“Bigger and Better” are some of the most over-worked buzz words that we’ve ever heard. Often times, their use by Mad Men marketing and advertising types is nothing more than a way to create some excitement where none exists. But in the case of Mopars at the Strip, especially this year, “Bigger and Better” really is the perfect way to describe an event that had us running in high gear from start to finish.
Like a fine wine, Mopars at the Strip just keeps getting better. Each year it grows in size and stature, and 2015 was definitely no exception. In fact, this is the year that blew the lid clean off, and elevated Mopars at the Strip into a real national caliber event. After participating in the MoPower Cruise from Gilbert, Arizona, which is the subject of the Editors Page in this issue, we arrived at Mopars at the Strip Friday morning ready for another excellent show, just as in past years. But there was no way that we were prepared for what we saw when we arrived at the track.
Above left: Gorgeous 1957 Chrysler Imperial two door hardtop is something you don’t see everyday. Above right: No, you’re not seeing double, that really is not one but two late fifties Imperials side by side on the show field in the C-Body section.
Quite frankly, this year was by far, the best yet for this West Coast gathering of Mopars. You could immediately see that the crowd was larger, by Saturday the show field was packed to capacity and the quality of cars and trucks on display exceeded all expectations. Plus there were more exhibition cars, more racers and more cars participating in the Pony Car Wars competition. The result was non-stop action all weekend long.
And, as they are fond of saying in the television infomercials, But Wait, There’s More!, except, there really was more, especially since for the first time in several years, Dodge had a big presence at Mopars at the Strip. Two Vipers and two Challenger Hellcats were on hand, and show attendees could go for thrill rides with professional drivers down a short course.
Above left: This 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst was big, beautiful and in excellent original condition. A true land yacht from another era, it dwarfed many of the cars on the show field and reminded us of the time when America and American cars really were the envy of the world. Above right: Photographers in the Dodge exhibit shot video and stills of the new 2015 Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger that debuted at Mopars at the Strip. On the stage is the host of the exhibit, Steve Magnante, well known for his altered wheel base antics when he was at Hot Rod Magazine.
In addition, vehicles were chosen from the show field to be photographed and captured on video for by photographers in the Dodge exhibit for You Tube and social media programs, which were hosted by well-known motorhead and former Hot Rod Magazine alum Steve Magnante. Dodge also brought out several Challengers and Chargers for displays, along with a number of vehicles for ride and drive sessions.
Right next to the Dodge exhibit was the Muscle Car Autocross Challenge. A tough, demanding course marked by bright orange cones, it was very popular with participants and featured non-stop action all weekend. From Vipers and Challengers, to innocuous A-Bodies, some Brand X vehicles and even an adventurous participant with a big Ram truck, there was always someone on the course testing their skill behind the wheel. And skill was definitely required for those enthusiastic enough to really work at their lap times, because a concrete barrier wall surrounded the course for safety purposes. Thankfully, none of the cars or drivers had a close encounter with the walls, because you can be sure that it would have really put a big hurt on some precious metal.
Above: The swap meet area was loaded with all kinds of goodies for your favorite Mopar.
When it came to cars on display, there was a record number this year. In fact, the show car field was packed to the gills on Saturday. Sure, there were lots of really nice Challengers, Chargers, Coronets, Road Runners and Cudas, but what we really enjoyed were the cars you don’t see every day. Among the standouts glistening in the Las Vegas sun were a drop dead gorgeous 1959 DeSoto Adventurer Convertible with swivel buckets, a 1957 Chrysler Imperial Convertible and an unrestored 1929 Chrysler touring sedan that must have been stashed away for decades.
Mr. Norm knew from past experience that Mopars at the Strip brings out some of the best Mopes in the country. Not one to bring knife to a gun fight, Mr. Norm’s team came to Mopars at the Strip armed to the teeth. In the Chrysler Power Exhibit, there was a brand spankin’ new 2015 TorRed Mr. Norm’s GSS Hall of Fame Edition Challenger, while in the main show tent, the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger made its debut and garnered lots of attention all weekend.
Above left: The Manufacturers Midway in the early morning on Saturday. Performance parts of every kind were displayed by exhibitors like Edelbrock, Summit, TTI and Gear Vendors. Above right: There were also numerous parts vendors on the Manufacturers Midway with lots of reproduction parts.
David Hakim, who had been with Mopar for years, picked both Challengers to be photographed by Dodge in their display for promo use. The Challengers looked great parked in front of the exhibit as the camera men captured every detail of these modern Mopar muscle cars.
The Manufacturers Midway was another area of the show that experienced an uptick and had more vendors than last year, and among them was none other than our longtime friend Bob Riggle, famous for the Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracuda. Bob was busy all weekend signing autographs and posing for photos with the Hemi Under Glass. During the weekend, we brought over the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger, posed the two vehicles together, and photographed them for posterity. Right next to Bob Riggle’s display were five 1968 Hemi Darts in the SS and AFX exhibit.
Above left: World famous wheelstander Bob Riggle was on hand signing autographs all weekend. Always cheerful and ready to take a photo with Mopar enthusiasts, Bob is the real deal. He’s an amazing driver and a great ambassador for the sport of drag racing. Above center: The Hurst Hemi Under Glass Barracuda was on display in front of Bob Riggle’s tent. An iconic race car that’s known worldwide. Above right: The Legend and the Prodigy. The Hurst Hemi Under Glass and the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger share a moment. There was a big crowd watching these two cars being photographed together and they knew that it was history in the making at Mopars at the Strip.
