What If? Quick Take: 2016 Dodge Dart SRT Widebody
“Mi amor, I do not think you look very sick here, even with the bandage on the fore of head … Maybe we pull the blanket up a bit? Or you have the … thermo-meter in your mouth?”
“Luisa, you idiot! I’m not trying to make people think I have the flu! Just take the picture!”
“Okay, okay! I am taking it now! No, wait. It is not right. Wait … okay, now I have it. No, hold on …”
“LUISA! JUST TAKE THE PICTURE!”
“Okay, okay, okay! You do not have to always of the time be so angry!” The flash went off and caught Alvaro looking somewhere between furious and deranged. But he didn’t want to take the time to get back under the blankets, so he ripped the Band-Aid off his head, pulled the micro SD card out of the camera, plugged it into his laptop, and uploaded it to SRTWidebodyForums.net, along with the following post:
Topic: NEED HELP FROM OUR SRT WIDEBODY COMMUNITY ASAP!
Posted By: SuperTurboDart – Forum Super Moderator
Hello SRTWidebodyForums.net members,
I don’t know how to tell you all this, but I am at the door of death …
“Nah, that sucks,” Alvaro muttered, and stabbed the Backspace key with his pudgy index finger until the comment box was empty before starting again.
Fellow SRTWidebodyForums.net members,
I need your help. Yesterday I was diagnosed with brain cancer. It is level four …
“STAGE,” Luisa yelled from her perch nine inches off his right ear. “At the hospital they are saying always it is the STAGE of the cancer.” Alvaro sighed.
… stage four. I will probably die of this. But to preserve my dignity during treatment and death I need as much help as you can give. Anything you can send via Paypal would be much appreciated. My fiancée, Luisa …”
“OH, I AM YOUR FIANCÉE NOW? But the ring on the finger is where? I do not see it, Alvaro!”
“Would you please SHUT UP!”
My devoted fiancée, Luisa, and I will appreciate any help you can give. This is the most serious of diseases and I feel fortunate to have the members of SRTWidebodyForums.net in my corner.
Then he hit “POST” before he could think twice about it.
“Alright, it’s done,” he said, shouldering Luisa out of the way as he ran to the toilet. His stomach was cramping something awful. Maybe you’re really sick, he wondered. Maybe you brought the sickness into existence by pretending to have it. But these were weak thoughts and after he got out of the bathroom he decided to walk out to the garage and keep working on the car.
His nearly new SRT Dart Widebody was in pieces. Suspension off, hood removed, the four holes of the block visible. This was his fourth SRT-4 of one kind or another. First a catastrophe of a 2003 SRT-4, 160,000 miles and rust all over. Then, after Luisa started getting shifts at the hospital, he stepped up to a 2005 ACR. A year later, Dodge announced the new Dart would have an SRT variant, with the 285-horsepower 2.4-liter turbo World Engine from the old Caliber SRT-4. So he registered SRTDartForums.org and started buying cheap banner ads on other forums, using student loan money.
It had paid off and then some. He bought his own SRT Dart in 2015. But then the widebody rumors hit. 305 horses from a MultiAir version of the world engine. Flared fenders. Brembo brakes. All for $34,995. It was an STi killer, as long as you didn’t mind holding on tight to the steering wheel. He registered the domain and started working on the forums from the 800-square-foot apartment he shared with Luisa in East Los Angeles.
The money just kept rolling in, so they bought a little home in Azusa with a two-car garage. He was selling banner ads, partnerships, you name it. His Widebody showed up and he sold the standard Dart, which he’d modified heavily with free parts from sponsors, for more than he’d paid. Two weeks after the arrival of the Widebody, it was in pieces on his garage floor as he hustled the advertisers for “project consideration.” Luisa had started talking about looking for a home in Echo Park. But then disaster struck.
Alvaro was technically savvy, having been into computers since his childhood in the Inland Empire, but the phishing link he’d clicked had been built by someone more savvy than he was. In a flash, he’d lost control of his main SRT site, which was turned into a link aggregation page for Serotonin Replacement Therapy, whatever that was. Eighteen thousand dollars a month of banner ads, partnerships, and consideration—gone! He hadn’t written any separate deals for the Widebody site; they were all bundled with the much more popular primary site. So now he had no income. Luisa was pulling double shifts at the hospital but that would barely cover the mortgage, let alone the payments on his Widebody and her Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, or the credit card debt he’d accumulated in the secure knowledge that he would be able to pay it almost immediately with banner-ad money. Why had he thought it was a good idea to buy Luisa an ostrich-skin Hermes Birkin bag for $28,275? She was afraid to even take it out of the house!
The idea had come to him almost in a dream. Last year, one of the forum members had started a fundraiser to help pay for his son’s Hodgkins treatment. The response had been overwhelming, with more than $30,000 donated. Alvaro could do something similar. It would buy him breathing room to get his main site back, or to expand this one. But he had no children, and his rather confrontational style on the forums hadn’t always made him friends. What would be important enough for people to open their wallets? It had to be brain cancer. Had to be.
Sitting on jackstands, the Widebody looked positively forlorn. You wouldn’t guess that it could run a 12.9-second quarter-mile with DOT drag radials in factory trim, and that the aftermarket cars were already in the high tens, pushing the poor MultiAir to 550 wheel horsepower and more. Sometimes the MultiAirs blew up. His website had a popular section called “Back To Stock” where people discussed how to undo all their changes before towing the car to the dealer for warranty service. The 275-width front and rear tires, a particular passion project of SRT impresario Erich Heuschele, made the Widebody a track star and then some. Horst had turned a 7:59 on cheater tires at the ’Ring. But the big obsession for most Widebody owners was drag racing, not road-course times.
Alvaro’s hands were shaking. He lit up a blunt to calm down, hit too hard, and fell asleep in the folding chair next to his disassembled Dart. An unknowable amount of time later, he woke to the sound of Luisa’s screeching.
“Mi amor! These ee-diots, they believe you! We have nine … maybe ten … thousand dollars in the Paypal!” He half-ran in his wobbling, wide-boy gait to the computer. It was the number-one trending topic on the forum! Already on page 32 with hundreds of expressions of concern, screenshots of donations, promises to come! He scanned the pages as quickly as he could. It wasn’t all sunshine; one misanthrope, named JayBeeNeonRacer, had posted:
This is a scam and Alvaro is a dirtbag as always … WHY DOES A BRAIN CANCER DIAGNOSIS MAKE YOU HAVE A BANDAGE ON YOUR HEAD? Are all of you really stupid enough to fall for this?
But everybody hated that guy and someone had already made a meme where JayBeeNeonRacer was a dude looking back at a girl with HATING ON PEOPLE written above her head while the girl next to JayBee, who had HELPING PEOPLE WITH REAL PROBLEMS above hers, expressed visible agitation at his choice. Alvaro laughed. The forum loved to dump on NASA racers and people who thought they knew everything.
“Amor, we are at twelve thousand dollars!” Alvaro let out all his stress and fear in one laugh that shook his massive belly and shiny shaved head. It was all going to be okay. He’d pay the mortgage, get the car put together, then he would “recover” and thank everyone. He spun around and took Luisa into his arms.
“I know I said you couldn’t have another Birkin right now, but … let’s go shopping!”
* * *
Dedicated to all my friends and foes from the Neon SRT-4 community back in the day, even the ones who are, ahem, cancer survivors! —JB