Tag Archives: midwest automotive media association

Car Spot: 2023 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost

A fitting end for the Hemi and I get to drive it!

Mark and I have gotten several great opportunities to drive really fun cars but one of two came recently at a media event at Road America. We go to this annual event, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally. There the manufacturers have cars we can drive, some on Road America’s fantastic four miles. We both love this track.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost with me grinning.
Me in front of the Black Ghost. Number 7 of 300 made. Can you tell I was happy?

So we get the list of cars and on the list is the Black Ghost. Dodge has always had a knack for pounding big V8s into its cars and this one is a true classic. Besides the handling upgrades, they shoehorned an 800 hp Hemi into it. What makes this special edition so special is that it’s the final call for the Challenger and they only made 300 of them. This was number 7! I’ve never driven a car this rare and might not ever again.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost air intake
The Black Ghost has the same air intake as the Redeye.

For you Mopar fans this is a throwback to Challengers of the 70s when they offered special editions like this that rocked street racing. The 23 edition is based on the widebody SRT Hellcat Redeye model, but it boosts the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8’s output by 10 ponies to a total of 807 horsepower.

The Black Ghost appropriately comes in Pitch Black with a black faux-gator-skin roof vinyl that mimics the look of the original. It also features a chrome “Dodge” front badge, a white stripe on the rear fender, and chrome script “Challenger” badges on the grille, front fender, and rear spoiler. It rides on 20-inch Satin Carbon wheels, and stopping power comes via black six-piston Brembo brakes.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost
Big wide stripe on the rear deck similar to the original.

I know what you’re thinking, enuf yacking, what about the drive? I’m getting to it. For cars like this, we get a professional driver that rides along with us. This is fantastic because they know the track way better than we do and can give us the entry, exit, and apexes. They also know how the car brakes and where we should pour on the beans to get the best experience driving a fantastic car.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost interior
The office on my four-mile jaunt.

Ok so here’s how it works. We line up at the end of the pit road and are let go at intervals so that we don’t overtake the car ahead of us. There’s no passing on the track. We are reminded several times before we go out and reminded that this is not a race. We also want to give the car back to its manufacturer at the end of the day in one piece.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost hood pin
Hood pins flopped in the breeze on my Road America run.

So I get the green light and immediately mash the throttle down to the floor. Good Geeze! The tires screeched, engine sounds roars, and I get pinned back into my seat! My reaction was to start laughing hysterically like I was on a thrill ride. Btw, I love those. We rocket toward turn one where I put on the binders and turn in. A turn later we’re rocking down the Moraine Sweep but slowed down by a cone kink. Think I hit 125. But bleeding off the speed we picked up and then making a hard left and up under the Corvette bridge then another hard left and then a right to Hurry Downs building up speed and hitting the binders again hard and turning right into the long sweeping Carousel. Here my coach tells me to apex late in the turn. Now we blast to the kink where there’s another set of cones to slow us down. I can almost hear the car asking me why.

Such a fun and race course
2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost on the track at Road America
Me in the Black Ghost just past the Johnsonville bridge heading into the Carousel.

Our last chance to hear the engine roar is Kettle Bottoms where I get the speedo to hit 129 before another cone kink then onto Canada Corner, turn 13 and finally turn 14, up the hill and back into the Paddock area where the ride ends. Wow, what a ride, what a ride.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost with SRT branding
SRT badging throughout.

Smiling ear to ear it’s a ride I will never forget. Oh did I mention that the car I drive before that was a brand-new Corvette? Another fantastic ride but the cars couldn’t be farther apart. The Vette is more like a professional athlete, with toned muscles, and can run a 440 in 45 seconds while the Challenger had plenty of muscle but was more like a hooligan you’d find in an Irish bar. Both you’d want in your corner as one of your buddies.

RELATED Video: I drive the Dodge Durango Hellcat

Which would I buy, if money was no object, and it is? Probably would lean towards the Corvette since it’s the total package even though it costs more. It’s fast, handles like a dream, and looks so darn cool. It is a car I have lusted over since it came out in 2019. Mark and I had one out on a Sunday drive up to a local small airport I frequent and the trip was magical. It had just come out and everyone looked at it. Yup, we were the cool guys in the new Vette for one day.

2023 Corvette at Road America before my drive
Me right before my ride in the Vette.

If you’re lucky enough to have 100 grand and be one of 300 Black Ghosts, you will own a piece of history since this is the end of the line for the Challenger and the Hemi. You can thank the numbskulls in Washington for essentially making cars like this go away and try to replace them with EVs claiming that will save the planet, which it won’t. Yup, I’m wearing my feelings on my sleeve but for me once you take an internal combustion engine out of a car and replace it with an electric, it has no sole. Sure you get great acceleration but there’s no rumble at start up and roar when you punch the gas peddle. Cars like the Black Ghost will rocket in value in the coming years while a comparable EV will just fade into the sunset.

