Holley’s MoParty is well on its way to becoming the biggest annual Chrysler congregation in the country. For years, Pentastar patrons have been without an all-encompassing event that brings together the many styles of speed, swap, and show. Do great racing events exist? Yes. Are there super swap meets to attend? Yes. Does any one occasion bring it all together for a giant celebration in Hemi-powered heaven like MoParty? Absolutely not!
Nary another performance parts supplier could plan and prepare such a streamlined setup like Holley has for two years in a row. Of course, it helps that Beech Bend Raceway is right in their backyard, hardly five miles down the road from company headquarters.
Just outside of Bowling Green and through the fence-lined backroads of Kentucky, Beech Bend was the perfect spot for such a spectacle with abundant parking, welcoming facilities, an incredible track team, and plenty of pavement to pound. Grandstands lined both shoulders of the strip while ample seating along the front stretch of the oval track allowed for largely unobstructed views of the all-day action.
Some speculated that early numbers pointed towards double the attendance of last year’s put-on. Without a doubt, the cavalcade of events kept people pouring in throughout the weekend. Drag racing, an autocross, a show-and-shine, a burnout contest, several Hemi swap seminars, and Hellcat thrill rides were all made available for participation.
The shriek of tires in agony was first to catch our attention at the autocross. Everything from trucks to K-cars to pro-touring machines traversed the cones. Sliding through the slaloms were beginners and experts alike, all battling to administer the perfect mix of steering, suspension, throttle, and brakes. More than one took out a corner marker or two but, for the most part, purpose-built vintage iron was able to keep pace with the parade of modern muscle.
Thrill rides followed the controlled chaos of the autocrossers with Driving Experiences’ wheelmen putting a quartet of Hellcat-powered heathens through the wringer. Free for those who could stand the wait in line, the thrill rides included a stringently-sideways sail around the interior of the oval with the 6.2 Hemis singing at the highest octave.
More than six hours of shredding was sprinkled in throughout the three-day weekend and, in a testament to Mopar’s bulletproof engineering, we didn’t see any of the dog-tired Dodges experience a mechanical issue. Rubber, on the other hand, was hastily consumed.
One driver estimated that roughly sixteen tires were exhausted between the four cars on Saturday alone. On more than one occasion, we witnessed a wheel blow chunks as its sidewall decided that enough was enough. According to another Driving Experiences team member, the three Chargers and lone Challenger all have one more exhibition to survive before they’re auctioned off to the highest (and unluckiest?) bidder.
Bids for finish line fame at the drag strip started right after the rain cleared and track officials hit the hairdryers. Staging lanes were packed with a healthy mixture of new and old, including a fair amount of pickup truck power in the form of Dakotas, D150s, and fresh 1500 models.
Among the muscular, Gary Murphy’s 1970 Dodge Challenger tickled our fancy, featuring a rowdy rumble that coupled perfectly with the big ‘n’ little wheel setup. Hemi lettering graced the T/A-style hood while a slick black exterior coat suggested sinister supremacy within. Chrome bumpers, real headlights, and factory hood trim made us want to hop in and tear up some city stoplights.
Speaking of stoplights, the swap meet area featured some nifty red/yellow/green trios with interchangeable lenses that filtered light in the silhouette of all your favorite makes and models. Shop décor is all the rage these days and customizable coolness like this can really set the mood. Vintage Mopar containers for power steering fluid, oil, and refrigerant were available as accent pieces in their trademark red, white, and blue metal packaging.
A smattering of used paraphernalia packed 40’ wide by 20’ deep swap spaces that grew and shrank with irregular rain. When all the goodies finally made their way out of the trailers, a few decent deals could have been had. Some clean high-performance exhaust manifolds caught our eye at $425, but a $60 rear taillight for a 1969 Dodge Coronet is all that came home.
Manufacturers big and small littered the midway with special event deals and, of course, the added benefit of having products on-hand to save attendees the expense of shipping any large or heavy items. As expected, Holley’s trailer was loaded to the gills with just about everything you’d need for Hemi-stuffing shenanigans.
