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Off the Shelf: April 12, 2018

20180410_120557
Maisto's 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT-8

Many cars over the past few decades have attempts at reigniting the past with a retro look and feel. Everything from the Plymouth Prowler that turned heads in the late 1990s, to the Chevrolet HHR panel wagon and Volkswagen’s (new) Beetle. Some have failed at achieving this feat, while others have been victorious. Dodge’s Challenger, I think, wears the winning crown and gets my praise for being the best revive of a classic design.

The pony car war continues today, right where it left off during the roaring 1960s, with all three players still fighting head-to-head. Chevy’s Camaro, the Mustang from Ford and Dodge’s Challenger. Ford introduced a new, sleek, retro Mustang in 2005 with accurate roots hailing to the original ‘Stang that swept America by storm in 1964. The bow tie brand followed suit soon after with their fifth generation Camaro, and Dodge brought back the Challenger after a nearly 40 year hiatus. The Charger nameplate actually returned around the same time too, but in the form of a four-door, rear-wheel-drive sedan that frustrated your crowd of dedicated MOPAR enthusiasts.

Ever since it went on sale for the 2008 model year, I’ve always loved the newer Challenger. To me, it does the best job (of the USA trio) of not only looking like a muscle car from the 1960s, but also driving like one. It’s loud, brash, bouncy, hard and big. I was eighteen when it first started hitting the streets, just graduating high school and going into my freshman year at Loyola University Chicago. I’ve drooled in lust over the Challenger since the first time I remember seeing concept car photos of it printed in the various auto magazines I subscribe to. Unleashing the little kid in me, I bought a remote control Challenger with flashy chrome wheels from the Radio Shack just down the street from my brick dorm building, Fairfield, piloting it up and down the hallway.

Clearly, there was no hesitation in picking up this $0.90 cent die-cast when I was at my local Walgreens drug store the other week. This model, from Maisto, depicts a 2008 Challenger SRT-8. And I should add it does a solid job, of depicting Dodge's modern day muscle car. For the price, I was surprised because other die-casts I’ve picked up lack severely in the detail department. That’s not the case at all with this offering from Maisto. I always strive to find die-cast cars that I can tell a relevant story about, die-casts that mean something to me.

The high-performance Challenger SRT-8 roared, with a behemoth 6.1-liter V8 that made 425 horsepower and 420 pounds-feet of torque. All of that power easily gave the green light for smoky burnouts and a bit of sideways action should you fancy. A set of colossal Brembo brakes slowed the Challenger down, and 0 to 60 mph sprints took under five seconds. Not too shabby for a 4,150lb curb-weight. Sadly, Dodge didn’t sell the initial Challenger SRT-8 with a manual-transmission, which came in 2009.

Sporty accents like a matte black spoiler and front lip, rectangular chrome dual exhaust tips, towering 20-inch wheels, a chrome “Fuel” cap reminiscent of its ‘60s ancestry, “6.1 HEMI” script on either side of a bulbous hood and stripes galore. Its bathtub like interior was mostly mid-2000s hard-plastic Chrysler, nothing too fancy, but big comfortable leather and suede bucket seats, along with a 180mph speedometer, earned you bragging rights.

The first time I drove a Challenger SRT-8 I think back to swinging open the big doors, buckling up and starting it up. The 6.1-liter V8 just rumbling at idle, gently rocking the car back and forth, as my adrenaline slowly began rushing. It was a big thing to drive, even with power steering, requiring two hands to navigate this Detroit barge around traffic and parking lots at low speed. But once I found that straight open road, I mashed the gas and the Challenger threw me back in my seat like I had just been sucker punched. The sound of that HEMI V8 grunting made the hairs on your neck stand-up for nostalgia’s sake. It was fantastic.

Maisto did a good job scaling down the Challenger SRT-8, with all the right shapes, colors, decals and badging. The only noticeable flaw is the lens-less taillight panel painted the same orange as the body color and the overly-chrome wheels. Flip it over and you’ll see raised detail for the Challenger’s dual exhaust setup from the engine all the way back to the mufflers. All the windows are pitch black so any guesses on the amount of detail inside are beyond me.

I know someday I’ll be able to park a Challenger in my own driveway, because it’s currently my dream car. Yes, that may sound treasonous being that I currently drive a Chevrolet Camaro I love dearly, but regardless, until then I'll gladly gawk at this die-cast model of the MOPAR king. You can bet I'll be keeping my eyes open for more sub-$1.00 die-casts from Maisto.

Cheers,
Robby

Maisto “Speed Wheels Series XV”
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT-8
No. 376678

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