The Mopar Las Vegas Meet - Mopars At The Strip
Chryslers Of All Colors Converge On The Strip At Las Vegas For America's Most Magnificent Mopar Meeting.
From the December, 2008 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Johnny Hunkins
If 21-year-old Jeff Hild gets...
If 21-year-old Jeff Hild gets his '71 Duster going much faster, we'll probably have to feature it. It's gone a best quarter-mile e.t. of 12.008/111 on motor-which happens to be a 340 small-block.
"I've got another one in the car if you want it," says John Clark, Chrysler's head of the Mopar Performance Division. Just when I thought March 28, 2008, couldn't get any better, Clark offers me contraband-a Cuban Monte Cristo torpedo. These haven't been legal to bring into the U.S. since the Kennedy administration. I fire up 5 inches of heaven and become infused with all that's good in the world. My Las Vegas experience-Mopars At The Strip-has now exceeded all my expectations and then some, and it's only Friday, with two more days left of the event.
I nurse the wonderful stogie, admiring the cars in front of the Mopar Performance trailer. Car builder Matt Delaney has once again assembled another work of art-a '70 Challenger with Viper running gear-over which I am now drooling. The audio track to this total immersion in Mopar fantasy is just as impressive. The wail of yet another max-effort Hemi sings like Robert Plant as it hits a high note in the burnout box. Time trials for the Hemi Super Stock Challenge are under way, and the smell of high octane and tire smoke intertwines with the delicate Cuban smoke.
Oh so much to do, and so little time to do it in. I thank Clark for the cigar and jump back in my golf cart. My friends Kenny, Robert, and Kristen jump in, and we make a beeline for the swap meet. We're on a mission to find some Valiant badges and a better set of Duster taillights. The search would turn out fruitless, but I doubt we could've had more fun if we found exactly what we were looking for. Life's about the journey, not the destination. We run into Jeff Hild, a 21-year-old engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona. He's there with his dad, Tom, who helped him resuscitate a Sassygrass Green '71 Duster 340. It runs bottom 12s, and we strike up a conversation. I dig the Duster's buck's-down vibe and crazy street performance. Kenny likes it because it's a Duster like his. We're off before they even realize we're from the magazine.
The car corral was overpriced, as per usual at any all-Mopar event. That's not to say it's without humor. We saw what must've been the '66 Coronet in that famous Foster Farms chicken commercial, because it looked like it came right out of the barnyard. The hood was up, the intake manifold was gone, and my impression was that chickens had roosted there. The asking price was through the roof. We weren't biting. In all seriousness, c'mon guys, what's with the price gouging on Mopars?
Next stop, the car show, and a familiar face. Last year, I snapped a shot of 20-year-old Katie McDonald, a business major at UNLV. We had posed the stunning blonde next to her dad's '04 Dodge Cummins diesel, and ran it in last year's coverage as a full page back in December. She hadn't seen the spread, but Robert had a copy with him. You'd have thought she won the lottery, jumping up and down, squealing like, well, a school girl. A big round of hugs for everybody.
The Mopar hobby is diverse. Its purveyors range from poor to rich, from diminutive A-body to hefty C-body, and from American to everybody else. Everybody else, in this case, turned out to be a member of the Arab royal family. He's so important, he doesn't have a name that can be uttered to mere mortals, and he doesn't even have to be at MATS, so he sends the official royal family muscle car builder. The royal Saudi's steed is a '73 Challenger, swilling high-octane brew at a state-subsidized 11 cents a gallon. The satin black g-Machine terror packs a Hemi, and will no doubt see some late-night street racing in the Saudi capital, and possibly even at Dubai's new state-of-the-art dragstrip. We'd show you a picture, but we'd probably be visited in the middle of the night by ninjas. The scene is creepy. We putter off in our insignificant little golf cart.
Trundling through the car show, conversation turns to mid-'70s Mopars. If there's a final frontier in the Chrysler hobby, this is it, and we're game. Kenny starts gushing about his '72 Charger. "I wanted a '73 SE, but the front suspensions are totally different, and nobody makes stuff for them," says Kenny. Then we spot Nick Villiger's black '73 Charger. Kenny's on it like white on rice before the cart even comes to a stop. Villiger, a retired 65-year-old production manager from Mountain Home, Arkansas, explains that the triple-black B-body is possibly the only non-SE '73 Charger ever built with bucket seats, a 400 big-block, and a slap-stick shifter. It's obvious that Kenny and Nick will be engrossed for a while, so I mosey over to an attractive woman by a '67 GTX, one of my all-time favorites. I say, "You're really cute. Can I take your picture?" Big mistake. Those eyes burned in me like lasers, and her face turned red. "I'm a happily married woman," she says in the most old-money voice she can muster. "You just can't come up and say something like that!" Well, actually I can.
I hightail it out of there. Robert and Kenny are grinning and shaking their heads. For the next hour, they harass me about the incident in the way that only good friends can. Later that night around the pool at the Golden Nugget, we light off the last three Cuban Cohibas my brother gave me. We watch the sharks circle lazily in the glass tank as our smoke mingles with the cool desert air. We laugh one more time about the uppity blonde and my lack of social skills. Life is good, and it's only Friday.
The Supercharger Store: Twin ProChargers & Direct Drive
We just couldn't leave out this dual gear-driven ProCharger F2 setup. When we saw it at The Supercharger Store's display, we had to bombard employee Bob Woods about the details. This one happens to fit Mopar B, RB, and LA blocks, but The Supercharger Store makes them for big-block Chevy, small-block Chevy, big-block Ford, small-block Ford, Buick, and Olds applications, too. The unit bolts directly to the block, and the gear case bolts to the crankshaft, thus eliminating all belts, and improves hood clearance. The dual-blower unit seen here typically costs $12,600, and includes the geardrive, two F2 blowers, and the race relief valves. A single blower geardrive runs about $4,200. For more info, call The Supercharger Store at 520-456-9706, or log onto www.thesuperchargerstore.com.
