Never Stop Driving #43: I’ll take the parachute

The latest news from Dodge eliminates any doubt we’re in the golden age of horsepower. Later this year, we’ll be able to walk into a Dodge dealer and trade $100 grand for a 1025-horsepower Challenger. Can I get a “Hell Yeah?”

The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 signals the curtain call for HEMI internal combustion power. What a way to leave the stage. Future Challengers will be electrically powered and probably quicker but also quieter. Dodge will build as many as 3300 examples of the 170, which the company claims can run the quarter-mile in under nine seconds and surpass 150 mph. Since many drag strips mandate parachutes for cars that go faster than a buck fifty, the 170 will offer that safety device as an option.


You have to love Dodge’s audacity and creativity. We recently held our own going away party for the awesome Hellcat V-8, an engine we love so much that we produced a Redline Rebuild time-lapse video with one. It is an honor we seldom bestow on new-production motors. Personally, I can’t keep all the Challenger names and editions—Demon, Hellcat, and umm, Redeye—straight yet am wildly impressed by how the company has kept that car fresh and in the news. The current Challenger was developed some 20 years ago when Chrysler and Mercedes were an item. The car is fittingly going out in a tire-smoke orgy.

Last week I shared Hagerty Media’s obsession with telling stories. Photographer Larry Chen does so through pictures and videos. In his most recent episode of “Capturing Car Culture with Larry Chen,” on the Hagerty YouTube channel, Chen takes us to a flash mob car show in a Tokyo parking garage. Chen doesn’t attempt to suppress his joy as rare and special cars unexpectedly pull in, sprinting from one car to the next, snapping images, profusely sweating in the heat, and giggling over the opportunity to capture the moment. Let me know if you see what I mean.

In the autonomous and electric space, the founders of the now-defunct AV company Argo AI have started a new venture that will focus on robotaxis and autonomous trucks. Ford announced that it will offer two battery chemistries, nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) that juggle range, charging time, and cost. In general, an LFP battery is cheaper but also less energy dense. We also published a story on a fuel developed by Porsche and ExxonMobil that’s generated by renewable energy and can power any gasoline-engine vehicle.

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend, I highly recommend Good Night Oppy, a documentary that follows the Mars exploration rovers. It’s not about cars, but it’s all about passion for mechanical creativity and teamwork. There’s a scene in the movie where the rover landed on Mars and successfully deployed, prompting the team to erupt in unbridled celebration. I was so happy for them I shed a joy tear, too. In this divided time, I found it heartwarming to watch this group come together for a common goal and wildly exceed expectations. We’re more similar than different.

This newsletter is taking a vacation next week, so I’ll see you in April!

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    Larry – It is NOT a HEMI! Please stop calling it a HEMI! It does not have a hemispherical combustion chamber!

    Can you imagine back in the day that a car company would offer a parachute as an option for one of its street production cars, AMAZING.

    Hmmmm Can any reasonable person….
    Really, should we believe that the leaders of this country can ever get an efficient infrastructure built to support recharging EV’s?
    Does the majority of the American population have the patience to take a 300+ mile trip and wait in line then wait for a recharge that will take up to 30 minutes?
    The potentially big loses in this deal are the American Motor Care companies.

    Were your ancestors pessimistic on electric lighting and horseless carriages too? How can you look at the world around you and all its advances and say that we’ll never be able to strengthen our electrical grid sufficiently for electric vehicles? Of course, without a can-do attitude, nothing really gets done.

    Yes. Exhibit A: gas stations. They weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now when the first mass-produced ICE cars hit the everyman market. Also, something EV chargers have over gas pumps: no need for a giant holding tank buried underground. Much more portable, scalable technology. As EV market share grows, so will infrastructure.

    And yes, 300+ mile trips with 30min breaks don’t exactly sound like the end of the world, do they? The problem with the current mode of thinking is that it supposes that ALL EV drivers think of and see driving in exactly the same way that ICE drivers of old do. There’s no reason to believe this. There’s every reason to think that a shift in perception about how we drive long distances is imminent. Hell, we didn’t have interstate highways in 1950, but 10 years later…

    It’s folly to think that changes in modes of transport won’t come with commensurate changes in perception of that transport.

    I don’t expect much from our leadership and I’m never disappointed.
    Building a nationwide charging station grid is probably doable in the near future if the project receives a WWII style “can-do” pulse. But protecting the grid we have today from an EMP pulse explosion is even more crucial to our survival and continued prosperity as a world leader and magnet for everybody with a pulse.

    I smell opportunity.
    The charging customer pulls into the line, gets out and a “Shock Jock” takes over and curates the EV through the process; perhaps a car wash, maybe even finds time to check tire pressure to ensure maximum MPC. In the meantime the customer has chowed down on all sorts of American fast food goodness and finds enough time to exit the gift shop sporting a “Nader for President” T-shirt. Everyone wins!

    I tried to buy new Demon but every dealer wants 100,000 over sticker. I have gone to Florida and Michigan still 100,000 over sticker one dealer in Ohio sell one 127,000 but it was already sold.

    I’m encouraged by the experimentation with various battery chemistries. I almost wonder if combining a couple different packs with different chemistries with possible a voltage regulator to keep output consistent couldn’t be a future option?

    Umm, maybe? I think every option is on the table as the car makers strive to sell EVs at a profit.

    Hell, yeah, Larry. I love it. But ya wanna know what I love even more? My 1946 Packard 6. L head, makes maybe 130 hp. Maybe. Well, that’s what they claimed. But it was a highly respected engine in it’s day. And don’t you love those fade-away fenders? This car design was so revolutionary in 1941 when it came out that it stopped everyone in their tracks. So this car, mine, represented someone probably waiting five years throughout the war to get their hands on it when production resumed. My brother rescued it from a weedy back yard in 1977, damaged in an accident and left to recycle itself. He bought it for $200 and with the help of my other brothers started bringing it back. Now it’s in my care. So how many 1946 Packards do you think are still around in their original configuration, to the best of our ability? This car doesn’t get a lot of love, marketwise, these days, probably couldn’t afford to do the chrome work on it any more for the market value. And I don’t really care about that, because I’ll never sell this car. I hope my heirs will be able to find someone who will keep it as it is. How many of those 3300 170’s will be around in 77 years? Two things to consider here: Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen afar, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of the giants.” And secondly, H.L. Mencken wrote, “A letter to the editor is the first sign of insanity.” Well, maybe not the first.

    I don’t think you’re insane, Stan, lol. Thanks for the kind note and I agree that the current new-car worship for special machines like the 170 is thanks to decades of clever cars like your Packard. What a neat story about your gorgeous car. Love the front grill work. I can’t guess how many of those cars are still around but not many as you state. Enjoy it!

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