Me, my Challenger, and the “Mod Bug.”

A while back I was bitten by the “Mod bug” on my car, fairly soon after I drove it off the lot actually. The modifications started out small, cheap, and simple. A drop in K&N filter, dash mat, a Charger air tube to get rid of that stupid “intake silencer,” and durable floor mats. After a time I became irritated at the skip shift feature on my transmission, so I started looking for a way around that. I found a 20.00 resister and wire appropriately called a “Skip Shift Eliminator.” That was ordered and plugged in to my manual transmission right away.

Right now you are probably wondering “What the heck is skip shift?!” My challenger is a 6 speed manual transmission. As an “emissions feature” Dodge, Chevy and other car companies have developed the skip shift; from 19 and 21 MPH, under certain RPM load and I think sometimes certain temperatures, when you attempt to shift out of first and in to second, the computer automatically locks out 2nd and 3rd gear, forcing you to shift in to 4th. This is supposed to bring down emissions under heavy stop and go traffic. It’s annoying.

The skip shift was my last modification for a while; then I needed new tires. Of course that is a perfect time for new rims too! After that I was way too broke to buy anything else. This last year I had a little money saved, refinanced that car for a lower payment and lower interest, and my bumper to bumper warranty expired. A voice in my head cried out LET THE MODS COMMENCE!

The first mod last year was the intake with a Cervinis Ram Air Intake. I took out the existing air filter box, the insulation material under the hood, and the fake hood scoops. I installed a different air box with a conical filter, functional hood scoops, and a panel under the hood with ducting to rout the air from the hood scoops to the air box. When you close the hood, an opening in the panel where the ducting comes together seals to the top of the air box, at least in theory. It seems to work as advertised, but the fit and finish of the air box leave a lot to be desired. I have read of other people installing a Mopar CAI in the air boxes place because it perfectly seals with the Cervinis Ram Air panel. I don’t want to spend another 350.00 on the Mopar CAI though.

At the same time I modified the brakes. Early on I warped my front rotors, which I have since found out is a common problem on the 3.6 SE and 5.7 R/T Challengers. The 6.4 SRT Challengers have upgraded Brembo brakes and they don’t warp. I installed drilled and slotted R1 Performance Rotors all the way around the car and I paired them with HAWK HPS pads. The HAWK’s dust quite a bit and they are semi metallic, so they squeal under low speed braking. However, they stop a lot better than the OEM ones.

After that I put on a Catch Can. A Catch can is basically a canister filter that goes between the EGR valve and the intake manifold. It’s function is to filter out the oil that is the in the gasses that pass through the EGR valve and in to the manifold. These generation three Hemi engines lose a lot of oil in these gasses and it really gunks up the valves.

Just to make things look pretty I put stainless steel braided lines between the EGR valve, the Catch Can, and the manifold. It looks good, but now the engine cover doesn’t quite sit on right.

Next up was a Christmas present to myself; a Barton Industries Short Throw Shifter. I was going to go the traditional route and get a Hurst, but all the reviews were really bad. Evidently Hurst now farms their stuff out to China and the quality isn’t what it used to be. I received my Barton right before Christmas and of course I had to put it in that night. Same night I was supposed to meet my fiancée (then girlfriend) and the girls for dinner. No problem I thought, I read the instructions and watched the YouTube video, this shouldn’t take long.

Two hours later the sun was down, I couldn’t see, and my fiancée had to come over and hold a flashlight for me. She was of course freezing, miserable, cussing me, cussing my car, and not understanding why I was putting in this short throw shifter right now. My response: “because I want it in right now.” She was less than thrilled with me.

I had to re learn to shift my car. Strong centering spring want to bring the shifter back to the center of neutral as soon as you bring it out of a gear. I really had to concentrate to make sure I was staying in 1st and 2nd, not 3rd and 4th. Barton also claims that the shift throw is reduced 40%, I for one believe it.

