If you want to see Chryco machinery at most big car shows, good luck—Mopar guys are pretty reclusive. They’d prefer to stay with their own kind and do their own thing. When the various Chrysler clans do decide to gather, you can bet there’s a ton of cool stuff that you wouldn’t ordinarily see at the typical big-tent car show. Among those most hallowed Mopar events that the Chryco faithful make pilgrimage to is the event known as Moparty At The Strip (MATS).
Previously known as Mopars At The Strip (you can thank Chrysler’s voracious squad of trademark lawyers for the change), the 12-year-old Las Vegas based event attracts the best Mopar machinery from around the country. When you combine the balmy spring weather of Las Vegas in April with the squeaky-clean high-tech facility known as The Strip At The Las Vegas Motor Speedway, then throw in the fact that most of the country is still bunkered in with cabin fever, it’s easy to see why MATS is the Mopar event everybody wants to attend. (For more information about attending Moparty At The Strip, click here.)
When you combine the balmy spring weather of Las Vegas in April ... it’s easy to see why MATS is the Mopar event everybody wants ...
The TTI exhaust booth at MATS is heaven for Mopar power junkies--there is arguably no area
What casual muscle car fans don’t really understand about the Mopar side of things is that there’s an entire world of subtle variation. There are A-body guys, B-body guys, E-body guys, and even C-body guys. Then you have your AMC foster kids, and your classic Dodge truck guys and late-model crew. Within each of these clans there are subcultures and vaults of knowledge that can only be explored and unlocked in the context of an event like MATS.
Want to see a one-of-ten ’71 ‘Cuda convertible with a 440 and a four speed? Or how about an Australian Valiant Wayfarer Ute? You simply won’t find that at a Goodguys show. For us and for a lot of people, MATS is fun simply because it has a lot of Mopar stuff we either never knew about, or forgot about and rediscovered. Looking for a hard-to-find piece for your Dodge or Plymouth? There’s plenty of rare parts in Vegas, and lots of experts who have been down the road of building a Mopar.
After a five-year hiatus, PHR has returned to MATS, which is being held this weekend (April 11-13, 2014). We confess that this is partly selfish; now that we’ve started into our ’68 Plymouth Valiant project car in earnest, the curiosity factor for all things Mopar has grown. That is one of the reasons we started building a Plymouth—to increase our body of overall Mopar knowledge. But as most guys who do this find out, what starts out as curiosity often turns into fanaticism, and that is what’s led us to admiring fresh Chryslers in the crisp desert air adjacent to Nellis Air Force Base.
There was plenty to gawk at, and nearly every Chryco machine we saw at MATS was worthy of admiration, but we wanted to search out our most favorite Mopars in attendance--ten in all--and give them special attention. Here's what we found!
1972 Plymouth 'Cuda
We found Travis Higgins carving up the autocross with his homebuilt '72 Cuda, mixing it up with Camaros, Mustangs, and Chevelles! (Who knew they let Fords and Chevys into MATS, but we guess if you want a full autocross field, it's a necessity.) Travis built his Cuda to run at full kill with a stroked and poked Gen III Hemi (426ci), RMS AlterKtion front coilover suspension, RideTech rear four-link, and a TKO 600 5-speed. We love it so much, we're coming back on Monday to shoot it at LVMS when nobody's around.
1971 Valiant Wayfarer
Technically, this Australian Ute is under the "Valiant" brand--not "Plymouth"--and the model is "Wayfarer," not "Valiant," as us Yanks are used to. Owner Wynn Allred says he wasn't looking for a Valiant Wayfarer Ute, but when he ran into it, he couldn't resist! Well, we couldn't resist snapping a shot of it. Besides the weirdness of having the steering wheel on the wrong side, it also has a straight-six--not a slant six--and the cylinder head has legit hemispherical combustion chambers--hence the "Hemi" graphic on the bed side!
