Home » Doing 135 on 335: 1997 Chevrolet Corvette vs 2013 Dodge Challenger

Doing 135 on 335: 1997 Chevrolet Corvette vs 2013 Dodge Challenger

Sbsd 11 3 2023
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Happy Friday, Autopians! We’ve made it to the end of another week, and it’s time to have a little fun. Today’s Showdown is all about breaking the law. (No, not “Breaking The Law,” though you know me – I’d gladly turn this into a music column once in a while if David would let me, but alas. So much for the golden future.) No, today we’re talking about speed limits, and flagrantly ignoring them. It’s about my personal land speed record, set many years ago on one particular short stretch of Interstate. But more on that in just a minute.

Now, here’s where I would normally reveal the previous day’s results, and I will, in a second. But first, I have a big ol’ piece of humble pie to eat. Yesterday, I mis-identified a Saab 9-5 as a 9-3. The seller had it listed as such, and although it seemed a tiny bit hinky, I didn’t question it, and just trusted them. I was wrong, and boy howdy, did you all let me know about it, as you were right to. I mean, this isn’t hard-hitting journalism; I’m more like the “wacky morning DJ” around here, but I do have some professional pride, and I’m mad at myself for screwing up. It isn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last, but I promise you it won’t happen often.

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And as it turns out, the Saab lost anyway. It was a close vote, but in the end, the ultra-clean low-mileage Vibe took home the win, as it probably deserved to. That’s a good deal on a really nice little car.

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All right. Let’s move on. The fastest I have ever driven a car is an indicated 135 miles per hour, somewhere just north of Emporia, Kansas on Interstate 335. It was in my dad’s 1992 Ford Taurus SHO, and yes, he was in the car with me. We were driving from Chicago to Wichita; Dad let me drive after Kansas City, and encouraged me to “open ‘er up” once we hit the fabled Kansas Turnpike. This road originally had no speed limit, and Dad told me it was something of a family tradition to hit ludicrous speeds on it, even though the limit then was 65 or 75 miles per hour. I kept the needle north of 100 for quite a while, while Dad regaled me with stories of his top speeds in various cars, and my great-grandfather’s habit of burying the needle on his Chrysler 300 letter-series cars.

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It probably wasn’t wise or responsible, and it certainly wasn’t legal, but it was a wonderful bonding moment between a father and son. Some guys remember having that first beer with their dad; I remember mine smirking at me from the passenger seat and saying “Let’s see what it’ll do.”

So to cap off this week-long salute to Interstates, I wanted to find two cars near the Kansas Turnpike capable of breaking that speed, if only in theory. To do so, I had to break my normal price limits by quite a bit, but I thought you all might enjoy looking at some nice cars for a change anyway. Here’s what I found.

1997 Chevrolet Corvette – $20,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Emporia, KS

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Odometer reading: 45,000 miles

Manufacturer’s claimed top speed: 172 mph

The Chevy Corvette has always been about speed, or at least the illusion of it. Even the very first Corvette, with a “stovebolt” inline six, was fitted with triple carburetors to make more power than normal Chevy sedans of the time. And from that point forward, it was game on: the top-trim Corvette was always the fastest, most powerful car in GM’s lineup – even in the dark days of the 1970s when it barely broke 200 horsepower. But with the introduction of the C5 generation in 1997, the Corvette turned the corner from “fast” to truly “high-performance.” It introduced the now-famous LS series of small-block V8s, relocated the transmission to the rear, and featured a much stiffer frame to let the suspension do its job properly. I’ve never gotten to drive one, but I have driven C3s and C4s, and the difference between those is night-and-day; I’ve heard the jump from C4 to C5 is even greater.

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Unfortunately, the C5 has a bit of a reputation as a “boomer’s car,” largely because it was introduced just as a lot of folks who “always wanted a Corvette” reached retirement age and could finally afford one. All that world-class engineering and performance was lost on them, and a large number of C5s ended up puttering around golf courses or back and forth to the buffet restaurant. However, this preserved them nicely for second or third owners, often younger, who let them breathe a little.

