Cars – 2000 Dodge Intrepid R/T

I really liked my ’95 Intrepid. It was my first nice car, and to this day part of me regrets selling it off to buy a Neon. In 1998, the car underwent a significant redesign, apparently it was the first Dodge to be completely designed on a computer. No idea if that’s accurate but it stuck in my head.

Base model had a gutless 2.7l engine that’d grenade itself eventually with a ‘sludge’ problem. The ES had a 3.2l V6 with a decent amount of power. The R/T? The 3.5l was back with 242hp (same engine had 253hp in the 300M, albeit on 91 octane fuel). I’d actually been looking for a 300M Special but had no luck.

I’d mentioned in the previous post “don’t buy a Dodge to make someone jealous” – now this wouldn’t be the first time I did something car related to make someone jealous. Back when I had my ’95, I was dating a girl who apparently had a problem with me not spending all my cash on doing things like custom exhaust, or a beefed up stereo… Ah, teenagers.

So once that gf dumped me, I went out, cut off the exhaust and installed a pair or 12 inch subwoofers in the trunk. I also added remote start. Was always entertaining to fire that thing up when someone at the coffee shop was standing behind it completely oblivious. I did manage to make the girl jealous, and my teenage mind couldn’t be more satisfied.

So there I was, dumped again, driving a car I only bought because my ex had one. Time for a return to form. Time for a big, powerful sedan to really show her that I was doing great! Yeah – sad, I know. My search for the 300M failed, so I wound up going to a dealer in NJ to pick up this Intrepid R/T…

My 2000 Dodge Intrepid R/T

So I traded a paid-off 2001 Neon with 90k miles for a 2000 Intrepid R/T with 60k miles. The car handled great, plenty of power, but it felt… gigantic. It had definitely been in a collision at some point as the headlights didn’t match and there was paint peeling off the front bumper. The headliner was sagging in the rear too.

The saleswoman fought me every bit of the way on negotiating the price of this car as well as that of my trade-in. In the end I heard she only made $100 commission on the sale because I fought back. The finance guy had the personality of a T1000. After waiting 8 hours, I finally headed out in my used car.

On my way home from the dealer, I nearly wrecked it. I pulled off onto a side road that I’d driven plenty of times, stood on the gas, and over a rise in the road, the rear end went airborne. The car started going sideways as I corrected and kept it from wiping out when it landed. I took it pretty easy after that.

I’d been in a happier place with my ’95, and I guess part of me thought if I got another one, somehow I’d be able to drive back to that happy place. In actuality, it was just a distraction, a fun distraction, but a distraction nonetheless. Unlike my Neon, I only had one run in with a deer during my ownership of the R/T.

I’d made an observation after hitting two consecutive deer. Deer are pretty smart, they’re just very skittish. I always noticed that as I approached, they’d watch me. If I slammed on the brakes, they’d panic and dart out. If I just maintained my speed, they kept on eating grass and left me alone. I made the conscious decision to not stop for them anymore.

One evening I’m driving home from Warwick in the R/T, and as I’m pulling down into Edenville, I see it. A deer is heading straight towards the road. If I slam on the brakes, I’ll hit it. If I maintain my speed, I’ll probably hit it. So I floored it. That deer ran full speed into the side of my car, nose first, leaving a wet streak down the side. He lived.

I also learned that in my area, there was really only 1 good Dodge dealer. I would frequent the dealer across from my job for oil changes, inspections, and small repairs. Things started to get weird when at 80k miles they recommended I get a new timing belt. Maintenance schedule for the car said 105k. Sorry guys, not born yesterday.

Another reason I started using that dealership near my job is that during a particularly cold winter, my power steering pump would SCREAM. I had a service contract, so I called the NJ dealer I bought it from. They looked at the car and said it was fine. As it continued each morning, I complained. They told me “all the cars are doing it.” The dealer by my job swapped it in a day.

Of course, I should have paid attention when they tried to upsell me on a timing belt after an oil change. Months later I had to replace my pads and rotors up front. I did that in my driveway, and everything went perfectly. Calipers were fine too. Two weeks later, it’s at the dealer for an oil change and they tell me I need new front brakes. What?

I decline, head home, and check my front brakes… Still brand new. Two weeks later, metal on metal. I get the car up in the air and when I check the calipers, I see a pin hole in the piston boot (rubber bit around the caliper piston) in the same spot on both front calipers. I probably could have complained, but I couldn’t exactly prove what they did to my car.

Now all along I had my 4 door sedans, I as one of the designated car guys of the group. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed driving, and didn’t mind driving my friends around. As I got older, we hung out less at coffee shops and malls, and more at bars and restaurants. One night, I visited this absolute dive bar in NJ with the R/T with 4 friends…

We pull into the lot, I pull around a telephone pole, and park. After a few hours of drinking and merriment, and when I was sure that I was sober, we all hopped into the R/T to head home. Backing out, I didn’t notice anything until I heard the loud BANG. I forgot about the telephone pole.

Both passenger side doors were caved in. The pole was fine, the car not so much. A bunch of 20 somethings calling the police outside a bar – guarantee that wouldn’t end well, so we left. I got everyone home, and began my quest to fix the car. No police report meant no insurance option. I visited local bodyshops, all said the same thing – $900 to $1000/door.

I ended up going online, and buying two used doors from a junk yard. I think including freight, it all cost about $300. Swapping a door can’t be that hard, right? I head off to my friends house and we proceed to replace the door. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the new door aligned properly. I lost it, and gave my friends permission to punch me should I decide to undertake such a repair again.

Through a friend I found a private body repair guy up near Newburgh who would align the front door, repair the rear door, paint both, and blend everything in. It only cost a few hundred, and once done nobody could tell it was damaged.

There weren’t a lot of performance upgrades available for these cars, despite the R/T badging. The transmission also kept a solid 25% of engine power from reaching the wheels. Still, I decided to pick up a cold air kit by K&N. I can’t say it did a lot for the performance of the car, but at full throttle the engine sounded possessed. It was wonderful.

It was wonderful until I saw smoke under the hood, and smelled oil burning. Great. The joy of full throttle was replaced with anxiety and Google searches for what would cause engine oil to spray from the intake. I saw a massive repair bill inbound, reinstalled the stock air intake, and decided to trade the car in.

Back when I was looking to get rid of the Neon, I considered getting a Volkswagen GTI. I’d always liked VW’s since growing up with my Mother’s MK1 Rabbit. At that point, I couldn’t afford one. At this point though, the idea of a new car that I wouldn’t have to worry about having to repair for a long time sounded good.

Yup. To avoid repairs, I bought a new 2005 VW GTI. German engineering, right?

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