Bernard A. Drew | Our Berkshires: Chargering ahead in a 2018 Dodge

By Bernard A. Drew

GREAT BARRINGTON — Did you see the new wheels parked in the driveway? The 2018 Dodge Charger SXT?

Sleek. Glistening black. Two-hundred-ninety-two horsepower V-6 Hemi engine.

Mine. For a day, anyway. The vroomiest car I’ve ever driven.

The dealership where I had my humble (though it is a Turbo 2.4 LE model) 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser windshield wiper motor replaced (another victim of the self-destructive battery that also took out the starter motor during that brutal cold snap) couldn’t get the computer module to agree with the car’s computer — and arranged a rental for me.

At their expense. At the rental office I was offered a Challenger or a Charger. I looked at two young men at the next window and raised an eyebrow. “Challenger,” one said. “Challenger,” the other agreed.

It ended up being the Charger when the clerk asked if I wanted two-door or four. I opted for four, out of habit. It was the Charger.

It was a no-nonsense beast on the road and I had it up to 47 mph on the drive home!! (We’re talking Berkshire highways here. A muscular car. Out-of-state license plates.

You think I’m going to gun it?) Negotiated hay bales Speed has never been my driving aspiration.

I learned to motor in the hayfield behind our house in Windsor. When I was tall enough to reach the pedals, one summer, Dad installed me in the cab of the 1953 International flatbed truck. He put the truck into first gear, low range, and fingered the throttle to about 3 mph.

I steered between the hay bales as the estate workmen hefted the future cow feed onto the rear. I took driver’s education at Wahconah Regional High School, but mostly sat in the back seat as the instructor quickly recognized that I knew all I needed to know about driving and gave the most road time to the Dalton novices. During summers off from university studies I worked for Dad at what is now Notchview Reservation.

Sometimes I was sent with the 3-yard 1959 International dump truck to the gravel bed in Dalton for a scoop or two of bank run to spread on driveways. One time the gatekeeper at the gravel pit chewed me out for going fast on Main Street and spewing stones along the way. I got out of that accusation easily enough; it wasn’t me.

I took the back streets to avoid Main Street and get onto Route 9 to head east up the mountain, I told him. It was some other truck. I once drove a truck to Pittsfield for its annual safety sticker.

Nesbit’s was the inspection station of choice, as it had room to take trucks. Remember the place? It was across from Berkshire Medical Center.

There’s a parking deck there now. I worked for Buttenheim Publishing’s Mart Magazine in Pittsfield for two years. I drove back and forth in Dad’s 1959 Studebacker Lark for a couple of weeks.

Nothing against Studebaker, but that first Lark model had barely enough horsepower to get out of its own way, never mind climb Route 9 to Windsor. Dad had stepped up to an Olds 98 by then. I purchased a second-hand Dodge Dart.

Or Plymouth Valiant. I forget which. I had them one after the other, and except for the nameplates, a two years difference in their ages, they were essentially the same.

I wore them down. I replaced them when I had to — in one case after Johnny Pegorari of Housatonic welded steel slats onto the exhausted torsion bars to get a couple thousand more miles. After that I had a Chevrolet Citation (that’s the one I repainted John Deere green).

And a golden Oldsmobile Ciera. And a fire-engine red Olds Trans Am. Anyway, at the auto rental agency, the clerk handed me the “keys” to the challenger.

There’s actually no key, as most of you with newer vehicles probably know. I didn’t. It’s an electronic fob.

Step on the brake and push the button and the engine purrs. Automatic headlights. Backup video.

No first or second gear, just D for drive. (I learned later about moving the stick shift to the left.) I could monitor air pressure in the tires! They stayed inflated.

I was OK. (Fun to watch the tire pressure fluctuate, 38, 37, 36, 28 — I later learned I could change the screen and watch some other automobile pulse rate.) Phone call. New wiper motor works, but computer module won’t talk to the rest of the car.

Keep the Charger. It takes a couple of days for a new part to be shipped from PT Parts Central. Cranky computer

Phone call four days later. Second computer module installed. PT was ready.

Turned in the rental. Picked up PT. Drove about 5 miles.

Transmission froze in low gear. Radio didn’t work. Crawled back to the dealership, making it just before closing time.

Quick diagnostic. No fast fix. New rental arranged.

This one was a two-year-old Toyota Yaris. Far fewer amenities. My knees banged under the steering wheel.

No love affair with this car. Phone call. Third computer module installed.

PT ready. Turned in rental. Picked up PT.

PT happy to be home again. Wipers work. Then one day, the remote control wouldn’t turn on the Spectrum magic TV box .

Bernard A. Drew is a regular Eagle contributor. If you’d like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us[1].

We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form[2] and submitting it to the newsroom.


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