Gallery: 2023 Carlisle Chrysler Nationals Breaks Show Field Record

The 2023 Carlisle Chrysler Nationals established a new record car count and, for the second year in a row, topped 3,000 automobiles. A total of 3,156 vehicles were registered for the show field even as the temperatures approached near-record highs, the elevated humidity made it uncomfortable, and there was a threat of thunderstorms each day.

The Carlisle Fairgrounds burst with Chryslers, Plymouths, Dodges, Imperials, DeSotos, AMCs, Jeeps, and full- and mid-sized Ram trucks. This year’s show focused on the “Malaise-Era” Mopars, celebrated the 1973 models, and honored the owners still owning their “High School Rides” decades after graduation.

The Malaise Era in the automotive industry refers to a period in the United States from the mid-1970s to the late-1980s when stringent emissions regulation and rising fuel prices significantly impacted vehicle design and performance. This era marked a decline in American muscle cars and high-performance vehicles, with the automakers focusing more on fuel efficiency, emissions compliance, and “sticker package” performance.

Despite the challenges, some iconic Mopar models emerged during the Malaise Era and still hold a place in automotive history. There were a few bright spots during the era, including introducing the rear-wheel drive (RWD) F-, J-, R-, and M-bodies and continuing the aging B-body.

The 1976-1980 F-body included the Aspen and Volare. The Diplomat, LeBaron, Town & County station wagon, Gran Fury, New Yorker, and Fifth Avenue were constructed on the 1977-1989 M-body platform.

The R-body was the shortest production model during the era, which ran from 1979 to 1981. The platform included the Coronet, New Yorker, St. Regis, and Gran Fury. The J-body included the Cordoba, Mirada, and Imperial during the model years 1980 through 1983. The front-wheel drive (FWD) K-body eventually replaced all the RWD platforms in the late 1980s.

By 1973, the muscle car era was merely a flicker of the late-1960s inferno, yet the Mopars in attendance represented the best of 1973 with 340 Cudas, Challengers, Dart Sports, and Dusters. Road Runners, Satellites, and Chargers sporting 440s, 400s, or 340s filled the display buildings.

The High School Rides also packed one of the display buildings. Most cars were A-, B-, and C-bodies sporting slants and two-barrel V8s, but a small number of high school kids drove some serious hardware while still spending their days working through linear equations and reading Shakespeare. A handful of owners had 340 A- and E-bodies, and a few lucky ones drove big-block rides.

Those searching for autographs had an opportunity to meet with Buddy Martin of Sox & Martin fame, Herb McCandless, Butch “the California Flash” Leal, “Miss Hurst” Linda Vaughn, Claudia Abel “Miss Direct Connection 1984,” Paul Rossi, and the members of the Ramchargers and the Golden Commandos. Additionally, Dave Rea from Graveyard Cars discussed Mopars with the crowd.

The race cars on display included a Sox & Martin Duster driven by McCandless and the vintage Sox & Martin Plymouth Cricket tow vehicle. Additional race cars included three of Roger Lindamood’s 1960s Super Stockers, Don Carlton’s Pro Stock “wire car,” Larry Wittig’s 1967 Sox & Martin clone, Rossi’s Challenger, and the Ferris Motors Belvedere. Lastly, Leal’s 1975 Direct Connection (DC) Modified Production Duster, the DC Parts Catalog cover car, rounded out the race cars on the grounds.

The manufacturer’s midway was well represented, with the best aftermarket companies in attendance. Mancini Racing, Indy Cylinder Head, Silver Sport Transmissions, and Dodge anchored the midway. Dodge, again, had its Thrill Rides, which allowed riders to enjoy the power of Hellcat-powered Challengers and Chargers driven by professional drivers on the specially designed track at Carlisle.

The car corral had several great deals on complete vehicles priced to sell. For those looking for that “special part,” the swap meet section had everything from small factory clips and fasteners to nearly complete automobiles. The deals must have been great, based on the volume of show visitors leaving with carts and arms full of parts.

The time is now to mark July 12-14, 2024, on your calendar for next year’s event. It is guaranteed that the show field will be full, the celebrities will be signing autographs, the swap meet will be huge, and the event’s specialty focus (yet to be determined) will bring in plenty of unique vehicles. Plan to attend the happening and bring cooler weather with you!

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Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 25 years; at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. for the last 20 years. Chris instructs automotive classes in HVAC, electrical/electronics, and high-performance, including using a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment. Recently, he added a vintage vehicle upholstery class to his teaching assignments. Chris owns a '67 Dart, a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, and a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned for 34 years.

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