Caged Demon

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Pity the starving man who gets to smell fresh bread – but never gets to taste it.

Dodge wafted some fresh-baked smells our way the other day. The Challenger SRT Demon was revealed to the press at the New York Auto Show.

840 hp. A pair of dragster skinny tires in the trunk.

Just the one seat – unless you order another for the passenger.

No AC.

A yuuuuge carbon footprint. It makes the sound that makes the entire Persian Gulf stand up and cheer. Al Gore frowns.

It’s startling that the entire display wasn’t SWATTED.

There is a weird incongruity between what is legal to sell – for the moment –  and what you can legally use. Like our starving man who smells fresh bread baking, you are still allowed to buy a car like this.

But use it at your peril.

And what sort of car are we talking about?

It is a car with twice the power of a new Corvette – which has twice the power of a typical V6 family car like a Toyota Camry. And the Camry can get to 60 MPH in about six seconds and has a top speed around 140 MPH – better performance than most classic ’60-era V8 muscle cars. The Corvette is considerably quicker – and much faster. Under four seconds to 60 and about 180 on top.

Now imagine twice the power of the Corvette.

Enter the Demon.

Its supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi V8 is not far shy of four digit horsepower output – and its 0-60 capability (2.3 seconds) makes the Corvette seem . . . almost Camry-like.

There is nothing short of a Nextel Cup stock car or a Bugatti Veyron that can match its moves.

But what if you make those moves?

Hut! hut! hut!

I wrote the other day about the fate of a guy named Christopher Garza, who dared to use the power of his Challenger Hellcat. Which, pre-Demon, was the most powerful car you could buy short of a Bugatti Veyron and not quite as strong as a Nextel Cup stocker. Still, with 707 hp under its hood, 150-plus MPH is as effortless for the Hellcat as it is for Lance Armstrong to out-pedal Stephen Hawking up a hill.

Garza made the mistake of using his Hellcat – and did get SWATTED.

Cars are more gloriously priapic than they have ever been. Best keep it in your pants, though. Much as the strain hurts. The incongruity is bad; the frustration much worse.

People used to make fun of bodybuilders for flexing muscles they never used for anything . . . except flexing. Well, how now brown cow? You will be caged in most states for driving much over 80 MPH.

Over 100 and you’d Better Call Saul.

I have a feeling we’re still allowed to buy cars like the Demon – and for that matter, V6 Camrys – because it’s a way, one of the few remaining, for people to feel empowered without actually having any real power.

Notice, as a parallel, the way trucks have become monstrous in size, all bulgy and codpiece-like. You need a ladder to get at the bed – and these are thoughtfully built into the tailgates of several of them.

They are frequently driven by guys with carefully coiffed scruffy facial hair (another harmless-to-the-state way to puff masculinity without any threat of male disobedience) to and from their cub farm jobs, where they very carefully toe all lines and make no waves and sit politely through Gender Awareness seminars and piss in a cup every six months, to assure their fief overlord that they aren’t partaking of illegal dope.

But at the end of the day, they climb into their jake-braked 4×4 codpiece and – briefly – feel like men.

So, also, the Demon.

We’re allowed to get the government’s permission to put plates on it. To turn the key, blip the throttle menacingly at MILFs in minivans. We may put on mirrored glasses and are permitted to pose in traffic.

But it’s all for show – and not much go.

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  1. I dunno Eric: “All Show & No Go” pretty much described my 1982 Mustang (4-banger and 3speed automatic). I lost to my buddies VW Bug for chrisesakes! The ’88 GT however, was an entirely different matter. It had the show and the go. One thing I’ve noticed, is that cars nowadays are fairly quick for 0-40mph or so, but have ZERO passing power once you get over 50. I guess at that point they are geared for fuel economy.

  2. Those outback truckers are real men, who have to solve problems on their own and with no other help than what is on their rig. Note how many of them are older blokes.

  3. I have another theory about this car. There is something tangentially related to Austrian school economics called “The Skyscraper Index.”

    Logic is something like this:

    As the central bank created boom cycle gets more and more long in the tooth, it drives up land prices (especially in big cities) to massive levels. Therefore, you’ll often see “the tallest building in the world” going up right before a major crash. Just in time for the bust.

