I have decided today to address one of the most serious issues currently threatening our great nation. I am not talking about murder. I am also not talking about gun violence, or terrorism, or even people who board airplanes with nothing to read. No, no: I am referring to the third owner of the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat.
For those of you who don’t know what the Hellcat is, please allow me to provide the following background: it is a 707-horsepower rental car.
Do you know that Dodge Charger you rented a few months ago? When you landed in Dallas? And they were out of midsize sedans? And you couldn’t figure out why it smelled so bad? And the interior was made out of the same quality plastic they use for a Parmesan cheese container? Well, imagine that thing with more power than a Ferrari Enzo. That’s a Hellcat.
At the moment, they sell the Hellcat in two varieties. There is the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which is a rather large two-door vehicle. And there is a Dodge Charger Hellcat, which is a rather large four-door vehicle. Reportedly they will soon be making a Hellcat version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which will serve as the primary example for at least the next decade when people in other countries discuss American excess.
Now, if you’re interested in cars, all of this probably seems pretty cool. Classic Dodge design. Rear-wheel drive. Seven hundred tire-smokin’ horsepower. So how could this possibly be a problem?!
Well, I’ll tell you why it’s a problem: because of the third owner.
You see, the first owner of the Hellcat is going to be a pretty careful, cautious, reasonable guy. The car’s price tag ensures that: most Hellcats cost somewhere in the $60,000-plus range, which is right in the heart of “careful, cautious, reasonable guy” territory. If you’re spending sixty grand on a car, you’ve probably been around enough attorneys in your life to know that the guy with the 707-horsepower car is the first person to get sued after an accident, even if the accident involved an industrial forklift and the 707-horsepower car was parked four blocks away. So you’re careful.
But I suspect most first owners won’t keep their Hellcats very long. This is due to the time-honored societal law that states, in no uncertain terms: Rich people get bored quickly.
The Hellcat is the hot car your average rich car enthusiast wants right now, but next year he’ll want something else, then something else, and eventually he’ll get a divorce because his wife caught him cheating with a woman whose skin has the same orange hue as Donald Trump’s hair.
For proof of this theory, think about other “hot” cars over the last few years: the 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo. The 2008 Audi R8. The 2009 Nissan GT-R. How many of those are still with their first owners? The answer is none, or close to none: they’ve all gone through at least one eBay auction where the seller has used more exclamation points than a Hallelujah-filled gospel song.
And so, the responsibility of Hellcat preservation falls on the second owner. The second owner is different from the first owner in the sense that he didn’t buy the Hellcat because it was the latest and greatest thing. He bought it because he lusted after it from the moment it came out – he just couldn’t afford it right away. So he buys the thing when it’s one or two years old, somewhere in the fifty or sixty grand range, and he cherishes it. I mean he cherishes it. To the point where he creates one of those little plaques that he places next to his car when he brings it to cars and coffee.
But after eight or nine years, the second owner is ready to move on. And that’s when he unleashes the terror of the Hellcat on our society: he sells it to the third owner.
The third owner will buy a Hellcat ten years from now. He will be under 30 years old. He’ll look for one with high miles, or a rebuilt title. And he’ll drive the thing like a cocaine fiend playing Mario Kart.
The problem with the Hellcat’s third owner is that he won’t be as cautious as the first owner, and he won’t be as obsessed with preservation as the second owner. He’ll just want cheap speed, and the Hellcat will provide it.
Now, if you’re the parent of a young child, this could be a serious problem when your kid grows up. Consider it: when I was 20, the fastest thing anybody could reasonably afford was a first-generation Cadillac CTS-V, which had 400 horsepower and a gear lever that felt like you were stirring butter with a rope.
But if your kid is eight or nine years old right now, he will reach 20 at a time when the seven-hundred-seven horsepower Hellcat is something his friends might be driving. As a parent, this changes your duties: you will have to educate your child about crossing the street, and talking to strangers, and finances, and sex, and friends with Hellcats.
Now, I admit that we’ve seen this happen before. BMW M3s have gotten cheaper. Porsche 911s have gotten cheaper. Corvettes, and Mustangs, and Camaros have gotten cheaper. But none of these cars offer the sheer speed the Hellcat does; the sheer I just stepped on the pedal and the next thing you know I was on my roof in the swamp performance that you can really only get with a 700-horsepower Chrysler rental car.
Think of it this way: by 2026, a high-mileage Hellcat will be a sub-$30,000 way to get 700 horsepower; a 200-mph car that no longer requires a professional degree, or an MBA, or a long, successful career, or a profitable startup. All it will require is a promotion to assistant manager of a Pizza Hut.
May God help us all.
Photo credit: Kurt Bradley