Mopar Nationals Road Trip - Covering The Country, Mopar Muscle Style
All Roads Lead To Columbus, Ohio
From the January, 2003 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Randy Bolig
Photography by The Mopar Muscle Staff
It's an annual event, and this year was the 22nd time it occurred. The Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, is the largest Mopar-only happening in the country. A few years ago, the brains behind Mopar Muscle magazine thought it would be a great idea if we could start from different parts of the country and "caravan" groups of enthusiasts to the Mopar Nationals, ending the tours at Columbus' infamous Brice Road.
We quickly learned that you guys also thought it was a good idea, and the caravans have become a yearly tradition ever since. This year, we had to drop a couple legs from the trip due to a lack of manpower, but in the end the meeting at Brice Road was just as large-if not larger-as in previous years.
Although the gathering at Brice Road is an event unto itself, the caravans are the foundation for the real fun. Meeting everybody, driving on the interstate with a line of Mopars, and the spirited activities once we all get to the nightly layovers are the things everybody looks forward to in early August. The trips are sometimes long, but when the engines turn off on Brice Road, the tired and weary drivers forget all about that.
The Mopar Nationals have begun!
The Northeast tour began at...
The Northeast tour began at Just Suspensions in Fairfield, New Jersey, and started the caravan with 16 participants.
The view in the mirror was...
The view in the mirror was unmistakable-we overran the highways.
We met Dennis Hook and his...
We met Dennis Hook and his wife during the caravan. Their '67 'Cuda worked flawlessly. It even knew how to get us back on the right path, but that's another story.
Those of you with a Shaker-hood...
Those of you with a Shaker-hood car know how tough it can be to change a valve-cover gasket. Try doing it on the road. Peter Caiola from Bronx, New York, had to do just that on his wife's (the brownie lady) convertible while at Summit Racing. He also had to change the master-cylinder lid gasket on his Challenger convertible because it was leaking.
Dennis Kohr (a contributor...
Dennis Kohr (a contributor for another Mopar magazine) brought his family along for the caravan. There was one close call with the fuel gauge, but a well-placed service station cured that.
Thomas Titus and his family...
Thomas Titus and his family got the hard-luck award on the Keystone caravan. At one of the gas stops, Thomas tried to start his Road Runner only to have the starter literally come apart. Luckily, his was a four-speed car, and with a quick push, he was underway. Thomas drove three hours out of the way to a relative's house to make the repairs, and later arrived at our hotel in Ohio at 5:30 a.m. He joined us when we pulled out at 9:00 a.m. en route to Summit Racing.
Fairfield, New Jersey, to Columbus, Ohio, is a long haul. The two-day excursion was piloted through the vast countryside of the Northeast, and few problems were encountered. We met lots of great people along the way. Some folks even contacted us at the beginning of the tour to offer their services, if needed, when we reached their part of the country. If you can, join one of the caravans next year. Even though this was my first trip with the Keystone bunch, I had the feeling these folks were like a family. They all knew each other, and one lady even brought brownies for everybody. I definitely want to do this tour again.
The launching point for the Detroit-Columbus cruise was, for the third year running, the Walter P. Chrysler museum. Located within the DaimlerChrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the museum is the perfect mental and physical staging point for a caravan to the Mopar Nationals. Participants are treated to a discount, and about an hour is set aside for the group to explore the various aspects of Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, and Jeep history through a variety of restored and preserved Mopar products. After our tour time, museum floor manager Sabrina expertly directed our crew around the museum entrance for a photo op.
The Memphis leg of the Return to Brice Road caravan launched from Competition Cams-exactly one week before the 25th Anniversary of the death of Elvis. So, Memphis was shakin' and groovin', getting ready for the big event, expecting more people than were gladly welcomed. I met tech superstar Steve Dulcich at the airport and we made quick time to Comp Cams to pick up the true King of Rock 'n' Roll-the Hot Rod Hemi Ram!
