We survived another year at The Nationals at the National Trails Raceway in Hebron, Ohio. For the third year in a row we have had the honor of having a one of our project cars featured at a booth in the Manufacturer’s Midway during The Nationals. This year was a stretch to get our ’72 Dodge Dart Swinger project “Orange Crush” there on time but needless to say we made it. The weekend was busy from meeting new people to trying to capture all the awesome cars. It went a little too fast for us, but that’s how it normally goes.
It seems to never fail that during The Nationals (what you and we commonly call the “Mopar Nats”) that it rains at some point. This year was better than others and only had one major downpour Friday and then light on-and-off-again drizzle for most of Saturday. Sunday was beautiful, but of course, most of the cars and vendors were packing up and heading home.
Above: Mopar Connection’s own Technical Editor Mike Wilkins returned for his 22nd year as a judge in the show field. This year, all of his skill, knowledge and insight was called upon to judge the OE class – the single-most stringent class possible, where cars are meant to be in exact factory-correct condition – on a super-rare, 1-of-4 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi convertible.
We probably were not the only ones who were preparing for the Mopar Nats on Wednesday. It was a last minute decision to tear apart the top end of Orange Crush. We installed a 180-degree thermostat a couple weeks back that ended up being bad and overheated our 360. Although no water was present in the oil, the engine would not stay cool in any amount of traffic. It took us all day Wednesday and half the day Thursday to swap in new head gaskets and quickly test drive the car before we had to be at the show Friday.
After a couple of late nights, Friday came and we headed out for the show. Orange Crush was running well and sat in line for a good while at the gates waiting to get in. This year we had the honor of being featured in the M.A.D. Graphics and Garret’s Rod Shop booth. If you did not catch it before, M.A.D. Graphics hooked us up with a killer look for the Dart last year which you can read about here. Making it to the booth was a huge relief and allowed us to enjoy the next couple days of the show.
Mopar Nats attracts some of the best custom, OE (Original Equipment), survivor, etc., cars from all over the US and some from Canada. It is exciting to meet enthusiasts from all over and see what they bring to the show. Some trailer their cars from long distances where others drive them. Either way seeing their Mopars is what the show is all about.
This year the show celebrated the 50th Anniversary of 1968 with special tribute to the Road Runner and Super Bee. You can imagine the plethora of Super Bees and Road Runners that showed up to the show. We spoke to a few enthusiasts that have not brought their cars in previous years but since the show was highlighting Super Bees and Road Runners they decided to bring theirs out this year.
Unlike many other Mopar shows throughout the country, Mopar Nats takes place at the National Trail Raceway drag strip. During the show, when it is not raining, you could take a seat in the grand stands and watch the cars battle it out in the 1/4 mile. You never know what you might see run down the track at the show. We caught everything from stock daily drivers to all out drag cars racing down the track.
For the nostalgic drag race fans this was a special year. Butch Leal and “Mr. Direct Connection” Larry Shepard were in attendance. They spent some time signing autographs and Larry Shepard had a tech seminar that you could attend. In the HDK Tent you could also check out the debut of Butch Leal’s 1975 B/MP Duster.
For the Mopar movie lovers the famous ’58 Plymouth Fury from Christine was on display. Along with the car you could also meet Arnie’s girlfriend Leigh (Alexandra Paul) and “Moochie” (Malcolm Danare). They were available for autographs and pictures throughout the show. If you forgot your Christine memorabilia not worries they had plenty at the tent for purchase. Luckily no one was hurt by Christine during the show.
There are so many vehicles that show up every year it is difficult to talk about all of them. We tried to capture a wide variety through our lenses but it still does not do the show justice. From Friday to Sunday we would continue to see different cars. We did however want to note a few incredible cars on display. Muscle Car Restorations had an 11,000-mile 1967 Hemi GTX that they restored back to original. We caught a glimpse of the rare 1-of-4 Hemi-powered 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible that was being judged in OE. As you may of guessed, there was at least one 2018 Dodge Demon on display that we came across.
There were a ton of awesome cars through out the whole show. From home built rides to one off customs like Garret’s Rod Shop’s ’66 Super Charger. We always enjoy seeing the variety in builds. Sometimes we might not agree with the styling or color choices but that does not mean we do not still respect the effort and hard work that went in to that vehicle.
If you came to spend some money for parts or a new project there was plenty of options. The car corral was full of everything. From project cars to finished show cars. There were even some drag racing cars and rigs for sale if you are looking for a new hobby. For parts the swap meet and Manufacturer’s Midway had almost anything you needed for your ride.
Once the rain cleared Saturday afternoon they brought out the contestants for the burnout contest. The contest is always a crowdpleaser. We are still figuring out if it is the smell, sight or sound of burnouts that we enjoy the most. No matter what part you enjoy there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.
The burnouts did not stop at the show, they continued all night just up the road from the track. The Super Cruise took place in Buckeye Lake on Route 79. The Village of Buckeye Lake was more than welcoming to Mopar fans and had dedicated lanes for a little tire chirping. If you missed the fun this year be sure to plan ahead for next year.
The 38th Annual Nationals was once again a huge success. From seeing some killer cars to meeting some awesome people, the once a year show is always worth it. We highly recommend the show to all Mopar enthusiasts. Whether you have a modern, classic or even no car, the show has plenty to offer for everyone. We are already preparing for next year and will hopefully have some fun stuff planned for then. Only 363 days until we see you all again.