There are many Mopar events held every year but there are few that bring nearly 3,000 cars together. The Chrysler Nationals offers a wide variety of categories to allow any Mopar vehicle a spot to be appreciated by enthusiasts. As always this year’s event was held at the Carlisle Fairgounds in Pennsylvania. Despise the hot and rainy weather, this year brought a packed house with plenty to see. A few of the main features were the FM3 celebration, the 50th Anniversary of the GTX, Dodge thrill rides, and burnout contests but that’s just scratching the surface. This year was also a first for the Hurst Nationals that took place at the Carlisle Convention center, which is a story in itself. Not to forget the gigantic swap meet and car corral, there is always so much to see and do it’s difficult to squeeze everything in just a couple of days.
This year the Chrysler Nationals opened its doors to spectators early Thursday morning due to popular demand. Normally, Thursday is set aside to allow vendors, show participants and swap meet particpants to set up. Many spectators wanted to get the first look over the sea of parts in the swap meet area with hopes of scoring an incredible deal or that a rare part. A few cars were scattered along with a few vendors that were glad to answer questions or take orders. At the end of the day, Mopar Rebellion hosted the Kick-Off to Carlisle at the Carlisle Expo Center across from the fairgrounds. It’s a great way to get the weekend started, check out some cool Mopars, grab some food and hang out with other Mopar enthusiasts. There’s no judging and it doesn’t cost to attend but be sure to show up earlier to get a good spot!
The real madness starts Friday morning, the official first day of the show. Although gates open at 7am, many Mopars can be seen lining up at the gates much earlier to get that perfect spot, beat the heat and hopefully not sit in a long line of traffic. This year started off a little slow due to the constant rain showers throughout the day Friday and early Saturday. Luckily the rain stayed away the majority of Saturday and all day Sunday.
Every year it never ceases to amaze how large the swap meet is and what you can find there. You could find many Six-Pack setups, Air Grabber hoods, rare wheels and more scattered throughout. Although we saw many rare parts, you better have your wallet ready because they weren’t giving the parts away. Unlike other manufacturers, Coker Tire came to sell product and set up their giant rig in the swap meet. They had a variety of wheels and tires on the trailer awaiting new homes. They also had their new Wide Oval Radials on display. They stayed plenty busy all weekend taking orders and fulfilling what they could at the show. Although not for sale, there was a shot up ‘Cuda on display that was used as a stunt car. It sucks to see ‘Cudas destroyed for movies but we could tell that one was pretty far gone to start with. A few other booths had some non Mopar related stuff like signs, metal art, antiques, etc which was still neat to see.
The car corral itself is as big as some shows we have been too. From project cars to finished show cars, you could find just about anything you wanted. Prices varied and a few had “sold” written on the windshield early on. You can almost see the progression of a restoration within the car corral. You can find many cars that have been drug from barns and fields that require total ground-up restorations. Then you’ll find some that have had metal and body work done, some interior and just need finishing up. Lastly, you’ll see a few that have been completely restored (or modified) and are ready to drive home from the show. The restored cars varied from backyard paint jobs to high-end complete nut-and-bolt restorations. A few had a monster Hemi under the hood or Six-Pack setups.
This year marked the 100th year of Dodge Ram, and trucks could be found outside and a few inside. It’s always neat to see the evolution of a vehicle, especially such an iconic one like the Ram over the years. A majority of Ram models could be found throughout the show. When you think about 100 years, it’s amazing that one specific vehicle has maintained popularity for so long. A couple of our favorites were the big rig Dodges that were stationed right outside the truck pavilion.
For all of you Dukes of Hazzard fans, Luke Duke himself was in attendance to this year’s show. There is always a great gathering of General Lees and Rosco’s cruiser but this year at Cooter’s Place tent, Tom Wopat could be found signing autographs throughout the weekend. We walked by the autograph line multiple times with everyone holding apparel, car parts, signs, etc. to be signed by the famous Luke Duke.
Speaking of autographs, The Golden Commandos and The Ramchargers were also in attendance to this year’s festivities. The Golden Commandos or The Ramchargers, they were both racing groups that worked directly with Chrysler back in the day. Working with engineers, they helped Chrysler to truly “win on Sunday and sell on Monday.” There is much more to their stories but that will have to wait for another time. Both The Golden Commandos and The Ramchargers could be found throughout the weekend signing autographs and guest speaking at the Dodge tent. We stopped and listened to a few of their Q&A sessions and learn about some of the obstacles they had to over come in the day. By the late ’60s, Chrysler had many race ready ve,hicles that would withstand the abuse of weekend racing and we have both the Golden Commandos and The Ramchargers to thank for that.
The Manufacturers Midway was busy all weekend with potential customers looking for new parts or to snatch up some great deals. Silver Sport Transmissions were showing off their new line of clutches as well as their PerfectFit kits for many popular Mopars. There were many cars on display throughout the show supporting Silver Sport Transmission kits that you could see first hand. Reilly Motorsports had multiple cars on display along with a few other cool products. They just released their new flex joints and are now carrying Flaming River steering columns. Speaking of Flaming River, they were setup right beside the Reilly Motorsports tent. Flaming River was on hand to answer any questions and had some of their popular steering joints on hand to sell. Edelbrock was also in attendance with a few manifolds on display and to answer any questions. Flowmaster/Hurst/B&M were set up in the Manufacturers Midway and were also available at the A&A Autoparts Store tent at Installation Alley where you could purchase and have exhaust installed right at the show!
