by Gene Yetter
In a welcome break from cold weather starting off the 2010 New Year in the Southeastern U.S., a mild, sunny day in Brevard County, Florida, on Jan. 23rd, gave car enthusiasts just the right encouragement to turn out for an annual carshow and swapmeet organized by the local club, Mopars of Brevard (the “MOB”).
The annual event, this year “Super Swap XI,” continued a trend in which it is becoming more popular, each year attracting larger numbers of show and classic car owners, vendors and visitors, to its usual site, the pavillion and open space of the county’s Wickham Park Annex. Model car and truck hobbyists belonging to the “Table Top Cruisers of Central Florida,” were invited as in recent years, and a new area was opened to craft artisans to display and sell their wares.
MOB member Leo Underwood and the Atlantic Bluegrass band did an hour-long set of their songs, allowing “oldies-but-goodies” deejay, John Pappademetriou, a chance to take a break from his duties at the audio controls.
On display was a Viper V-10 which will be raffled off on May 15th at a barbecue and drawing to benefit the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation at Merritt Island. And the final hour of the day was taken up with giveaways of more than a dozen prizes including a $500 Maaco paint. job.
But the biggest draw of all were the cars, historic and otherwise. Heading the lineup in the historic category was the 1973 Plymouth Duster dragster, the “Mopar Missile,” owned by automotive shop owner Ben Donhoff of Melbourne. Partners with Ben in racing the Missile is Larry Mayes, a Napa Auto Parts operator in Haynes City. [Search allpar.com for three prior articles about the Missile.]
The Missile is famous as one of three cars built by a team of Chrysler Corp. engineers and independent race professionals assigned to develop technology for racing “Pro Stock,” after the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) established the class in 1969. The Duster was the last official Missile car to actually compete. It was driven during the 1973 NHRA season by Don Carlton.
Chrysler’s short stint supporting Pro Stock racing ended when the NHRA adopted restrictions in the class that made it impossible for the company’s previously dominant 426-cid Hemi-powered cars to compete with lighter Ford Pintos and Chevy Vegas running small-block engines. However concepts and engineering learned in the Chrysler Missile effort were shared with and benefitted many other independent racers of Mopar vehicles – including Ronnie Sox, Butch Leal, Ben Stiles, Mike Fons, etc. The Duster changed ownership a few times after 1973. Ben Donhoff acquired it around 1978.
Two original participants in building the Duster, Joe Pappas and Stewart Pomeroy – Joe, from Clarkston, Michigan, and Stewart, from Tampa – roamed Wickham Park during the show riding Stewart’s small utility vehicle painted like the Missile. They had also come to Super Swap X in 2009. This year as then they were in demand among visitors to talk Pro Stock racing in the Missile era.
According to the MOB registrar 281 antique cars, customs, hot rods and modern musclecars were shown by their owners in this year’s show, which was, as usual, open to vehicles of all manufacturers. In 2009 showcar registration was 210, and the year before that, about 175. I walked the grounds on the 23rd thinking I would try to photograph every car. But there was no way! I covered three-plus aisles of about 25 cars each and never got to remaining aisles. By 1 p.m., I was on tap to introduce Ben Donhoff, Larry Mayes and Joe in a program in the pavillion during which they would talk about the Missile and answer visitor questions. And that happened after Ben lit off the Missile to give visitors an earful of the tremendous rumble of the Missile’s 542 cubic-inch engine.
But before I was terminally sidetracked, I did get some pictures that I think are worth passing on. Several follow interspersed with additional text through the end of the article.
I had to stop occasionally to talk with car owners about special features of their vehicles – like a ’32 Plymouth coupe restored and customized by Curtis Dorman, a regular attendee at the annual MOB show. Curtis’s outstanding entries always exhibit the highest quality workmanship and imaginative design.
Had an interesting conversation with another car owner, Frank Hilson of Sebastian. He came in his radically cutdown ’40 Dodge pickup featuring a grille from a ’37 Hudson Terraplane and big chrome headlights. Frank said he goes way back racing sports cars, including at European circuits.
I also had to take a few minutes to talk to my friend, drag racer Charlie Schmidt, a former New Jerseyite who brought over from Ocala his nitrous-powered Valiant Slant 6 – named “Charlie’s Angel” -- that hits the high 90’s in the quarter mile.
The above trek among the show cars doesn’t include my walks through the corral and vendor areas. There were 51 registrations in those two categories, 19 representing vehicles for sale in the car corral. In the vendor area I bumped into Jim Turman, operator of Buckman’s Auto Care in Melbourne and a long-time supporter of the MOB and anyone else who wants to talk auto (especially Mopar) restoration. In the accompanying photo, Jim appears with Tony Romano who had two cars in the show, a ’33 Chyrsler Imperial coupe and a ’70 Cuda. Buckman's did the paint and body work on the Imperial, and all work on the 'Cuda.
Considering the great turnout for Super Swap XI, it may happen that the MOB will “own” January for “most popular carshow of the month” on the Florida East Coast, where there are more automotive events than any one enthusiast can possibly attend. For the time being I don’t know of any bigger shows in the along the East Coast in January. There may be! I’m just unaware.
Besides the drawing for the $500 Maaco paint job (offered by Frank Furino’s Maaco location in Cocoa) other drawing prizes included: a 3-piece Craftsman tool chest; a Craftsman air compressor; a certificate for transmission service by Transmasters; two Beachside Automotive dyno pull certificates; a 2-piece “intake valley plate” and a “440 dual-plane valley cover”, both from Hughes Engines; a 2½-ton "Black Jack" floor jack; a diecast model of the Mopar Missile; an autographed Mopar Missile poster; a $50 Lowe's gift certificate; a Coleman "Xtreme" wheeled cooler; and, a Dodge sports watch.
The MOB has about a hundred members, each owning one or more vehicles under the Chrysler marque or one of its subsidiaries (Desoto, Dodge, Plymouth, Jeep, AMC, etc.). There were more than 40 vehicles in the members area of the show grounds.
Showcar owners registering for Super Swap XI gave as their hometown dozens of communities along Florida’s East Coast from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale and westward to Christmas, Ocala, Silver Springs and Sarasota. The furthest trip to attend the show was by one vendor who came from Sioux Falls. South Dakota. Other out-of-towners (“snowbirds”?) haled from Connecticut; Blue Bell and Millerstown, Pennsylvania; New York; and Vermilion, Ohio.
A majority of registrants gave a club affiliation, and those that did said they belong to the following car clubs or online communities:
Chrysler Heritage • History by Year • Chrysler People and Bios • Corporate Facts and History
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