David Hakim of Chrysler's performance division had put together a beast to be reckoned with. Yes, we quickly became big boys with big toys. Driving in traffic, the passenger in the car beside us pulled out his camera and snapped a shot. Another driver gave us the thumbs-up. Someone at every service station between Memphis and Columbus asked us to pop the hood to see the 528 Hemi engine. It was great! And as for driver Dulcich-I knew that any time a straight patch of road opened up before us, I needed to hang on and pray my seatbelt was fastened because the G-forces were coming my way.
Start 'em early. That's what...
Start 'em early. That's what Walter Patruskey of Mt. Ephram, New Jersey, did. He and his son came along for the ride, and Walter wasn't the only one doing the driving. Are we starting another Young Gun, Walter?
When Douglas McCombs of Volant,...
When Douglas McCombs of Volant, Pennsylvania, joined the caravan, we all took some time to ponder the virtues of his '65 Valiant. The 340 four-speed-equipped A-Body worked as well as it looked. Stay tuned for future coverage of this one.
Jerry Lebar of Easton, Pennsylvania,...
Jerry Lebar of Easton, Pennsylvania, trailered his astounding AAR to Brice Road, but the fact that his trailer used a Mopar Muscle license plate on it added to the coolness. Yes, once he arrived in Columbus, the car was off of the trailer the rest of the weekend.
Wayne Lukonis from Meriden,...
Wayne Lukonis from Meriden, Connecticut, and his brother Neil definitely livened things up, ensuring the "partay" atmosphere remained intact.
The asphalt jaunt from Auburn...
The asphalt jaunt from Auburn Hills, Michigan, to Columbus, Ohio, isn't exactly what you would call a hard-core road trip. Barring major traffic or construction delays and pit crew-efficient gas stops, it's only half a day's drive. The Mopar Muscle caravan, however, ensures a heaping helping of fun that you wouldn't enjoy travelling solo.
Rotten Rubber Because the...
Because the Detroit caravan is only a leisurely day trip, we didn't have time, thankfully, to indulge in major roadside repairs, although one did surface for posterity's sake. On our first gas stop somewhere in the Great Lakes state, Jay Ottenwess noticed a coolant leak in his '75 W-200 crew cab. One of the water-pump hoses decided to cut loose. Fortunately, a run to an area parts store netted Jay a replacement hose and coolant, and we were soon back on the road.
Gas-Pump Invasions One thing...
One thing that keeps road trips interesting is the stops along the way. We can only imagine what was going through the mind of the old man who was running the register of this dual-pump gas station when our sizable caravan rolled onto his turf.
Afternoon Treat Real Mopar...
Real Mopar folk enjoy their own special brand of after-dinner delights.
Not to be outdone, a collection of beautiful Mopars graced the Midwestern highways with us: Bobby Coln brought his '55 Windsor from Savannah, Tennessee. Jessie Fillingame's '69 'Cuda 440 stormed in from Beaumont, Texas. From Elizabethtown, Illinois, came Eric Livingston's classic '56 Plymouth station wagon (you don't see enough of those). John Mills drove his '71 Super Bee from Maple Grove, Minnesota. Missouri's Timothy Ross added a dimension with his 2000 Dodge Ram 3500. And as we cruised through Terre Haute, Indiana, two more enthusiasts joined the rolling car show: Larry Mauer in his '96 Viper and Ed Miller in his 2000 Prowler. We were quite a sight.
Many more hit the open road with us once we arrived at The Paddock, which threw quite a party for this car-crazed crowd. With a full lunch, Mopars throughout the parking lot, and parts available inside, The Paddock was the perfect gathering point before the homestretch to Columbus.
The usual breakdowns and pit stops expected among a car convoy such as ours were minimal. An alternator belt was the most serious offender. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing-pure Mopar mania for two days of bliss.
One-Horse Stall Who needs...
Who needs a caption when the photo says it all.
Tip From A Drop-Top Veteran...
Tip From A Drop-Top Veteran
Scott Robertson and son have this road-trip thing figured out. Multifold maps aren't the easiest navigation resources to have when you're flying down the road in a 383 'Cuda convertible. Scott's tip-o'-the-trip is to laminate your map to a piece of cardboard.
As with the other three tours,...
