Things Heat Up For Muscle Cars At The Strip

They say, horsepower makes heat – well, so does the freakin’ sun. Things were burning up on and off the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Seriously, we have the sunburns to prove it!

For the Mopar afficionados in the crowd, Mopars At The Strip has been a staple for years. This is the first year the show’s organizers have allowed all-comers to join in the fun, but lets face it – there was still a gratuitous amount of Mopars on the strip.

In any case, we did our best to cover the gamut, and show you the best of the best from the show. From the autocross and drag strip, to the car show and swap meet, we scowered the grounds in search of interesting and flavorful rides.

Suffice to say, there was a plethora to choose from, and our job is never an easy one, in terms of choosing which cars make it into the digital pages of the magazine. Nevertheless, there are some factors we consider, such as if the car has an interesting story or background to go along with it, or if the owner has a particularly harrowing tale to tell us about the car.

Every car has a story, and every owner loves to tell it. Here are a few of our favorites from the show:

Jesse Sprott’s Seriously Slam’d Challenger: 

Obviously Mopars are known for standing out – with their high-impact colors, crazy interiors, and monster power plants. That being said, it is sometimes difficult to stand out at an all-Mopar show. That was not the case for Jesse Sprott’s ’73 Challenger.

His mother gifted him the Challenger on his 16th birthday, but they subsequently had a falling out. Fast-forward, years later, when he finally got ahold of the car from his aunt, he made all of his childish dreams come true.

His mother told him “The only way you can have the car is if you do a proper restoration to it.” To which he replied “I already have the car now, Mom! I’m going to build it however I want!”

That he did! The radical modifications and devil-may-care attitude the Challenger has is exactly what stopped us in our tracks. For starters it’s sitting on the floor in a sea of jacked up muscle cars. That is because of the air bags and custom chassis that was built for it. The frame rides 3-inches higher than factory and allows the Challenger to sit on its body.

If that isn’t wild enough, take a look at the hand fabricated intake manifold that sits atop the 3rd-gen 5.7 Liter Hemi. That’s right – he fabricated an intake manifold out of square tubing because at the time there weren’t many aftermarket options, and it fit the theme of the build. Oh, it has nitrous, too…

The Challenger sports an A833 trans mated to that late-model HEMI, and a whole host of wild and custom parts. For example, the rear-end is a Toyota off-road unit that allows for an 8-lug wheel. Interestingly enough, that allows the car to be outfit with some really wide and cool CenterLine wheels.

We could go on for days about all the wild and crazy details on this ’73 Challenger, but for now these pictures will have to do.

Rhonda & Jim Hatzelis’ Mod-Top Bird: 

The 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner featured in the pictures above is about as great a juxtoposition to the slammed Challenger, as we could find. While the Challenger was built on rebellion and scoffing at authority and purism, the Roadrunner is a tribute to days and people past.

The Roadrunner was lovingly restored as a tribute to Rhonda’s Late brother, Jimmy Hopper. As the story goes, Jimmy once came to own the car after trading it straight-up for a Dodge Tradesman Van, and he loved it ever since. He ran into a situation where the car could possibly have been taken from him, and he feared that. So, he asked Rhonda if she would put the car in her name.

Rhonda obliged. When it came time to put the car back into his own name, Jimmy told Rhonda “No, I think we’d better keep it in your name. I think it’s safe there.” See, Jimmy was a mechanic by trade, and he was constantly wheeling and dealing cars. Rhonda supposed he wanted it kept in her name so he wouldn’t go and sell it or something.

It wasn’t long after that Jimmy passed away. Well, we think it’s safe to say, he made the right call leaving it in his sisters hands. She has shepherded the car to it’s condition, and it’s a beauty!

The thing that really made the car stand out in the seemingly endless rows of Muscle Cars At The Strip, was all the interesting little personal touches.

For example, Rhonda and Jim Hatzelis’ Roadrunner is nicknamed the Mod-Top Bird because of it’s Mod-Top vinyl roof. It’s a rare thing to see a Mod-Top in the wild, let alone one on a real “V” code car (440 6bbl), so we had to ask about it.

Turns out, there was a good reason Jimmy was so keen on the Roadrunner – it’s 440 breathes through an Air-Grabber hood, is mated to a 4-speed with a Hurst Pistol Grip Shifter, and putting power to the tires through a Dana 60 rear end. Yeah, it pretty much has it all.

The crazy part about the Mod-Top is, it didn’t come that way from factory. With all those options listed above, you’d almost expect it, but nope. Rhonda worked with a sign company to recreate her own version of the Mod-Top using old patterns of clothing from her childhood. The patterns were then digitally transferred to a vinyl wrap, and her top is completely custom.

These were just a couple of the wildest cars we saw at the show, take a look at the gallery below and see everything else that was out there.

Photo gallery

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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