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Ed Loh
Apr 1, 2007
0704_sccp_01z+project_dodge_neon_srt4+left_front Photo 1/1   |   PSSHT.

A blip of the throttle and I'm across the intersection, up the driveway, and coasting to a stop at the nearest pump. As I put the nozzle into the car, it begins again.

It starts, as it always does, with a double-take that becomes a nudge to the wife/girlfriend/whatever. She looks over and shrugs. He starts to explain, glancing back and jerking his head in my general direction. Clearly, he's not a fan, doesn't read the magazine or recognize the car. If he did, he'd come up, shoot the breeze, as readers sometimes do, and generally make my day.

Instead he does the opposite. I see the word "ricer" pass across his lips, followed by a sneer. I remain stoic and watch the pump digits spin. I've been driving the SRT-4 for a while now and have grown accustomed to this kind of vehicular discrimination, even from a dude in an Accord. It's not the first time this has happened and it won't be the last.

Pssht. Lift the throttle and the SRT-4's blow-off valve lets out a perfectly portioned bit of excess boost. It's a soothing noise, with something in its measured precision that restores my faith in American tuning. Especially in a car this fast.

But there is a downside. This pssht is heard on every lift of every shift. And outside the car, it sounds about 10 times louder. Pssht to the bank. Pssht to make my freeway exit. Here a pssht, there a pssht, everywhere a pssht, pssht.

As the owner of a pssht-equipped 240SX, I'm used to the noise. I don't mind it at all. In fact I like everything about it-except for what it brings out in others. Especially in a car this fast and furious-looking.

As I've come to figure out, some regard all this pssht-ing as an insult-like the choice words that accompany a lone middle finger. To them, it's nothing but auditory confirmation of the visual challenge laid out by our Project SRT-4's loud orange paint job, black rims, and countless stickers.

And so, I'm challenged to race twice on the way to work-both times in traffic. It's irritating, but I've learned to deal. It's not the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last.

After dinner with the girlfriend, it's time to head home. On the way to the freeway, though I'm lazily rowing through the gears, my pssht-ing catches the attention of a BMW 3 Series and a Porsche Boxster.

Mr. BMW matches speed and in my peripheral vision I catch him checking to see if I want to run. I ignore him, stare straight and ride out the gear, hopefully making it clear that I'm not interested. But my loud exhaust only eggs him on and he takes off. Ditto for Mr. Porsche. Now I'm thoroughly annoyed, the events of the day are quickly wearing down my usually stalwart resolve.

For all their flexing, Hans and Franz get caught at the next light, the one that leads to the very same freeway onramp I need to get home. I pull in behind the Porsche. He revs, I've had enough. I invoke Clause 802.1-B of my personal ban on street racing: "The rapid acceleration required to join the flow of traffic on most major Southern California freeways shall not be construed as racing."

Anybody that has ever driven in Southern California, where freeway cruising speeds regularly approach 90mph, will agree: onramps are, by necessity, legalized drag strips. To those who disagree, I refer you to the stretch of the 110 freeway between downtown LA and Pasadena.

The light changes and the conspicuously German duo race to the freeway entrance. They know what I'm up to, but it doesn't matter. I ride the Porsche's bumper through first gear and onto the onramp, I pssht into second and swing wide into the left lane. By the time I'm ready to pssht to third, I've passed both before the lanes merge and join the 405 freeway at a leisurely 80mph. Just as I'm about to enter the fast lane and ease the pedal off the floor, I look in my rear-view mirror and find the Porsche closing fast. The BMW is lost among the headlights.

At the last second, the Boxster pulls to the right and slowly passes. This time I look over while Mr. Porsche stares straight ahead. Pssht. Man, that sounds good.

By Ed Loh
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