    Google it. Correlation does not necessarily equal causality, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

    They are building several competing “tallest buildings in the world” right now.

    I think this may be the automotive equivalent to the skyscraper index. Call it the outrageous car index.

    The rate of increase in new credit for auto loans (often this credit is granted to anyone who can fog a mirror – see Eric’s subprime auto loan article) has the industry convinced that the good times they’ve been experiencing as of late will last forever. Therefore: It makes sense to build outrageous cars. They are selling today – so they’ll sell forever.

    If you build it – Joe sixpack will buy it – or something like that.

    I lay claim to this theory if it holds water. I’ll invite you all to my Nobel Prize in Economics party if I get one.

  4. The one thing that will put the Dodge in danger is the outcry after some rich teenager (“Daddy bought me the fastest Dodge ever for my prom!”) crashes it. And the grieving parents will be on the nightly news.

    “How can a responsible company like Chrysler sell a product like this, targeted for teenagers, knowing how dangerous it is? Our son was a responsible driver and didn’t deserve this.”

    • The one area where I hate that cars have improved is in the suspension. Let me explain. It used to be known that more HP = less ability to control the car, because the chassis technology hadn’t caught up and so the car might not actually grip the road if you floored it. Now, it’s assumed there’s no danger of that happening, whether you’ve got 200 HP or 450. This gives drivers a false sense of their own ability and the capabilities of the car. A seventeen year-old kid driving a ’69 Camaro? He better know what he’s doing, or he’ll wreck the thing. A 2017 Camaro? He’ll run out of talent before he runs out of grip. Or at least, that’s what’s assumed. Today, that assumption is what gets people in wrecks. So, who do we blame? We used to blame the driver for overestimating his abilities. Now, we sue the car company for not making it idiot-proof (sorry, safe) enough.

  5. Eric:

    Great article.

    According to the Dodge website, it does have A/C. It’s just that the air that is being conditioned is routed to the charge air cooler instead of the interior. This makes for a denser charge to the supercharger. Not a bad idea.

    I’m actually thinking about getting one of these. Not that I’d ever actually “use” it as you point out.

    I’m looking at prices in some of these Barrett Jackson / Mecum Auctions and wonder what a 1969 Hemi Dart with 300 original miles would go for today. Maybe this will go for a similar multiple when I retire in 30 years.

    Predicting inflation in the future is almost impossible. The whole planet is at a race to the bottom with currency. However, hard assets are decent inflation hedges anyway.

    Say these go for $80k. $80k x 1.04^30 = about $260k in 2047 dollars assuming a 4% inflation rate to break even (neglecting storage costs). If Mecum 2047 sells it for a cool million, I’m still upside right. Heck – I think a 1969 Hemi Dart would fetch over a million – even in 2017 dollars.

    I’m getting jack shit in the bank, and the stock market is downright delusional right now, so maybe this could actually be an investment.

    Did you hear Tesla’s market cap is now higher that any other OEM? For LOSING billions of dollars every year.


    You know cars like this will be banned – you just know it. Making for an even better investment.

    I think a better investment would be to wait for year 2 into our next recession to buy one, as the low sales numbers on “luxury” items during any recession would guarantee higher rarity.

    Trick is buying it before Dodge in particular of FCA in general goes belly up again – which may not last until year 2 in the next recession – which is going to be especially devastating to the auto industry.

    I’m at FCA twice a week and I haven’t even heard of this thing yet. I’m going to need to talk to some of the SRT guys to at least get a ride.

      • Hey Eric: I would consider buying one except for 2 potential reasons:

        1) On the “investment” side, the more I drive it, the less valuable it becomes. I could maybe even convince the wife of this as an investment. And if not, well what’s so special about a wife anyway?

        2) It appears to be automatic trans only. No way would I buy it if my plans were to actually drive it for any length of time for this reason alone.

        I have another question: If I order the one without the passenger seat, do they also do away with the IED in passenger side of IP (AKA passenger Airbag)??

        • It’s auto trans only because the car looks purpose built for the dragstrip (for those that would rather buy it than build it).
          Auto/high stall/trans brake > manual (Lenco not included) for drag racing. Torque multiplication FTW.