As with the other three tours, the Memphis grouped ended up at Brice Road, where the participants were greeted with a packed parking lot and a party-like atmosphere.
The caravan from Memphis,...
The caravan from Memphis, led by Mopar Muscle tech guru Steve Dulcich and copy editor Jim Frye, may well have been called the truck caravan. By the looks of this shot, they were a force to be reckoned with. Guess we better step up the truck tech, eh?
Meet B.O.B. Tim Peaker of...
Tim Peaker of Cummings, Georgia, joined us for the entire trip from Year One to Brice Road. His ride was a '67 Plymouth Fury II sedan named B.O.B.-Big, Old, and Blue. Equipped with a Slant Six, it may not have been the fastest or flashiest Mopar on the tour, but it certainly was the most lovable. B.O.B.and Tim met at last year's Mopar Nationals, and Tim plans on many more trips with B.O.B. to the Nats.
On the second day, the caravan...
On the second day, the caravan headed out after a lunch stop and tour of The Paddock's new Restoration Parts facility. The size of this place is unbelievable, and the company can better serve customers with the entire facility now under one roof.
Our mix was eclectic: Veterans whose gray hair still fluttered in the open-window breeze of highway driving, young guns excited to be part of something with so much history, couples with speed in their blood and burnouts in their bones, and sons and daughters finally understanding the lure of the Mopar lifestyle.
It was quite a trip. And I'm not exaggerating to say that most participants said the caravan was as good as, if not the best part of, the whole Nats experience. I agree. Not to diminish the show, but nothing beats joining fellow enthusiasts for a two-day-long Sunday drive under blue skies and red sunsets, turning heads, and living the Mopar dream.
Elvis-shake, rattle, and roll, baby!
Forget all the misconceptions about the South. A trip through, around, and out of Atlanta will prove to you that laid-back is far from reality.
If you want to dispel any of those Deliverance myths you've conjured up, all you need to do is join the Year One crew from Tucker, Georgia, and travel the distance to Columbus on some of America's most scenic and driveable interstates.
For the fifth consecutive time, our launch host from Atlanta was Year One. With detailed driving directions, we easily made the trek from the east suburbs of Atlanta north through Chattanooga to Knoxville and on to Sevierville, Tennessee, home of Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum.
After an overnight stay, we bee-lined from northeastern Tennessee through Kentucky, around Cincinnati, and onto Brice Road.
Her Dart Leigh McGlaughlin's...
Leigh McGlaughlin's husband, Terry, knows how to please his wife. For their sixth anniversary, Terry bought Leigh this '68 Dart. But don't for a moment think this is her first foray into Mopar-dom. This Mopar is her sixth. "The Dart is a cruiser, going to shows and to work on nice days," Leigh says. While she was offered a cool $7,000 for the A-Body, she quickly turned down the potential buyer.
Southern Hospitality In Sevierville,...
In Sevierville, we again had the opportunity to sample Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum. On display were several of Ted Stephens' Mopars, including this pair of Challengers featured in the remake of the cult classic, Vanishing Point.For more information on the Muscle Car Museum, give Floyd a call at 423/908-0882.
Truckin' In addition to two...
In addition to two trucks pulling trailered Mopars (Robert Moore's 11-second '69 GTX and James Godfrey's '70 Dodge Hemi Charger R/T ), the Year One caravan also included John and Lynda Guarnieri's '79 Dodge Lil' Red Express, Bruce Hockensmith's A-100 Club Cab-a rare A-100, for sure-and our lead vehicle provided by Dodge, an '01 Dodge Ram 1500 driven by Year One's Pat Staton.
Chargers! Kevin Bucheger's...
Kevin Bucheger's '71 Charger R/T has become an institution on each of the Atlanta caravans to the Mopar Nationals. Kevin had an alternator go south on him, but fortunately the Year One execs helped him out by watching him make the alternator swap on day two. Greg Slater and his '71 Charger joined us just south of Cincinnati. The gold Charger features a 440/727 combination that Greg had driven more than 1,000 miles during the summer prior to the Return to Brice Road caravan.