Day 2: LA/San Diego

We aimed to hit the road early today, but jet lag kicked in and we struggled out to get breakfast at Denny’s at 9am. While many poo-poo Denny’s, I got a breakfast of hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausages, French toast, coffee and fruit juice for 8 bucks. No complaints there. And knowing what lay ahead today, we wanted a breakfast that would last us all day (and it did!).

And the price for all you can eat pancakes? $4...
And the price for all you can eat pancakes? $4…

After yesterday’s fun with the blue manual Challenger, our hopes were fading on finding the right car today, but the clock is ticking so we need to get on and find one.

First port of call was a Dodge dealer 30 minutes south of LA. The car is a Challenger RT Plus which is what we are looking for, but with an added Classic RT package which changes the wheels and adds a few decals. In black with shiny wheels, it still looks good. My main reason for wanting to check this car is that it has red leather, and I lurv red leather in a car. It also has a sunroof and manual gearbox. While I’m not against an auto, I still love driving a manual V8. You can make a manual V8 do more fun popping noises on the overrun than you can with an auto (probably a good enough reason right there). This black car has the space-saver spare removed, and a massive, optional $1400 Harman Kardon stereo amp and bass unit in its place.

New Camaro anyone?
New Camaro anyone?

Funnily, after yesterday’s fun with an ‘intrusive’ dealer, today’s salesman was almost absent! I initially saw him and asked to see the car. It wasn’t on the lot, so he sent someone off to pick it up. So my wife and I waited and waited…after 20 minutes, nothing. I go back into the dealership to find no one – no one at all. When I go back out to our rental, there outside the dealership is the car! We had a look over it, very nice but no keys. When I went back to see the salesman, he’s still absent along with everyone else, so I grabbed his business car and we hit the road to San Diego.

7 lanes aside!
7 lanes aside!

It’s almost unbelievable how much better American drivers are than New Zealand ones. About 80% seem to indicate, where in New Zealand it’s 20%. They will let you into a lane when you indicate, and the speed difference is enormous. Even with a posted limit of 65mph, we will do 75mph and will still be passed by people. It’s all so safe and almost relaxing. There’s no huge speed difference between cars/lanes and people just drive better than we do.

Next stop was on the way to San Diego, a small dealership with a white RT Plus with a red leather interior (again). I didn’t want to waste time here, so the manager came out to discuss pricing. They asked me repeatedly about taking the car for a drive, expecting I guess that after driving it I would pay anything for it. This Challenger is at the top-end of our budget, so after numerous ‘no’s from me and we finally got to the price – was he negotiable, as his internet price is pretty high, but I like the car. “No”. Well, that was easy! Off we went again, this time to a dealer in San Diego.

We’ve seen so many new Corvettes around LA, and they are stunning.

This was my wife’s choice of car – because of the colour. Dodge call it Plum Crazy, as it was called in the 60s when they painted Dodge Challengers in that colour. I’ve got to say it looks stunning, but most people would just call it purple.

However, this time we get the salesman who is actually nice and helpful, without being pushy. Again the car is down the road in a lot, so we wander down there and I drive the car (auto) back to the dealership. This one has done 19 miles so it’s looking mighty fine and brand new, not like yesterday’s car. My wife LOVES this car and says she wants it.

Our rental Cherokee
Our rental Cherokee

We haggled on the price, but again it’s too high for us. We need to keep in mind that our insurance (at US$400/month) is going to go up as the car’s value goes up, the USA sales tax goes up and paying GST when it lands in New Zealand will be higher too. So we must say goodbye to ‘Purple Nurple’ as my wife christened it (followers of Supernatural will understand).

Lots of bikes have flags on...
Lots of bikes have flags on…

We head back to LA, desponded that we aren’t really any closer to finding our dream muscle car at the right price.

As a treat for our trip, before we left New Zealand we booked in to see Bryan Adams in concert in LA. The seats were pretty cheap and we were only ten rows from the stage. Freaking amazing seats! The concert? Superb. As a musician and showman, he scores 10/10 for both. The crowd went wild with every song – if you get a chance to see him in concert, do it.

Let’s hope tomorrow brings the perfect car!

Check out for the up and coming book on this trip!

Previous articleUSA Road Trip (8): Time to find a car!
Next articleUSA Road Trip (10): Days 3&4 still no car…
Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.



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