Burning to Live
Short story of a relationship between a human and a muscle car, with a prologue and an epilogue
This story started just the same as an important, karmic trial would. The way, in the end of which, a person doesn’t resemble himself or herself at all. Some think that people don’t change and will always be making the same mistakes. However, I am certain that having made enough mistakes, the person changes. And then learn a different way to live. Given that the person has a brain, of course. And if they are given one more chance, no matter if it’s second or hundredth.
Everything around thickened to the limit and started reminding of a dark labyrinth, where the exit can be found only by someone, who sees the goal. I’ve seen it. It was the only thing I needed, and nothing else. Only it, even though there were so many others all around me. Regrettably, I didn’t understand it right away…
I was on my way to test the entire FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) line just by myself. A single journalist. It didn’t seem like it’s going to be something even at the least bit exciting. People were staying at their homes with their families. But I had to leave it all and fly to another end of the Earth onto a Fiat and Chrysler presentation. It’s pretty much the same, as going on a vacation, moving into a hotel, and then waking up on the first day to noises in the courtyard and finding out that there’s a police squad having a training session. You can’t just yell at them a “hey, quiet over there!” So, it’s a real bummer.
But, I had a purpose. FCA promised to bring a lot of different cars sold in the Western market onto the testing area. They included Dodge Challenger and Charger – from the basic V6 to insane Hellcat. These are true witches of the automotive world: 717 HP, rear drive, testing area… Seems like enough reason to me.
Our first meeting was formal, just as a meeting between an automobile journalist and an automobile brand’s representative should be. But, 10 minutes next to it were enough for me to understand that I’m in love. And this sensation was true, even though it developed into the real feelings much later.
“This is one wide cat,” I thought looking at the Challenger. Mean look, muscular body. Looks rad – it’s impossible to describe it some other way. It’s just like a girl that walks out of the shower in a corset deprives your eloquence. Yes, the cabin is American-style, but it has leather and Alcantara. If we dig deeper, we’ll see that this is what muscle cars were all about at all times. Simple and powerful. If you lose control of the car, you end up dead in the bushes. You sneeze and hit your head against the steering wheel – you die on the spot.
The plastic is “soft,” just like the desk at my work. It’s as good as… Sorry, got distracted a bit.
For all that, such cars had always cost somewhat affordable in the United States. But, if you intend to buy a muscle car that isn’t officially sold in your country, ship it, and then get customs clearance for it… you will have the right to say, “For this money, I want a bit more Alcantara and 600 more horse powers. But, the only thing you’ll get is gastritis.
She found me, when I was going through a difficult period, and when the past had already started to smolder, but I haven’t yet been prepared for the future. Right now I have zero doubts that this year is special. A lot of things happened in it, but meeting her is the most important of all. She helped me understand that an empty vessel can be filled with new emotions. Most importantly, you shouldn’t try doing this at once, even if you really want to. It’s necessary to give a person some time to recover from whatever was previously. And only then, you can hop behind the wheel.
So, here it is, the new Challenger (and Charger) Hellcat – the fastest and most powerful muscle car in American history. Yes, it’s more powerful, than the 8.4-liter Dodge Viper with its V10. It’s an entire VW Golf more powerful, than Ferrari 458.
Hellcat goes from head start to 100 kph in less, than 3 seconds and covers a quarter mile in 11.2 seconds. And these results are accomplished with regular tires.
Here are a few more numbers for geeks. Gearbox is either six-step mechanics or 8HP90 (sounds like a printer’s name) that essentially is an eight-step automatic box. Under the hood, the car has a 6.2-liter V8 with patented hemispherical HEMI combustion chambers and a compressor. This means 717 HPs (or 707, if you measure it in brake horsepower, like they do in England and the US) and 881 Nm of torque. Vee of engine’s angle is 90 degrees. It’s a quite modern aggregate with upper cylinder location.
Did we say “modern?” We meant, “modern by the USA standards,” since Europeans wouldn’t have understood a cast-iron block and two valves per cylinder. But, the rear drive, power racetrack, Lynch fluid control, and three degrees of stabilization shutdown, including the “buh-bye” mode are absolutely brilliant!
Dodge’s main message for the year 2016 sounds like this: we continue getting inspiration from our past, but have now become more powerful, better, and even sexier, than before. And we believe them. The thing is that no one can make as much profit from their brief history, than Americans. Each line on the body, each gearbox knob, each component’s name will undoubtedly take you 40 years into the past – to the times, when you could actually do anything in the real Wild West.
After I drove Challengers in an ascending order, it was the time to get acquainted with Hellcat. Honestly, I was certain that after the 485-hp version I wouldn’t get surprised. But the very first thing that struck me met me right in the cabin. Mechanics! How do you handle it in order to speed this Lucifer with winkers quickly?
SRT engineers say that an automatic gearbox in sports mode switches gears 160 milliseconds faster, than any human can with a mechanical box. But, a 717-hp car with mechanics doesn’t look, like a mistake even in the States. Marketers do know their job: Hellcats sell quicker, than they are assembled. Chrysler even stopped the sales to make up for the amount of orders. At that time, some wise vendors arrived, who promised to sell the car to whoever deposits $5,000.
Hellcat’s main issue is the likeness to other versions. Challenger R/T Scat Pack or 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker looks so rad that at first you won’t even think of buying a Hellcat, even despite it having 200+ horse powers more, than the former. If you are somewhat shortsighted, you can even confuse Hellcat for a standard Challenger. But, when you drive them, you notice that they differ from one another, like Wi-Fi from beef.
