With the first day of spring just around the corner, that could only mean one thing — show and race season is officially here! And to celebrate, Mopar fans from all over the country will be heading to Las Vegas for the 2013 Mopars at the Strip event next weekend. But this event isn’t just a bunch of Chryslers, Plymouths, and Dodges milling around on the main thoroughfare in town. It’s a whole lot of fun for anyone with Mopar blood in their bodies and a special opportunity to see a drag racing legend and some custom cars built specifically to commemorate his achievements.
As a car-savvy state, Colorado tends to get the low-down on epic car events all across the country, including the Mopars at the Strip event. Thanks in part to avid car fan and local rock DJ Willie B, those listeners of Denver’s KBPI radio station got an extra treat last weekend as Phil Painter, managing Partner for JP Motorsports, discussed the fantastic Vegas event they have planned for late March.
If you’ve ever been to MATS, you know it’s a weekend full of anything Mopar, from a cruise and car show, to drag racing and autocross competitions. But this year there will be a special treat, as the famous Mr. Norm Kraus joins the party as the 2013 MATS Guest of Honor.
In 1948, Kraus started his career selling cars with his brother at the gas station his father owned. By 1956, he noticed a trend with many people looking for stick-shift performance-based cars. So he started buying up all the sticks he could find and reselling them. The name “Mr. Norm” came about due to a space limitation for advertisements in the paper.
In 1962, Kraus opened the Grand Spaulding Dodge showroom for his newly discovered business, focused on performance, and the Mr. Norm Sport Club got its start with a relationship with performance buyers in 1963. The first Clayton Chassis Dynamometer was installed at a new and bigger Grand Spaulding facility and Kraus began customizing and selling Mr. Norm racing apparel.
By 1965, Kraus had teamed up with Gary Dyer and the two began match racing behind the wheel of a supercharged Hemi Dodge Coronet with a factory altered wheel base. It was this car that changed the world of drag racing forever, paving the way for the professional Funny Car racing category. Late that year, the Coronet became known as the fastest Funny Car in the country and Kraus instituted a full high-performance parts department at his dealership.
Between 1967 and 1975, Kraus’ successes continued on and off the track. The late ’60s brought about Kraus’ 383 Dart, which led to the factory 383 Dart GTS, the 440 Dart GSS creation, a car that ended up being the prototype for the factory M Code 440 Dart GTS, as well as the championship win at the Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Stars Championship for Kraus’ Dodge Super Charger super fuel car. Between 1969 and 1973, Kraus came up with even more cars, including the 340 6 Pack Demon, the Supercharged 340 Demon GSS, and a conversion van concept.
By 1974, Grand Spaulding Dodge became the largest volume dealer for Dodge in the world, expanding even more in 1975 to supply the entire fleet of cars for the Chicago police force and many other municipalities. Kraus also offered special-order police pursuit vehicles equipped with 440 Magnums that were dyno tuned for maximum performance.
Needless to say, if it was a Dodge and you wanted insane performance, Mr. Norm was the person to go to.
Now, decades later, Kraus is still a major part of the industry, bringing about “new” car creations that pay tribute to the performance Dodge’s of yesteryear. This year at the MATS event, Kraus will reveal two very special cars, including a modern Challenger that will be offered in a limited production run, according to Painter. Other attractions at the show will include vintage Mr. Norm cars, a twin-turbo and supercharged Mopar making its debut run down the track, and the beloved Pony Car Wars.
Mopars at the Strip starts March 22nd and goes through the 24th at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If you’re any kind of Mopar or drag racing fan, this event should not be missed.