To a certified car nut, what could be better that an enormous car show situated in an idyllic setting held over a Southern California Spring weekend? Nothing, I say! And so it was that I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the 30th Anniversary edition of the Spring Fling, the largest Mopar car show and swap meet west of the Mississippi, on April 23rd and 24th, 2016.
With over 700 cars, 300 swappers and vendors, 50 manufacturers and close to 10,000 spectators over the weekend, the Spring Fling once again proved to have something for everyone. Hosted by the Chrysler Performance West Car Club, and held once again at the beatific Woodley Park in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Van Nuys, this years’ event seemed to be the best ever; as it featured some truly spectacular Mopars from the past and present. We were blessed with perfect California weather and had a very enthusiastic crowd of Mopar devotees in attendance.
First Choice: 1970 Plymouth Hemicuda Convertible
Of the myriad cars on display this year, one vehicle most certainly stood out from the rest in terms of its utterly flawless, show-car condition and historical significance: The so-called “711” 1970 Plymouth Hemicuda Convertible owned and restored by the Blake family.
This InViolet beast was only one of five Hemicuda convertibles manufactured with a four-speed transmission for the American market. And boy is she a stunner. With immaculate paint, original interior,numbers matching engine, all original body panels, and 12,640 original miles on the counter, this is one bad fish! It also sports a set of options and lack thereof that make it even more unique.
All high performance options offered by Plymouth were selected by the original owner, including the 426 “Elephant” engine, heavy-duty four-speed manual transmission with Hurst Pistol Grip shifter, maximum performance 4.10 Dana 60 rear axle, power disc brakes and Argent Silver Shaker hood scoop.
Omitted were all the luxury options offered on the car such as power steering, power windows, power top, remote mirror, passenger side mirror, center console, rallye wheels and rallye gauges.
Clearly, the original buyer was looking for the lightest weight, highest performance drag-monster money could buy at the time, and woe was the hot-shot that lined up next to her at a strip!
Second Choice: 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird
Another car that really appealed to the crowd was a stunning 1970 Plymouth Hemi-Superbird in Lime Light Green. An original owner car, this hyper muscle car was presented in eye-popping concours condition, and as such seemed to have a crowd around it at all times during the weekend.
Contrary to the aforementioned Hemicuda, this ‘bird was optioned with everything that Plymouth had to offer, including the 426 Hemi V8 4bbl., automatic transmission, performance axle package with Chrysler 8 ¾” 3.55 rear, front power disc brakes, Hemi suspension with sway bar, firm ride shocks, power steering, center console, bucket seats, rim-blow steering wheel, remote mirror, 3-speed wipers, hood pins, chrome exhaust tips, and much more.
According to Randy Holden, a writer at Mopar Collector’s Guide Magazine, this particular loaded Superbird was the most expensive ever produced. It is interesting to note that at the time of the Superbird’s release, it was not well received, owing to its enormous size and over-the-top, massive rear wing; but over the years it has gained acceptance because of those very same facets, and I can assure you that this one blew away many a Mopar fanatic at the Spring Fling outing!
Third Choice: 1970 Dodge Challenger
Bringing Mopar’s rich racing history to the Spring Fling was a 1970 Autodynamics Dodge Challenger. Decked out in full race regalia, this Sublime Green mean machine has some serious pedigree, having been driven by the legendary Sam Posey in the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am Championship.
Featuring a destroked 340 engine at 303 cubic inch displacement, this monster must have flown back in the day with its 460bhp and wet weight of only 3200 lbs! Built at Dan Gurney’s AAR workshop, the car was finished at Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics, and was a factory Dodge entry in the Trans-Am series.
The car finished 4th in points during the 1970 season, behind Ford and AMC, but ahead of Chevrolet, Plymouth and Pontiac, which acquitted the last-minute start up team well.
Interesting features of the car include the quad side pipes, massive front spoiler, Spartan interior and headlight delete.
