Owners of older Chrysler products are the Rodney Dangerfields of the auto world--they get no respect. But at this Southern California event, that couldn't be further from the truth. Twice a year, marking the marginal change of SoCal seasons, Chrysler Performance West puts on the biggest Mopar shows (and swap meets) west of the Mississippi--Spring Fling and Fall Fling.
Like most American-made car shows, you'll find the majority of the trucks are in the parking lot or providing a backstop for individuals selling spares in the swap meet area. There is always room reserved for the workhorses, though, and at Chrysler Performance West's Spring Fling, some real beauties were out.
On Saturday, the gates opened at 7 a.m. at Woodley Park in the Sepulveda Basin Recreational Area. The north end of the park is sparsely wooded and was divided into several long rows, each row made up of pairs of vehicles parked back to back. Past a dividing line of concrete picnic tables, the southern half of the park featured a manufacturers midway and used-parts swap meet. The parking lot filled early with hopeful bargain hunters, although even the best deals on old Hemi parts are rarely a bargain.
Cars and trucks rolled into the display area and park in a first-come, first-served manner. Saturday's show was casual and not judged, with makes and models scattered all over the grounds.
The majority of models present were post-1964. The economy-minded 1964-1970 Dodge A100, both pickup and van, was the single designation with the most representation. Unlike the 1960s Ford Econoline, the A100 was available with V-8 power. Being so close to Hollywood, famous movie and TV cars (or their clones) often turn out. I was hoping the blue Priceline A100 van would make an appearance, but it didn't. Jay Leno, fresh off his sickbed, did come out, driving his beautiful 1934 Chrysler Imperial Airflow.
Saying an old Chrysler product is unusual would normally be regarded as redundant. But some of this year's attendees were outside the normal custom or resto categories. Richard Beaudoin's weathered 1968 A100 "Lazy Daze" RV is a pretty rare find. The "Lazy Daze" Dodge mini-motorhome features a cooking area, shower, and porta-potty in a manageable 16-foot package.
Randy Weller brought a more traditionally prepared green A100 van camper with rollout side canopy, bench seating, table, fridge, and in-door storage areas.
The previous vans traded on their well-worn appearance to add to their vintage creds; not so with this next pickup. The cleanest A100 at the show was a custom owned by Ted LeBaron. His 1969 318-equipped pickup sports a slick pearl white/tangerine paint scheme with rail-mounted polished aluminum tilting surfboard display. The interior continues the two-tone style with added contrasting black/gray buckets with orange piping. Restrained surf-style pinstriping in gray and orange spruce up the hood crease.
If there were an award for the most esoteric custom, Sherwin Silver's super-modified lime green 1927 Dodge Brothers pickup would own the title. Its transverse-mounted Cadillac Northstar V-8 engine and transaxle is nestled between the rear tires, hidden by a faux bed and tonneau. The underhood area up front houses the brake booster, electronics, and small storage compartment. Judging by spattering of surface rust and road spatter visible on the suspension pieces it appear that Silver actually drives his low-slung pickup. Hooray!
While the 1960s was arguably Chrysler's performance-car golden era, it's the angular good looks of the 1940s-era Dodge Power Wagons that thrill military and 4x4 truck enthusiasts. Jim Hetrick brought his gorgeous post-war dark blue and black 1946 on Saturday. With its updated 20-inch wheels and tires, it has a menacing stance. His truck is driven often but meticulously maintained, as you can see.
A variety of Dodge pickups round out the first day's display--a 1978 D200 SE Adventurer crew cab longbed, a 1975 Ramcharger 4x4, a 2007 Ram 1500 Mega Cab, a flamed custom 1952 Pickup, Troy Hodge's trick orange 1966 D100 Hemi street machine, and several station wagons that would put today's crossovers to shame.
On Sunday morning, it all began again. The early shoppers already bought or passed, so the midway is less traveled on the second day. The north end of the park was another story. Sunday was the real deal for the serious Show & Shine competitors. Cars were broken up into body types (i.e. A-Body, E-Body, etc.) Trucks were separated by year of manufacture--before 1985 or after.
Another 1946 Power Wagon rolled in. This one, painted in dark green and black, is owned by Chris Lofthouse. Chris' truck is a body-off-frame resto done in honor of his father. Hetrick's PW stood only two trucks away from Lofthouse's, so the comparisons began. "Mine's better," Lofthouse offered. "Why?" I asked. More than half seriously, he answered, "Because it's mine!" It may seem quirky to Chevy and Ford owners, but Dodge guys really do love their trucks. Even non-Dodge owners can relate to the old Power Wagons, though. They truly transcend brand.
A couple of D100s joined the field. Perhaps the funkiest was a 1971 Sweptline Dude. Yeah, the Dodge Dude. Historically, this may have been a hip moniker, but today it sounds funny. With Don Knotts as the spokesman--well, case closed. Up to 2000 Dude sport trim packages were supposedly produced. This 383 two-barrel version was fresh off an eBay auction. Larry Thomsen brought his classy modified root-beer brown metallic 1960 Sweptline. It's a frame-off resto with a high-performance 1957 Chrysler 392 Hemi powerplant.
Thomsen's D100 is as sanitary as they come, with a pristine engine compartment and classy burlwood interior accents. Steve Stelzle's turquoise 1965 has a different look. The oversized tires, 392 Hemi, and stepside bed gives this pickup a cheerfully menacing appearance. There's no doubt it's capable of rude behavior, but its friendly hue cloaks such rebellion.
The judges, clipboards by their sides, gazed endlessly into each vehicle's mechanical soul. The results were always entertaining, at least for the spectators.
The incredible array of Chrysler products that can be seen at the Spring and Fall Flings is astonishing. There are regulars that display often but the transient vehicles seem neverending and exciting. There's always something new, even from Saturday to Sunday. This event is free to spectators, and Chrysler Performance West does a fine job of keeping it organized. If you're in the southern California area in mid-October or late April, make sure you visit Woodley Park for the Fling of your choice. Visit www.cpwclub.com for more information.