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Chrysler at Carlisle 2009

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Photos and text by Gene Yetter

When a couple of thousand Mopar owners get together with their cars, there's going to be plenty of competition to shake out the nicest rides. So it went at the 2009 All-Chrysler Nationals held at Carlisle, PA, June 10-12.

The Carlisle Events organization that runs the annual mega Mopar gathering reported over 2,300 registered show cars for the weekend, the second largest turnout ever for the All-Chrysler Nationals. Vehicles in more than 150 show classes were judged, with three winners chosen in most classes for a total of 470 names in the final Winners' List. Spectator attendance was up 4% over last year also, Carlisle Events said, despite Chrysler's reorganization and the weak economy.

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With all of the All-Chrysler's many attractions, the best fun for most spectators is probably wandering the showfield taking in the sight of the endlessly varied vehicles on exhibit.

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Car owners are in it for an award, if all goes well.

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The winner in one of two PT Cruiser show classes gets handshake from Ed Buczeskie, Carlisle Events manager for the All-Chrysler Nationals.

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As always at the Nationals, attractions included guest appearances by drag race stars, themed exhibits, races at Quarter Aces Dragway, acres of swap and vendor stalls, the "Car Corral" for buying or selling collector vehicles and assorted give-aways and contests -- burnouts, truck tug-of-war, beauty contest.

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Super- and Pro Stock competitor of the late Sixties and Early Seventies, Bill Styles reported his best launch ever in the Barracuda, 1.42 over 60, on Friday evening at Quarter Aces. Stiles no longer owns the vehicle, but he is its official custodian and he gets to travel with it to various events east of the Mississippi.

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Other stars of drag racing among 2009 All-Chrysler guests also included "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, Don Grotheer and Herb McCandless.

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Former Chrysler-sponsored driver Don Grotheer was meeting with fans and talking about his race career at the Retro Garage. In the Sixties and early Seventies, Don campaigned the 1968 Hurst-prepped A body Barracuda in the picture. On Saturday morning he told of this trip to Detroit to pick it up when it was still a "body in white."

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Also on the guest list was Byron Cherry, still famous for playing Coy Duke in the "Dukes of Hazard" television series, in which he got to pilot the "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger through many small-town corruption busting episodes.

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Champion in the green monster, Daniel Megletti.

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The Old and the New: an SRT-4 passes in front of the "Retro Garage," Beeney Motors, near the intersection of Clay St. and Carlisle Spring Rd., where showroom perfect 40th Anniversary (1969) Mopars were on display. I never got to talk to the owner of the SRT-4, factory color "Orange Blast," but Jesse Shaffer (see allpar July 2009 Car-of-the-Month) wrote: "You are looking at one of my dream cars. In 2004-2005, a factory-installed 2.4-Liter Turbocharged DOHC engine, Intercooled, Quaife Limited Slip Differential, sport-tuned suspension, large diameter disk brakes, Viper-inspired interior. The exhaust features no muffler and only two resonators between the outlet and the exhaust manifold." Chances are very good that Jesse has these features identified perfectly.

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Also talking to spectators and signing autographs were several retired Chrysler engineers, members of the famous "Ramchargers" group (see picture below), who helped Chrysler make its reputation in drag racing. A clone of the record-setting Plymouth Hemi racer that they campaigned, the High & Mighty II, was on display, presented by Bob Lees, leader of the rebuild project. Those Ramchargers -- Tom Hoover, Tom Coddington, Al Adam, John Wehrly and Mike Buckel -- held a seminar on Saturday afternoon.

Hear the High & Mighty in our audio clip...

Hear Tom Hoover and the others speaking about the formation of the Ramchargers and the success of the Hemi engine in drag racing (about 40 minutes) (Windows users: the audio should now be working for you.)

One Ramcharger missing for the All-Nationals but mentioned by Tom Hoover was Dick Mancini. He was at least represented in the vendor area by representatives of his namesake company, Mancini Racing Enterprises. Carlisle Events mascots showed off t-shirts for sale at the High & Mighty tent.