2024 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost
It comes in Pitch Black with a black faux-gator-skin roof vinyl that mimics the look of the original. It also features a chrome “Dodge” front badge, and chrome script “Challenger” badges on the grille, front fender, and rear spoiler. It rides on 20-inch Satin Carbon wheels, and stopping power comes via black six-piston Brembo brakes.

Thanks for stopping by and putting up with my politics but hey, I’m a Petrohead. Check back next Friday for another one of my spots along with some of its history. Have a great weekend.


New Toyota Supra is super fun

We’re on a mission from God….

joliet prison, the blues brothers, jake, elwoodA  line out of the 1980 hit movie The Blues Brothers and totally appropriate for this blog entry as Mark and I traveled to the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s (MAMA) Fall Rally just outside of Joliet, IL, home of the Joliet Prison where after his release from prison, Jake (John Belushi) reunites with his brother, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) — collectively known as the “Blues Brothers.”  Yep, we drove right past the front door. Continue reading New Toyota Supra is super fun

MAMA 2019 Spring Rally: Car heaven for auto journalist

So many cars to choose from

Mark and I love this event. We get to hang out at our favorite race track, Road America, that’s practically in our backyards. For two days, May 22-23, we attended The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) annual Spring Rally.

We joined about 100 other automotive journalists from all over the country driving the latests from the automotive manufacturers on the track, on the streets of Elkhart Lake, off-road and even some autocross. The manufacturers tell us they love this event because of the quality time they get to spend with all of us and receive lots of feedback on their vehicles. So, what to hop in first? Hop in and go for a ride.

There were some other fun cars that we took for a spin that we did not capture on tape like the Ford Mustang GT 350 that had the best growl of any of the cars. The color kind of reminds me of the Mustang that Parnelli Jones drove in the Trans-Am series during the late 60’s.

Dodge had two of their Challengers, the Redeye and this Hellcat Scat Pack. The Redeye was pulled from the track because of the slick conditions that morning so we hopped in the Scat Pack. I’ve driven one before but not at Road America. The 485 hp Hemi did not disappoint and even though they did their best to keep our speeds down at Kettle Bottoms I was able to get the Challenger up to 127 mph.

We closed out the afternoon both with an opportunity to drive this brand new Acura NSX. If the other cars we drove were cuts of meat, this was the prime rib. So smooth to drive. We both decided to start saving up to buy one but at $199,000, it’s going to be a while.

By far the best paint job of any vehicle at Road America. It takes the factory 5 days to paint this Acura TLX PMC edition. It was almost like you could put your hand in, it was so deep.

Time to do some off-roading

Mark and I split up in Thursday morning with him going to do so auto cross on Road America’s go kart track while I headed for some good muddy fun at the off road course. There, I got my second chance to drive the new Jeep Gladiator.

Related: Read about my first drive of the Gladiator.

This Rubicon edition was the most capable of the test vehicles in its class, which included the Chevy Bison and Ford Ranger. While the course wasn’t as large as the one I drove on in California, it had a good mix of mud ruts and hills. It’s not just me that has this love fest going on with the Gladiator, my fellow automotive journalists liked it as well as it was one of three nominated for MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year. There was also a Gladiator Overland Edition (MSRP* Starting at $40,395) went for a spin in enjoying the twisty roads around Elkhart Lake along with the sunny day topless. Good windy fun especially remembering how Wednesday morning was so damp and cold.

Next I grabbed the Gladiator’s little brother, the Renegade, to get dirty. I have been really sceptical of this Jeep since it’s based on the Fiat 500 L which has a choppy ride and interior that looks like it assembled with a bunch of cheap plastics found in a dumpster. Not so with the Renegade. This Trailhawk edition came with the 177 hp, 1.3L turbo mated to a nine-speed automatic. Other features included, all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, Select-Terrain System with rock mode, and 17 inch wheels among other goodies. With the Trailhawk package, a running ground clearance of 8.7 inches, approach angle of 30.5 degrees, break over angle of 25.7 degrees, and departure angle of 34.3 degrees, it’s clearly the most off-road capable against its competitive set which includes the Mazda CX3, Chevy Tracy, its cousin the 500L, Honda HRV, and Kia Soul. It’s optional My Sky Power Retractable/Removable Panels added $1,595 to the $27,290 base.

The beast of the group, and by far muddiest, at the event was the Ram Power Wagon. There was no mud hole or hill that challenged this bad boy. I even had a couple off opportunities to goose it and heard its 6.4L, 410 hp Hemi growl.

While the Ford Raptor is built for speed, the Power Wagon is built for rock crawling. Its approach, departure, and breakover angles are big, 33.6, 26.2, and 23.5 degrees. It has 14.3 inches of ground clearance and can ford up to 30 inches of water. Oh, in case you were to get stuck, it comes with a Warn winch that can pull 12,000 lbs, almost a third more than the truck weighs. If you’re into rock crawling, at $53,015, it’s a good deal.

