Ah, spring in Southern California…
Beyond the warmer temperatures, the blooming flora, and the SoCal girls donning sundresses, this time of the year also brings with it one of my favorite things – the beginning of car show season!
For 35 years in this town, this glorious period of shimmering paint, loping idles, and the smell of spent gasoline has been kicked off by the Chrysler Performance West car club’s Spring Fling at the scenic Woodley Park in Van Nuys.
For those not in the know, the Spring Fling is the largest Mopar-only car show and swap meet west of the Mississippi, and is held over two days of an April weekend every year.
With over 700 cars, 300 swappers and vendors, 50 manufacturers, and close to 20,000 spectators over both days, the Spring Fling usually proves to have something for everyone.
Blessed with abundant sunshine, and a very enthusiastic crowd of Mopar devotees in attendance, this year was no different. So, let’s have a look at the four-wheeled stars of the show.
In past Spring Fling events, there seemed to be a fairly equal number of cars from the ‘50s, 60’s, and ‘70s, as well as numerous examples of modern Mopar.
On this occasion though, the preponderance of cars seemed to be 1970s vehicles, with a smattering of older rides, as well as a contingent of LX and LC body late model cars.
As such, there were, as you would expect, quite a few E-Body Barracudas on display. One of them was, for me, the stand-out car of the entire show.
A genuine ’71 Hemicuda with numbers matching 426 Hemi engine and transmission, Wendell and Aimee Malmberg’s fish was draped in B5 Blue with black Billboard stripes and a black interior.
Breathtaking, and aesthetically perfect in every way, it was no surprise for me to learn that the car had been subject to a factory-correct, ground-up restoration by Mark Worman of Graveyard Carz fame.
The Malmberg’s ‘Cuda was loaded with options, including a 727 TorqueFlite three-speed slushbox, the Super Track Pack with a Dana 60 rear containing 4.10 gears, power brakes, a leather interior, a woodgrain console, an Argent Silver Shaker hood, fender-mounted turn signal indicators, painted outside mirrors, and more.
It’s not every day you see a car of this rarity in this condition. Quite a treat.
Another splendid ‘Cuda on hand was a 1970 AAR painted in “High Impact” TorRed orange with a black interior. This car was subject to an older restoration, yet still looked very clean. I was amazed when the owner told me he regularly drives it around town and on road trips to destinations as far away as Houston. “Why not? It drives like a honey,” he said. Gotta love that.
A homologation car produced by Plymouth so that Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby’s All American Racers team could go SCCA Trans Am racing in it, the AAR was produced in 1970 only, and was limited to 2,727 examples.
Featuring Chrysler’s free-revving 340 cubic-inch V8 topped with three two-barrel Holley carbs, the AAR also packed an A833 four-speed, an 8.75-inch Sure-Grip diff, heavy-duty springs, power front disc brakes, a blacked-out, fiberglass hood with NACA duct, fiberglass front and rear spoilers, AAR side graphics, and side-exiting exhausts to make sure you didn’t confuse it with a run-of-the-mill Barracuda.
Representing the Dodge side of the E-Body platform as well as its version of the Trans Am homologation cars was Mike Preston’s 1970 Challenger T/A. Raced by the Autodynamics team, and driven by Sam Posey in the 1970 season, the T/A did battle with the aforementioned AAR ‘Cudas, Camaros, Boss 302 Mustangs, and the like.
Mike’s street-going T/A, a show standout owing to its rare and vibrant FM3 Panther Pink paint, appeared stock on the outside, but was packing some modifications under the skin. These included a B-Body rearend, four-wheel disc brakes, and a Vintage Air A/C system.
Still, the car looked the part of a mean T/A with that massive cold air scoop, blacked out hood, hold down pins, T/A graphics, chromed gas cap, chunky rear spoiler and chromed side exhausts.
An honorable mention should go out to another vintage 1970 Challenger at the show, a 383 Magnum and 727 TorqueFlite equipped convertible.
Though a driver, this car stood out for its impeccable presentation, condition, and most of all, its C7 Plum Crazy paint over a white interior. A serious looker!
Plymouth Satellite fans had plenty to cheer about too, with an immaculate 1966 426 Hemi automatic in attendance.
One of only 817 Hemis built in ’66, this car was perfection inside and out, with its mirror-like, jet black paint set off by gleaming chrome, over a red interior.
Under the hood, the big 426 was immaculately clean, and was accentuated by the factory chromed air cleaner with that famous, orange 426 badge sitting at the front.
Inside, the deep red vinyl bucket seats, matching door panels, and dash with that funky Satellite instrument cluster just screamed mid-1960s. I absolutely loved this historically significant car, and couldn’t bear to stop ogling it for several minutes.
What would a Mopar show be without some Dodge Chargers? Well, Spring Fling attendees didn’t have to worry, because there were several on hand, including one eye-popping one.
Scott Cvijanovich’s ’68 R/T stood out not only owing to its top-flight condition, but to its paint job – a color called Coppersunset from DuPont’s line of Hot Hues. The morning California sun really made it dazzle, and it was nicely accented by the black vinyl roof and matching twin “Bumble-Bee” stripes on the rear.
Equally amazing was the massive 440 Magnum V8 under the hood, with not a hint of dirt or grime anywhere to be seen. It was arguably the most perfect engine turnout of the show.
Scott had a facsimile of the original window sticker affixed to the rear quarter window, and it listed amongst the car’s original options a 727 TorqueFlite transmission, a center console, air conditioning, the Tic Toc Tach, a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio, power front disc brakes and more, all for the not-so-low price, in 1968 money, of $5,241.77. Scott did depart from the factory equipment slightly by installing an LSD with 3.55 gears for better getaway and traction.
The Spring Fling has long been famous for the number of winged NASCAR homologation cars it is able to assemble year after year. This annum was no exception, with a half dozen Plymouth Superbirds and a Dodge Daytona on hand.
While each of these splendid machines deserves a mention, one Superbird, in particular, stood out amongst the gang, and that was Troy Hawkes’ Hemi that once belonged to Jim, Larry, and Patti Lindsley, and was run by them at the Bonneville National Speed Trials.
One of only 93 Hemi Superbirds made, and one of only 11 painted in EW1 White, the car made several world record-breaking passes at the Salt Flats between 1970 and 1986, including a 217 mph run in 1975.
Subject to a nut and bolt restoration, the car as presented at the show looked to have a flawless engine compartment and wore all of the sponsor logos that it did back in its day.
Modern Mopar was also legion at the show, with plenty of Chargers, Durangos, and Challengers, including one sweet, Octane Red SRT Demon to admire.
As in years past, the swap area was packed with vendors and shoppers looking for that rare part to complete their project. Given the extent of what was on offer, my guess is plenty of those folks went home happy. Other stands afforded a wide range of wares ranging from Mopar clothing, signs, and scale models.
Once again, the Spring Fling proved itself to be a grand success, and a quintessential event for any Mopar fanatic. With a field full of excellent cars, a nice variety of food trucks, as well as the swap area, you could do a whole lot worse than spend a portion of a weekend at this show.
My recommendation? If you live in or around the Southern California area and love yourself some Mopar, you should definitely come to Woodley Park next year and join in on the fun. I’ll be there for sure.