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Major musclecar attraction this year at Carlisle was a 40th-year reunion of 1969 Dodge Super Bee and Plymouth Road Runner "A12" vehicles, street-legal cars that came from the factory with tri-carbureted 440 engines. Besides 3 Holly 2-bbl carburetors, the A-12 cars featured Edelbrock aluminum manifold, Dana rear end, fiberglass hood and many other performance extras. About 600 A-12 Road Runners were sold, including one to Ted Struse, former field editor of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine. Struse campaigned the car, dubbed "Project Six Pack," in the Seventies in Stock Eliminator class and set many records.

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Ted documented the car's preparation and performance in Super Stock & Drag Illustrated. Project Six Pack was recently restored by Best of Show Automotive, Inc., of Mentor, Ohio, and, in an unofficial prelude to the Carlisle A-12 anniversary program, the company unveiled the car at a media event on Thursday evening, July 9th. Project Six Pack then went on display for the weekend in the Y Building.

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Project Six Pack's fine paintwork.

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In a give-away contest sponsored by Mopar Muscle magazine and Muscle Motors Racing of Lansing, Michigan, Vince Jacob of McKees Rocks, PA, won a 490 C.I.D. Stroker engine. In a Carlisle Events drawing, Daniel Johnson of Biglerville, PA, won a 1969 Plymouth Fury III convertible.

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And, there was a real wedding, live onstage on Saturday morning, with Randy Bolig, editor of Mopar Muscle magazine, marrying his bride, Paula.

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So a major theme of the show at the Nationals this year hightlighted the 1969 A-12 Road Runners and Super Bees. More than a dozen invitational cars of that year were on display in the Y Bulding. Project Six Pack, and a white Road Runner owned by Ralph Barbagallo, president of Mopars-in-Motion, a very active club in Bristol, Connecticut. Not only do they conduct several Mopar shows around Connecticut each year, but Ralph also sponsors the Supercar Shootout at Quarter Aces, and at other strips around the Northeast.

Besides the B-body exhibit inside the Y Building, outside was a row of 15 A-body "M-code" cars, Darts and 'Cudas of the same production period, the Darts and 'Cudas being short wheelbase models powered by big block engines. Organizer of the A-body reunion Dave Goodwin listed the cars as "5 Darts, 2 GSS Darts, 3 'Cuda coupes and 6 'Cuda fastbacks. We had another A-body showing in the T Building, a B5 [ed. note: color code] M-Dart." "GSS" indicates a Grand Spaulding Sport model originally sold only through Mr. Norm Kraus's Grand Spaulding Dodge dealership in Chicago.

Considerable time and effort are required to muster a "reunion" of cars like the A-body gathering. Goodwin explained, "Most of the Darts were found through advertising. One Dart that I didn't know was coming showed up, a Q5 car that the guy has owned since 1970! I've taken over a 'Cuda registry and I sent letters to all the members. Some registry addresses were good, some not. Cars get sold, and sellers and buyers don't always update the registry. I was able to track down a few of the 'Cudas. We want to do this again in five years with hopes of more owners finding out about it."

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Latest special edition musclecar on a street model, the 572 horsepower Hurst Hemi Challenger SRT-8 stood out in the center of the T Building. That is saying a lot since the T buidling was filled with about 50 unusually rare and clean Mopars. It must have been the gleaming white and gold paint scheme with gold flake in the topcoat.

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In the engine compartment, a 6.1 liter Hemi and many modern performance components and the autographs of Nate Shelton, Hurst chairman, Ron Flint, president, and Charles Taylor, designer.

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Although always astronomically outnumbered at Carlisle by V-8 engines, Slant-6's do show up. A 1965 Dodge Dart GT on display in the T Building, venue for special interest vehicles, featured a Slant-6 with a Hyper-Pak 4-bbl. carburetor on aluminum performance intake. Owned by John & Laurie Mercurio of Belleville, Michigan, the car is a veteran of the drags. It runs the quarter mile in mid- to high 15 seconds at 82 to 88 mph. Restoration of the car, which the Mercurios acquired in 2003, included new paint and graphics in the style of the "Hemi Under Glass" cars.