Gear Vendors Overdrive For Highway Haulin'!
If you've got a 727 TorqueFlite and you hate $4-a-gallon gas, meet your new friend, Mike McCarthy of Gear Vendors. Mike showed us the new Gear Vendors overdrive unit (PN 3DFS0727, $2,495), which fits all 18.5-, 15-, and 8-inch TorqueFlite tailhousings. It's got a .78 overdrive ratio (just multiply your highway cruise rpm by .78 to get your cruise rpm with the overdrive on). Mike told us that with a 3.54 rear gear ratio, the overdrive unit makes it behave like a 2.77 gearset. To get more info, you can e-mail Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org, or log onto www.gearvendors.com. Or just use the phone and call him at 619-562-0060.
A Little Dash Of Class
Most of the A-body dashes we've seen are slap worn out and could use a little TLC from this man right here, Frank Veloz of Just Dashes. Frank can restore your '68-72 A-body dash (Barracuda, Dart, Duster, Valiant) for around $599 if it's black, or $1,000 for any other color. Dashpad cores are available upon request, and can even be rehabbed with a built-in gauge pod like you see here. Check it out in detail by calling 800-247-3274, or logging onto www.justdashes.com. They're also available for most Mopar B-bodies, too.
We happened upon this '66...
We happened upon this '66 Coronet 500 in the car corral when we heard "buck, buck, buck..." No, it wasn't farm-fresh chickens, although that's what it looked like from that engine bay. It was actually the insane price tag. What's up with stupid money for stuff like this?
If you're going on a Vegas...
If you're going on a Vegas road trip, it helps to have your partners in crime with you. That's photographer Robert McGaffin on the left, and guitar slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd on the right. Our den mother, Kristin Forbes, refused to pose for the photo. We're at the Year One display here.
Shannon Hudson, aka "Joe Cool,"...
Shannon Hudson, aka "Joe Cool," poses with his '69 Plymouth Valiant. Purchased as a Slant Six for $400, Hudson has worked low-buck magic on the renamed "Violent," scoring a freebie 360 small-block mystery motor that has propelled the A-body to a best e.t. of 12.84/103. Shannon runs Redline Gauge Works (www.redlinegaugeworks.com, 661-259-8891), and is responsible for some of the coolest custom instrument clusters ever seen.
Nick Villiger (65) dusts off...
Nick Villiger (65) dusts off his '73 Dodge Charger, which is a base hardtop, not an SE like everybody thinks. "It's probably the only non-SE ever built with a 400, slap stick, and bucket seats," says Nick. The car was originally triple black, but Nick put in a white gut because he liked it better. The original black upholstery is in good condition, and sits in boxes at home.
We begged the Chrysler guys...
We begged the Chrysler guys for something cool for us to drive to Vegas, and they gave us this 300C SRT Edition. It's got all of the styling and luxury features of the 300C SRT8, but retains the standard 5.7L Hemi powertrain. It also retains the 300C's ability to swallow huge quantities of photo gear while giving us hot rod hooligans the ultimate in pimpness. Price is smack dab between 300C and 300C SRT8 territory, at about $44K. Oh, and thanks a lot, Kenny the jokester, for setting the nav system so that it would avoid freeways!
Matt Delaney makes some final...
Matt Delaney makes some final preparations before the PHR photo shoot on his '70 Dodge Challenger. Matt's the kind of guy who clearly doesn't mind getting a little dirty to get the job done! More details to come later...
Meet 27-year-old Jennifer...
Meet 27-year-old Jennifer Galambos (sigh), an office manager from Orange, CA. She's the wife of PHR October 2004 cover-car owner John Galambos ('66 Charger). We don't know if she can cook, but she sure can tune the 440 in her '69 Dodge Dart. (Yes, she really does wrench it.) She can drive it, too-she's wheeled the little A-body to a best of 10.59/126.
It's really fun to see so...
It's really fun to see so many luminaries in one place, and this was the case on the occasion of the Hemi Super Stock Reunion on the starting line at The Strip At Las Vegas. Here, Lou Santiago (formerly of Powerblock TV's MuscleCars show, center) chats up Dragon Lady Shirley Shahan, and King of Kustomizers, George Barris.
Cab Burge (Bend, OR) reaches...
Cab Burge (Bend, OR) reaches for the moon with his '71 Duster. The 63-year-old retired phone company worker has raced NHRA Stock, Super Street, Super Stock, and Super Gas. Did we mention he loves drag racing? The Duster sports a 518-inch 400 with a 10.25 compression ratio. (It's a street car, too-see the plate?) So far, Cab's best is a 10.34/128.
Even though your friends might...
Even though your friends might think it's too hard to build a '73 Charger, Gary Licht (48, Westminster, CA) took up the challenge, and hasn't looked back. Gary runs low 13s with his nearly stock '73 (a purple cam and an M1 intake being the main mods). Gary had Collins Wheel build him some 15x8 wheels out of some 14x7s, which he put on the rear with T/A Drag Radials. "I wanna put the same wheels and tires on the front and run it at Willow Springs," says Gary. Right on, man!
Sometimes you meet someone...
Sometimes you meet someone that you instantly know is going to be your friend for life. That guy is Ken Kiefer (51), who runs McKinney Motor Co. in Albuquerque, NM. If you live in Albuquerque and need work done on your street car or race car, don't call any other number but 505-298-6734. We spent almost all of Sunday with Ken shooting his '67 Barracuda, and had a blast.