        • Hi Blake,

          My guess on the automatic is because it launches harder with the auto… and would be all-but-unmanageable with a manual, as well as much more likely to spit parts all over the road!

  6. I always see guys, especially in commercials, that have the scruffy beard (not the Duck Dynasty look). Eric nailed it when he said they “sit politely through Gender Awareness seminars and piss in a cup every six months, to assure their fief overlord that they aren’t partaking of illegal dope”
    I always refer to the recurring character as “the pussy bearded guy”. I think the look is supposed to imply a guy who’s “sensitive” or “environmentally conscious”. It’s surprising how often the archetype appears in mass media and commercials.

  7. Jim Cooper, a former LAPD officer turned sociologist, has observed that the overwhelming majority of those who end up getting beaten or otherwise brutalized by police turn out to be innocent of any crime. “Cops don’t beat up burglars,” he writes. The reason, he explained, is simple: the one thing most guaranteed to provoke a violent reaction from police is a challenge to their right to, as he puts it, “define the situation.” That is, to say “no, this isn’t a possible crime situation, this is a citizen-who-pays-your-salary-walking-his-dog situation, so shove off,” let alone the invariably disastrous, “wait, why are you handcuffing that guy? He didn’t do anything!” It’s “talking back” above all that inspires beat-downs, and that means challenging whatever administrative rubric (an orderly or a disorderly crowd? A properly or improperly registered vehicle?) has been applied by the officer’s discretionary judgment. The police truncheon is precisely the point where the state’s bureaucratic imperative for imposing simple administrative schema and its monopoly on coercive force come together.

    From David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules. pp45-46,bs.1,d.amc

    • Hi Max,

      This is spot on; thanks! Questioning the Authoritah of a law enforcer is as risky as making eye contact with an unleashed pit bull.

      Law enforcers have been taught to demand immediate, unquestioning obedience. Failure to provide it invites an immediate, often violent escalation.

      • I thought it appropriate with the Christopher Garza/Hellcat article and resultant comment chain, in hindsight, I also would have been sorely tempted to just keep going as well.

      • I’m thinking of doing something stupid, going into the belly of the beast for one of its propaganda “ride along.” Stupid? I am specifically asking them to demonstrate use of (or at least discuss while riding around) no-knock, knock-and-announce, and SWAT. At some point, we need to show up on their turf and see if we can show them the errors of their ways.

      • eric, there you go again. Making eye contact with a pit bull. Putting forth that bullshit the MSM spews.

        For the umpteenth time, pit bull dogs are so named because they were great ratters. Desiring to see how well your dog stacked up pits were built and filled with rats. The dog who killed the most rats in a timed period was the winner.

        Of course, dogs being dogs, they got fired up just watching the action, and dogs being dogs, they easily got into a row with other contestants. This led to dog fighting for some owners but one trait owners ALWAYS bred for was dogs not aggressive to people, especially since coating a dog with poison led to the age old custom of washing the opponents dog before a fight. Obviously, any dog aggressive to people were culled prior to adulthood keeping the breed people friendly. Few breeds have been bred for friendliness as pit bulls.

        We’ve had the pleasure of 6 of our own pit bulls, none of which were related and none of which were aggressive to people. Oh, they’re aggressive and tough and every time one of ours killed varmints and predators we were mighty grateful.

        Many friends kids were crazy about getting to come out and play with our dogs. ..and so were their parents. More times than I can count I watched our dogs rolling in the yard with various kids including my nieces and nephews, just having a ball. Many times I seen dogs much larger than the kids have the youngsters down liking them all over and the kids laughing so hard the couldn’t get their breath. Too many times to count I’ve heard kids ask if a dog could come out to play, the very thing they most looked forward to.

        I never had a problem catching the eye of any dog…and I’ve been around all sorts of dogs. .

  8. TV shows to watch if you wish to observe real men doing real guy stuff:

    Highway Thru Hell – (Jamie Davis and Big Al Quiring)

    Ice Pilots NWT – (Buffalo Joe McBryan)

    Outback Truckers (Steve Grahame and others driving “road trains”)

    Better hurry, cause the legality of even watching these shows is probably in jeopardy.


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