Fantastic cars aside, the most important thing I’ve gained in my decades of attending car shows are the numerous close friends I’ve made along the way.
Even if I root for a different team, vote for a different party or prefer different music than someone, if they seriously dig cars, then they’re okay by me. Chances are we’ll even become friends solely on that basis alone, because if they’re able and willing to chat endlessly about their favorite cars or some obscure bit of minutiae about them, then we’re kindred.
On my first day in attendance of the 14th annual SpringFest Modern Mopar Show in Pomona, California this past March, I arrived at the Doubletree hotel to find a host of cars being prepped for the show the next day. Challengers, Chargers, 300s and even a Jeep SRT Grand Cherokee or two were there, being slavishly wrenched on and lovingly detailed.
My attention was immediately drawn to the hottest car there - a brand, spanking new F8 Green 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye Widebody - and quickly made the acquaintance of its owner, Tom Ledoux.
And just like that, I had made another great new friend, as Tom is a serious car guy. To make matters even better, Tom is a serious Mopar guy. To top it off, Tom is an absolute Challenger nut. And that, my friends, is my kind of fella.
Within seconds, Tom and I were off, on what normal people would consider an obsessional and even pedantic discussion of all the details of his Redeye and the story of how he came to own it and get it to SpringFest. So immediately taken was I of Tom and that mean, green machine of his, that I thought I’d share a bit about him and his car with all with you here.
Tom, a 52-year-old Senior Systems Engineer with Dell Technologies, hails from Pearland, Texas, a town just outside of Houston. A car guy from an early age, Tom became a devotee of Mopars in his teens.
“I have pretty much always been a Mopar person. When I was in college, my best friend joined the Marines Corp and had to sell his 1973 Dodge Charger. I bought it from him and have been a Mopar enthusiast pretty much ever since. I kept that ’73 Charger all through college and sold it when I graduated, which I now regret almost every day.”
Tom bought and sold many Mopars over the years, and even added a 1998 SVT Mustang Cobra into the mix for a bit.
“I pretty much like all muscle cars. Growing up in the 70s and going to the drag strip south of Houston when I was young really made me fall in love with all of the cars of that era. I really like that all three of the big US automakers have modern versions of those muscle cars.”
It makes sense then when Dodge introduced the retro styled Challenger in 2008, Tom knew straight away that he had to have one. There was one caveat though - the 2008 model year was only offered with a five-speed automatic, and like me, Tom is stick-and-clutch kind of guy.
“I decided to wait until 2009 when the 6-speed manual transmission would be available,” Tom recalls. When the row-it-yourself model came out, Tom snapped up an SRT8 with the 6.1-liter Hemi. He performed a few modifications to the car, including adding 22-inch USW forged wheels, a Hurst short throw shifter, Billet Technologies engine dress up parts, a Mopar blue fuel door, a Mopar front strut bar, a Mopar cold air intake, blue Mopar fuel rails, BC Racing coilovers and Oracle blue plasma LEDs.
“I still have that ’09 Challenger,” Tom says, “and it was even named a Mopar Top Eliminator and was in the Mopar booth at SEMA in 2012.”
Tom enjoyed his ’09 immensely for several years, when in 2015, Dodge announced the release of their latest fire-breathing beast, the 717bhp, 6.2-liter, supercharged Challenger Hellcat. Once again, Tom was entranced.
“I was first in line for an order with a dealer being run by a member of Space City LX, the modern Mopar club I belong to. That was my Sublime Green Hellcat Challenger.”
Once again, Tom lightly modified his new car, including many interior and exterior cosmetic touches, as well as a set of KW lowering springs to reduce its center of gravity and a BWoody cold air intake.
Then when Fiat-Chyrsler Automobiles revealed the Dodge Challenger Demon in 2017, Tom was the first person his dealer friend called.
“He asked me if I was going to order the Demon Challenger. And while I did take my ’15 Hellcat to the track quite a bit, I don’t live close enough to a drag strip to justify a full-on race car, which is essentially what the Demon was. The race tuned suspension and smaller brakes made me decide against it.”
Tom’s dismay at not being desirous of Mopar’s latest and greatest only lasted for about a year, as Fiat Chrysler shocked him and the automotive world in general with the reveal of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye.
Essentially an amalgam of the streetable Hellcat and the track focused Demon, the folks at SRT actually managed to create a car that was better than both.
Sporting a slightly detuned Demon engine, along with about 90 percent of the Demon’s go-fast goodies, the Redeye is a tantalizing car. Its 6.2-liter supercharged, high output Hemi V8 puts out ninety horsepower more than a standard Hellcat (eighty more now that the 2019 ‘cat has been given a ten horsepower bump thanks to its redesigned ram air hood) at 797 bhp with 707 lb/ft of torque.
