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Spring Festival Eight (March 2013, Irvine, CA)

Dodge and 'Imported from Detroit' logos on hotel

The weather for this event was forecasted to be excellent, and the actual result was the best weather that I can remember for this event. Some of the past events had cold and windy days. This day saw an early burn-off of the marine layer, followed by bright sun and warm temperatures. The marine layer had nothing to do with the fact we were on the old El Toro Marine Base.

The DoubleTree Irvine does a spectacular job with this event. Spring Fest booked the entire hotel this year, so I didn’t see any guests fearing for their lives. The Blues Brothers patrolled the parking lot from the early afternoon onwards. Some folks had blocked off a section of the parking lot; hotel management unblocked it. The only parking spaces that could be “saved” were for supporting Chrysler executives and SoCal Lx people, who needed to come and go.

I saw Mark Trostle, SRT design engineer, in mid-afternoon. Later Ralph Gilles was out and about. He made himself very available, signing car parts, casts, posters, and anything else that any Lxer wanted signed. He was especially available to the Corona girls. I understand he was still mingling after midnight. I got him to sign my dash in proximity to Bob Bondurant’s signature. Bob ran my car on his track, and about the third time he got it loose he declared, “I like this car.” He also said it was a little tight on entry and loose on exit but very drivable.

Corona girls and Gilles


David McIntosh introduced me to Karl Schello, forum name “lowlife.” He was the first to break 200 mph in the standing mile. I asked, “Have you done anything like that before?”

Karl replied, “No.”

Then I asked, “Why are you doing it now?”

He replied, “Because people said it couldn’t be done in that car.”

I also asked David, “Was it okay for me to drive in with the Challengers?”

He replied, “Sure.” He even saved me a rock star parking spot the next day.

Schello's Challenger SRT-8

Karl Schello owns Quality Moving Service in Culver City, California. He has also built custom cars, perhaps focusing on sheet-metal work. I have seen Schello’s car only once, and it was being prepared for the “Mohave Mile.” I think it is safe to say it is a dedicated racecar. Crower has an annual car show, this year on June 1st at the Barona Drag Strip, an eighth-mile track in San Diego. Schello and I are planning to attend.

We will know more about Schello soon because there are plans afoot to do a feature article. If you saw Top Gear when they came to the U.S. and drove three cars on the salt flats, they needed to tape up the Challenger’s grille opening to achieve 170 mph; Karl was the first to take a new Challenger with a modern Hemi more than 200 mph in a standing mile. He has just had an engine built in a quest to achieve 225 mph. Someone said it can’t be done. Has anybody got a thermometer? I think Shello is running a fever.

Karl had a poster featuring his car, and there was a signing ceremony with Ralph and several other Chrysler execs. It seems that Mark Trostle would have wanted to sign. We, the common people, just don’t understand the workload for upper management.

Gilles signing Karl's poster

A few statistics:

An observation for past Spring Fests and various forums: Chrysler owners have a fetish for grilles, and Dodge owners are equally obsessed with hoods.

Challengers leaving

On the event day people are anxious to move; the drive can’t be more than four miles, and there are no slow cars here. David McIntosh did an excellent job of accumulating Challenger clubs and driving in a group to the event. I believe there were more than 300 in this group. At the “drivers meeting” we were reminded of the Irvine Police, and they can now issue citations on what was the base. We exited in a single line; it was very long and quite colorful.

Challenger Barracuda

At the event, the first thing I noticed was DriveSRT was not present. It had been promised, and there was no announcement of cancellation. Later on the forum I saw someone suggested that the City of Irvine didn’t want the noise and smoke. I left there and went directly to Mopars at the Strip; if you look up noise and smoke on Urban Dictionary, I am sure you will see an old Hemi doing a burnout, preparing for a 150-mph pass. It has been suggested to combine Spring Fest and MATS.

There were several vendors present, but I wasn’t tempted to buy anything. West Coast Customs had a couple of nice looking two-doors. One was a Dukes of Hazzard Charger. Show and Performance had their “Hemi Hotrod” finished this year. Ralph had his Magnum that has been undergoing a two-year wide-body transformation. It is stunning.

Hemi Hotrod

Cam had a customer’s Challenger there that had a long history of running poorly. He gave it a heavy dose of “Camagic,” and it is running great, even in stop-and-go traffic. After SF the customer flew in and drove the car; he liked it. If you need a delivery driver, I am your man. Forget all that Vanishing Point stuff.

Mother Mopar didn’t have much new stuff to show. Ralph promised that next year would be much better. Mark Trostle said the design team loved coming here because they took ideas from the modifications done by owners. Today they had a gray Charger, a wildly popular rental-car color, and the wheels were painted to match.

1320 Challenger

They also brought a “special-edition” 392 Charger SRT-8. Production will be limited to 392 units, and they will have a dash plaque denoting the number in the production line. The LX forum had a thread about the release, but not much good was said. The side lettering was equated to Mustang. Hang on, guys, we have a 6.2-liter beast coming.

SRT-8 Charger

I asked Ralph about NASCAR, and he said that the company had pulled out despite having funding for another year; he had previously said that Penske was a “one-stop shop” for engines, drivers, and sponsors that could not be replaced in a way that would allow SRT to race at the level that was desired, in the time available.

Ralph also said they were talking to teams, but he couldn’t say which teams. Even though it was not a great team, I was sad to see Petty get away. The history remains unchanged. Anyone care to speculate as to what teams might be willing to switch manufacturers?

Oracle Lighting Viper

The day was winding down, time for me to head for Las Vegas and Mopars at the Strip. Tonight I will probably dream of SRT-4 Darts and SRT-8 Barracudas.

Gilles and group photo

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