Others, like Summit Racing, Trick Flow, Indy Cylinder Heads, and the Headlight Motor Man came equipped with everything from crate engines to wiper motors. Our very own Brazen and Comeback ‘Cuda adorned the Mopar Connection Magazine tent to give readers a real-life look at these two in-print projects.
Flanking the midway was a pair of specialized tents, one for Gen III Hemi swap seminars and one for live dyno runs. Seminars were put on by the experts at Arrington Performance to highlight conversion details for A-bodies, E-bodies, and W150 trucks. Sample vehicles on display gave listeners an in-person look at the fit and finish provided by Holley’s conversion parts.
Behind that, a mobile dyno had wheels spinning for the better part of the weekend. More than sixteen hours of first come, first served availability scattered the weekend with some fairly wicked rides winding it up to maximum capacity.
We caught a stock Hellcat Charger backing down after a spirited run that proved 606 ponies were being put to the pavement. That’s some heavy-duty rear-wheel horse given an engine rating of 707. At the other end of the spectrum, a brand-new Jeep Gladiator with the 3.0 V6 EcoDiesel pushed 300 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque; not bad for a modern oil-burner that sounded more like sewing machine than towing machine.
For cars that leaned towards show rather than go, the show-n-shine field covered several acres and was filled with several decades’ worth of classics. Classes were divvied up between A-bodies, B-bodies, E-bodies, LX, stock, modified, truck/SUV, FMJ, and AMC. Best of show was eligible for a $500 check and complimentary MoParty jacket.
For us, the champion of the show field was a slick 1973 Plymouth Duster packing a modern 392, stick shift transmission, and sunroof. The triple pickle look with dark green paint, a light green stripe, and a green vinyl top is hard to pull off, but this little A-body nailed it. A parchment-hued interior complimented the exterior nicely while a modern dash spiced it up just enough to be noticeable.
Modern Hemi swaps were in anything but short supply and it’s become abundantly clear how easy companies like Holley have made it to slide a 5.7, 6.1, or 6.4 under hood. Every one we saw slipped into old iron looked like a professional fit that was hard to pull off even five years ago. A clean 1968 Dodge Coronet coupe was a stealthy sleeper with dog-dish hubcaps and a basic 5.7 Hemi that could probably push north of 20 miles-per-gallon.
The pinnacle of the weekend’s entertainment, however, was on Saturday night, starting with the must-see mullet contest. More than twenty challengers went toe-to-toe in a battle of the Mississippi mudflaps. Judges examined each in an exhaustive effort to crown the best fake, real, junior, and trashy mullets.
Competition was fierce as both a Hulk-style T-shirt removal and a shotgunned can of cold beverage were part of the contestants’ pleas for glory. Win or lose, every one of the Kentucky waterfalls went home proud. A wing car parade kept the crowd on its feet as the white and Petty-blue Superbirds made hot laps around the track. A bit of 440 flogging ensued, but nothing like the orange B-body that was being prepped to fly through the sky.
The General Lee, escorted by two of Hazzard County’s finest, made his way to mid-track as soon as the ‘Birds had flown the coop. Earlier in the day, the big 01 had mesmerized the masses with a live-action chase scene around the oval followed by a sideways showing of skill on two wheels.
The General’s grand finale, however, was an airborne launch of epic proportions. Down the front stretch came a deputy trailing the orange blur. Building speed around turn one, the General grabbed another gear before reaching takeoff velocity and heading towards the ramp at center stage.
Over the hood of the other white Fury he flew, crashing down to a rampless landing in an almost horizontal fashion. A couple of bounces later, the dust cleared, and the Charger limped to the finish line. Aside from a trail of antifreeze and some tweaked panels, it wasn’t much worse for the wear. So solid was the high-flying hefty B-body that it actually made its way off track under its own power.
A burnout competition capped off the evening of rubber-ruining activities, fogging a still-lively gathering in sweet racing perfume. With the aroma of melting tires still fresh in our nostrils, we’re already marking the calendar for Holley’s third rendition of this up-and-coming experience next year. Visit MoParty or Holley online to keep tabs on 2022 scheduling. Better get that mullet going now.