Attending this year’s LX Fest at Auto Club Speedway, one could not help but be blown away by more than two thousand examples of Chrysler 2005 and newer rear-wheel-drive performance legacy. Over the event’s 15 years, it has gone through several transitions in its focus, having started out primarily as a Chrysler 300–centered event. But in 2008, with the introduction of the Dodge Challenger SRT8, all that changed. The focus first shifted to Dodge and then specifically to the Challenger.
This year the field was dominated by all sorts of Challengers, from deadstock to modified to barely street-legal. Of course, Dodge offers its own take in the barely street-legal category, but none as outlandish as this 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat owned by deeply-committed Dodge enthusiast Stephen Gordon of Bakersfield, California.
His enthusiasm is infectious, as was proven to us when we introduced ourselves as being from Mopar Muscle. He couldn’t wait to show us all the upgrades he incorporated into his Hellcat. Like many younger enthusiasts who have come of age in the period since the original Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum were introduced in spring 2004 for the 2005 model year, Stephen grew up with a love of cars at an early age. This included a pedal car, Mattel Hot Wheels, and a series of remote control cars.
“My first car,” says Gordon, somewhat ironically given the origins of the LX platform, “was a used 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190 E purchased when I was around 17 years old. As anyone could imagine, it had well over 100,000 miles on it when I took ownership yet I took so much pride in that car. I kept it in pristine condition, washing and waxing it probably more than it needed to be. I’d say the only downside to the vehicle at the time was that it didn’t have enough power for me.”
Years later, in 2012, following college and work as an outreach worker in the mental health profession after a short stint in law enforcement, he purchased his first Mopar. “It was a Challenger 392 Hemi, with the six-speed manual transmission,” recalls Gordon. “I actually learned how to drive a car on a manual so there wasn’t much of a learning curve. I knew after owning my first Challenger that I would be a Mopar guy for the rest of my days. Like my 190 E, I also kept this particular car in pristine condition and enjoyed early-morning and late-night cruises in it. The car was Pitch Black with Silver rally stripes going down the center. I had some ideas on how I planned to go about personalizing my 392. I started with tinting the windows and considered adding a ProCharger supercharger and an aftermarket exhaust.”
Gordon has a story about the 392 that led, in a way, to his later acquisition of his current Hellcat. “I recall a time when I made a pit stop at the dry cleaners for a pickup. I remember getting ready to exit the parking lot and observed a vehicle heading down the direction I was anticipating traveling. I couldn’t tell the make of the vehicle at the time but noticed it was moving pretty good.
I hopped in my immediate lane with the other car approaching rapidly in the middle lane. I noticed that the car was about 200 yards away and gaining as I was banging gears, managing to shift to Fourth. The honest truth is I was challenging myself to see if I could be successful in keeping the other car at bay. Anyhow, the car matched my speed in no time.
“With the driver looking dead at me with a smirking grin, he then drops a gear, accelerates hard, and leaves me like I was standing still. It then dawned on me that the other guy was driving a Cadillac CTS V wagon. I soon met the guy at a red light. He seemed like a cool guy; he took the time to tell me that his car came supercharged from the factory and that it was stock. Let’s just say he had at least 100 hp on my naturally aspirated 392. After that experience, I said to myself, ‘Never again.’ It was a humbling yet fun experience.”
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