Story and Photos: Steve Legel
Sometimes you can just tell when a trip is going to go well. This year’s day trip to Columbus, Ohio for the Mopar Nationals was one of those days. The morning broke clear and dry, the traffic was light and the roads were smooth and free of construction on my route from Detroit south. Just to ice the cake, as I traveled the flat, fertile farmland of the mid Ohio Valley, at Findley, a colorful display of 20 or more hot air balloons danced along the treetops beneath the morning clouds, silhouetted by the rising morning sun.
Enthusiasts speak casually of “the Nats” or of “going to Columbus.” More specifically, the Mopar Nationals at the National Trail Raceway at Hebron Ohio, draw Classic (and now modern) Mopar enthusiasts from across the country. When the corn is taller than the NBA draft picks, and it’s hot in August, then its time for the Mopar Nationals.
Primarily a draw for 1960s to early 70s Dodge, Chrysler, and Plymouth muscle cars and nostalgic drag race cars, the Nationals has slowly transformed itself and includes modern Mopar iron. You know something is up, even as you approach along I-70. The traffic becomes populated with distinctive cars and not generic day to day commuter vehicles. The parking lots for the show fill up with modern Mopars (sans extensive detailing) and on occasion a working survivor. Senses are awakened early to the roaring sound of open headers, the acrid smell of burning tires and grilling onions, and the sight of sculpted fenders and gleaming chrome.
The show itself encompasses drag racing, burn out shows, vendor area, a huge swap meet, and multiple show fields—acres and acres of show fields. Each year a Chrysler product line is showcased, and clubs stake out special areas in the show field to meet. This year, “Modern Muscle” garnered its own section for display.
Among the new and modern Mopar cars in attendance, Challengers overshadowed their brethren. From the outside parking lots to the staging lanes for drag racing, Challengers were out in full force. The Modern Muscle area might as well been called the Challenger Arena. Few 300s and Chargers were on the show field, and those were tricked out with paint and billet grills and Lambo doors, although the “DUB and RIDES” presence and attraction for those cars was not strongly represented.
Among the vendors, Chrysler marketing’s SRT Tour crew was out early detailing their 2012 Chrysler products. The SRT Tour will run 14 weeks and wind its way across country having started at Chrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and concluding at the SEMA show in Los Vegas in November. Their story can be followed on the web at DRIVESRT.com
I visited at the Full Throttle TV booth, where new technology meets old school enthusiasts. Full Throttle TV is an online broadcast with features about enthusiasts, restoration and modification projects, and car shows. With 26 years experience, the crew at Full Throttle remembers early video cameras and transferring 8 mm film to tape and now to digital. They sell products including S shirts with modern Mopar images. I bought a challenger T shirt, and video of their Plum Crazy Challenger road trip.
Among the swap meet vendors, many complained that traffic was light, but sales were stable. Mark Poling from Van Wert, Ohio, has been Moparing for 35 years. He started with his dad, a former dealer mechanic, and now with his four sons continues the family business and brings home derelict Mopars for parting out and providing enthusiasts a rich source for parts. He told me, “The serious money is still in the hobby.” Mark can be reached at 419 771 0393.
The Mopar Nationals is a worthy trip. Hebron is a 3 hour drive from Detorit, which makes it a busy and full day trip. Hebron is literally a truck stop town, but only 12 minutes west is the I-70/I-270 bypass interchange for Columbus where hotels, restaurants and shopping are readily available to spend an overnight to make travel easy, and the visit leisurely.
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