Turns out that people really, really hate these splitter guards.
When I first saw those bright yellow things on the front edges of some Dodge Challengers and Chargers, I had no idea that they were at the center of a vortex of internet hate. Turns out that people really, really love to rip on these things, and in some cases, rip them off cars and toss ’em in the trash. Who knew!
But after reading David Tracy’s most recent Jalopnik article about the apparently polarizing trend, I cannot remain silent any longer: I think they look kind of cool, actually.
I totally understand why people would think the trend is dumb: It’s the automotive equivalent of leaving stickers and tags on hats so everybody knows how fresh the purchase is. Or…I don’t know, refusing to take the the protective film off your microwave keypad. Throwing a set on a beat 2015 V6 Charger you bought off of Craigslist in an attempt to convince people it’s new? Totally a poser move.
As a visual element, though, I don’t see how they’re any better or worse than any other modification (and therein lies an important distinction — more on that in a minute).
Maybe it has to do with the first time I spotted a pair. It was on a gray Challenger, an R/T Scat Pack I think, cruising somewhere around Detroit. At the time, I had no idea they were protectors installed to guard the bottom edge of the fascia during loading and transportation to dealerships — I genuinely thought someone added them. My mind immediately went to the warning paint on the tips of an old warbird’s propeller blades, or the accent stripes on a midcentury fighter jet.
The first thing I thought of when I saw those splitter guards — before I learned they weren’t an aftermarket accessory — was the accent stripes on old fighter jets. Which, when you think about it, somehow works on a car like the Challenger.
Now, the look only works with certain paint colors and wheel packages — you’ve got to go with black or satin finish wheels and choose the right exterior paint. F8 green and destroyer gray really set them off, and they also pair well with plum crazy purple.
There’s no way the splitter guard-haters would hate them quite so much if they were an aftermarket modification (because, let’s be honest, there are plenty of far more asinine aftermarket mods to rip on). It’s their weird status as factory-installed (premarket?) bits that are supposed to be discarded that makes them an easy target for contempt and a ripe subject for meme-making. They’ve got baggage that makes them hard to appreciate as a visual element, which is unfortunate.
Also missed in this whole debate is the fact that the guards serve a functional purpose — that’s why the factory slaps them on in the first place. As someone who has driven a decent number of tester Challengers and Chargers, including most recently a widebody Challenger Hellcat Redeye with a front lip that scrapes at the bottom of my driveway no matter how slowly I take it, a removable, inexpensive protector for low-to-the-ground parts is not a terrible idea. I’d rather scrape up a disposable piece of plastic and replace it once a season than damage an expensive front fascia.
Ultimately, the whole point of owning a car, especially something as decidedly non-beige as a Challenger or Charger, is that you can use it to make a statement that not everyone is going to agree with. That these tiny pieces of yellow plastic have fueled so much performative internet vitriol is a little weird, but as long as nobody’s car gets vandalized, who cares?
And for those of you rocking the protectors: Know that not everybody hates them.
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