Have you ever heard the urban legend about the guy who finds the vintage (insert Superbird, Hemi Challenger, and so on) in a barn, where some loving first owner put it up on blocks before he went to Vietnam, only to never return? The truth is, while that particular story may not be more than a tale, unmolested examples of Chrysler's finest still exist, and those who attend the Mopar Nationals are able to enjoy them in one big display. Organized by longtime Mopar enthusiast Mel Majors, the Chrysler Survivors display was backed by the now defunct High Performance Mopar magazine in 2001, and featured no less than 32 cars. These ranged from a '62 Max Wedge Dart (featured in this issue), to a nice variety of performance and production vehicles, to the end of the "old" Chrysler Corporation.
A Major Ride This is the...
A Major Ride
This is the guy who started it all. Mel Major and his wife Dianne bought this '70 Plymouth 'Cuda new and have owned it ever since. It's powered by a 440/727 combo going to the Super Trac-Pac 4.10 rear and shows 3,495 miles.
Indeed, Mel's Survivor group seems to just keep getting bigger and bigger. Year after year, people discover and procure these unrestored pieces of automotive history and bring them out to the Nats for fans to admire and appreciate. To be part of the Mopar Survivors, little is required except that your vehicle be a legitimate piece of factory production history. Your car should have at least 80 percent of its original paint and interior. Obviously, the need to repair accidental damage cannot be avoided; in other words, if the right front fender of your 20,000-mile Duster gets hit and has to be fixed, it doesn't mean the car is no longer a survivor. However, if the lower 5 inches of your car rusted away and you had to replace all the metal, then repaint the car, it's not quite a time capsule any longer. On the same note, engines and engine bays that have received mild maintenance-related changes are not disqualified (perishable items such as hoses, belts, and tires can be overlooked if replaced with stock replacements. The same goes for the exhaust). Rebuilt engines aren't necessarily looked down upon, but it's preferred if they aren't rebuilt. In the end, it becomes Mel's responsibility to decide if a car is eligible for inclusion, and he's made some exceptions to these "rules" (remember, this is for fun) to allow exceptional cars into the program.
If you think you own a car that may be considered of this special group, the simplest thing to do is contact Mel himself by phone or e-mail. He maintains a regularly updated database of all the survivor cars he has received information about. Currently, this list has grown to include more than 200 vehicles that have met the criteria he has established, a large number considering the attrition rate of the musclecar-era cars. This is a passion for Mel, which is done on his free time and at no cost to persons who are listed on the register. Due to the work involved, the Survivor class can only appear at a limited amount of shows each year, so Mel sends everybody in his database a flyer during December with a list of shows the "Survivors" plan to attend. Members of the registry can then reply, letting him know which shows they would like to attend. It's not required to attend any shows, but this gives Mel an idea of who will be attending what shows and he can plan accordingly. There are no awards and no prize money but this Survivor class continues to grow; maybe this has something to do with the old-time family-like atmosphere.
If you're interested in the Survivor program, contact Mel Major at (814) 734-1565 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Grade A Donald Gras from...
Donald Gras from upstate New York brought his 340/auto-powered '71 Demon that he purchased from the original owner, his uncle. With 25,915 miles now showing, his son says it's like driving a brand-new 30-year-old car.
'One Cool Rallye This air-conditioned...
'One Cool Rallye
This air-conditioned '72 Charger Rallye is owned by Robert and Charlene Bowen of Monticello, Indiana. The 33,000-mile ride was originally ordered with a Hemi, but that option was refused by Chrysler, so a 440/auto combination powers it now. Robert and his wife purchased the car new.
Black And Bad Rich Tumidalsky...
Black And Bad
Rich Tumidalsky bought this '71 Monaco from a friend who had received it from the original owner after his passing. The 440-powered two-door has 56,000 miles showing and shares garage space and highway duties with Rich's '70 Challenger and '62 Polara.
Seeing Red This was the only...
This was the only truck in the Survivor tent this year. Owned by Dwight McCauley, this Warlock was found on a used car lot in Springfield, Missouri. He then drove it back home to his home state of Indiana. Since then the 360/auto-powered hauler has tripped the odometer to only 35,000 miles.