During the hot and humid weekend of August 12th through the 14th, the small, rural town of Hebron, Ohio was overrun by a bunch of Mopar owners and enthusiasts looking to have fun and spend some time around their favorite cars. The event is better known as the Mopar Nationals, and if you’re as enthusiastic about Mopars as we are, then you missed one hell-of-a show!
The gates opened at 8am all weekend, and there was something for everyone to see during the event, which was held at Hebron’s National Trail Raceway just outside of Columbus. Spectator’s had an opportunity to admire the beautiful products of Chrysler stretching back to the ‘50s Belvederes and Furys, to the Challengers and Chargers of today. There were also plenty of Vipers and other rare Mopars on hand as well.
For those looking to purchase or unload their classic Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, or AMC, there was a car corral filled with interesting array of iron from all eras, and like all car events, there was a swap meet and numerous vendors’ booths also. While the grounds were filled in every direction of classic Mopar products, aftermarket suppliers showing of their latest hardware, and guys hustling used parts, the grandstands were packed with people waiting and watching for their favorite cars to run down the 1320.
There were classes for every type of car imaginable, and although we were only able to attend on Saturday, we did see a lot of cars breaking on the track. Despite this, we were able to get a lot of great shots in the staging lanes of some of the coolest looking Nostalgia/Super Stock cars we’ve seen in a long time, including the legendary Dick Landy specials.
Starting at the swap meet area, and moving towards the car corral, we saw guys from all walks of life peddling used car parts from various Mopar vehicles; everything from an air cleaner for a ’59 Chrysler to a grille off of a ‘90s Dodge Dakota could be had at the meet. While we went in search of some cool, used HEMI or Wedge motors, we came up empty handed. Either they were already unloaded by the time we got there, or they didn’t bother turning up at all. Are classic Mopar big-blocks that rare (and expensive) of a commodity these days? We searched hard, but came up empty-handed.
Once in the car corral, we were greeted with a different story. For starters, there was not one, but two wing cars for sale in the temporary car lot. The first, a blue Superbird, was already sold by noon on Saturday, but the second, an orange Daytona was still on the open market for the get-it-out-of-here price of $126k, and it wasn’t even in mint condition. Going through the corral we saw a couple of Stealths, a ‘90s Daytona or two, and a lot of late-model trucks. But there were a few project second gen Chargers, a supposed ’71 Charger “pilot car,” and even a Lil Red Express truck that had already sold, among many other unique and not so unique Mopars.
Under the National Trail Pavilion there were a couple of exclusive show cars that caught our eye; the first was an original Chrysler Imperial “Black Beauty” that was used in the hit ‘60s TV series, The Green Hornet. As everyone knows, it was one of the many cars that George Barris built for the show. It is still equipped with the as-seen-on-TV gadgets, and is currently privately owned and maintained in mint condition today.
This made us look for a General Lee Charger, but strangely, there wasn’t a single one on the grounds anywhere at all on Saturday. Apart from a couple of gentlemen wearing Dukes of Hazzard t-shirts, and a Dukes lunchbox for sale in the swap meet area, there were virtually no references to the show anywhere.
The other car sitting under the shade-providing pavilion was a ’71 Duster dubbed the “DustAAR” (Duster AAR) that was built by a man who was inspired by the ‘Cuda AAR of 1970. After purchasing four ‘Cudas himself, he built a “what if” car by dropping in a 340 Six-Pack between its fenders, and based the engine on a ’69 block and all of the factory-issued Chrysler hardware. The outside of the body appeared to use all of the same components the ‘Cuda AAR have used, or at least the parts the “DUSTAAR” would have used if they would have actually built such a car. The interior appeared completed factory apart from a set of buckets out of a ’72 Duster. It was a well-rounded package, and we thought it would’ve been pretty cool if Plymouth could have produced it.
Walking around the show field revealed a huge amount of late-model Challenger and Viper owners in particular; your author probably has seen more Vipers and new Challengers at this show than I had in my entire lifetime put together. But I’m not complaining. Under a large tent on the far easterly part of the grounds laid an area reserved for Dodge’s sports car dubbed, “The Viper Pit.”
Every year, model, and modification level of Viper was in attendance and it you’re a fan of the V-10-powered serpent, you wouldn’t have been disappointed. In fact there was even a Chrysler 300C sitting outside of the tent with its HEMI V8 removed and a Viper V10 in its place. Pretty cool stuff. Speaking of Viper-powered vehicles, we managed to stumble upon one of the fifty SRT10 Rams that were given away during the 2004 BUSCH NASCAR series race in 2004. Painted in the familiar Viper Blue with white stripes, the example we saw was Number 22 of the 50, and the title was held by its original owner.
Afterwards, we went in search of something really unique, and ran across a ’70 Cuda with a matching ’08 Challenger SRT8 in the show field. Both cars carried matching interiors and paint schemes, while the ‘Cuda was customized with a late-model Challenger rear taillight treatment. While we found it different, our overall opinion was just that. We would have preferred if the owner/customizer left the factory ‘Cuda rear valance in place, but hey, that’s why Skittles come in a variety of flavors, right?
Speaking of which, there were a good handful of Dodge’s smallest SRT offering scattered about the premises and while the lone example we saw in the staging lanes that ran down the track only pulled a mid-13, the rest were more concerned about collecting show trophies. But if small and unusual is your thing, then fans would have loved the small, but very present AMC section of the show –which included a Gremlin or two, several Ramblers, a Matador, a Javelin, an Eagle AMX, and even a Rebel Machine, which was our favorite of the bunch, amongst several others.
After filling up on a hoagie sandwich at the ground’s on-sight food stand, we went in search of some more cars to shoot, and ran across everyone’s favorite homicidal, bi-polar automobile: Christine. Although this particular example (and the only one at the show) was actually based off of a ’58 Belvedere and not a Fury, we think the car’s builder did a good job capturing the essence of the silver screen “actress.”
While walking from the show circuit and through the vendor’s area, we couldn’t help but drool all over Year One’s Road Runner packing 505cui of HEMI V8 power. After being turned down to drive it, we carried on and ran into the SRT Tour, which featured every one of Chrysler’s 2012 SRT models, including; the Charger, Challenger, 300C, and the Grand Cherokee. They wouldn’t let us drive anything either. So after walking away broken-hearted we got a look at a Hurst Challenger, and the Hurst Hauler Ram, but by that point we had already seen a couple hundred of each of those models, so we weren’t exactly blown away by either, despite their modifications.
The gates closed an hour early on Saturday at 7pm, as there was a Mopar Nationals cruise held after the show, although due to time constraints we were unable to attend. But it was held from 7-11pm in nearby Heath, Ohio and we imagine it was quite a gathering considering the massive turnout at the drag strip. Despite the massive heat and humidity, we were overjoyed with the amount of people and cars that turned up, and we are already looking forward to next year’s event with great anticipation. The date has already been set for August 10th-12th, so better schedule now, because you can guarantee that it’s going to be huge!