The Straight Scoop From Those Who Partied Hearty!
By Bob McClurg
Mopars at the Strip (aka MATS or the Moparty) is a hardcore Mopar-only event held annually at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This year’s three-day extravaganza marked the 10th anniversary with a huge car show (with 31 popular choice and judged categories), drag racing, an autocross, the MoPower Cruise, a swap meet, a manufacturers midway, live music, Mopar celebrity guests, and much, much more Official results are posted at www.matslv.com. In the meantime, MCR fired up its trusty tape recorder and went in search of that “quotable quote,” Mopar style!
Crowd Favorite: Joel Miner’s Altered-Wheelbase Coronet
Computer graphic arts specialist Joel Miner hails from San Diego and races this homebuilt AWB Coronet in the Nostalgia Super Stock/A/FX classes.
“The car is a tribute to the original altered-wheelbase Mopars from 1965,” says Miner. “Other than NHRA-mandated safety improvements, it is as period-correct as possible. And, like the original altered-wheelbase Mopars, it’s quite a handful to drive. This thing just loves to stand up on the back bumper, but it comes down nice and easy about halfway through Second gear. That’s if you’re going straight! After a while you sort of develop a seat-of-the-pants feeling, sit back, and let the fun happen! The fans go absolutely nuts over this car!”
And From Up Prince Edward Island Way . . .
Bruce Erickson brought his ’67 GTX to MATS from O’Leary, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Plymouth is powered by a 572-inch Hemi with aluminum Indy cylinder heads. Output is rated at 635 hp and 665 lb-ft.
He says, “My first new car was a ’67 GTX with a 440 and four-speed, and I always liked that particular body style. Finally, two years ago, the bug bit hard. Undoubtedly I spent way too much money on the project, but the thing runs really great: 12.26 at 110 mph to date, so it’s been well worth it. This is my second year competing at Mopars at the Strip. I actually won the B-Body Modified class here last year.”
“GOLDN” 340 Challenger R/T
The GY8 Metallic Gold paint was still wet (literally) when Ponoka, Alberta, Canada’s Dave Cole rolled his ’71 Challenger 340 R/T through the gates of LVMS the morning of April 13.
“We finished the car at 2 o’clock in the morning April 10 and were on the road by 3,” says Cole. “This is my first car. I bought it used in 1979 at the tender age of 16 and drove it all through high school. Man, I really abused that thing. I used to drag-race it and tear up and down the roads around Ponoka like there was no tomorrow!”
In 1982, Cole sold the Challenger to the brother of a girlfriend. “Little did I realize that 40 years later (2007) I would buy the car back for the same price.”
All his hard work paid off. Cole captured First Place in the Stock division of World’s Ultimate Mopar.
The (Super) Bird’s the Word
Chrysler once claimed that the extruded aluminum and titanium rear wing mounted on the decklid of a Dodge Daytona or Plymouth Superbird applied so much downforce that it was possible to shred the rear tires in just two laps. MATS participant Jim Ferrell was so confident in the structural integrity of his 440 Six Pack Superbird that he was more than happy to allow Mopars of Las Vegas member Alexis climb up to pose for our camera.
“I got the idea from an advertisement showing Richard Petty and a couple of other NASCAR drivers standing on the rear wing of one of these ‘scoundrel cars,’” Ferrell says. “I call it that because back in ’69 and ’70, Chrysler’s factory teams cheated. Big time! When you start from the front of the Superbird you’ve got the nose cone. You’ve got a Plymouth Road Runner body with a welded 10-inch front extension with Dodge Coronet fenders bolted to it. The rear window is much smaller and more aerodynamic than stock. They covered up their crummy [body] work with a vinyl roof, and of course the rear wing extended all the way down to the frame. Chrysler-Plymouth built 1,500 of these scoundrel cars and said, ‘See, here’s a production car.’ That’s when NASCAR threw out the factory teams and privatized the class!
“To me, Mopars at the Strip is about the celebration of the American muscle car, Mopar style, and what you just saw me do a few minutes ago is what I like doing the most. It’s all about making people smile.”