1971 Plymouth Barracuda
Over the course of 22 years, Robert DeDurr has crafted one of the most wicked-looking 'Cudas we've ever seen, from its down and dirty stance with Centerline wheels and Mickey Thompson rubber, to its sexy orange paint. This ultra sanitary street machine packs a 440 with Six Pack induction, Edelbrock Performer heads and a Purple 'shaft--enough to propel the 3.91-geared, 727 three-speed car to an easy best of 12.50 at 109 mph.
1970 Chrysler 300
As you walk up to Tom Kunkle's white and gold Hurst edition 300H, you're mind plays tricks on you. Those who remember these yacht-like C-bodies back in the day will perhaps recall them as slow, ungainly cars, but out here in the Vegas desert, the Chrysler 300 was like a beautiful mirage. Sleek and elegant is what comes to mind when you admire Kunkle's 440 TNT-powered beast, it's leather-swathed interior inviting you to settle in, fire the plant, crank the a/c, and glide down the interstate comfortably at triple-digit speed!
1969 Plymouth Roadrunner
It's nice to see the pro touring trend gradually taking hold of the Mopar crowd. One by one, folks are realizing that having modern stopping power and cornering ability can be fun. Larry Trachi realized the performance potential in his '69 Roadrunner and commissioned Restorations By Rob to build his B-body with the good stuff, namely a coilover AlterKtion front suspension by RMS, and a Street-Lynx four-link rear suspension--also by RMS. Baer brakes aided by 18-inch Boss wheels and Nitto tires complete the handling chores. And the power train? Nothing short of a 472ci Hemi backed by a four-speed!
1968 Plymouth Valiant
Since it's our website and we're allowed to play favorites, we had to pick Brian Kannisto's gold 1968 Plymouth Valiant. We're in the process of building our own '68 Valiant, and we naturally gravitated towards the gold two-door post sedan. Brian was in the drag pits trying to whittle away at his 11.57/118 best e.t.--and his 410ci small-block certainly has the goods to improve on that number. Edelbrock heads, a Holley 750 double pumper, a .600-lift COMP hydraulic roller cam and a custom dual-snorkel air system are good for about 500hp, according to Brian.
1968 Dodge Dart
We love it when we witness an "ah-ha!" moment firsthand! We happened on the autocross at the exact moment Josh Keyawa took his homebuilt '68 Dodge Dart on its first autocross lap ever. In fact, this photo is from that lap. Although modest in its modifications with a mild 440, 727 trans, Hotchkis front suspension, and 15-inch BFGs on Cragars, Josh was wheeling it around the cones like a pro. In his words: "This is great! I can't wait to do it again!"
1978 Dodge Magnum
We couldn't find the owner of this often overlooked closet classic, but we were digging it so much with it's 15-inch Minilite wheels that we had to snap a shot of it. According to the brief description on the card, it belongs to David Henriksen of Phoenix, AZ, who is the original owner. With just 8,000 miles on the clock and a 400ci Magnum Wedge under the hood, it's sure to gain value and garner lots of looks.
1967 Plymouth Barracuda
Some cars just beckon to you from a distance, and Bob Reed's sexy '67 Barracuda just had the right attitude--deep black paint, a killer stance, and Wilwood binders peering out from 17-inch Coddington wheels and Kumho tires. A closer look and some questioning garnered the information that it also packs a 460hp Magnum 360 (stroked to 406ci), ACCEL EFI, a 3.23-geared 8.75-inch rear, 1-inch drop spindles, de-arched rear leaf springs, and a 5-speed Tremec.
1965 Plymouth Belvedere I
Last but not least is Jim Collins' stunning '65 Plymouth Belvedere I Stock Eliminator tribute car. It pushes all the right buttons with ARE Torque Thrust hoops (6x15, front; 10x15, rear) and Mickey Thompson 315/60R15 ET Street rear tires--just perfect for selling the throwback stance. A 533ci Hemi with a magnesium crossram intake, Stage V aluminum heads, and a Crower solid roller cam running into a built 727 and a 3.54-geared Dana 60 will no doubt keep Jim busy behind the wheel once he gets up enough nerve to pilot it down the quarter mile!