In praise of 10 and 2, the Challenger, and my loyal laptop


Random thoughts while shifting gears:

Advertising copywriters are having a fit trying to script TV commercials for self-driving cars. In one, the driver sits with his hands in his lap. In another, the driver is adjusting his shirt cuffs. In still another, the driver sort of flails his hands. The most creatively bereft writers seem to be those in charge of advertisements for the GMC Denali: In the spot, the actor-driver is so confused as to what to do with his hands that he and his passengers play patty-cake.

The only constructive activity enabled by a self-driving vehicle is in a Ford commercial, when a mother and her young son communicate via sign language, but that seems a relatively narrow market.

Decades of driving have made the steering wheel feel like a natural place to put my hands. And if my hands are on the wheel, it does not feel like a hardship to steer. I was driving a Ford recently that had BlueCruise, one of my favorite self-driving systems, and I just put my hands in my lap for a few minutes.

Then they went back on the wheel. Just feels right.

GMC Sierra Super Cruise

I am not against self-driving technology, but I won’t pay for it until it will let me curl up in the back seat when I’m on the way to the airport for a 5:20 a.m. flight.

You can argue that the driver-assist systems we have now are a stepping stone to that, and you would be correct. But until then, I’ll just keep my hands on the wheel and my feet on the pedals.




They aren’t self-driving, but I still see a lot of fresh-from-the-dealer Dodge Chargers and Challengers on the road. I wonder how lonesome those showrooms might feel after those two admittedly ancient models are gone, along with the Chrysler 300, which will soon share its showroom with just one vehicle: The Pacifica minivan.

Dodge still has the Hornet and Durango, but what else? Yes, we’ve seen the hot-rodded electric replacement for the Charger, the Daytona SRT concept, but it’s hard to believe that EV will match the volume of the current car for quite a while. And there’s nothing at all in the Dodge pipeline, according to Automotive News’ usually accurate future predictions, that is likely to appeal to Challenger buyers.

2022 Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye models

Thankfully, for Dodge and Chrysler dealers, most have the Ram truck brand, and some have Jeep, and those two are doing fine. But this seems like a good place to salute what Dodge did to cosmetically and mechanically update the Charger and Challenger over their long lives, and to tip the hat to how Dodge commemorated the cars’ departure with the Last Call promotion.

All this, and the loss of the Chevrolet Camaro, has to be good news for the Ford Mustang, right?

2024 Ford Mustang GT Red front three quarter pan motion




Speaking of ancient designs: So long, loyal HP laptop. I know this is supposed to be about cars, and I’ll circle back in a moment.

This particular laptop is the best one I’ve owned, and I’ve owned a bunch since my Radio Shack TRS-80, known to the media members who used them as the Trash 80.

I’ve had this HP for years. The stories it could tell if it talked. Wait, it can! Or did. But it’s gotten so slow and unreliable that I’ve already bought a new laptop, which feels like a betrayal. (I’m writing this on a Hagerty-owned Dell, which has not positioned itself as a long-term companion.)

The old HP came alive for what I suspect was the last time, like an aged cat that manages to lift its chin for a scratch on the way to be put down at the vet. The laptop gave up some family photos I figured I may lose, then it went silent. So long, old buddy.

Flickr HP Laptop
Flickr/HS You

This is where we segue to cars that manage to serve for far longer than they should. Our family’s best example is my son’s 1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with the unloved 301-cubic-inch Pontiac-built V-8, which had 170 horsepower, 110 less than a Honda Odyssey minivan does now. The car was thoroughly worn out when we got it, with an engine compression ratio of about 2:1.

Fortunately, shade tree mechanic Richard Strain was the local Trans Am whisperer. Repeatedly, he made a badly running car run less badly. He nursed the Trans Am along until we could afford something better, which was a while.

And it wasn’t just Trans Ams. Strain was also a dirt track racer and built my fast-as-hell Chevrolet Chevelle, which was a far better race car than I was a driver. Driving the Chevelle that Richard built made for some of the most memorable Saturday nights of my life.

With the complexity of current cars, I wonder how many Richard Strains there will be in 10 or 20 years, how many shade trees will lack a mechanic.

The Trans Am is long gone. The laptop will get a place gathering dust on the shelf behind me; it just doesn’t seem right to toss it into the trash. Thanks, Hewlett Packard, you built me a real good one.




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    If they can get past the badge on the car… and the awd variants appeal I would say Toyota’s lineup offers the best potential Charger replacement if you can actually get for real what you can read about and spec on the build tool.

    Challenger to Mustang either works for a person or doesn’t. Challenger looks/feels bigger whether a measuring tape really backs that up much.

    Gee, I got down to the comments section and forgot what the article was even about. Now I wonder if it was the article or my age

    You are fortunate that your HP had a full life. Mine expired two days after the 2-year extended warranty. My wife has been using my son’s college student Dell laptop and it’s still plugging along. My son is now in his mid-30’s but swears he will never buy a Dell. His HP equipment had long lives. I guess it’s the luck of the draw.

    Sadly, I think that ’80 TA only had 155 hp. Could have been worse…could’ve had the ’79 Esprit with the 301 2bbl that I had. That only had 135 hp.

    With no real replacement and solid ongoing sales, it continues to baffle me why Stellantis wants to stop building the Challenger/Charger/300. Are they aging tech? Absolutely, but what’s wrong with that? They provide good transportation, are fun to drive, and in 392 and supercharged Hemi form offer unparalleled performance in a size package that can’t be found anywhere else. I say, if it ain’t broke keep building it.

    It baffles many, which means many don’t yet know the plan. Stellantis, et al, will be getting bailed out for vehicles unsold and unbuilt. Why else would a reasonably sane company cut off their cashflow, replacing product buyers want for product few want or can afford. Who is John Galt?

    Stellantis is making a huge mistake. Challengers and Chargers continue to be in high demand. A coworker has a 2019 Challenger T/A 392 and recently tried to upgrade to a new 2023 Charger 392 Scat Pack, but the dealer wanted $20K over MSRP. Soon these Hemi cars will be gone and the dealerships will be very quiet.

    The days of Richard Strain(s) are coming to an end. One of your coworkers wrote about that recently. I have a 2003 Malibu that will fire, then die immediately. As it did today on the Nortbound GSP (sorry fellow commuters). Is it the fuel pump? Is it the ignition? Is it the PassKey? Is it the Mass Airflow Sensor? Is it the Body Control Module? The Internet says yes. The newer the cars get, the less the answers can be found. Cars will find the same fate as your HP: a disposable appliance, with inscrutable/unrepairable parts.

    Just as you can pull an engine to retire or replace you can pull the hard drive from your HP laptop to recover the data files if you have not already copied them to the cloud before its demise

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