The HEMI Highway Tour gave Heather and me a real close look at Mopar culture. And whats most fascinating is how owners take our products and enhance them to a level far beyond what most of us could ever imagine.
While in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, we got our first look at a specific LX Club. Both North and Central Chapters of the FLXC opened up their doors at local Dodge dealerships to give us a peek at how they do things. It was breathtaking.
You can view pictures of the many modified LX cars we saw over on Dodges Flickr page. But there was one man and his creation that we feel compelled to tell you about. His name is Raymond Smith, or, as many of you know him from the forums, PLCMAN.
While Raymonds Charger R/T may appear to be simply supplemented with SRT wheels and a hood scoop, rest assured thats where the simplicity ends.
You see, the PLC in PLCMAN stands for Programmable Logic Controller. Mr. Smith just happens to be an electronic guro. So when people on the forums make suggestions on what theyd like to see in LX cars, Raymond keeps a particularly close eye on those desires. One thing that kept coming up was paddle shifters.
So, what did Raymond do, you ask? Well, he developed paddle shifters for the LX cars from the 2008 model year and back.
Done in just four months of development, Raymond was able to harness paddle shifters from an AMG Mercedes and integrate them into the Chrysler brand steering wheel. After four or five revisions, Raymond had created a fully functional paddle shift system that worked as fast as Dodges own Auto Stick, but could be operated at the touch of your fingertips, all while keeping your hands on the steering wheel.
You can purchase Raymonds system for about $210, which includes a new circuit board and the paddles.
Tough to install? Not according to PLCMAN. It only takes about four hours, he told me. I wanted this system to be simple. Simple enough for a guy in his garage to make some minor adjustments in the car, plug it in, and play.
Raymond continued, Every Chrysler performance product should have them because it totally enhances the driving experience.
And as if paddle shifters werent enough, Raymond went a step further and developed a custom circuit board that makes way for several other tweaks to the LX gang. Pictured below, a new switch plate conveniently sits right next to the shifter in the center console. You can manually control LED halo lighting, activate fans to provide cooling to aftermarket superchargers and turbochargers, and you can operate a line lock, Raymond explained. The line lock feature gives us horsepower junkies the ability to light up the rear tires with ease and hold it. This helps a lot at the drag strip when you need to heat up that rubber for your best times.
Beyond his fascination for electronic manipulation of the LX breed of cars, PLCMAN never loses focus of what his Charger does best: go fast. Little did you know, however, that Raymonds Charger is also a Two-Mode Hybrid, burning both gas and rubber. This Hybrid patch is proudly displayed on his shirt wherever he goes with the R/T.
Whats most rewarding is Raymonds passion for what he does. This is a labor of love for me, he said emphatically. I never started doing this to make a ton of money. I just try to visualize how I can enhance these products and make them more enjoyable for the driver.
Raymond added, I build all my parts one at a time with my own two hands. All my parts are from American distributors. Nothing is imported. You may pay a little bit more, but the quality is 10 times better.
In addition to having the pleasure of meeting with Raymond, we also met with a gentleman by the name of Chris Kaye. Chris is the visibly proud owner of a Brilliant Black Challenger SRT8. He had some very pointed questions about the new 2011 hardware that went beyond the scope of our knowledge, so we reached out to Adam Forte of the SRT Engineering Team for help. Adam answered all of Chris questions within 24 hours.
Chris followed up with his appreciation for the reach out and went into detail about why he chose to convert over to Dodge in the recent past. Check out his email below…
I very much enjoyed meeting Scott and yourself this afternoon while having the opportunity to review the New Challenger SRT 392 and Dodge Charger R/T. I appreciate the lengths at which Chrysler, more specifically the Dodge Brand, and your group undergo to involve the enthusiast at the grass roots level. As such, I wanted to take a minute to personally thank Scott and yourself for being so approachable, specific, and knowledgeable in answering my questions and quickly getting the answers to engineering specific questions that eluded us (input spline configuration, etc).
As I may have mentioned, I have been a die-hard GM guy for the last 18-20 years. Recent political developments had turned me off of the brand and I started to search for what my next car would be. Like many others I’m sure, I was initially drawn to the passion exuded by the Challengers design. After further research on the Internet, I discovered what was called ‘SRT Engineer Chat Sessions’ in which the enthusiast was provided access to the engineers and RECEIVED REAL ANSWERS! During this same time I came across some videos/interviews of the Designers and a Mr. Ralph Gilles. Obviously Mr. Gilles was articulate and knowledgeable, but it was his exuberance and beaming passion for the automobile that really hit home.
You see, I’m an Architect, weekend road course warrior, and unashamed gearhead. Knowing I would have access to REAL answers DIRECTLY from the Engineering team of a company lead by a fellow Designer, Driver, and enthusiast, showed a lot of promise. Shortly after a trip to my local dealer (Orange Park Dodge) I took delivery of my 2010 Challenger SRT8 6spd and said my last goodbye to my Chevrolet Corvette Z06 which the dealer had taken in trade. I have many thoughts about the Challenger SRT8, too many to list here, but the passion from the design teams spills out in its execution. I was so pleased with the Challenger and my time at the SRT Driving Experience, that 3 months later when it came time to replace my wife’s soulless transportation appliance (that she had purchased before we met), we fitted her with a new Deep Water Blue 2010 Charger SRT8 – and a new gearhead was born.
Heather, if you are able, please pass my thoughts along to the appropriate people and stress how important and influential direct grass roots contact (specifically SRT Engineer Chat Sessions, SRT Track Experience, Product Tours, etc.) were in my purchasing decisions. I used to think MOPAR guys were nuts – but I think I’ve found a new home. Keep up the excellent work and let the passion continue to flow.
Chris Kaye, AIA
We couldnt have asked for a more passionate endorsement from an enthusiast. Thanks, Chris!
Dont forget to check out more of our pictures with FLXC and all their amazing vehicles. We got along famously. So famously, in fact, that one of the members had Heather and me sign his car. See below…
Thanks to FLXC for their hospitality and showing us a great time. Your love for these products is evident and we cant wait to see you all again.