There are a few things you can count on when the late Midwestern summer comes around: High temperatures, higher levels of humidity, and, for Chrysler fans across the land, the return of the Mopar Nationals! This past weekend, August 13th through the 15th, marked the 30th anniversary of the event, once again held at National Trail Raceway just outside of Columbus Ohio.
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The heat was out in force for the event, but that didn’t keep the spectators or participants away. Car count was the highest we’ve seen in at the event in recent years and, at just about any point through the weekend, the drag strip staging lanes were at capacity. Undoubtedly, the Mopar Nationals – or just the ‘Nats – is the biggest gathering of Mopar enthusiasts in the country.
For those who have a Mopar of their own and are looking to gather the needed parts, the first area of the show to see is the swap meet. The idea here is to get in there early before all deals are gone! As one of the premier shows in the country (for any brand), the Mopar Nationals also features perhaps the largest swap meets exclusive to the brand. Whether you’re looking for a number of parts for that basket case Belvedere you just picked up, or the one last hard-to-find piece to finally finish off your nearly completed Coronet, you are unlikely to leave the swap empty handed.
Looking for a replacement grille? How about an air cleaner? Heck, check out these K-memebers, you’re sure to need one of these babies! If you’re in dire need of anything for your Mopar, you’re sure to strike gold here at the ‘Nats.
The 1970 Challenger T/A (Trans-Am) and ‘Cuda AAR (Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers) featured a 340 small block with 3-2bbl. “Six Pack” induction. What you may not know is that the engine block itself was a special casting made just for these cars. The blocks feature special main webbings with provisions for 4-bolt main caps, as well as an external T/A designation. This complete example below would be ready to drop in after some detailing.
T/A block was the only 340 to receive Chrysler’s iconic “Six-Pack triple deuce induction. Built specifically for competitive SCCA racing, the 340 Six-Pack was the high-revving, hard-packing rival to the BOSS 302 and Z/28.
Perusing the vast swap meet section, we stumbled across some amazing deals, some amazingly rare parts, and some things that, well, just left us in amazement. Amid the available wares, we came upon some really unique items that only the keen-eyed Chrysler guru would finger, as some other items were a tad more obvious.
For a car from a different racing association, the ’69 Dodge Daytonas and ’70 Plymouth Superbird nose cones and wings are available as reproductions along with their wings. But don’t think your second-generation Charger or Road Runner is just a couple steps away, these beauties don’t come cheap.
Fifteen-inch wheels were standard equipment on cars optioned with a HEMI or otherwise optioned cars in 1969. Most ended up with these steel wheels, covered in either a small dog dish center cap or one of the optional full wheel covers.
The Battle at Midway
After finishing up in the swap meet, it’s time to head for the manufacturers’ midway. Aftermarket companies show off their latest performance and restoration products, among other things. Looking for a little more horsepower for your hot rod? INDY Cylinder Head was on hand with everything from heads and intake manifolds to complete dyno tested engines that were ready to drop right in. Be it a full-blown, all-aluminum 572 HEMI or a stroked and bored small block, these guys had everything a performance lover could, well…love.
In the old days of restoring a Mopar, you had few options when it came to sheetmetal replacement: Either spend big money for NOS items, or use thin, poor-fitting aftermarket stampings. These days, Auto Metal Direct makes the job much easier by offering high quality replacement panels that fit just like OEM parts. Every exterior body panel on this 1968 Plymouth is an aftermarket stamping from AMD.
Of course, not everything in the mid-way was for sale. We came across several extremely rare or purely unique pieces of automotive history. Consider these two examples:
Mopar Performance brought out a few items to showcase, including the Mopar-edition 2010 Challenger. This car is equipped with a host of performance engine and suspension upgrades plus unique blue striping along the upper belt line and black wheels. Offered as a limited run, these “Mopar 10” Challengers will likely be snatched up quickly. Also in the display was the Direct Connection Drag Pak Challenger. This factory test car turns the Drag Pak “up to 11” with the addition of a turbocharger and intercooler, pressurizing a late-model HEMI, which was bumped up to 440 cubic inches!
For Your Consideration
Even if you don’t own a Mopar, but are interested in buying one, the ‘Nats has you covered. The giant car corral is where you’ll like find the Mopar of your desires. We spotted this this 1967 GTX quickly. An original HEMI, automatic car, this GTX was offered as a roller for the new owner to complete.
For those wanting an easy project with tons of potential, this nice 1970 A-Body Plymouth Duster with an LA-Block 340 and 4-speed was in need of just a few finishing touches.
This 1970 AAR ‘Cuda, originally painted in FY1 “Lemon Twist” Yellow, has seen better days. This is perhaps the strongest small block Mopar on the open market so you can count on someone snapping this up for a long-term project.
This is an unusual 1969 Dart GTS, as it came with a factory B-Block 383 and claims to be the only big block floral top Dart known to exist. Plymouth called theirs a “Mod Top,” but the Dodge’s had no fancy name to distinguish it.
