When people say their lives have been changed by the car they drive, it takes some convincing to place their experience on the same life map that Susanne Tolbert has navigated. She lost her third son, Chance, nearly 13 years ago. The tragedy stopped her cold, and her life ceased to be fruitful.
"I did nothing but work and be a mom to my other kids and avoided anything that had to do with socializing with other people," said Tolbert.
Then, three years ago, Tolbert re-evaluated her circumstances and decided it was time to move on. But finding the right motivation was a challenge. It turned out that one of Susanne's other sons, Justice, was interested in cars, and after seeing the newly redesigned Dodge Challenger, Tolbert found a 2010 R/T model she liked and hoped would draw her out of her shell. Through the intervention of car and son, Tolbert's life found meaning for the first time since the passing of Chance, with the car creating opportunities in ways she could not have imagined.
|» Paint: Brilliant Black Pearl|
|» Wheels: Currently stock (formerly Incubus)|
|» Performance: Side exhaust pipes|
|» Exterior: Custom sequential tail lights; 35 percent window tint; polished, stainless steel engine compartment dress pieces|
It started when Tolbert and her son began attending car shows. On one occasion she passed through the entrance, where show organizers caught a glimpse of her Challenger and encouraged her to enter it in the show. Tolbert agreed and, to her delight, won third place. It was enough encouragement to get her to look at the custom car community seriously, and soon afterward she joined its ranks.
The exact look of her Challenger was important. Tolbert spent almost six months finding a Brilliant Black Pearl R/T model with a manual transmission. As far as modifications went, the gains were modest but satisfactory for someone just getting her feet wet. A pair of sequential tail lights started off the design, followed by tint on the rear and side windows. Custom Incubus wheels came next, along with polished, stainless engine dress-up pieces. The car's largest custom feature was a 9-foot-long dragon graphic -- an addition that Justice negotiated.
As Tolbert gained more experience, she toned down the look of her Challenger, removing the dragon in favor of complementary pieces that keep the focus on an already beautiful car. She already has plans to install light-emitting diode kits for the underbody and engine bay.
In just two years, Tolbert has placed in 17 shows. More importantly, she has found a new community of friends with whom she shares her life. This connection has proven vital to her emotional health, and she looks forward to more shows in her future.
What do you drive? A 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T
Why do you drive it? When I get in the driver's seat, the whole world melts away. There is nothing but me and my car and the road. It's my escape.
What makes this car so special? I bought it because I had seen several and immediately fell in love with the lines and the old-school feel.
What is your most memorable driving experience? The day I picked it up. I had test-driven numerous automatics but with no manuals around I didn't know what I was in for. I scared the hell out of myself when I floored it leaving the dealership.
What was the first vehicle you owned? It was an orange Chevelle with rusted floorboards. I had plywood on the floors and when I would go through puddles it would gush up through the floors.
What music are you currently listening to in your car? Usually AC/DC.
And your first ticket? What was it for? I have never had a ticket.