This past week I managed to spend some time with the new lineup of Chargers and the engineers that helped make them. Though they rejected my offers to provide dinner, I did manage to sit down with them for a meal and a series of inane questions, delivered with intensity and a light mist of masticated food.
The Idea: Hey, you know what would be great? Since you guys are still using that same basic Charger platform from, what, 2005, why not give the Magnum another shot? That new front end sure would look hot on it, and a wagon with a 700+ HP engine sure could revolutionize the grocery-delivery business. Also, some backup cameras and stuff would really solve the Magnum's visibility issues.
The Response: It was actually sort of wistful. A few of the engineers mentioned that this idea had, of course, been floated before, but poor wagon sales in the US still make it an unlikely proposition. I protested, insisting that the numbers for wagons couldn't be that bad, and a product guy offered to show me the numbers on his laptop.
The print was really tiny, so they all cajoled me to lean in further, at which point one of them slammed the laptop shut, pinning my tongue inside. I think I may have won them over at that point, because they all thought the way I was bleeding looked pretty funny.
The Idea: Okay, so we know minivans are still a decent seller at Chrysler, but there's still many potential buyers who just find them too damn boring and laden with the painful and beautiful stigma of motherhood. So here's what Dodge should do — they should pull the trigger on something VW's been teasing for years but never seems to find the balls to actually do: a fun, non-boring, retro-inspired minivan. Dodge even has the perfect candidate — The A100!
This could be a huge hit! If VW can't step up, then Dodge should! There could even be a Mystery Machine edition!
The Response: As I delivered my idea, my excitement brought me up to a standing position. When I finished my pitch, I stood there, panting, leaning on one hand that was clearly and unavoidably in someone's salad. There was a long, silent pause, when I felt the heavy, wet slap of an entire steak against the side of my face.
As it dropped heavily to the table, I looked over to the direction it came from. A high-ranking product manager stood there, with a 'what you gonna do about it, bitch?' look on his face. I sat back down.
The Idea: Still, I'm undaunted, because I still have more fantastic ideas. This is one I've sort of pitched before, but now it has a name and a real hook: the Hellbarth.
This would be a Fiat 500 Abarth with a Hellcat engine crammed in behind the two front seats. There would be a firewall behind the seats, and could maybe use the Ferrari F12 transaxle to get the power to the wheels.
The Response: I told this one to the lead engineer of the Charger/Charger Hellcat team, and she actually gave it some serious consideration. She even waved down that product planning guy with the steak, and made him put down the chair he had raised over his head.
Her biggest concerns were with packaging and cooling, but I think I have a pretty decent start of a plan for that: a roof-mounted scoop that feeds air directly into a large, rear-mounted radiator/fans assembly, which then shunts the hot air right out the back of the car. Fuel tank could go up front. They all agreed this could be a hell of a SEMA car.
Come on, Dodge! You'd be heroes if you built this one!
The Idea: Emboldened by the more enthusiastic response I got for the Hellbarth, I unleashed my final, and boldest idea: the Heckitten. Or maybe "Heckkitten." I haven't decided yet. Anyway, this would be an exciting, conceptual vehicle designed to showcase the incredible driving dynamics the chassis and suspension and brake teams have all been working on, and heretofore have been in the shadow of that massive 707 HP Hellcat engine.
The Heckitten would instead use a 70.7 HP Fiat TwinAir engine, suspended alone right there in the middle of that vast engine bay. The 70.7 HP tuning is easily possible from a TwinAir, and keeps that same 7-0-7 numerical theme. It's as radical as the Hellcat, just in the opposite way! The car would be light, nimble, and a real showcase of every part of the car other than the engine! Fantastic, right?
The Response: I guess it's because she defended me so boldly on the Hellbarth idea that I didn't see the knife coming until it was way too late. Or the other knife. All I know is that when I finally came to, my hands were still pinned to the table by the twin, gleaming steak knives, and the staff said I was being held responsible for the cleaning and repair of the tablecloth.
I think they liked it.