The 36th annual (unofficially Mopar) Nationals could be summed up in three words: Sweat, Rubber and Hemis. This past August 12-14 was one wicked hot weekend, that is, when the threat of flood conditions didn’t scare folks away. Luckily, a majority of the northward-traveling rain held off for most of the show, which caused the humidity to skyrocket, but that didn’t keep the spectators away! It was packed Friday and Saturday; in fact, the sheer number of cars, vendors, racers and spectators that show up for The Nats never ceases to amaze. Sometimes there are just so many activities to pack in to one weekend, and unlike other venues, National Trail Raceway has a ¼-mile drag strip to boot. For Mopar Connection, the weekend started Monday, as like so many others, preparation starts far ahead of time.
As the years past, one thing remains true, if you’re working on a project, it’s a guarantee that the swap meet has what you’re looking for. Everything from original 426 Hemi parts, factory-restored rearends, giant tunnel rams, wheels, tires, dashes and more could be seen while cruising through the swap meet. We walked the swap meet every day and every time we did, we’d see something new. While there, we were fortunate enough to stop at Passon Performance. As always, they were slammed with taking orders, delivering rebuilt transmissions and selling parts and pieces. We love to see vendors busy.
From there, I headed over to the Manufacturer Midway to greet Silver Sport Transmissions (SST). SST had a nice cockpit set up for shoppers to shift a 5-speed and try out their hydraulic clutch. And if you were at the booth, there’s no way you missed our long-term project “Brazen,” the bold and bronze 1969 Charger. Mopar Connection’s own Editor-in-Chief drove it the near-7 hours from Nashville, TN to just outside of Columbus, TN. Luckily, we recently installed one of SST’s overdrive automatics and cruised up the highway at an average of 75mph with the tach floating around 2,600 rpm – not bad for running 4:56 gears!
In the vendor paddock, we were able to catch a couple of the dyno runs. The amount of power these cars are putting out these days is mind-boggling. If you catch it at events to come, be prepared to see everything from factory stock small block cars to wild 1,000-plus-horsepower builds! As we cut across the staging lanes, the overwhelming (and heavenly) smell of race fuel smacked us in the face. (No complaints, we might add.)
Of course, the journey around the south side of the track is a gateway to some of the most beautiful cars – many whom have from traveled far and wide. Slowly we made our way through each part of The Nats. Once in the fun field, we didn’t know where to begin. Everywhere you look there are immaculate cars. You see everything from an original 426 Hemi Daytona to ’16 Dodge Vipers. A big difference between this show and Carlisle is how the cars are parked. Carlisle has an orderly fashion, sorting by body style, while The Nats has several designated areas, yet allows all kinds of cars park to park wherever they choose. This method makes it difficult to see every car at the show and it took two full days to try and cover them all.
Every year, the fields are saturated with awesome builds. You end up seeing so many Hemi and Six-Pack cars you wonder how there are any left! There are a growing number of C-Bodies coming around, and they are really starting to grow on us. (We may have passed this appreciation on to EIC Kevin as well!) Additionally, the Modern Mopar crowed seemed to be primarily Hellcats, which is awesome! Trucks and Jeeps popped up here and there. The AMCs had their normal spot sectioned off with AMXs, Gremlins, Ramblers and more. We were hoping to catch a new Viper ACR in Viper Alley, but had no such luck. Actually, it seemed that the Viper crowd was smaller than normal this year, but they still had some awesome cars.
And of course there is a well-deserved shout out to those who come from afar. We talked to one who had traveled 2,300 miles one way from Canada in his 1971 Sweptline! Another couple brought their 440 6-Barrel GTX from Ontario. During Kevin’s journey up, he also met a group traveling from Florida in their factory 426 wedge ’64 D100. On the easternmost portion of grounds, there were some great deals in the corral. I saw multiple freshly painted cars begging to be assembled, restored cars ready to drive home and full on projects that needed an overhaul.
Friday and Saturday nights were both filled with Mopars cruising between Heath and Buckeye Lake on Route 79. Each year as the Brice Road cruising dwindles; Route 79 is picking up the slack. Several businesses along 79 were on board and offered hospitality for the hundreds of Mopars that are in town for the weekend. This year it seem that Buckeye Lake was the place to be. The streets were lined with spectators awaiting some big smoky burnouts. The local police kept drivers in check but also seemed to look the other way when there were some tires squealing. At one point, on the two-lane portion of 79, a female officer stopped her patrol car in the oncoming lane and waved her arm out the window at us. We’re still not sure if she was welcoming the burnout or just taunting for a ticket. Either way, we weren’t about to be fooled. Driving became a little congested at times, but for the most part, traffic kept a steady pace.
Finally, on Sunday, we had a chance to check out the concept cars on display at Dodge’s booth. They had the famous ’99 Charger prototype that sparked the nameplate’s return, the ’08 Dodge Demon convertible and even the tankish ’01 Dodge Super 8 concept on display. After checking out the concepts and taking a drive in their simulator, we were off for a thrill ride! This year’s thrill ride consisted of a drift track set up. Professional drivers were running Vipers, Challengers and Chargers and they didn’t disappoint! Unfortunately, shortly after our thrill ride, the rain moved in and was there to stay. While waiting for a clear patch to drive home, we stumbled across web series’ “Roadkill” filming their next episode. They had one of their project cars there, doing a top end swap to prepare for their journey to Woodward Dream Cruise this week.
Now, sunburned and exhausted, we’re glad that this weekend has came to an end. As with years past, it was great meeting new people, seeing the sheer numbers of cars fill the field, and all of the awesome drag racing action. It’s a tradition that we continuously look forward to. Be on the lookout for some great features from The Nats soon. We hope to see more of you next year!