Mark and I both had a chance to take the Kia Telluride out for a spin. I was impressed with Kia’s biggest SUV yet. It reminded me of my 2017 Dodge Durango but I think the interior in the Telluride is nicer. Its 291 hp V6 was very responsive, it had a really quiet ride, and the latest tech. Pricing ranges from $31,690 all the way up to $43,490. If you’re in the market for an SUV, the Telluride is for sure a consideration.

It’s hard to say goodby

So Mark and I were done for the day but took one last look at some of the cars that were in the paddock area taking a break from the racing event going on Thursday. We saw this Corvette that looked as if someone had lobbed paintballs at it. I kind of liked it. Then there was this cherry Mustang, and finally the official car of Road America, the Corvette in Elkhart Lake blue.

Cool School, Cool Tool

Most fun I ever had at school

2019 dodge challenger, challenger widebody, challenger hellcatThat’s because the topic was one of my favs, cars, and in this instance I would learn how to drive one on racetrack. The car was the 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody and the racetrack, GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. It was hosted by an organization that I belong to, Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and sponsored by Dodge and Jeep who also provided the 2019 vehicles myself and the other automotive journalists would drive. They included several Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebodys, a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Dodge Durango SRT and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. My ride for the day would be this cool blue Challenger. “The MAMA Track School was started as an effort to ensure MAMA members are properly skilled and comfortable when driving on a racetrack, especially since we host two popular track events each year,” said MAMA President Jill Ciminillo.

More zoom, less dollars

With the debut of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody, not only do buyers get the Hellcat Widebody’s aggressive looks, it also costs them about 40% less. Sure you could sell buying this car to your wife because it can carry a couple of kids in the back but don’t tell her that this is probably the best Challenger suited for the track. Shhhh!

2019 dodge hellcat widebody, dodge hellcat, challenger widebody, hellcat, 392 v8, hemi

The Scat Pack is an option you would add to the R/T-level trim, and it’ll set you back around 42 grand but that includes the destination fee and a gas-guzzler tax of $1,000 on manual-transmission equipped models. You can avoid the tax by getting the automatic transmission but in the end it becomes a wash. The optional automatic transmission avoids the gas-guzzler tax, but its extra cost dodge challenger, 2019 challenger widebody, widebody hellcatnegates any advantage there. The Widebody package adds another $6,000, throw in leather interior, technology packages and other fun stuff will continue to bump the price well into the high $50,000 challenger hellcat, dodge hellcat super beerange. However, take notes, it’s  nearly $20,000 less than a fully loaded Hellcat and provides about as much fun even though the Hellcat has 232 more horsepower.

On the track

R/T Scat Pack plus Widebody equals FUN! Under the hood is the 6.4-liter Hemi V8, putting out 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Add the 305mm Pirelli P Zero rubber that comes as part dodge challenger, 2019 challenger widebody, widebody hellcatof the Widebody package and it’s good for zero-to-60-mph in roughly four seconds when equipped with the eight-speed automatic in the car I drove.

Scat Pack models get a specially tuned version of the three-mode adaptive suspension system that uses stiffer front springs, special shocks, larger sway bars at both the front and back, and big six-piston Brembo front brakes and makes this a fun drive. I experienced this first-hand on the two-mile track with driving instructor Elvis Komskis  from CGI Motorsports.  Our track training session covered everything from braking techniques, vehicle weight management, vision instructions and appropriate driving position. First Elvis drives showing me the course, then I drive.  Then we head back and he shows me way to improve in the sessions that followed.

While I can drive Road America blind folded, at least in the beginning, I drove at GingerMan Raceway like I had one on. But I eventually got the hang of it and managed not to harm Elvis in the process.  The layout simulates the full spectrum of driving situations: high-speed straights and short sprints, long sweeping corners and tight apexes, heavy and light braking, and elevation change. It’s a fun course!

The Scat Pack Widebody is a fun car combining the Challenger’s retro styling and the road of a Hemi. It makes for a great track car and gives up very little in terms of everyday drivability to get there. OK, now go sell your wife.




















For those that admire the Challenger’s retro style and Hemi roar but have pined for a sharper instrument, look no further. While it’s still more GT than sports car, the Scat Pack Widebody proves that this big coupe can hold its own when given the right tools to work with. And, .

Road America test drives

Car heaven at Road America

Nobody ever has to ask a second time if Mark and I want to attend an event at Road America. For us, the track, located in Elkhart Lake, Wis., is one of the most fun locations we visit in the automotive world. We were among the 80 plus media members from across the country given the opportunity to check out more than 90 new vehicles at the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s (MAMA) annual Spring Rally held May 23-24. Continue reading Road America test drives