Above left: Ed “The Outlaw” Jones at the controls of the Jelly Belly Candyland Stagecoach exhibition vehicle as he just beginning to pull the wheels. Above right: Flames are a big part of the spectacle for the Jelly Belly Candyland Stagecoach, and “The Outlaw” didn’t disappoint as you can see in this photo. It almost looks like a giant blow torch!
Well known for their outstanding LO23 and RO23 recreations, each of the brutal A-Bodies that was built by SS and AFX looked more than ready for a pass down the 1320. In fact, looking at the five Hemi Darts in the pits reminded us of the late 1960’s when the original Hurst built Hemi Darts were new and were feared competitors in Super Stock. Racers like “Dandy” Dick Landy, Bill Flynn, Max Hurley and Shirley Shahan were among those that drove these legendary Mopars to victory on a regular basis, and it would have been fun to see them in action once again.
Speaking of drag racing, the action was hot and heavy on the track all weekend, and between class racing, the Pony Car Wars and several exhibition cars, there was something exciting to see every day. The Pony Car Wars was comprised of a large field that included numerous late model Challengers racing against Mustangs and Camaros. Needless to say, the crowd enthusiastically rooted for the Challengers every time one of them faced off against a Chevy or a Ford.
Above: The vehicles chosen for the show at the Cannery were all outstanding, and this 1962 Chrysler 300H with a dual quad Cross Ram was a perfect example.
There were also plenty of Challenger Hellcats racing on the track. One in particular made continuous runs against a Tesla, winning every run against the silent, but deadly electric car. And when it came to exhibition cars, without a doubt, the most popular one in action at Mopars at the Strip was the Jelly Belly Candyland Stagecoach driven by Ed “The Outlaw” Jones. A real crowd pleaser, not only does it do wheel stands down the track and back, but it also shoots incredible blowtorch like flames out of the headers on every pass. Simply wild!
Out in the swap meet area, you could find nearly anything you needed to complete your latest Mopar project, and probably some stuff you didn’t need too. From engines, transmissions, rear ends and K-members, to sheet metal and interior parts, it was all there waiting to be found. And if you were looking for a new vehicle to build, there were lots of those for sale in the swap meet area as well.
Above left: The Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger was among those vehicles chosen for the Cannery Show. Above center: With its Super Stock hood, the Mr. Norm’s GSS Hall of Fame Edition Challenger looked like it was ready to race. With the 6.4 Hemi under that big scoop, it certainly had the power to back it up. This good looking late model Challenger sporting a Mr. Norm’s Super Stock hood and windshield banner was competing in the Pony Car Wars at Mopars at the Strip.
Above left: This 1929 Chrysler touring sedan was a real survivor with only several owners in its 86 year life. It may not have been perfect, but considering its age, it has stood the test of time very well and is a testament to the excellent engineering and product quality that Walter P. Chrysler insisted on. Above right: Here’s one you don’t see every day. This right hand drive Australian Valiant Ute packed a Hemi punch with a twist, thanks to its Aussie inliner.
One of our personal faves was a very sanitary Plymouth Duster that only needed an engine and trans to make it a competitor in nostalgia Pro Stock. Or how about a super cool 1959 Dodge Sierra station wagon that was painted in a really attractive red and white two tone combination. It had all the goodies, including a push button TorqueFlite, V8, fresh chrome, cop car wheels with dog dish hubcaps and black wall radials. All it needed was an interior to be completed. Guaranteed in this long roof you’d be a standout at any car show or cruise night.
As in past years, the Cannery, the host hotel for Mopars at the Strip, presented concerts on both Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday night, the music was provided by Phoenix, the premier classic rock band in Las Vegas, but the really big show was on Saturday night, when Queensryche performed all of the popular hits made famous by Queen. Las Vegas is known as the town the never sleeps, and when it comes to Mopars, nothing could be further from the truth. Even after long days at the track, on both nights, Mopars of all kinds lined the street next to the hotel under the lights. The result was a near car show like atmosphere that ran into the late hours.
As an added treat, on Friday night, a special group of cars that were chosen at Mopars at the Strip were displayed at the Cannery in an enclosed area where the concert was being held. One that really stood out from the rest was a jet black 1962 Chrysler 300 H powered by a 413 with a dual quad Cross Ram.
There was many other outstanding vehicles in this special display, including a really nice 1969 Hurst Rambler Scrambler and a 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst that was a beautiful survivor. Also chosen were both the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger and the Mr. Norm’s GSS Hall of Fame Edition Challenger, and to say that they were crowd pleasers at the Cannery Show would be an understatement.
Above: Stunning, simply stunning. One of Virgil Exner’s finest designs from his time at Chrysler. This 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible was breathtakingly beautiful and illustrates just how great the vehicles are at Mopars at the Strip.
On Sunday afternoon, a very special event took place at Mopars at the Strip, when a young couple tied the knot during the event. With the dragstrip as a backdrop, and while full on race cars performed smoky burnouts followed by hot laps down the track, Pricilla, well known as Mopar Belle, and her fiancé Joe Morgan got married. With Milton Karahadian presiding as the minister, both recited their vows before a small group of their friends. Both Pricilla and Joe are dyed in the wool Mopar enthusiasts, and the entire staff of Pentastar Power wishes them all the best in their new life together.
To say that we had a great time at Mopars at the Strip would be an understatement, and we’re already looking forward to attending again next year. If you missed it this year, put MATS on your list of must attend events for next year. And lastly, a big thanks to Phil Painter and the entire staff of Mopars at the Strip for putting on this great show every year. Mopars at the Strip is certainly one of the premier Mopar events of the year and we speak for many enthusiasts when we say that we certainly appreciate all of their efforts.