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But in this case, lettering on the side of the 6-cylinder car announces it as "Half a Hemi." That's not mathematically correct, but we get the idea! The couple owns other collector cars. Their hometown being a suburb of Detroit, they take part in local car events including the annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. The Dart is in frequent use for daily transporation and the owners report it gets 18-19 miles on a gallon of gas.

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Winning "All E Body Convertible" was a 1970 Dodge Challenger owned by Peter and Chris Majewski of Belchertown, Massachusetts. This car, not powered by a Hemi nor any other V-8, but a Slant-6, was also a "celebrity pick."

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The Majewski's red convertible appeared with distinction at Carlisle in 2008 when the show featured an invitational display of Challengers. Chris Majewski explains her car was chosen for that exhibit, "because, with the Slant-6, it is rare. Everyone has a Hemi, Carlisle Events said. We were thrilled to show it in the special exhibit." The car's red interior was redone with products from Dante's Mopar Parts of Sicklerville, New Jersey. The rebuilt Slant-6 engine now has only 2500 miles on it. Members of both the Northeast Hemi Owners Assoc. and the Slant Six Club of New York/New Jersey, the couple owns a second 1970 Challenger. Both cars were restored by Joe Martin of Westfield, Massachusetts.

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Sunday Morning -- 3rd-Place Winner in Crossover class, 2008 Caliber SRT-4 owned by Tina Staffiere of Laurel, Maryland. You might not recognize the car's performance pedigree from the front because Dodge did not apply an SRT-4 badge in front, although the hood scope is a giveaway. Tina notes, "There is a badge on the trunk lid." Color, Sunburst Orange, similar to the Orange Blast SRT-4s that came before it in the Neon package. The Neon line including the SRT-4 was discontinued in 2005. Although Calibers will continue under Chrysler restructuring, the SRT-4s will be dropped.

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One wanderer around the midway, Vito Labella of Brooklyn, New York, expressed why many Mopar enthusiasts come to Carlisle, "The show gives me a chance to pick up parts for my GTX at bargain prices. Just by networking with a fellow GTX owner, I was able to get parts to rebuild my front end -- at half the price of the cheapest supply house. I do patronize the large vendors, but I can get lucky here with the small swap vendors. I enjoy scrounging through the displays."

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Labella came to Carlisle with his wife, Denise, and their son, Matt. They were on the lookout for a car to buy for Matt but didn't find the right one! Labella noted an apparent effect of the stressed national economy on lower car prices. "Cars for sale were going cheap. One fellow told us that he had to get rid of his vehicle because he had too many bills and not enough income!"

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Many months in preparation, the All-Chrysler Nationals, and other programs staged at the Carlisle fairgrounds, are planned, organized and carried out by a staff of about 30 full-time Carlisle Events employees. On show weekends the company calls in 160 to 175 part-timers. Adding to the body count are the employees and volunteers associated with vendors and clubs.

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Members of large participating clubs add resources and energy. The Northeast Hemi Owners Assoc. had 91 of its members registering. An Internet network of Neon owners,, had 61 members registering, and another Internet community under the name, Mopar Mailing List, had 50 members. The accompanying list numbers 29 clubs. But show officials track many more smaller clubs with members whose passion for Mopars keeps them coming back year after year.

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Here's a picture that would never have never been possible in real life owing to how quickly great race cars were put out to pasture in the peak musclecar period of the late Sixties and Seventies. The cars represented by the scale replicas are the famous Chrysler-supported Motown Missiles and Mopar Missile which were developed not only to race but to refine race technology for the benefit of other Mopar teams. acknowledges the kindness of Hobby Express, which had a booth in the sales area of the midway building, in letting us use their models to get the shot.

Mark your calendars for next year when July 9-11 is set for the 2010 Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals. Meanwhile, at we hope to come up with one more article about the recent show, presenting pictures that didn't make it into this article.

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