This was achieved by installing a 2.7-liter supercharger, .3-liters larger that the standard car’s. Additionally, the Redeye’s fuel-injection system uses two fuel pumps as opposed to one in Hellcats. Additionally, 24 other improvements including strengthened, forged rods and pistons, an improved lubrication system, and a high-speed valve train are packed into the the Redeye’s motor.
The Redeye inherits the Demon’s After-Run Chiller that keeps the circuit-cooling pump running after shutdown, and the SRT Power Chiller that uses the air-conditioning system to cool the air entering the engine. A reinforced steel prop shaft and upgraded 41-spline half shafts imported from the Demon also add to the fun.Six-piston Brembo brakes with 15.5-inch rotors up front and four-piston Brembo calipers on 13.8-inch rotors in the rear give the Redeye better stopping power than the Demon.
This was literally Tom’s dream car, save for one issue: unlike the Challenger, the Redeye is only available with an 8-speed ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission, as no commercially available manual can reliably handle the Redeye’s torque and still be covered under Fiat Chrysler’s standard drivetrain warranty.
Tom considered this, but ended up deciding that it was a minor disappointment compared to all the added power the Redeye brings to the table. Once again, Tom was hooked.
He had just begun the process of picking the equipment and options he wanted when he happened to be at the Charger Hellcat announcement at Vinsetta’s Garage. At the event, Dodge had a Challenger painted in a brand-new color: F8 Green.
“As soon as I saw that color, I knew that was it for my next car. Another friend of mine had a Plum Crazy Purple Hellcat Challenger with the Sepia interior. Once I saw how beautiful that dark tan leather looked, I was hooked on that too.”
Tom pulled the trigger on the Redeye at Allen-Samuels Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep. He loaded the car up, opting for the Widebody Package, which adds the fender flares like the Demon’s and the 20×11-inch Devil’s Rim wheels; the 27Z Package which affords the 2.62 rear and the SRT Power Chiller; the Plus Package which includes the heated and ventilated leather seats and upgraded interior trim; the Driver convenience Group which brings Blind–Spot and Rear Cross–Path Detection, High Intensity Discharge Headlamps, and Power Multi–Function Mirrors to the table; the Harmon-Kardon audio group with subwoofer; the SRT Performance Spoiler; Navigation and Grey painted brake calipers.
Then Tom waited. And waited…
“The factory took a long time to start building them. I ordered the car in early October and didn’t get a call from the dealer until late January. It felt like forever!”
Finally, the call came, and Tom picked up his brand new steed. When he saw it, it was as stunning as he envisioned it in his head.
He quickly embarked on modding the car.
“For the most part, 797 horsepower from the factory is plenty enough for me, so most of the modifications that I wanted to do were more cosmetic. I pretty much knew what modifications I wanted to make. I always paint the black lower trim pieces on the front, rear and side of my Challengers to match the body. To me, this always makes the Challenger look like it is lower to the ground.”
Once again, he opted to lower his car, again with KW lowering springs. Under the hood, Tom painted all of the plastic coolant tanks in the engine bay body color, added some Billet Technology dress up pieces and one of their oil/air separator catch cans.
In the interior he swapped out the stock seatbelts for a set of Planet Military green seatbeltsand added Xlume illuminated cup holders.
“I still have more plans for it. Mostly more cosmetic mods for now, until the factory warranty is expired. Then I may add some more horsepower to the motor. I do plan on getting some 17-inch rear wheels to see what times I can get at the quarter mile strips in Houston,” Tom confesses.
Having completed the first round of mods, Tom hopped in the car and took it on its first road trip in March, all the way to Pomona for SpringFest 14, where I met him.
Tom said he drove all 3,100 miles in his 797 hp car and managed to get 23 miles per gallon. “I’ve met so many wonderful people since I purchased my first modern Mopar 10 years ago in 2009. And I still enjoy going to car events and see new cars, new builds and new people.”
Tom tries to do at least one car event per week,and has already snagged a Best-in-Class award at the lone judged show he has entered the car in, the Space City Cruisers show.
“Houston has a very big car scene, but it’s such a big city that it’s hard to get to some of the events,” Tom muses.
Tom is blown away by his car’s power and streetability, and still loves the colors and options he chose. ” The F8 paint is what really catches people’s attention.”
When asked if he would change anything if he ordered and purchased the car all over again, Tom is resolute, “I wouldn’t do anything differently. I love it.”
I love it too. Roll on, buddy.