Fourth Choice: 1971 Dodge Demon
I must confess, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Dodge Demons. Generally overlooked by original purchasers and contemporary collectors owing to the allure of the “big-dog” musclecars of the Chrysler line-up such as the Challenger, Charger and Barracuda; Demons have a uniqueness to them that make them a cool vintage curio, much in the manner of say, an AMC AMX.
The Spring Fling had quite a few Demons present this year, and for me the pick of the litter was Brent and Kathleen Stewart’s Hemi Orange 1971.
This numbers-matching, 45,000 original miles beauty has received a rotisserie restoration and was appraised by Mopar guru Galen Govier. Featuring an exquisitely detailed 340 ci 4bbl. engine good for 275bhp and 340 lb/ft of torque, an 833 4-speed manual, 3.23-1 Suregrip rear axle, rallye wheels, Demon graphics and the original window sticker, the Stewart’s car was a real pleaser for me and many Moparians in attendance. I for one especially enjoyed the flawless paint, no-holds barred restoration and neat little extras like the old-school Pentastar paper floor mats exhibited inside. A very, very nicely turned-out car!
Fifth Choice: 1969 Dodge Charger 500
On display at Spring Fling this year was a prime example of Mopar rarity in the hallowed form of a 1969 Dodge Charger 500. This car was simply resplendent with a painstakingly correct restoration featuring T5 Copper paint with white 500 tail-stripe, over a pristine, butterscotch interior. This car features the 440 magnum 4bbl. engine, packing 375 bhp and 480 lb/ft of torque, mated to a D34 TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
The origin of the Charger 500 is an interesting moment in Mopar history. The 1968 Dodge Charger failed to beat the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II on the high-speed ovals of the NASCAR circuit, in spite of having the all-conquering 426 Hemi under the hood. Testing in the wind tunnel revealed that the Charger’s flying buttress-flanked rear window and deep-set grill were causing a great deal of drag at high speed.
To cure this for the 1969 season, Dodge outfitted the Charger with a rear window that was flush with the roof and transplanted the grill from the 1968 Coronet onto the car. What resulted was a much more slippery shape for high-speed NASCAR racing, but the modifications made it necessary according to the rules of the day in NASCAR for Dodge to produce 500 road-going versions of the type. Thus was the genesis of this car and the “500” moniker.
In truth, Dodge only produced 392 road-going Charger 500s. Owing to attrition over the years since then, this gorgeous example is a true rarity!
Other cars that caught my eye at this year’s Spring Fling included many fine examples of vintage ‘cudas, Chargers, Challengers, Road Runners, Superbees, 300s, Dusters and Imperials; as well as some super-clean examples of modern Mopar, including LX/LC body Chargers, Challengers and 300s. There was also a sweet bevy of Hellcat Chargers and Challengers thrown in for good measure this year.
A trip over to Spring Fling’s vendor area revealed many manufacturer booths selling everything from aftermarket brake kits and exhausts to crate engines and complete transmissions for vintage Chrysler Company cars. These vendors included such tried-and-true Mopar support companies as Classic Industries, Just Dashes, Layson’s Restorations, MrMoparts, Stephens Performance and TTi performance exhausts.
Swap-meet type stands offered an even greater range of wares ranging from Mopar clothing, signs, scale models and a variety of parts for Mopars old and new.
You could literally spend an entire day combing through everything the vendors had to offer at this show!
All in all, the Spring Fling 2016 proved itself yet again to be a real winner, and an essential show for any Mopar Manic. With a plethora of excellent cars, a nice variety of food, and the aforementioned vendor and swap booths, you could do a whole lot worse than this show. I have attended it for the past six years running and greatly anticipate its arrival every year.
I consider it to be a great kick-off of sorts to the Southern California car show season. If you missed this year’s event, worry not, because the Chrysler Performance West Car Club also puts on a companion show later in the year, known (not surprisingly) as the Fall Fling. This year’s Fall event will occur in October on a date to be announced soon. You can find out about the Spring and Fall Flings by going to the Chrysler Performance West Car Club’s website.
If you live in or around the Southern California area and love yourself some Mopar, why don’t you come out to Woodley Park this Fall and join in on the fun? We’ll be there.