It’s that time of the year again for people around the world to give thanks and show their gratitude.
One of our hard-working Mopar powertrain engineers, Sean Simpson, who helped bring Moparians the Scat Packs, a high-performance valve spring, ported 5.7 heads, and the Drag Pak Challenger, decided to give his father, Mark “Homer” Simpson, the ultimate thank you gift: A 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT® Hellcat.
Sean captured the special surprise on video, and it’s something that we had to show Mopar Nation. It’s an unforgettable moment shared between a father and son both passionate about performance and it gives you, our fans, a chance to get to know the type of people that are behind some of your favorite Mopar products.
Sean and Homer also took the time to answer a few questions about the big surprise.
How and why did you decide to do this for your father?
Honestly, the best answer is that he deserves it and it just felt “right” in my mind. From the time my mom and I committed to the plan back in March, I would think about the moment of handing him the keys and just feel pure joy. I can touch on a great example as to why I felt that way: My dad has loved cars his entire life, but, like many old school muscle car guys, he got married and started a family, which meant the muscle cars had to go away and not come back for a while. Soon after my youngest sister was out of college, he bought a muscle car that had a built stroker motor and a little nitrous. He absolutely loved that car and would always tell us stories about comments he received from other drivers as well as hypothetical stories of beating other guys at stoplights. He sold that car and eventually we went in together on a racecar, which we raced for a couple years. At some point, we basically sold all of the racecar stuff and put all of the proceeds into our startup business. I knew he missed having a hot rod and I made a promise to myself to one day get another one in his garage. When the SRT® Hellcat came out I knew that was going to be the car I replaced it with, but I needed to save up a bit. They were extremely hard to get in 2015, so I talked to a local dealer way before 2016 orders opened up and was able to get the third of three allocations.
Was it your father who ignited your passion for performance vehicles, leading you down your career path? If so, can you tell me more about this.
Yes, definitely. He always told us stories of going out in his and his friends/family’s muscle cars and tearing up the town. He used to take me to car shows at Pampa Lanes (in Warren, Mich.) and on Gratiot from the time I was very young, and then of course the Woodward Dream Cruise. He worked in the automotive industry and always brought me to the coolest car-related events as well.
What was the most gratifying part for you about being able to do this for your father?
The look on his face when the garage door opened up and the SRT® Hellcat fired up. The video captures it well, but being there in person was really something special. He literally had ZERO clue and then BAM, there’s a Challenger SRT® Hellcat in the garage. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for my wife and me to watch Thursday, Sunday, Monday night football at my parent’s house, so, inevitably, we watched a lot of SRT® Hellcat commercials, which was always fun because we all knew what we had planned. He would make comments about how cool they were and comment about how much he loved the Dodge commercials, especially the Miami Vice one.
As a hard-working Mopar engineer, is there an extra sense of pride in giving your father a gift such as this?
Yes, definitely. While I had nothing to do with the SRT® Hellcat, I know several of the guys who did and it’s cool to have that sense of pride in the company I work for. Dodge really did something EPIC, and the way I look at is now my dad gets to be a part of what could easily go down as the best muscle car ever built. That’s pretty awesome.
Did you have any idea that this surprise was coming?
I had no clue at all. When my son came up to the garage door and put his arm around me, I could feel his heart beating fast. At first, I thought something was wrong.
Take me through your initial reaction/thought process when you were first presented your big gift?
When the garage door opened and Sean hit the remote starter, I was in disbelief. Then it began to sink in that my son and wife actually bought me a new Challenger SRT® Hellcat. I became emotional and hugged my wife and son.
How did that first ride feel?
The first thing I did was peel out of the garage. I immediately could feel the power and responsiveness of the supercharged Hemi. The suspension was firm, but not bouncy and the steering was precise, no slop whatsoever. It was wonderful. It had even more significance to me since Sean has been working on Mopar Performance Parts and this was the ultimate Mopar Performance vehicle.
Talk about the passion of performance vehicles that you share with your son.
As a teenager, I helped my brother-in-law work on a variety of muscle cars. In fact, the first car I ever drove was a car that I helped him put a transmission in, finishing at 2:00AM. On the test drive, my brother-in-law said, “You drive,” and pulled the car over on a deserted road. At 13 years old, I was driving this airshock jacked-up car 75mph down an unlit country road. I was hooked. I spent many a summer night watching street races on Front Street in Philadelphia, and, when I was old enough to drive legally, I would go to Atco Dragway.
Sean knew almost nothing about cars before he began driving, but his first car was an old European sports car that a friend of mine was selling. After having to have an expensive water pump replaced, he decided that foreign sports cars weren’t his thing, so when he was able, he bought a newer American sports car. Over the next year or so, he became more and more interested in modifying his car for drag racing, and, fortunately, found friends that could help him with the mods. I helped when I was able, but being an old-school racer, I was totally clueless about electronic fuel injected engines, but we both shared a love of high performance cars and drag racing, so over the next decade we spent many an all-nighter in the garage building turbocharged race cars and many weekends at the dragstrip. It was the perfect combination of spending time with my son and doing something that both of us loved.
Tell me about the pride you feel in your son for planning this surprise and giving you such a special gift, but also for all the hard work he’s done for Mopar.
Sean has always been the special kind of person that enjoys doing things for others. His reward is the feeling that he gets from doing good deeds. He hatched the plan to buy the SRT® Hellcat for me back in March. After watching me give two years of my time to our startup without taking a dime from the business, he wanted to do something to thank me for my sacrifice and for always being there when needed. He called my wife and said he wanted to get me a SRT® Hellcat, but needed some help with the cost; she was immediately onboard. Over the next 6 months, Sean took care of all of the details, from talking with dealers, to tracking the build, to planning the reveal. And he got it perfect.
That’s Sean. He’s a detail-oriented person with a tremendous drive to make things work. When he takes on a project, he’s like a bulldog. He sinks his teeth into it and doesn’t let go until it’s done, and done right. He has a vision for what can be accomplished. His work ethic has always made me proud to call him my son. Sean’s internal drive and love of high performance cars, coupled with his tireless work habits, makes him an ideal fit for Mopar, in my opinion. I’m proud of the work that he did on the Drag Pak cars, from being the lead on the supercharged engine to driving the car at the track.
Mopar-Or-No-Car fans, watch for another blog post coming soon that will feature Homer’s list of the top 10 things he loves most about his new Dodge Challenger SRT® Hellcat.