Some car shows are open to anyone and everyone, and if a couple hundred cars show up then it’s considered a good day. Then there are private car shows that are open to specific cars only, and you would think that the number of registered participants would be far less than a typical car show.
But there’s one group of passionate Mopar fanatics who have shattered the prior years’ numbers every year since they started nine years ago, and this year was the biggest ever with more than 1,000 entrants registered.
The show is called the Spring Festival of LXs, and was open only to those who have a late model Mopar with the LX, LC, or LD platform, and SRT Jeeps. Initially, you might think this wouldn’t be such a big show with such limitations, and in its first year it wasn’t very big at all – four people got together and basically hung out.
Over the years, it has grown and has become much bigger than any of those original four attendees ever thought it would be. This year, for their ninth meet, the parking lot at Verizon’s Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California, saw more than 1,200 Challengers, Chargers, Magnums, and 300s – with a few dozen SRT Jeeps sprinkled in as well.
Partying Mopar Style
The partying began the Thursday before the actual show, when loyalists from all over the country filled up the Doubletree Hilton Hotel parking lot in Irvine. These Mopar fanatics are far from strangers, many of them have been attending Spring Festivals for years. It’s become more than just friends and enthusiasts meeting up for a car show, the long weekend has become more of a family reunion, where people come together to share their love and admiration for anything modern Mopar.
The first meet up of the weekend was held at a regular hangout for some: Beach Burgers in Huntington Beach. The parking lot filled up, and with that the “SF9 Party” was under way and there were candy-colored Mopars everywhere you looked, many of them with multi-colored halo lighting making the Beach Burgers parking lot look more like a carnival than a burger joint.
On Friday, cruises, meals, and general partying helped maintain the fun atmosphere, and those who could survive the festivities from Friday evening got up early to make the show on Saturday. Before long, hundreds of cars converged on the streets of Irvine, hangover and all, en route to the show.
For the most part, people tried to stick together to ride in and park with their own group, but sometimes that much coordination takes too many brain cells on a Saturday morning after partying, and groups can get scattered. But when you’re with people who call you family, it’s all good, and the parking lot filled with so many variations on these modern platforms that finding two alike was rather difficult.
SRT, Chrysler, Dodge – Guests
For a few years, huge tents and booths go up with Chrysler sprawled across the marqee, and you’d think this show is sponsored by Chrysler and SRT. But if you listened to SRT CEO Ralph Gilles later in the afternoon, he told a different story. “We’ve been coming here for a while, and the Spring Festival has our full support. But we’re guests here, we aren’t putting on this show, we were invited,” he tells a huge crowd who is dying to hear the latest on the vehicle Gilles says he can’t talk about. “I’d like to tell you more,” he said, “but my PR staff is standing over there with tasers to make sure I don’t say too much.”
If you had heard the rumor that the Hellcat Hemi was going to make its debut at this show, you weren’t alone. But Gilles said, “We couldn’t bring it out today. I’m ready to debut the car, but we just aren’t ready. We have a couple of cars but they’re still doing testing and they just aren’t ready.” As always, Gilles is one of those guys who wants to tell you the exciting news, but he knows that he can’t and the disappointment can be heard in his voice. He’s not just the CEO of SRT, he’s Ralph to many there, he’s a friend and hangs out with a lot of the people who attend these events.
We asked if the Hellcat Hemi would be available in the Challenger only, or if other platforms, like the Charger, might see it as well, and with a sly grin he tells us, “Something like that”. You got to love it, he can give you an answer that sounds like what you want to hear, but doesn’t really give you the full details, and before you know it you realize he was just doing his job and keeping things under wraps to keep the peace.
Gilles stood before the crowd and said he did have a surprise for us all and wanted to reveal a design that they’ve been working on for a while. He asked the staff in attendance to remove their jackets, and he removed his button-up shirt to reveal a t-shirt with what can only be summed up as a caricature of a Hellcat on the front. So, in a way, we did get a glimpse of the Hellcat without actually seeing the car.
Driving Experience, Drag Racing, Autocross, and Spin and Win
Along with the lineup of new vehicles that Chrysler brought out to share with us, Dodge brought out a few cars as well for the “Get In And Drive” experience. The 1320 Dodge Challenger drag car was there, along with some special vehicles and some new design concepts for the Challenger. A line that began forming at just before nine in the morning had people signing up and spinning a wheel for gifts and prizes all day long.
Others took test drives in the latest Dodge vehicles, while NHRA Top Fuel Driver Leah Pritchett gave ride-alongs as she launched a Plum Crazy Challenger through a couple gears at the Christmas tree. On the autocross track, SRT Viper GTS-R drivers Jonathan Bomarito and Tommy Kendall took passengers out and gave them a ride they won’t soon forget, squealing tires and burning rubber through the cones.
Each of the lines for these events remained full throughout the day, and even when the crowd broke for the free lunch provided by the event, the lines didn’t seem to slow down at all. Down the midway, vendors like Edelbrock, Corsa Performance, Magnuson, R1 Concepts, Whiteline, Vossen, aFe Power, and STS, to name a few, were there to show off their latest offerings for the modern Mopar crowd.
Taste the Rainbow, Family and Friends
With this many cars in attendance, and all of them being modern Mopars about 10 years old or newer, you would think that the modifications would run out, and that you’d start seeing the same car in another aisle.
With the exception of the completely stock vehicles – for which there were very few – the customizations on the cars were as different as any other show that is open to everyone.
This show is private for a couple of reasons, and one of them is that they didn’t want the crowd to get too big. Even with the limitations, the crowd is huge – only people who registered their car (and their passengers) were allowed entry to the show area.
The show was spread out over much of the parking lot, and people spent all day meeting with friends – er, family – and sharing customizing tips and tricks, as well as showing a genuine interest in what everyone else had done to their cars.
There were a couple of cars that literally broke the mold and went a completely different direction, and others that played the traditional musclecar theme with a supercharged Hemi, custom wheels and fat tires. With the bright colors that draped over some of the Chargers and Challengers, it was like a parking lot of amped up Skittles on ‘Roids.
One vehicle that didn’t fit the platform but has been welcome to the show is the SRT Jeep, and there were quite a few of them at the show. The Jeeps make a nice addition – and distraction – to the show, reminding us that Mopar encompasses more than the original brands that Ma Mopar introduced a few decades ago.
At the end of the day, most people were tired, some of us had been on our feet all day, and some were nursing hangovers from the Friday night partying and had a hard time remembering where they were, what they were doing, and what they had said. We made some new friends, and met with some old friends, and got to be a part of something that makes you feel like you are a part of the family simply because you were there.
The Spring Festival of LXs started with founder John Fortuno’s idea of getting a couple of LX platform enthusiasts together, and ended up with chapters of Moparmaniacs like our friends at Mopar360, SoCalChallengers, and SoCalLX, just to name a few. People came from as far away as New York and Canada, and many stayed the entire four-day weekend, simply because it was the thing to do.
If that’s not a passionate group of Moparmaniacs, we don’t know what is. Enjoy the huge gallery below, and let us know if you attended the Spring Festival of LXs this year, or any year, or if you are making plans to attend next year. Get ready for the party, because already some enthusiasts are plotting out their trip!