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Chrysler Performance: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Elsewhere in this issue you can read Geoff Stunkard’s Musings on Dodge’s withdrawal from NASCAR for 2013. Yes, I understand that Dodge was basically left without a dance partner when Penske jumped ship to, shudder, that blue oval crew. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of high quality race team partners out there who can mount a title contending effort at the level a major factory backed campaign requires. But still, this is the most important form of racing in the United States with the most viewers on TV and spectators in person. Dodge needs a presence on TV every Sunday and at the track. Local dealerships want to see “Dodge” signage and cars and drivers and PR people, etc. Fans, owners, Mopar’natics, all forced to go cold turkey. Um, about that “Performance” DNA…?
You’ve read my rants and Geoff’s rant and, well, everyone’s rants about the outright boneheaded move the New Chrysler made last year when it locked down all new Mopar’s engine control computers (PCMs) with encryption of a type that renders it virtually impossible to modify anything other then the valve covers on any 2011 or 2012 Mopar car. There were a lot of paths Chrysler could have taken to address warranty abuse concerns, but they chose the nuclear option of blowing up all pretense of “Performance” for new vehicle owners. I personally know three people that this year traded in aging late model, modded Mopars for… two Fords and a Chevy. Yep, three buyers that wanted to purchase a new Challenger, probably SRTs, but instead signed on the dotted line for two Mustangs and a Camero. One of the owners summed it up for me this way, “I wanted to buy a real performance car from a company that is really into performance.” And that wasn’t Dodge, not this year.
A major automotive magazine arrived in my mail the other day and on the cover are two cars, a Camero ZL1 and a Ford Shelby GT500. Headline, “Title Fight - There can only be one muscle car champion.” Ouch, the title of King of American Muscle Cars and Chrysler isn’t even in the match? Hell, it’s not even on the field. Yeah, we’ve seen the new Viper and it rocks, it rocks something fierce. But it’s not a muscle car. Its competition is the Corvette ZR1, both cars intended more for people with yachts and summer homes, not the typical muscle car buyer. Bragging rights count, and we Mopar fans and owners have to shut up when factory commitment to showroom stock muscle cars becomes the topic. How long will we have to get beat up and have our lunch money taken by new blue oval and bowtie car specs? How hard is it to throw a supercharger on an SRT and get in the ring with Ford and Chevy? We did it; our Team MoparMax Maulin’ Magnum SRT8 has a C.A.R.B. legal Magnuson supercharger on it and the car has 52,000 miles and almost 500 drag strip passes on it and a bunch of 11 second time slips to boot. If we can do it, then certainly mighty Mopar can. If they’re going to lock us out from putting an aftermarket supercharger on our car, and then they’re not even offering a factory option, can you blame us for assuming that maybe Chrysler really doesn’t care about performance anymore, in spite of the lip service about “Performance DNA” that we keep hearing?
Why didn’t Dodge have a junior team being groomed to take over if Penske left or stumbled? Why were all of the NASCAR Mopar eggs in one basket? What was Chrysler thinking when they decided to toss 53 years of Mopar performance modding history out of the window and lock out all possible engine mods? It all started with the team of engineers that became the Ramchargers back in 1959 with a very funny looking Plymouth—did performance die with Plymouth? Where art thou now, oh brother performance? And if Chrysler made a careful, studied decision to prevent us from modifying our cars, how could they have overlooked the need for them to supply our craving with factory Mopar kits for supercharging, nitrous oxide, turbocharging, and all of the other things that make a factory car into a hot rod? Not that this would have been an acceptable solution, we need the executives of Chrysler to once again embrace the aftermarket before it leaves the Mopar party forever. But at least it would have shown that the new owners of our brand understand us.
Note, “Our brand.” For it is not Fiat’s brand. Mopar belongs to all of us who “Get it.” Who understand what Mopar mania is all about. Fiat is currently responsible for taking care of our brand, and we need to know that they understand us and care about us and will let us get back to building and owning Mopars that stomp the living crap out of cars with ovals and bowties on them. It’s what we do.
SEMA, the big specialty car show in Las Vegas, is just weeks away. Mopar has a huge presence there each year and we enjoy seeing the cars and parts in their booth. Mopar always makes a big announcement at a press conference each year (last year’s conference started at 4:40 in the afternoon). We will hang on to our hopes and dreams until then. Maybe, just maybe, the powers-thatbe have seen the True Mopar Light, and understand the True Meaning of Performance. We await the pronouncement of the return of the King of Performance at SEMA this year. Please don’t let us down Ma Mopar.