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This one has only 45,000 miles to its claim, and I’m willing to bet it has never been over 70 miles an hour. Those three hundred and forty-five horses want to run; I can just sense it. And yes, I know what you all are thinking: it would be so much better with the six-speed manual. And that’s probably true, but Corvettes and automatics have a long tradition, going all the way back to the beginning. Personally, I’d be fine with an automatic Corvette. Your mileage, of course, may vary, but if it’s a manual you want, just hold on a second.

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From what I’ve seen, the price on this car is a little steep for a run-of-the-mill automatic C5, but it’s the nicest Corvette available in the area. There aren’t a whole lot of fast cars for sale in eastern Kansas at the moment, actually. But I did find one other nearby.

2013 Dodge Challenger R/T – $17,950

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter overhead valve V8, six-speed manual, RWD

Location: Kansas City, MO

Odometer reading: 84,000 miles

Manufacturer’s claimed top speed: 155 mph (limited)

Here we have a car with a reputation that precedes it, and it’s a reputation it does not deserve. The Dodge Challenger, and its longer-wheelbase sister model the Charger, are guilty by association of all sorts of antisocial acts of driving. It’s the curse of the cheap fast car, suffered by Camaros and Mustangs and CRXs and GTIs: Sign on the dotted line, drive off the lot, and go piss off other drivers. Easy as pie. The trouble is that the Challenger, like those others, is too good of a car for many of its owners. I drive this car’s more socially-acceptable sister model, the Chrysler 300, and it is a damn fine automobile. I have no doubt that this one is as well.

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The early versions of the Challenger and its siblings were cursed with a cheap plastic interior, not too far removed from Dodge’s bargain-basement Caliber model. But if that’s the last time you saw the inside of one, hold your judgment. Chrysler upped their interior game when these models were refreshed in 2011. It’s still no Lexus inside, but it’s quite a lot nicer than the old ones.

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The star of the show here, of course, is the 5.7 liter Hemi V8, a 375 horsepower twin-spark monster capable of burning the rear tires to a crisp, in this case via a six-speed Tremec manual. This is the least of the Hemis available in the Challenger; the power levels only go up from here. Automatic-equipped Challengers have some fuel-saving tricks up their sleeves, namely cylinder deactivation and fuel shutoff on deceleration; these don’t work with a manual gearbox, so this car doesn’t have them. It’s just a good old-fashioned V8 muscle car, as sophisticated as an AC/DC riff, and just as effective.

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This one can’t be accused of being subtle, either, with its R/T badges and skunk stripes, probably not the best thing for stealthy speed. But if you get caught at those speeds, you’re every bit as busted if you’re driving a beige Mercedes as you are driving this, so you might as well do it in style, I say.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am in no way condoning doubling the speed limit on rural Interstates. Or anywhere else, for that matter. The responsible place to let these monsters off their leashes is at a race track, not on the road. But it’s fun to think about; either of these cars would reach the speeds I hit in that poor old SHO a lot more easily and quickly than it did. If you were to try to best my speed – and again, I am not suggesting that you do – which one would you choose?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
8 months ago

Stick beats auto.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago

I guess I’ll go with the Challenger, simply because it is a desirable model (Hemi + manual) at a reasonable price where the Corvette is a lesser model at an inflated price. I’ve driven enough Challengers to not have any interest in one beyond maybe a Hellcat, but that’s also true of the C5 where it is Z06 or nothing.

Myk El
Myk El
8 months ago

Gotta go with the 6MT Challenger. Same matchup both with manual transmissions, I’m taking the ‘Vette.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
8 months ago

Great choices to wrap up the week! The Challenger looks fun, and whoever buys it will have a blast with it, but I’ll take the C5. Boomer stigma aside, Corvettes are still special. And I think Tucker’s right; this one needs to be exercised.

VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
8 months ago

I was tempted to choose the Dodge due to having a manual. . .but, three words. . .pop-up head lights. (Or maybe that is four. . .) Either way, went with the vette for that reason alone.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
8 months ago

The fastest I’ve been on anything was around 155 on my ‘09 BMW K1300GT on a long straight backroad. That monster pretty much ruined fast cars for me. All that said, I’ll take the poster child for jackassery for my top speed run: The Challenger.

Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
8 months ago

I have left foot problems, so me and manuals don’t get along well anymore. Plus I am a big fan of the C5 and C6 generation Vettes, so Vette it is.

Isis
Isis
8 months ago

That’s Z06 money for a C5. . . manual Challenger all the way.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
8 months ago

Both these cars suffer from a rather over generous posterior dimensions in my opinion. Not really a fan of either, but the Mopar has better paint and a manual, so I guess I vote for it without much enthusiasm.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Okay
Speed. Corvette
Color. Dodge
Tranny Dodge
Comfort Dodge
Price. Dodge
But as for never driven over 70mph Corvette my mother was still getting in the 90 when she was in her 80s.
As for me it’s not the fastest I ever went but 100 mph in a modified VW Bus, with 9 passengers was about the scariest I ever went.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

That’s bonkers! I once had a Type 2 with a destroked racing motor which the PO told me would do 100. I cannot attest to that as my nerve gave out around 85: it didn’t feel good and I live in Virginia. You have my respect —and I’m glad you survived

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Yes you are right it is bonkers, I wasn’t driving and the floating at 100 was scary as shit. The customization was all motor. I never road in that particular guys cars again though he was a friend. It felt more boat than car.

JDE
JDE
8 months ago

Manual Challengers mean no MDS to deal with, and it is a fair price for what it is I think. The Vette if it were another color and a manual would be the correct choice for me though, I already have a 6 speed 2013 SRT8 Challenger, and do not need another.

Timbuck2
Timbuck2
8 months ago

I love the c6 but the automatic is what made me choose the challenger. I don’t mind automatics at all but the manual just adds to the experience, especially in a muscle car like the challenger.

Archer
Archer
8 months ago

It’s gotta be the doge, a silver, auto Vette is only made for old men and I’m too young to get my mid-life crisis car
I would never want to be seen in one but I want to drive one so bad and just do burnouts all day long.
Fastest I’ve ever gone was recently in my first car, a 2015 Golf Wagon. I was driving through CT and hit 120 for a few seconds before I chickened out. Got up to 110 later in the road trip too. It’s crazy how stable it was at speed, just rock solid. I’ve driven my friends ’20 Corolla at about 90 and it was shaking and moving around enough to soil some undies.

Last edited 8 months ago by Archer
Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
8 months ago

Old joke in poor taste…What’s the difference between a Corvette and a porcupine? The porcupine has the pricks on the outside! I’ll take the 6 speed manual please! Mopar all the way. And a back seat! Lol ???? PS. Mopar….Money or Parts are ready! Or ..My Old Pig Ain’t Running!,

Mike
Mike
8 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

I’ve only heard that awful joke said with a BMW!

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

BMW…Break My Wallet

Jon S
Jon S
8 months ago

I’d go for the challenger, like most people are at the moment. Not only is it a manual but the more recent corvettes are so much better than this model that I’d regret putting in any money in one other than the mid engine one.

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

I don’t hate C5’s, but there’s nothing really special about that one for 20K. Plus the C6 wheels are a negative for me.

Challenger will just be more fun, and it still pretty much looks like a new car.

Fastest I’ve ever gone was in F-Bodies. I got my 88GTA L98 up to 135-ish once, it had more in it, but any more throttle just triggered the transmission kickdown. Later on I had a 98 Formula six-speed that didn’t have that problem, and I kissed 140 before backing off. Still had plenty more.

I currently still have a ’00 Formula A4, that one’s been up to 104mph, which was its trap speed at the dragstrip.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

Neither of these cars appeals to me, but if you’re gonna hold a radar gun to my head, I’ll take the Challenger.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
8 months ago

The Challenger isn’t a “boomer car” as well? I mean the whole thing was designed to appeal to people who were around with the original Challenger was kicking ass in 1970 and they either had one or wished they had one.

