The swap meet – a staple among car enthusiasts of all ilks – is a little bit like a lottery ticket. More often than not, the winning numbers come up empty with sticker after sticker revealing sufficiently-priced muscle car parts demanding premium pennies. Drudging up and down each precious aisle with a keen eye out for a decent deal can easily soak up an entire day. Digging to the bottom of every single milk crate is a must for the die-hards, but we usually attend for the neat, nifty, and new stuff.
Indy Cylinder Heads’ Chrysler Performance Trade Show and Swap Meet is an annual swap meet that is usually one of the first to start pulling Midwesterners out of hibernation. Held in early March at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, it’s the rare indoor gathering that’s well-worth the drive. The Mopar faithful were out in droves at this year’s event that, as usual, spanned two buildings and several thousand square feet of temperature-controlled space.
With most muscle cars pushing fifty years old, it was surprising to see such a selection of parts, especially when it came to engines. A couple of clean big-blocks were priced in the $1,500 range and a super crusty 1969 340/3-speed combination was listed at $2,500. We even spotted three vintage 426 Hemis, one a said-to-be 1970 model carrying a $30,000 price tag. The centerpiece was, again, the 1964 NASCAR dual overhead cam (DOHC) Hemi. Dubbed “A925” as an experimental prototype, it was meant to be an answer to Ford’s single overhead cam (SOHC) 427 engine. Although it never did make it in to mass production, it’s good to see that this example is still out on the show circuit for all of us to imagine what might have been.
Induction systems, both modern and vintage, were out in full force as well. A new-in-the-box Hellcat supercharger garnered quite the crowd and, for the old-school types, there were plenty of carburetors scattered about. Six Packs, cross rams, and all varieties of four-barrels were priced from mild to wild. A reference sheet with date codes or list numbers can be infinitely handy when buying original parts like carburetors, so research prior to any meet is a must. On the exit side, exhaust components were plentiful as well. ECS Automotive Concepts had a huge selection on hand along with show-special pricing on their “factory exact” Chrysler exhaust systems. From the licensed Pentastar logos to the correct date-coding, we could have poured over their detailed work for hours.
One thing we definitely noticed was that nice original interior parts, for obvious reasons, are getting real hard to find. OEM steering wheels, horn rings, and consoles all seemed to command decent dollars. The rarer items, like a console-mount cassette player for ’71-’74 applications, were even more inflated. That specific item with microphone in tow was tagged at an even $600. Luckily, the aftermarket has filled most of those voids, but plenty of niche components will be getting harder and harder to find.
One of the biggest advantages of going to a show like this is the savings that can be had on shipping. For example, Stephens’ Performance had a booth full of just about every Mopar AMD panel available. Big sheet metal parts carry big shipping costs, but not if you pick them up at the show. The same goes for other large items like exhaust, engines, transmissions, and rear axles. Furthermore, sales representatives were on hand at every vendor booth to make each transaction as smooth and correct as possible.
Of course, the spread at Indy Cylinder Heads’ booth was impressive to say the least. We gladly waded through their sea of aluminum performance parts to check out the latest in intake manifolds, cylinder heads, valve covers, blocks, and crate engines. New Hemis, old Hemis, big-blocks, and small-blocks were all on the floor and ready to go. With Indy’s new owners, the Wheatcrafts, recently taking the reigns, we’re excited to see what’s to come in 2020.
Hughes Engines, ever vigilant in an endeavor to educate their customers, was doing way more than just slinging parts. Dave Hughes himself was on hand to host a FREE seminar about engine combinations and how to select components that will work together. We were fortunate enough to be able to sit in for a few minutes to hear about cylinder pressure and how cylinder head selection can play a huge role in target pressure. It turns out, there’s a lot more to it than compression ratio and Hughes is more than willing to help when it comes to any customer’s specification application.
If you were looking for a project car, the Indy gathering wasn’t your cup of tea. A few solid drivers were on hand, but less than ten project cars littered the lots. However, many of the cars that were on hand did look to be road-ready. A yellow ’73 Challenger had a cool, modern pro-street feel with a hopped-up big-block and fat slicks out back. In the same vein was a 1971 Demon drag car that was turn-key with a cage, tubs, and an Indy-headed big-block. Mile-deep black paint helped keep a constant crowd around it for most of the day. Meanwhile, a ratty late-’70’s Dodge pickup was packed full of faux patina and topped with a coat of clear to lock in the look. For a slick $8,500, it probably could have been driven home.
At the end of the day, our bounty was slim but purposeful. A paper bag full of body plugs and a fuel tank sending unit locking ring wrench were all that we came away with as material goods go. Even still, checking out the latest in performance and reproduction parts made the trip well worth it. Clearly, the Mopar muscle car hobby is still very alive and well. And it certainly got our minds churning on how many tens of millions of dollars’ worth of old parts we’ve got stashed in the barn at home…or, more likely, maybe that’s ten dollars’ worth.