Who would have thought in 1981 that a small 500-vehicle car show would become the premiere Chrysler car show in the world? this year, we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. We have come a long way, and quite a few of you have been there from the very start.
It all started as an alternative idea to the Street Machine Nationals. But we wanted an event that offered more venues, (Drag Racing, Show and Shine, Swap meet, and Manufacturers display), and was exclusively for Mopars. The idea became a reality, and the first event was held at the Chrysler Proving Grounds. For the drag racing portion, Milan Dragway was the scene of the action. we started off with only seven vendors. A far cry from the almost 1,800 of today. We have gone through some growing pains over the years, but survived due to the successful format. It's a family event, which has something for everyone. In reviewing the shows over the past 25 years, the Mopar Nats has recorded many firsts and has responded to the needs of the participants. From its start in 1981 to the present 2005, let's take a walk through the highlights.
1981-Chelsea, Michigan, Chrysler Proving Grounds/Milan Dragway: 500 cars, 1,500 participants, and seven vendors-five of which are still with us today. The event was closed to the public because of its location. It was the first event of its kind, with Mopar car clubs across the country invited to attend. Since it was a gathering of Mopar car clubs, it came to be known as the Chrysler Car Club Convention. Direct Connection served as the sponsor. Car judging and drag racing were the highlights of the event, along with individual car clubs and certain car lines posing for pictures on the high-bank oval.
1982-St. Louis, Missouri, Mid-America Race Track: 500 cars, 1,000 attendees. The Scat Pack Club, National Hemi Owners, and SIAC clubs combine efforts to produce the event. The car show and small swap meet were held in the hotel parking lot, with the racing activities held at Mid-America Raceway.
1983 - Chelsea, Michigan, Chrysler Proving Grounds/Milan Dragway: 1,200 cars, 1,500 participants. For the first time, the drag racing portion of the event is open to the public, and the show debuts the name Mopar Nationals. Carrol Shelby is the guest speaker, along with the original members of the RamChargers and designers of the NASCAR Wing cars. Debut of the Shelby Charger 2.2., track tours, autocross, and drag racing are the event activities, plus an organized photo session on the high-bank oval featuring same body/models shot at one time: AAR/T/As, Daytona- Superbirds, Hemi power, B-Bodies, and A-Bodies. Twenty-seven car clubs participate. The Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser debut.
1984-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indy 500 Track: 1,500 cars, 4,000 participants. Produced by the newly formed Chrysler Car Club Council. Midway and swap meet grow in size and are located across from the track, while parade laps and show and shine are held inside the infield of the Indy 500 Track. Miss Direct Connection and Chrysler concept cars are in attendance. They had a showing of the Shirley Muldowney movie, Heart like a Wheel, and a Herb McCandless seminar. This was the only year drag racing was not held in conjunction with the event. We learned our lesson, drag racing had to be a part of the Nats.
1985-Chelsea, Michigan, Chrysler Proving Grounds/Milan Dragway: 1,850 cars, 9,000 participants. The Nats debuts the Grand Prize give-away car-a '69 Plymouth Road Runner-night cruising, exclusive Mopar-only drive-in with the movie Christine showing.
1986-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,000 cars, 12,000 participants. The Nats moves to a bigger facility to handle the size of the event. the Grand Prize was a '68 Dodge Charger. Phil Dirt and the Dozers Band plays to a true street dance held on Brice Road. The Nats debuts event themes; the first is It's Going to be a Happening. Event goes from two days to three. All activities are in the same location. Vendor midway and swap meet expand. Debut of the Mopar Nats Burn-Out contest.
1987-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,400 cars, 17,000 attendees, 250 vendors. The theme is The Beat Goes On. Concurs show judging debuts. the Grand Prize is a '73 Road Runner. Big Daddy Don Garlits is the guest with Swap Rat XXX. The swap meet triples in size.
1988-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,800 cars, 26,000 attendees. The theme is The Legend Lives On. The car corral debuts. Grand Prizes are the long-lost original engines: 440, 383, and 340 found in the Chrysler Performance warehouse. Dodge boys have more fun with Darrell Alderman leading the all-new Team Mopar Pro-Stock challenge. Phil Dirt and the Dozers return for the street dance. That year also saw the return of Bill Maverick and the Li'l Red Wagon. Intrepid concept car debuts, along with the Chrysler turbine car. Dodge Challenger "Motown Missile" debuts. Dodge Candymatic versus Golden Commando's Plymouth.
1989-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,050 cars, 33,000 attendees. The theme is No Whimps. Grand Prize is a '69 Plymouth Road Runner in B5 Blue. the 426 Hemi engine celebrates its 25th anniversary. The lost 426 Hemi cutaway engine is found and displayed. OE certification and the Mopar Model Car Nationals debuts. The Sox & Martin '68 'Cuda versus Dick Landy's '65 Dodge. Sox & Martin '69 Road Runner and '70 Cuda debut. The '57 Pro Mod "Christine" debuts.
1990-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,150 cars, 37,000 attendees. The theme is The Big One-10th Anniversary. Gene Snow with his Top Fuel dragster and the debut of his Original Rambunctious Funny Car highlight the event. Grand Prizes are TVs, VCRs, and radios. Viper concept car debuts. Alderman exhibitions on his way to an NHRA World Championship.
1991-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,275 cars, 39,500 attendees. Grand Prize is a '67 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S. Darrell Alderman in his record-setting 11-victory season (NHRA record to date) exhibitions and signs autographs. First-ever SSA Dart/Barracuda Shoot-Out. Christine (Richard Earle '57 Shoe Box Plymouth Fury) versus Dodge Fever ('65 AFX Dodge) in two out of three shootouts.