I loved horses in the past. But, after this acquaintance my love started burning from anew. The owner gets a set of two keys: black and red. If you use the black key, the car’s “brain” will give you the miserable 500 horse powers. But, I have a red key in my hand. And this means that we party until the very last drop of gasoline. Why? ‘Cause right now we’ll have the full 717 HPs.
Driving Hellcat is something completely different. Just different. I squeeze the hard double-disk clutch, turn the first gear on (gearbox leverage’s knob is a fancy ball, just like muscle cars in the past had), and quietly we get out of the parking lot.
There’s no point in noticing the cabin. It’s enough that there’s one, because it doesn’t matter what cabin does a 717-HP rear-drive car for $60,000 has. Central display is overloaded with data, but it’s only because it is the most complex element of this vehicle. Among blinking images, I manage recognizing that the car has several movement modes – Track, Sport, Custom, and Default. In general, the display can actually show all the information about the car – it is quite similar to the Nissan GT-R’s monitor functional. This screen is like Greece that used to have everything some time ago. I mean, absolutely everything, even things I couldn’t imagine.
I choose the Default mode. First of all, I can’t wait to start and don’t want to tamper with the settings. Secondly, there’s a shy 700+ sign burning on the screen, so it doesn’t matter, in which mode I’ll be entering the geostationary orbit. This single sign gives more adrenaline into my veins than there’s blood. I’m driving out to the straight lane with goose bumps all over my arms.
Full acceleration on mechanics looks something like this: whistling-cutoff, switching; whistling-cutoff, switching. Sure, if you get used to it, you can accelerate quite fast. But, will you be able implementing the full potential? Will you make up for this insane engine’s spinning? Really doubt it. So, I’m serving myself the other way. I just turn the 5th gear right away and push gas.
The compressor howls, destroying the law of silence, driving me insane. Again and again. Hey, let’s do it quieter, or we’re going to wake the neighbors up!
I am a stewed eggplant. Just as shapeless and unpleasant. This “cat” doesn’t care, which gear you turn on. It just launches you straight in outer space.
My cheeks slide down from my face, like I’m on a rollercoaster with an endless descent. This is downright madness! But, in the same time, it is quite easily controlled. It’s not the BMW M4, but you can actually feel the connection between the steering wheel and the wheels (the car has an electroamplifier, but it’s not bad at all). Strong Brempo brakes are rather effective, although they have a slight weakness at first. And on turns you feel the car’s weight more, than you’d want to. But, it’s not made for track days.
I’m flooring the gas pedal, again and again. It’s time to get back to the base, since there’s something even more interesting – Charger Hellcat with an automatic gearbox that copycats a spacious sedan. But because of the automaton it’s even more crotchety. It can show what 717 HPs are without traction gaps. Or almost without gaps.
I switch the system to the Track mode and the panel shows the stabilization system sign. I go out on the straight lane. I stop, although I shouldn’t, but not for long. Without any Lynch fluid control, I floor the gas pedal and, wagging, Hellcat throws forward with a screeching sound. I stabilize it with the wheel, but continue pressing the gas. 2-and-something seconds later the pointer passed 60 mph (speedometer tracks speed from the front wheels, so the indications are precise). The speed increases in a fantastic tempo.
All this time, there’s a cloud of dust rising behind me, and right now it achieved the size of Illinois. The box switches to the third gear, but skidding doesn’t stop. In order to not blow the wheels up and let them get some hold of the road, I release the gas for a moment and then press it again. It’s the second stage of the carrier rocket. Endless, insane, killing – this acceleration will never end. The lane will end earlier. Time to brake. Speedometer shows something just above 240 kph.
However, I and she are different. She is from a good family, I’m from the ghetto. She has the History, while I have the past. There are always million men around her. Each of them wants something from her. We are completely different. And this is wonderful. Man and car shouldn’t be similar. Their difference, tied together, helps them fulfill each other and become comprehensive whole. A union of two different entities – this is their sum, development, and filling of spaces. This is why I got so attracted to Hellcat.
Will I be able to forget the exhaust sound that’s still ringing in my ears? I acted, like an idiot with her, just like a stupid kid. I was flying into turns on full speed, forgetting about safety. I was opening windows, dropping a gear and then flooring the gas. We were driving out to the straight lane and were destroying it, devouring it with an unforgettable speed. She was dousing me with a deafening scream, a wild moan, in which the desire to be free fights the desire to be tamed. I was pressing as hard as I could with my legs numb. I was real, I manifested myself. My soul abandoned the body and was watching everything on the third hand. The road was floating away in the mirrors, the head was going rounds, and everything was going dark before my eyes.
I was losing her as fast as I got her. Just like the rain that suddenly stops, having started just as suddenly. I just slammed the door and left. And the farther I was going, the better I’ve understood that this is a mistake. Just because I don’t want to change something habitual old onto something new that I liked. Just because I’ve never done anything like this. Just because I couldn’t believe that this is it. Then, I was returning and entering the line once again. As time has been passing, the cat was forgiving me. She was opening the door again and was acting like nothing bad has happened. And we were driving at a furious speed. The compressor howled, rubber was turning to smoke, and we were leaving two black lines behind us. Everything around us was burning in hell. But we didn’t care.
And then, the testing area’s circle was coming to an end. I was slamming the door once again to just go back and wait for her return. I did this three times, until a security worker came up to me and said, “Sorry, son. There aren’t going to be any more rounds. The event ended. Give the keys back.”
She stood right next to me, but I had to let her go. I exhausted her much enough. I drank all of her fuel from her, burned the wheels, and made her brought her to nausea. She has to rest and forget everything. Other people will help her recover her strength. And I’ll take an old bus that brought me here and will go to the airport. I will always regret that at that very first time I didn’t have enough courage to break through the testing area gates and leave with her to another end of the Earth.