As a nod to the old school shifters, I went with the classic white shift knob. It looks like an out of place cue ball in my black car, but I love its uniqueness.

The next modification came curtesy of my fiancée; as a gift she purchased a Diablo Trinity Tuner. She informed me that she was going to buy it, and I of course became excited. The tuner actually reprograms the car computer, giving you more performance, gas mileage, etc. A good human tuner can actually take the Diablo Trinity, put your car on a dyno, and give your car a personal tune. This would give you much more horse power and torque vs what the “canned tune” that is already on the Diablo will. Of course, the canned tune is a vast improvement over the stock tune.

My fiancée informed me that she was going to purchase this for me, so I of course jumped the gun and went to a website that specializes in these parts and ordered an A-pillar gauge pod mount and a Trinity adapter. The A-pillar gauge pod mount replaces the cover on your cars A-pillar with one that has a cavity built in to it to mount a gauge. My plan was to permanently mount the Trinity on the A-pillar as it has all kinds of cool gauges, a virtual drag tree, shift light, etc. When I was searching for the gauge pod I found a regular one, and a “Trinity optimized one.” Of course the optimized one was only available through one vendor, was a couple of bucks more than the regular one, and the shipping was 30.00. I went with another vendor on the regular gauge pod to pay a cheaper price and free shipping.

I received the gauge pod about and then the Trinity. I hooked the trinity up to my car, put in the canned 91 octane tune and immediately felt a difference in the throttle response and available power throughout the RPM range. I then customized the tune by making my throttle 20% more sensitive. As Challengers and Chargers have electronic throttles with no throttle linkage of any kind, you can do this. The whole car is basically drive-by-wire.

Once I was satisfied with the throttle sensitivity, I proceeded to put on the A-pillar gauge pod mount. I of course find that the gauge pod is so low on the pillar that it is impossible to correctly mount the trinity. I called up the vendor and they tell me I really should have gone with the Trinity optimized gauge pod from the other vendor. I can send their gauge pod back, but it is a 15% restocking fee, so I won’t get my full 230.00 back. I pull it out, send it back, and order the one I should have ordered. Instead of saving myself 35.00, I ended up costing myself about 50.00 more.

The new gauge pod is in, the trinity is mounted, and it looks good.

Next up was a ported throttle body. OEM throttle bodies are 80mm; I went with a throttle body ported out to 87mm. I went with what I was recommended by the company. I’m not sure if it is doing much of anything HP or Torque wise, but the throttle feels even more consistent now. Either that or it is my imagination trying to justify the purchase. I’m told it will really make a difference if I put on a better exhaust manifold, which I plan on doing some day.

At the moment, sitting in my garage are a set of new spark plugs, and a 180 degree thermostat. The new thermostat is so that I don’t burn my fan up with the new 91 octane tune as the tune changes the fan settings. The Hemi engines are prone to heat soak too, especially out here in the Mojave. A cooler thermostat definitely won’t hurt.

The spark plugs need to go in soon too as I am at 38,000 miles and they are supposed to be changed out at every 30,000 miles.

On order, and probably the last things I will buy for my car this year, are strut braces. They serve to stiffen the suspension on the car and help with body roll and flex. I bought one for the front that mounts in the engine compartment, and an arched one for the back, that mounts in the trunk. They have better ones for the rear, but they take up more trunk room than I want to give up.

What’s all this leading to and why are you doing this you may ask? Well, more modifications! Each mod builds on the next and improving performance. I plan on a whole suspension kit, stainless steel brake lines, shorty headers, better cat back exhaust, and someday a high performance cam and cylinder heads. I live in California so I can’t put high flow catalytic converters on, or I would.

During all of this, I do plan on driving some time trials, the Mojave Mile, autocross, etc. Although I have to say that this big beast of a car on an autocross, amongst Miata’s, Evos, BMW’s, (etc.) will be interesting.

Also…well… I just want to. What better reason should I have?

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Categories: Cars, Life, money | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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