Yes, the Dean Skuza shot-or,...
Yes, the Dean Skuza shot-or, more appropriately titled, the "Getting knocked on my butt" shot. [Editor's note to Jim: Can you hear me now?]
Editor's note: Jim Frye, Mopar Muscle's copy editor, made his first-ever trek to the Mopar Nats. With this in mind, we thought we'd let the newbie give his impressions of what the Nats are all about. From the Mopar Muscle caravans to the first time he stood on the starting line when a Top Fuel Funny Car launched (sorry, Jim), the stories of his experiences are told with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for puppies when their masters come home. Anyway, here are the Mopar Nats as seen through the eyes of a first-timer.
OK, I admit it, my knowledge of the Mopar hobby is somewhat limited. Don't get me wrong-I read every issue of Mopar Muscle cover to cover no less than three times (of course, that's my job, so eating and paying bills factor in here). But whereas I didn't follow the hobby a few years ago, I now find myself scoping out all Mopar mags at the newsstand and feeling my heartbeat kick into double-time when I spy a top-down '70 Road Runner rumbling into the local Saturday-night cruise-in. And I belted out a few Tim Allen grunts (a.k.a. Tool Time) as I salivated over the "ultimate real muscle machine" yellow '74 'Cuda dominating our August cover (I almost said "gracing our August cover," but grace had nothing to do with it).
I now understand why my dad laments trading in his '69 383 Super Bee years ago. As a young husband and father, the six or so miles per gallon were hard to balance with a growing family-my newborn younger brother rode shotgun in the Bee on the trip home from the hospital in 1971. Mom still remembers the bumblebee stripes and lack of power steering. Seems Dad sneaked the whole "musclecar" thing past her while selling her on the "family car" (I asked her if she was blind at the time). Now Mom is nostalgic for that old Bee too.
So, I do come from Mopar lineage, but my knowledge is still limited. That said, I set out at the Mopar Nationals to discover the true Mopar enthusiasts-who they are, where they are from, and why they pledge allegiance to the mighty Mopar. I wanted to know why folks travel from around the world to attend a car show.
Mark Saxton, left, and cousin...
Mark Saxton, left, and cousin Derek Saxton, (right, with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), selling Derek's dad's Mopar parts.
First, let me say, as a first-timer to the Mopar Nats, I was blown away (literally, as you'll soon read). Usually chained to a desk, pounding on my keyboard, performing blurry-eyed wordsmithing to Mopar Muscle articles, I jumped at the chance when publisher Pitt suggested I join Steve Dulcich on the Memphis/Paddock leg of the Return to Brice Road caravans.
Although my time as copy editor for the magazine has shown me the loyalty and devotion of Mopar owners, it was during the caravan that I realized it went even deeper. That's when I came face to face with the fanaticism that is Mopar-mania. Two guys drove their Charger from California and met us in Effingham, Illinois-in case you're counting, that's ... lots and lots of hours. And the owner decided to take the "leisurely" backroads home. A Prowler and Viper met us en route-needless to say, we didn't have to slow down for them to catch up.
Then came Brice Road-the sound and the fury. Bumper to bumper muscle
The actual Nationals event proved daunting for this first-timer. It took me two days to realize there was a show field on the other side of the dragstrip. I'd been busy rummaging the midway and swap-meet areas, not to mention losing my hearing under the Christmas Tree.
I met Antonello Jelitro from Milan, Italy, renewing his subscription and picking up a Mopar Muscle T-shirt at our subscription tent. Beginning in 1991, he'd been to the Nats many times. As a matter of fact, he-get this-honeymooned with his new bride at the Nats and other Mopar shows last year. "I have every issue of Mopar Muscle," he told me, "starting all the way back to the first issue." Wow! That's devotion.
Nope, this ain't Abercrombie...
Nope, this ain't Abercrombie & Fitch, but new Young Guns looking for parts for their own Mopars. Toby Schwickerath, 22, Todd Thronason, 20, and Richard Christoph, 22, claim that Mopars make all their friends-with their Hondas and other ricerockets-green with envy.
The Toronto Film Studio shot...
The Toronto Film Studio shot tons of footage at the Nats, staking out spots on the dragstrip. Here, they set up shop at the OE-Certified staging area. We'll try to keep our ears peeled for info about this ambitious project.
Well, OK, if you insist