1992-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,315 cars, 43,000 attendees. Grand Prize is a car trailer. Some highlights are the debut of the production Dodge Viper, a Make-a-Wish ride in a Viper, and a NASCAR display of early Plymouths and Dodges. Mopar Super Stocks take on Chevy, Ford, and Pontiac. Landy's Dodges now run McDonald's colors. The '65 Metro Parts Plymouth runs the Match Maker Daytona Pro-Stock. Hell on Wheels takes on the Li'l Red Wagon.
1993-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park: 4,003 cars, 49,250 attendees, 900 vendors. Mopar Nats forced to move to a bigger location due to the size of the event. Grand Prize is a '70 Dodge Challenger T/A. Ronnie Sox drives a production Viper to a new low e.t. Viper versus ZR1 Corvette. Billy Harper's Redline Pro Mod '68 'Cuda takes on the '65 Metro Parts Plymouth. The '66 Hemi Under Glass takes on the Li'l Red Wagon.
1994-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park: 3,251 cars, 42,236 attendees, 1,031 vendors. The Grand Prize is a '69 Chrysler 300 convertible. Li'l Red wagon versus Hell on Wheels. No. 43 Plymouth Superbird races the No. 71 Dodge Daytona. Ram Jet is the production Dodge Ram jet-powered exhibition vehicle. Debut of the Viper Shoot-Out. Debut of the Mopar Nats die-cast collectible series with a '70 Plum Crazy Hemi 'Cuda. AMC vehicles allowed entry in Nats. The Ultimate Mopar Experience is the theme.
1995-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park: 3,512 cars, 46,000 attendees. Grand Prize is a '95 Plymouth Neon racer for the 15th anniversary. Bear Foot Car Crushing Dodge Ram performs. Bob Regal and the Hemi under Glass versus Bill Maverick's Li'l Red Wagon; Spartacus Father & Son team, and Geoffrion and Alderman run a grudge match and sign autographs.
1996-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park: 3,297 cars, 1,278 vendors, 43,211 attendees. The Grand Prize is a '72 Dodge Demon 340. ESPN and ESPN2 cover the event. Highlights include a Plymouth Prowler dinner presentation and the thirtieth anniversary of the Street Hemi. PPG Best Paint Award is given.
1997-Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park: 3,325 cars, 44,000 attendees. Grand Prize is a trip to the new Chrysler Technical Center (CTC) and the Dodge Viper plant. ESPN and ESPN2 cover the event. A tribute to Mr. Norm, Grand Spaulding Dodge. Dukes of Hazard's John Schneider in the General Lee Charger is the Grand Marshall.
1998-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,097 cars, 1,385 vendors, 45,855 attendees. Mopar Nats comes back to NTR. swap meet is laid out in rows for the first time. Debut of the Mopar Nats Cruise to Brice Road, led by new Plymouth Prowlers from six locations. My Classic Car and ESPN cover the event. Debut of the restored Vanishing Point movie car, Dodge Ram Jet.
1999-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,987 cars, 48,928 attendees, 1,545 vendors. Highlights include a special NASCAR display of the Dodge Charger 500, Daytona, and Plymouth Superbird. The '63 Dodge Bad Judgment, Larry Morgan, Larry Nance, and Darrell Alderman run Pro-Stock exhibitions.
2000-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,897 cars, 49,783 attendees, 1,637 vendors. It is our 20th anniversary event, and requires both sides of the track. Millennium tent featuring milestone cars from 1962 to 2000. The theme is It's an Attitude. Debut of the Green Hornet's Black Beauty; 30th anniversary of the '70 model year with special T/A-AAR display. Speed Vision covers the event.
2001-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,962 cars, 1,666 vendors, 48,938 attendees. The Grand Prize is a 426 Hemi crate motor. The 30th anniversary of the '71 model year is celebrated with a special '71 Barracuda/'Cuda display. Young Guns debuts. Highlights include the 50th anniversary celebration of the Hemi engine, Indy 500 pace car and NASCAR tribute displays. The event is covered by Hot Rod magazine TV. Debut of the all-new Dodge Neon Pro-stocks with Darrell Alderman, Larry Morgan, and Mark Osborne.
2002-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,936 cars, 1,704 vendors, 48,388 attendees. The Grand Prize is a Mopar Performance 402 Stroker, and there is a Fun in the Sun tribute to convertibles. My Classic Car and Popular Hot Rod TV covers the event. Young Guns dedicated to Jake Maurer and his AAR. Young Guns drag racing class introduced.
2003-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 2,931 cars, 1,754 vendors, 48,373 attendees. The Grand Prize engine is a 380-horse 360. Dodge Ride and Drive debuts. There is a tribute to the Dodge Dart. Debut of the children's Match Box Drag Race.
2004-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: 3,081 cars, 1,879 vendors, 56,793 attendees. Grand Prize engine is a 380-horse 360. Highlights are a Dodge Charger tribute with Richard Petty's most winning Charger (1974) (NASCAR Record), the '99 Charger concept car, the K&K Daytona, and a display of 20 other key Chargers. Hot Rod TV and American Muscle Car cover the event . Plymouth Hemi Can-Am debuts.
2005-Hebron, Ohio, National Trail Raceway: Highlights include a Plymouth Road Runner tribute, Jack Smith product planner of Plymouth Road Runner, Mopar Wheelstanders, and Mopar Nats 25th Anniversary.
Looking back at the past 25 years sure brings back some great memories. Mopar Nats plans to have many more new debuts and surprises in the future. Mopar performance is alive and well in the hobby, and in the new offerings coming from Chrysler. Who would have thought the Hemi would return and be available in two configurations: 5.7L at 345 hp and 6.1L at 425 hp, with a much rumored 500 hp in the near future. We will be there, the Mopar Nationals . . . The Legend Continues.