“BE THERE!” The two legendary words expressed in radio advertising commercials by the late, great drag racing promoter and announcer Steve Evans. To him, every event was epic, and the listener was always expecting the newest happening should eclipse all that came before it, and that is why you had to “Be There.”
If Evans had been able to put together a radio spot for the ’21 Chrysler Nats, he would have undoubtedly remarked this year’s event would be the greatest, the biggest, and the most glorious of all time, and you had better get your ticket now. Without question, this year, he would have been correct. Carlisle on July 9-11 was the place to be.
The 31st annual Carlisle Chrysler Nationals focused on the 1971 model year Mopars. This year’s event set all-new attendance records for the three-day show. There were 2,927 registered vehicles on the property. That number was achieved with very few Mopars from north of the border (due to COVID restrictions), which usually account for approximately 15% of the car count in a typical year.
With the recent passing of Mr. Norm, Larry Weiner of Performance West Group arranged for a gathering of Mr. Norm vehicles (old and new) as a tribute to the man and his vision of high-performance. There was a parade of Mr. Norm vehicles passing through the crowd on Saturday.
Because the focus was on the ’71s, the psychedelic paint jobs were all the rage, and a dozen or more rides with decades-old, wild paint schemes survived for interested onlookers. The ’71 Cudas and Challengers were out in numbers not seen in years, and the fuselage B-bodies garnered plenty of attention.
Although 1971 was the last year for the 426 Hemi, and Chrysler installed few on the assembly lines, it seemed as though everybody had fitted a pachyderm between the fenders for the show.
The show field was packed with the Forward-Look rides of the late-50s and early-60s. Muscle cars of the 60s and 70s abounded, and Volares, Aspens, and Diplomats represented the late-70s and 80s. Prowlers and Vipers and the late-model Chargers and Challengers provided examples of the last two decades.
Then, of course, there were also pickups and probably every less-popular Chrysler, Plymouth, or Dodge produced since WWII. But, by far, the biggest (and continually growing) class was the late-model Chargers and Challengers. Those cars covered acres of the hilly portions of the fairgrounds.
This year the swap area was packed full of deals, and the cars for sale pavilion was at max capacity, but it did not seem as many titles were changing hands as in the past. The area that was noticeably reduced in size was the manufacturer’s midway. The manufacturers in attendance had excellent sales, but there were many less than the years before COVID.
However, a few vendors, including Holley (with John O’Malley’s HellKota), Silver Sport Transmissions, and INDY Cylinder Head, were in attendance. Besides the event ending too soon, the most disappointing part of the show was the lack of Dodge’s involvement. In years past, there were various acceleration or autocross ride-alongs in the latest Dodge products. Hopefully, Dodge will return to the event next year.
Speaking of next year, mark your calendar for July 15-17, 2022, for the 32nd annual show. The bar will be set even higher for next year, so plan to “Be There!”