February 21, 2020

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Scat Pack fever

Dodge Challenger Scat Pack Widebody a retro powerhouse

Photos by FCA</p><p>The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody took Kelly Taylor back in time with a resounding rumble. </p>

Photos by FCA

The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody took Kelly Taylor back in time with a resounding rumble.

AJAX, Ont. — It’s like stepping into a time machine, but this isn’t a DeLorean, there’s no flux capacitor in sight and the target date isn’t 1955.

Instead, the trip between the hotel and the Automobile Journalists’ Association of Canada’s annual TestFest at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park north of Bowmanville is definitely rooted in the late 1960s.

Before the Suez Canal crisis and before the days when muscle cars morphed into weaklings such as the all-too-forgettable Mustang II, there were V-8s, Hurst shifters, Holley carburetors and mag wheels. Many a garage had a regular appearance of greasy hands and a collection of projects just waiting to be completed.

The days of tinkering may be long lost to lines of software code, electronic fuel injection and systems that require an engineering degree to figure out, but there are again old-school muscle cars letting early boomers relive the decade of tuning in and dropping out.

Dodge’s retro throwback is today’s subject, the 2019 Dodge Challenger, in this case the Scat Pack 392, with a 6.4-litre Hemi V-8, six-speed manual, upgraded brakes, widebody sheetmetal and SRT Barracuda spoiler.

Despite the 8.4-inch touchscreen display, the array of convenience features including heated seats, heated steering wheel and Alpine audio system with satellite radio, it does indeed feel very retro. The shifter is appropriately stiff, with defined gates and the clutch pedal is a bit of a workout — as they should be. It takes a pretty good yank to shift between gears, something those who drove the original version will remember.

One thing that was a bit annoying was how much effort it took to go from fifth to sixth: a driver needs to push hard against the spring that tries to return the shifter to the default 3-4 channel. Failure to do so surely means a drop into fourth, which from the top end of fifth made things interesting the first time it happened.

While the vehicle is equipped with stability and traction controls, they are defeatable, to give the driver full control over whether the car stays on the road or goes into the weeds. Which isn’t out of the question given how easily the 475 pound-feet of torque can light up the rear wheels. Yet it isn’t twitchy, as you need to give the throttle a decent push to get the wheels spinning.

Even though the car is clearly aiming for a retro feel, the important bits are all modern, which means it is far superior to its ancestors in areas of braking, handling, steering and ride quality. Massive Brembo six-piston disc brakes scrub off speed with aplomb and independent front and rear suspensions give the car a predictable response even when it gets a bit out of line.

All of this doesn’t come cheap, but it does present a compelling economic argument. A project car, restoring a 1969 Challenger, for instance, is likely to run into six figures. Restored models found online range from US$80,000 to US$107,000. By contrast, the new Challenger Scat Pack 392, as equipped, carries a sticker of C$66,620, not including freight and pre-delivery.

It won’t satisfy the itch of someone who really wants an authentic classic, but it does provide a retro muscle car experience at a relative bargain and with the modern toys that make today’s driving a breeze.

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca

 

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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