The main inside display is always a popular place during the show, as it hosts the main displays, it’s also a place for spectators to get out of the sun or rain. This year it was packed full of GTXs from different years, RO/WO Super Stock cars, multiple R/T models, an array of Panther Pink/Moulin Rouge cars and the 4-door ‘Cuda. From rare pink-on-pink-on-pink Challenger to a New Yorker that must have used most of the supply of Panther Pink to paint it, they had it all. The Super Stock cars are always a blast to see with giant motors and crazy paint schemes. All the GTXs were in line from oldest to newest, and as you walked, you could watch as the GTX evolved over the years. The display of R/T cars ranged from old to modern. Right smack in the middle of the pavilion was the infamous 4-door 1970 ‘Cuda. The car was never produced from the factory but if it ever was, it would look like this one. The car looks like it rolled off the showroom floor and is an incredible build.
Dodge came full throttle this year with a Demon on hand! The Dodge tent was packed every time we walked by. Dodge was back giving thrill rides or should we say thrill drifting rides. The Hellcats and Viper they had on the track looked like a scene from The Fast and The Furious, where they spent majority of their time sideways. We are not sure how many tires and sets of brakes they went through over the weekend but we can guess it was more than one. The highly anticipated Demon was on display and held a crowd around it the whole weekend.
They also had a Challenger simulator set up where you could test your driving skills around a road course in virtual reality. Not only was the screen large enough to make you feel like you were there, but the car moved, vibrated and shook as if you were really driving the car. They also had the new Daytona, Scat Pack Challenger and Wide Body Hellcat on display for enthusiasts to check out. All weekend we over heard many talk about how much fun they had on the thrill ride or in the simulator.
Mopar was also there with apparel and a couple of their SEMA builds from last year. The 1971 Challenger named “Shakedown” is far from stock and had some very unique parts incorporated into the build. It was also supporting Mopar’s new Crate 392 Hemi and plug-and-play harness. They also had their Jeep CJ66 with the new Crate 5.7 Hemi under the hood along with its plug-and-play harness also. The Jeep was a blend of many different models. They used a TJ frame, CJ body and many JK elements to give it a modern feel. Both the Jeep and Challenger are incredible builds. Both vehicles look as if they could have been built by the factory. The fit and finishes are breath taking and gives you an idea of what SEMA quality builds look like first hand.
Although there are many reasons that you might show up to the Chrysler Nationals, it still comes down to the cars – the rows and rows of cars. In the sea of modern Mopars, you could find about anything you could dream of. We spotted many Hellcats, highly customized LX platforms and just as many stock Mopars. The modern Mopar community is huge and growing every year. It’s interesting how many of the owners of Chargers and Challengers have never owned a Mopar in their life until the one they currently have. They also absolutely love and cherish their Mopar and say they are hooked for life. The styles are also very interesting, everything from slammed cars with giant wheels to almost a pro-street look with drag radials and supercharger. Some are very modest with small upgrades and very subtle changes. Majority of the owners we spoke to daily drove their vehicle and drive it all over the country.
Like always, the classic Mopars dominated the show. There were so many great cars it was hard to stop and learn about every one. The rows of B-Bodies were packed this year, which was partly due to the celebration of 50 years of GTXs and R/Ts. Every color scheme you ever wanted was present. Maybe we missed them last year but we came across multiple Gator topped cars this year. 426 Hemis and 440+6 cars were scattered throughout the field also. One unique car that stood out was a right-hand-drive Pacer with a Hemi Six under the hood. You don’t often see these cars in the states and not many are supporting original drive train, paint and body. We spoke with the owner a short time and learned that the car was ordered as a race car with heater delete and bigger brake package. In Australia, stock car racing is very popular and the sedan Pacers were faster than the coupes for racing. Although the owner also owns an SRT Challenger, which his wife drives, he drives the Pacer daily. There were many other great stories and cool cars but we don’t have enough time to write about each one but hopefully our large gallery captured more.
At the end of the weekend we were exhausted. Once again Carlisle Events put together a great show. Chrysler Nationals is a must have if you’re a Mopar enthusiast. If you missed this years event plan to be there next year! For 2018 they will be celebrating 60 years of Hurst, a special tribute to the 1968 Hemi Darts, and Barracudas as they will also be turning 50. They are starting to search out all the Hemi Darts and Barracudas now for next years show, so if you know of anyone please have them contact Carlisle Events. We know that’s just the surface of what 2018 will bring but what else? Maybe next year Dodge will be giving thrill rides in Demons? Maybe there will be your dream car awaiting you in the car corral? Maybe that rare piece you have been looking for years will pop up in the swap meet? What ever the driving factor is, you need to get there. We want to thank all of the workers, participants, vendors and sponsors that make it possible to have such a great show. We will see you next year, but until then please enjoy the huge gallery of Mopars below.