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Moparfest 2010: the Big Canadian Chrysler Show

by Daniel Stern • special to allpar.com

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On 21 and 22 August 2010, nearly sixteen hundred cars converged on New Hamburg, a small town near Kitchener, Ontario, for the 31st iteration of what is likely Canada's biggest all-Mopar show: Moparfest.

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Cars were present from five Canadian provinces and nine U.S. states, and spanned the gamut from an Ontario-registered 1924 Dodge Brothers to plenty of current models, with almost everything in between. Just seven model years went unrepresented: 1938 and '39, 1942-'45, and 1953. There were 243 registered vendors. There was about a quarter-inch of rain. That's the show by the numbers.

Now, what was there? All kinds of cool stuff seldom seen at U.S. Mopar shows. Interesting Canada-only models like a butter-yellow '57 Dodge Mayfair and a sharp '63 Chrysler Saratoga, and several sanitary Fargo trucks and A-100 vans. Could there possibly be a better brand name for a sturdy, reliable vehicle than "Far-go"? There could not.

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Then there were the cars that look like ordinary bread-and-butter fare until you get closer. A '65 Dart…badged front, side, rear, and inside as a Valiant, but with not a single Dodge, Plymouth, or Chrysler nameplate to be found? Yep. In the States, Valiant was a marque in its own right for 1960, but that arrangement continued through 1966 in Canada. In 1965, the Canadian Valiant range included both 106"-wheelbase Valiant-shaped Valiants and 111"-wheelbase Dart-shaped Valiants. Strange, eh? Maybe, but '63 and '64 Canadian Valiants will raise American eyebrows even higher: the body is Dart from the cowl back, with Valiant front clips.-all badged up as Valiants, and the hood badge calls out "VALIANT" rather than "PLYMOUTH".

Hey, how 'bout an '84 Plymouth M-body in that metallic blue half of them were painted (the other half being maroon)-that'll be a Gran Fury, right? Wrong, this is Canada; it's a Caravelle.

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The closer you look at such a vehicle, the more there is to see. Plenty of evidence that Chrysler Canada did things a little differently as it suited them. They used locally-sourced oil bath air cleaners on Fargo trucks. They used a lot of starters and distributors made by Prestolite (then called Auto-Lite) of Canada, rather than the American Chrysler-made items. Slant-6 engines could be had with a carburetor anti-ice system right from the start in 1960-a system which made only a brief, one-year appearance in the States in 1969.

And most of these vehicles, at least the ones made before the early 1970s, shouldn't properly be called Mopars. Rather than that name, Chrysler Canada used the "Chryco" and, later, "AutoPar" names for their service parts. Many of the New Old Stock parts on display by various vendors were in their original Chryco or AutoPar packaging.

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AMC-made vehicles got their share of space at the table, too, with a good number of tidy Rebels and Ambassadors and 990s in attendance. Of course there were B- and E-bodies, but they were far from dominant, and the show didn't suffer from the cookie-cutter sameness that can begin to set in once you've walked past the twelfth row of B5 Blue Barracudas. Not that there's anything wrong with a B5 Blue Barracuda, of course, but this show, perhaps because it was smaller-or perhaps because it was in Canada-had a friendly vibe that invited mixing and mingling with owners and appreciators of an enormous range of Chrysler-built vehicles.

There were Li'l Red Express trucks-one of which, a fine '79, was awarded to lucky registrant Rick Monture, who'd brought his '68 Coronet R/T to the show. There were Darts and Dusters. Early Hemi DeSotos. Aspens and Volarés, Cordobas and New Yorkers and Monacos, a GLH, a survivalist Ram van, and even a '90 Acclaim.

Prouse Transport brought a picture-perfect piece of evidence that Dodge used to make enormous semi tractors; Kyle Youngblood wrote, "That truck was bought new by Prouse. It has basically been a one driver truck, stored during the winter. It's low mileage, I think less then 200,000 miles. Around 115 of the 261 built are still around."

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There were some fine cars for sale, too: How 'bout a '66 C-body Dodge…with a 225 and 3-on-the-tree? Canadians at the time were rather more conservative in their car-buying habits.

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Herb McCandless was the guest of honour, and after a worthwhile reminder to everyone over 50 to get screened for prostate cancer-which killed Ronnie Sox in 2006-McCandless spoke at great and interesting length about everything from oil filter quality (he likes Wix) to block prep. He was happy to take questions from the crowd gathered round the stage in front of the grandstand. No matter whether someone wanted to know the ins and outs of synchroniser modification on an A833 or wanted to discuss the horsepower and ET levels at which a Dana 60 rear axle becomes necessary, Herb took on each question with good cheer and experienced knowledge.

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A 2010 Dodge Challenger was raffled off; Kitchener resident Ron Astl won it. The 50/50 draw pot grew fat-$4,450-on Saturday, even fatter on Sunday at $4,881. Not only was the show itself good, but so were the logistics: ample parking was provided offsite for those not registered, and an all-day school bus brigade provided by a major student transport company whisked participants to and fro. Friendly people, sharp cars, good food, and all in all a grand weekend…that's how it's done in Canada, eh!

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