Springtime in Las Vegas means that the weather is fickle and the Chrysler Pentastars are in bloom! The annual Mopars at the Strip extravaganza is one of the most anticipated automotive events of the year. For 2013 the event held the promise of fun, speed, beauty and the possibility of new projects. As usual, MATS was all that and more!
Drag racing plays a huge part in the appeal of Mopars at the Strip. Again this year the pits and staging lanes were awash with speedy Mopars along with a good showing of GM and FoMoCo entries, ready to do battle throughout the weekend. However in the early afternoon on Friday, racing had to be halted.
As it often happens in Vegas, the desert winds began to blow across the track in such a manner that once the racers passed the protection of the grandstands, they were slammed from the side with gale force gusts. Drag racing is exciting enough without that added “pucker factor” so the decision was made to batten down the hatches and hunker down. Saturday and Sunday saw nearly perfect conditions for racing and the ground began to shake once again!
Mr. Norm at the Show
The promoters of Mopars at the Strip regularly invite pioneers of the sport to come and mingle with the folks in attendance. This year they welcomed a true drag racing legend.
Norman “Mr Norm” Kraus made his Chicago, Illinois dealership Grand Spaulding Dodge synonymous with high-performance cars and parts across the United States and Canada. But perhaps more importantly, Mr. Norm through his energetic imagination and hot rodding spirit was one of the pioneers of A/FX and Funny Car racing.
Not only did Mr. Norm happily meet and greet hundreds of Mopar and racing fans personally during the three-day extravaganza, but during an interview with the timing tower announcing team, he also regaled all the fans at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with some fascinating stories of the early days of A/FX racing.
Quite a few cars from the Mr. Norm’s Garage stable made an appearance over the course of the event.
Autocross at the Strip
The Hotchkis Autocross was a big hit with spectators and participants alike. Lots of people took advantage of the opportunity to bring their cars onto the Autocross course and set loose their inner Andretti on the tight chicane. All sorts of vehicles made their appearance on the course. SUV’s, classic musclecars, pick-up trucks, domestics and imports all tried to make it around the course faster than the other guy.
Swap Meet and Car Corral
It may have been the result of an improving economy or possibly the draw of great weather but this year’s Swap Meet and Car Corral were busy, busy, busy! Both of these traditional MATS events seemed to produce much more interest and activity than a year ago. Swap Meet vendors filled up their assigned rows and the stalls had huge selections of used and new parts just waiting to find a new home. The atmosphere in the sales rows was friendly and congenial with bargains aplenty.
The Car Corral had a pretty good assortment of vehicles available in various stages of completion. Classics, streeters and racers sat side by side hoping to find their way to a new garage and a possible new life. As usual, prices ranged from affordable to the relationship ending range depending on the shared interest of your significant other.
The Mother of all Mopar Shows
For the true Mopar aficionado, this show could have been nirvana! Hundreds of the finest examples of Chrysler Corporation’s creations were on hand for everyone to stop and admire. Although the the blowing dust and sand accompanying Friday afternoon’s strong winds sent lots of folks back to the hotels and casinos for the evening, the rest of the weekend saw the return of a packed house in the car show area. There’s not enough space here to bring you all of the winners from each of the categories but here are a few of our favorites.
The incredibly smooth body and paint work on the 1969 Charger of Scott Zimmerman of Notus, Idaho, is a testament to master craftsmanship. The finish gives the impression that the car is actually wet even though it stands for hours in the desert sun.
Under the hood in the ultra-clean engine compartment lurked a Ray Barton prepared elephant motor. Not only was the engine impressive to behold, it turned heads for 50 yards in any direction when it crackled to life.
Interior materials used were high-quality upgrades over stock but the design was kept fairly close to the original. Modifications were kept to a minimum with the notable exceptions of an aftermarket steering wheel and B&M shifter for the automatic transmission.
The 1972 Cuda owned by Scott Stevens of Lake Havasu City Arizona is a treat for the eyes. It’s Spanish Gold color tells you right away that this is not your run of the mill 70’s muscle car.
This magnificent ’72 is powered by a stroked RB motor that displaces 509 cubic inches. A custom built 727 Torqueflite with overdrive transmits the ponies to a Mopar 8 3/4-inch differential that spins a 3:55 posi.
The interior is beautiful, comfortable and functional with silver/grey accents offsetting and enhancing the look of the black leather and carpeting. Aftermarket white-faced gauges now occupy the dash; their large, easy-to-read dials give the driver information at a glance.
It could be argued that over the years, Chrysler New Yorkers could be considered the most elegant automobiles ever manufactured. At MATS, that argument was ably made by this 1959 edition of the New Yorker that is owned by Edward Spraakman of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Spraakman’s New Yorker epitomizes the 50’s era “grey-flannel” executive image. Its two-tone grey exterior color scheme makes the liberal application of chrome pop in the sun. Wide whitewall tires mounted on wire-spoke wheels adds an air of formality and panache to the entire visual package.
It’s low, it’s wide, it’s got lots of room inside! The interior of this New Yorker is almost a time capsule for what was available to the well-to-do in those days. Even with a two-door model, there was ample room for six adults. Plus, a back seat this size could easily accommodate an evening rendezvous. Power steering, power brakes, power windows and push-button automatic transmission options were expensive, and only available on the top of the line models.
Michael Pollard of Yuma, Arizona definitely knows how to make an impression at a Mopar event. His black 1968 Plymouth christened “BadCuda” is something to behold. This licensed, street-legal behemoth is powered by a twin-plug per cylinder elephant motor that is not only spotless but also looks like it could power its way through the deepest of Super Stock fields. But this weekend, it found itself relaxing in the show lot attracting accolades from the judges.
A car like this would be enough for most folks. But for Pollard, that is only the beginning! To no one’s surprise, “BadCuda” was brought to MATS on a trailer. However, pulling that load was Pollard’s show quality 1972 Dodge Power Wagon known as “Black Thunder.”
Thunder is an appropriate name for this truck as under the tilt front-end resides another 426 Hemi! And although this one is slightly less radical than the one in the Barracuda, it still puts out some awesome horsepower.
The 2013 edition of Mopars at the Strip was just the latest in their series of terrific events. Once again the folks who promote and present MATS did great job in putting together what may be the premiere Mopar centric event in the country. Want to see more? Below is a gallery of some of the great things you missed if you didn’t make it this year. Check it out!