Put a ’57 Dodge (Hemi) in Your Garage
Talk about rare! Jerry and Audry Citra own a red and white ’57 Dodge Custom Royale Lancer with the KD-500 option, a 331ci dual-quad Hemi backed by an early Chrysler TorqueFlite. Citra, formerly a Chrysler mechanic who worked back in the day at Cranbrook, British Columbia’s Haddad-Guardside Motors Limited, not only rebuilt the engine (with Audry’s help), but he performed the entire frame-off restoration too.
He says, “The car has won numerous awards at shows from coast to coast, and we’ve put about 20,000 miles on the odometer going to shows. This is our second Mopars at the Strip event, but it’s our first time showing the car, so we’re pretty excited.”
Reason to Smile, Ed!
With an event of this magnitude, Mopars of Las Vegas host-club president Smiling Ed Metcalf wears many hats. One of them is as owner of this cloned ’68 Dodge Dart GTS convertible, along with an original ’69 440 Plymouth GTX.
“I built the Dart about five years ago, and it’s my daily driver,” says Smiling Ed. “It’s got a Mopar Performance 360 crate engine, 727 TorqueFlite, and a 3.23-geared 8¾ Sure Grip rearend.
“I started the club in 2002. I got hold of Chrysler, told them what I wanted to do with the club, and was given permission to use the Mopar name. That was 10 years ago, and we’ve been going strong ever since.”
Hemi Shootout Winner
Ray and David Barton (of Ray Barton Racing) and car owner Jim Daniels flat dominated this year’s Hemi Shootout class. On the final, driver David defeated Cary Wolkwitz’s Dodge Dart, posting an 8.553 at 156.17 to Wolkwitz’s off-pace 10.53 at 87.86. David was also the Hemi Shootout’s number-one qualifier at 8.439 and set top MPH at 159.23.
“The weather was definitely a contributing factor,” David said. “We were expecting to run a lot quicker — 8.30s — but the air is so different here, and the track was a little slick. The Hemi cars weren’t leaving nearly as hard as they should have. One of our biggest problems was staying hooked up all the way through all the gears. In fact, on a couple of runs I had to flat back out of the throttle just to keep the car under control.”
In 2009, John Hotchkis and his suspension company introduced MATS fans (who are traditionally drag racing oriented) to the world of autocross. At this writing, they have given more than 1,000 demonstration rides.
“We’re all about driving and handling,” says Hotchkis. “We feel that muscle cars aren’t just for show. We were so lucky to talk MATS promoter Phil Painter into holding an autocross to supplement both the drag racing and car show segments of this event. Phil and his crew were definitely on board, but the car show people thought we were crazy at first. We were given part of the parking lot for the first two years. We got more and more exposure, more people tried it, and so this year they thought so highly of it the event was moved closer to the grandstand where more people could see it better. Now it’s an integral part of the action.”
Mopar or No Car
Russ Archibeque finished the restoration of his Jolly Red ’70 Hemi Challenger convertible just in time to attend MATS. With just 9 miles on the odometer, it won Best of Show in the E-Body Modified class.
“Seeing all of these Mopars takes me back to my college days,” says Archibeque. “I bought the Challenger in Green River, Wyoming, June 2009, and it doesn’t look anything like it did then. The car was a complete mess. It had sat outside for years and was in very bad shape. Chris Riley from GnR Automotive and Hot Rod in Loveland, Colorado, removed every nut and bolt. Every square inch of sheetmetal on the car was removed, replaced, or reworked.”
Last (Wheel) Stand
Famed Hurst Hemi Under Glass pilot Bob Riggle announced at MATS that he’ll be formally retiring later this year, as will the Bill Sefton-owned ’66 rendition of the famed wheelstander.
“This was the last West Coast appearance for the Hurst Hemi Under Glass,” says Riggle. “NHRA asked me to run the car at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green later this summer, which will be its last East Coast appearance. Then I’m hanging up my driving gloves for good.”