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story and photos by Ray Alexander
Mopars at the Strip (MATS) is a much-anticipated event in the western states, extending into Mexico and Canada, though I didn’t see Alaska or Hawaii represented. Phil Painter put a lot of effort in this year’s event, perhaps focusing on the 50th anniversary of the 426 Hemi. Phil was at Spring Fest handing out flyers. A panel of the Ramchargers, who were mainly engineers, was present and were giving seminars on the development of the engine.
Contestants were moving in on Thursday with big rigs and smaller rigs with trailers; exposing the contents causes most Mopar people to salivate. All of the classic colors are here: detonator yellow, sublime, hemi orange, plum crazy, and sassy grass green. AMX? Yeah, we have them. I didn’t see a Javelin; I can’t afford a ’68 Charger, maybe I could find a Javelin.
I pulled into Sam’s Town’s two-story parking structure and saw three vehicles that I know: a yellow Dakota, a Go Mango Charger, and a Sublime Charger. They were gone by the time I got to my car the next morning, but that color combination was not hard to find.
The first two days were hot with little wind. The temperature, elevation, and lack of nitrous combined to make my trips down the track very slow. I had just bought new Mickey Thompson 26” drag radials, I think the burn out box was the only place I could spin them. On Sunday the temperature dropped many degrees and there was a stiff head wind that soon shifted to a side wind.
The last time that I raced, my nitrous controller was not working, and I was activating it manually. Since then I had installed a new controller. The system seemed to be functioning, but the first trip down the strip assured me it was not. We found some problems and some suspects, but never got the system to function. One that really irks me, the relay for activating the solenoids had an inline 15 amp fuse, one side of the socket was burned, and the fuse was intact. That is either bad assembly that can’t be seen or damn poor engineering. I worked on the car to the extent I didn’t get out to get many pics.
I saw Jen and John’s car in the Pro line and went to chat after their run. The car is running great, the tow truck and the duck are in good shape. They bought a new Dart and Jen said it is the first new car she has had. She raved about the creature comforts. She said, “This is the turbo model and it has some zip. It also got 49 mpg on the trip from LA.” I feel that is a decent recommendation coming from a girl that drives a nine second car in the Pro Class. She received a trophy for “Most Determined.”
Also in the Pro Class I saw a 1985 B200 van, the short version. In California it was called a surfer van. This one got your attention because it was very pink. Even the seat belts were pink. Back in his trailer there was a picture of a pink car, wheels up. Cole Briggs owned the van and I asked him, “Did your wife make you paint it this color?”
He laughed and replied, “No, I like this color.”
As it turned out we had more common ground, we both raced motorcycles. I quit racing in about 1980. I raced with the Checkers Motorcycle Club, a small group with entry by invitation only. Cole came to race Barstow to Vegas in 1985 riding a 1981 490cc Maico. He was somewhat intimidated by the 3,000 riders that were starting the event. A few years earlier, 6,000 riders started this event. The Checkers took him under their wing. Cole must have been be a good guy because that was not typical of the Checkers. He also rode speedway on a Jawa. That was four very powerful motorcycles in a bullring. The bikes traveled sideways most of the time.
As I was leaving the track, I saw this very striking 1957 Dodge two-door hardtop painted pink and white. I was able to attract the occupants’ attention and they were kind enough to stop. I had just finished changing tires, flushing out the race gas, and loading all my gear. I would have likely scared most people away. This couple was still sitting in the car the same way as when they bought it new in 1957. I noticed that the plates were New Mexico. The bumpers and grille had been painted. This was probably due to the difficulty in getting items chromed in New Mexico (or anywhere else).
On the first day of testing I ran against Alex, the girl racer with the Arrington engine. The red Magnum was named “Shop Hemi,” it is something else now. She showed me tail lights the whole length of the track, but not as badly as Bill Scharing’s poison frog Challenger.
Kim Bartley owns a Sublime Charger, #1442 of 1500 built. She is kind enough to allow her husband Lonnie to drag race the car. She recently had the car repainted, a new hood helped with the decision to repaint. The repainting was finished with the two colors being level or void of the line when a second layer is applied on top of an existing layer. After the painting was done, it was taken to get some 3D graphics added. These are front fender vents and rear exhaust ports. I think they look great.
In case you missed it, Lonnie and I are the pair you want to avoid.
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