In general I’d rather have the ‘Vette. But who wants an automatic Vette? Maybe if it was a convertible I’d be more inclined to take the AT. I guess the Challenger would be more fun, but I don’t really want to be seen in one.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago

According to the Colorado State Patrol we were doing 146mph in a 1970 Road Runner. Not sure about that but my friend ended up losing his license for 6 months for it.
I’ll take the Mopar because all my Jorts are in the washing machine. YMMV

World24
World24
8 months ago

I chose the Challenger, even though I’m gonna stall that thing QUICKLY. (Tried it twice on two different 2010 B5 Blue R/T’s, was not fun. Bad set-up tbh).
Fastest I’ve ever knowingly gone was seemingly 120mph in my Compass. Speedo goes to 120, and I saw it pegged there, but it’s apparently limited to like 117, of which I’ve hit too…. more then once.
I’ve definitely been in cars that can go faster, but I never saw the speedo’s while I was riding passenger, so I can’t definitively say how fast they went.

Last edited 8 months ago by World24
TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
8 months ago

Both of these make me realize that I’m not about to afford a used version of either of them any time soon 🙁

Gubbin
Gubbin
8 months ago

I’m getting Cholly the Challenger and putting a dazzle camouflage on it.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

I love C5s, but if I’m dropping 20 grand on one, it’s gonna be manual, and it’s gonna be a droptop. I’ve seen many for far less money.
As for the Mopar, the only downside is that the one-step-up engine was available with a manual, and it’s a 110 hp bump. But still, 375 is more than enough to end up in jail.

The fastest I’ve ever driven is about 115, on I-80 east of Reno, ganged up with four other drivers, and we did at least 105 all the way to Winnemucca. The fastest I’ve ever ridden in a car is about 150, in my buddy’s air-cooled 911, on Square Barn Road, which in those days was desolate and a popular place to go fast. Danny Bonaduce used to do so in the Viper he got when he worked for AM1000 in Chicago.

DaJarBot
DaJarBot
8 months ago

That was my thought, if the Corvette was a manual it would the easier choice. I’d trust someone who has maintained and kept a car from 1997 more than a 10 year old Challenger.

At the end of the day, if you are dropping 20k on a fun toy why limit the fun with a 90’s automatic.

Patrick Szczypinski
Patrick Szczypinski
8 months ago

Square Barn, if it’s the same one, is thoroughly suburban but still popular for fast driving. I watched someone in a two door Caddy CTS blast by some other non-descript sedan doing what had to be near 80. Dangerous as hell.

Though 150 in a 911 would have been wild… You gotta get out west near Seeman or Union Road to do anything like that out here anymore.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

Seeman, Union, and Hemmingsen make a half decent road course.

Patrick Szczypinski
Patrick Szczypinski
8 months ago

Ha! Indeed, that’s my usual “responsibly have fun in the 944” loop when staying local.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

Enjoy it while it lasts, will be subdivided soon.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
8 months ago

Challenger for me!

The fastest I ever drove was in my 1960 Chevy El Camino.

My best bud, Tim, and I went out to see how fast it would go. It wallowed and hopped on the deserted road we tried, so on the way back into town on wide, flat South Grandview Avenue in Odessa, TX, I decided to open her up.

I told Tim “Watch for cops. I’m gonna stand on it.”

And I did.

We were approaching an intersection, but still a ways away, and the light turned yellow. There was NO chance of the 4 wheel drums bringing us to a halt, so I just put that pedal to the metal.

The light turned red, and I glanced at the speedo. It indicated 114mph as we blasted through.

I said to Tim “Oh thank God there’s no cops!”

He replied “There’s a cop.” And pointed at the police cruiser parked in the 7/11 parking lot.

He didn’t come after us. I’m not even sure he was in the car when we flew by. But out of sheer paranoia, we immediately took my car to a friend’s house and stashed it for the rest of the day.

I don’t have the ElCo anymore, but I’m still friends with Tim. It’s been about 35 years since that incident…

My how time flies.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
8 months ago

Corvette wins for me. I am not interested in this particular Corvette (I want a manual and one that is cheaper/not as nice), but C5s are an incredible deal. They still look nice and offer modern power, reliability, and handling. I’m not sure you can find a better sports car for the money than a C5.

I also have zero interest in a Challenger. They always seem to be modified to be as loud as possible. They also seem to be driven almost exclusively by aggressive, rude jerks. I liked the Challenger when they came out, but years of seeing these things driven by dickheads has given me an exceptionally negative view of this car. I don’t want one at any price. I would prefer they did not exist at all.

Last edited 8 months ago by Stig's Cousin
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