A different take on Challenger vs. Camaro – Click above for high-res image gallery

The original ponycar wars have boomeranged back after forty years. Ford started it all with a retro-tasty Mustang, and Dodge and Chevrolet have rolled out new versions of the Challenger and Camaro to get in on the frenzy. Looking at the window sticker of any of these cars may seriously depress you. Your retired boomer Dad could swing it as a way to recapture the time before his potential was all used up, but you're not going to step into one of these things if the ink on your diploma has been dry for less than a year.

We have uncovered a way for anyone to get their hands on a Camaro for a price that would please even your paperboy. Better yet, it comes with its own instructional course, so you know what the heck you're doing. It's not exactly a Camaro of the vehicular variety, but HSN's limited-edition Esteban Camaro guitar (almost sold out!) can grab attention in its own right. What's more, those halcyon days of carburetors and bias ply tires are at your fingertips – classic rock tablature abounds. We figured that we'd try out the guitar with the potential to make you a rock star and compare and contrast it with the Dodge Challenger SRT8, a vehicle that nudges the driver that much closer to being chased by paparazzi. Think it's an even, if category-bending matchup? Hit the jump to find out.

Photos copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.


Both the Camaro and the Challenger sport shades of red broken up by sporty striping. The Challenger's body sculpting is and always will be beautiful. The original Challenger lines have been carefully adapted to a much larger platform with excellent results. We've been worried lately that Chrysler's needle has skipped out of its storied styling groove, but the Challenger's bodywork proves that Auburn Hills can still do it.

Thankfully, only the guitar has a mural painted on its back side, no 1970s-throwback screaming chickens on the MoPar. Both are limited editions, as well, though we didn't find a numbered plaque on the Challenger, the Esteban Camaro that HSN gracefully provided to us is number 7,625 of 25,000. It sports a single cut-away neck, a nod to being able to tear it up on rock leads, and the size is comfortable. At the top of the headstock is a Chevrolet bowtie, and the fretboard is inlaid with faux mother of pearl lettering that spells out CAMARO. Overall, the automotive detailing on the guitar is subtle.


Hemi. Six-point-one liters. It says so right on the hood, what more do you need to know? The modern Chrysler HEMI is one of the best V8 engines, bar none. Power is there right up to redline, and the sound that bellows from the twin box-tips out back is second only to hearing your child's first cries. The rhythm and roar of a V8 certainly pairs well with a 1-4-5 chord progression.

The guitar has a piezoelectric pickup and a preamplifier sporting three-band EQ and a volume knob. The single TS jack isn't as cool as the Challenger's dual exhaust, but having an active preamp allows you to supercharge your sound by plugging into your favorite amplifier. In light of the way the Challenger can roast its tires, we figured a Smoky Amp would be a good fit, and when we wanted finer control, we found a variety of colors available by using a Vox Brian May amp that was on hand.


Both the Esteban Camaro and the Challenger SRT have light controls. There's much more tactile feedback from the guitar than is offered up by the Challenger's steering wheel. Overall, it seems that the Challenger, while capable of hooning, is very well suited to laying back and cruising as well - playing rhythm, if you will. A sixth gear that puts 70mph highway cruise down in the 2,000 rpm realm makes for a car with long legs, and the comfortable surroundings aid and abet drivers wanting to try a Cannonball.

While the Esteban will allow you to go as fast as your fingers can handle, there are definite dynamic limits to the Challenger. In terms of unlimited performance potential, the guitar has it all over the car. Sound is easily variable, too, just by changing up strings - a lot faster than taking the motor apart and twiddling with it. The neck of the guitar fits many hands easily, though the strings are spaced a little closely down at the far end. The most perfect control out of either of these is the Challenger's shifter. An ergonomic masterpiece, the throwback pistol-grip fits just right, and it doesn't hurt that the rest of the transmission operates slickly and teams with a forgiving clutch.


And here's the rub. The Challenger SRT: $45,000. The Esteban Camaro: $239.95 with a gig bag, chord chart, picks, strap, and a 10 DVD instructional video series. Automakers could learn a thing or two from HSN, as well. We called to try this guitar out and in 2 days it was sitting on our porch.

GM is backed up pretty solidly trying to fill orders on the Camaro, so some people will be waiting until next year to take delivery. While certainly not an apples to apples comparison, at least HSN makes it possible for you to own a $300 Camaro without it meaning a rusty beast with Flinstone floors and rod knock audible into the next county.

Photos copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

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