as far north as Long Island. I really am surprised at how much attention the car still gets, given that Challengers have been on the road for 11 years now. I still turn and look when I see one on the road and I often get thumbs up and nods from other Challenger drivers.
Getting to the car itself, its a blast to drive. As its the base model R/T with the 375 HP Hemi, it’s not a monster powerhouse of a car like a Hellcat or a Scat Pack but it’s not wanting for power either. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve had it at the track a few times; it’s run a best of 13.37@103 (which happened to be that night at MIR) and I’m more than happy with that for an unmodified stick Challenger. Highway on and off ramps are just too much fun.
The visibility is abysmal but not as bad as a Camaro, Mustang, or Charger and at least it has big mirrors as a mitigation. Mine was built before the interior upgrades in 2011 and 2015 so all of the black and grey cloth and plastic can be depressing. The lack of an oil pressure and voltage gauge are unforgivable in a performance car. But I do love the huge trunk and easy to service Hemi. The clutch for the Tremec 6 speed is light, almost too light. Even after 8 years of owning the car, I still stall it a lot; these modern hydraulic clutches are light and unforgiving compared to the old cars.
In 2012, when I was at the Antique Automobile Club Museum in Hershey, PA for a meeting. The museum manager saw the Misfit in the parking lot and asked me to park it up front in the Antique Car Parking Only section.
As I mentioned before, I am a law enforcement driving instructor and, since the Crown Vics have been phased out, the LX Charger has become the primary vehicle that I teach on so I’m intimately familiar with the platform. The 5.7L Charger sedans are an absolute competent performance platform. But wrap that platform in a 2 door body and give it a stickshift and its almost a completely different car. Its not hard to keep the torquey Hemi in its power band and, yeah, its fun.
Its funny how so many automotive journalists pan the LX platform for being so heavy and aging. So what? Its competent and can bury most other sports sedans. I have a lot of confidence throwing this car into serious curves.
Another thing about these Challengers, and the other ‘retro’ musclecars…they are not, and never can be a replacement for the original 1960s musclecars. Of course, they are faster, more reliable and a million times more capable than any of the ’60s cars could ever be. And they damn well should be given the 50 years of advancement since then. Compare a car of the ’60s to a Model T.
But the thing is, nothing can ever replace the visceral thrill and sensory overload of a 1960s hot rod. These computer controlled, supercharged, multicam V8s, as sexy, powerful and efficient as they are, can never replace a big cammed, big carbed, big block V8 with no emissions equipment. The thin steering wheels, flat bench seats, brakes that may or may not stop the car, the smell of combustion. The bond between man and machine without the presence of the jealous wife, AKA on-board nanny computers, to ruin the fun.
As I’m writing this, the Misfit has a tick under 60K miles. It lives in my garage with its street beast garage mates: the Grand National, Charger and Road Runner. I have made no repairs yet although it will need a brake job soon. It has the original battery. Its on its second set of tires and the soft compound 20″ tires can be pricey.
I once got 30 mpg out of it on a flat, 65 mph rural highway but usually it stays at around 25-28 highway mpg. To me, that’s a gas sipper. Look, if I cared about gas mileage, I’d drive some kind of penalty box car and collect stamps for fun. Cool, fast cars make me happy and they don’t usually get 50 mpg.
The only wrench I’ve ever turned on it is changing the oil every 5000 miles. It has a plastic engine belly pan that is a PITA to take off when servicing it. The car is fast enough and if I need to go faster, I’m lucky enough to have the Grand National and Road Runner. Besides, I’m not a fan of modifying modern compucars. They are complicated and expensive; for the cost of a small supercharger for the Challenger, I can build an entire 500+ HP big block for one of the old cars.
Its hard to drive the car anywhere and not have some other driver in a late model musclecar or Honda ricer that wants to race. One night, a Sheriff’s Deputy pulled up next to me wanting me to run him in his new Charger patrol car. I passed on that one.
A car this fun needs a soundtrack. I’ve been a big fan of the Swedish band Ghost since around the time I bought the car. They are really making it big now, opening for Metallica and selling out arenas and their music is perfectly paired with a modern musclecar. Listen, enjoy and think musclecar thoughts.
Now that song will be stuck in your head all day. You’re welcome.
A new Hellcat Challenger is on my short list of cars I really want to own, with a manual transmission, of course. They’re roughly $60K out the door. A lot for a car, yes, but considering that that’s about the same as a decked out 3/4 ton diesel pickup or a 5 Series BMW, that puts it into perspective. I know I’ve complained about car payments before, but come on, its a Hellcat. I’ve stopped into the local Dodge store and ran the numbers on one; I could trade my Misfit in, sell my Grand National and that would put me somewhere around $15-20K left to finance. Or I could get a low mile used one and not have to finance anything. Hmmmm….
But then I wouldn’t have my Misfit and we’ve just been through too much together. The drivers seat is perfectly formed to my butt. I love my oddball car, the car I have been waiting for Dodge to build for 30 years. Even after 8 years of ownership, it still puts a smile on my face when I drive it. Its my car and no one else can have it.