Most car shows have judged categories, but only the Mopar Nationals features OEM Certification. The participants are judged independently against a standard for originality, correctness, condition, and appearance. Cars earning 95% or greater of the total points receive OEM Gold Certification, The judging process is so intense and time-consuming that each year, the OEM Certification field is limited to 5 cars. This year’s field of contestants was a bit more eclectic than usual, consisting of the usual Charger Daytona and Plymouth ‘Cuda but also a 1979 Cordoba 300 and a 1970 4-door Plymouth Valiant that not only received the OEM Gold certification, but also came away with the coveted Best of Show award!
Mopar of the Hour
Each year the Mopar Nationals has a special display set up to pay tribute to a particular make and model. This time around, Dodge’s Coronet model – the Coronet R/T, 500, and Super Bee among others – were the featured cars with their own display area. The new-for-1968 Super Bee was the Dodge version of Plymouth’s no frills Road Runner.
The Coronet R/T was the Super Bee’s big brother. This sharp 1969 convertible came with the 440 Magnum standard, while the Bee made do with a four-barrel Magnum 383. Both cars had the HEMI as the only option, although the ’69 Bee had the Six-Pack available mid-year.
The Greatest Hits
While the Mopar Nationals are open to all vehicles that fall under the Chrysler umbrella, the Dodge and Plymouth muscle era cars continue to have the largest presence at the show.
The mid-size B-bodies were redesigned in 1971, best reflected by this Plymouth GTX.
It’s one of 327 built with the 440 4-barrel, 4-speed combination. It also has the black and orange vinyl interior unique to the 1971 models. This unique two-toned interior was available with many external colors but is most common on EV2 Tor Red cars
This 1970 Challenger R/T SE looks great with its V5X black body side moulding, which means it doesn’t have the V6 longitudinal stripe or the V9 bumblebee stripe. The trim follows the character line just like the available longitudinal stripe
Maybe you prefer Mopar muscle from an earlier generation? Then how about a clean, retro 1965 Coronet 500 replete with 426 Wedge and cheater slicks?
Low compression engines came for 1972, but that doesn’t mean Mopar muscle didn’t look or play the part, as evidenced by this very nicely restored 1972 Demon 340.
EV2 HEMI Orange was one of two High Impact colors to last past 1971
The 1969 Charger 500 was the first of the Aero cars. It featured a flush-mounted rear window and 1968 Coronet grille to eliminate turbulence and lift. This one is painted T7 Dark Tan and has HEMI power.
It predates the Muscle Car era by a few years, but this 1960 300F still packs a punch with its 375-hp 413. If there ever was a car that was mighty, the 300 was it.
Smoke ‘Em If ‘Ya Got ‘Em
Need a little more action than what the car show offers? For those with a need for speed, the ‘Nats also offers three days of non-stop action on the drag strip. All of requisite classes like Pro, Super Pro, and Quick 16 are represented, as well as some specialty classes like Nostalgia Super Stock and F.A.S.T.
Nostalgia Super Stock is a class open to 1960 through 1968 cars that is intended to run in the spirit of the factory backed super stock cars of years gone by. The class is a fan favorite for its classic wheels-up action feel.
The cars in the F.A.S.T. class were out in force for the event as well. F.A.S.T is an acronym for Factory Appearing Stock Tire. These cars must look absolutely stock, down to the cast iron exhaust manifolds and OEM size bias ply tires. Inside, however, anything goes; stroker cranks, ported heads, and a whole bunch of know how allows these cars to seemingly ignore the laws of physics while reaching speeds in excess of 130mph in the ¼-mile.
Don’t let the looks fool you, these cars really haul. The quickest cars in the class are in the 10-second zone, with many well into the 11s.
This is a perfect recreation of 1968 Dart Super Stock HEMI. While not one of the factory cars, this one was restored to look just like an original would have after being converted to HEMI power at the Hurst facility. The cars were left in primer and bare fiberglass so that the new owners could paint and letter them as they saw fit before heading to the track.
A clean ’71 ‘Cuda reaches for the sky as it comes off the line. Today it would be hard to find a hobbyist turning a ’71 ‘Cuda into a race car.
What would an event like this be without a burnout contest? For 30 seconds, contestants were to make as much noise and smoke and carnage as they dared without the assistance of a line-lock. Fan reaction was used to determine the winner.
At the end of the day, it’s time to pack up, head back to the hotel, and turn in for the night, right? Not at the Mopar Nationals. The area night life is just as action-packed as the event itself. If you turn in early, you’re missing out on what sets the Mopar Nationals apart from many other events. After a nice dinner at Outback Steakhouse, it was time to find some action. It didn’t take long as there was a Mopar gathering right in the restaurant parking lot!
At many of the areas hotels, impromptu gatherings of Mopar aficionados took place while people grilled out and exchanged stories of the day’s earlier action. You may even spot a car that you missed at the show, like this 1971 HEMI GTX. Notice the ultra-rare Elastomeric bumpers on this Tawny Gold example.
Once the sun starts to set, things really start to get rolling. Brice Road may not be as action-packed (or chaotic) as it once was, but there is still plenty to see. Crowds of people still set up along the unofficial parade route to check out what may go by.
The temperature was hot in Columbus, but the action at the Mopar Nationals was hotter. After so many years, it still never gets old!