Fan Favorites from Chrysler Performance West
The Chrysler Performance West (CPW) club’s Spring Fling Mopar car show is back for 2022 after a two-year Covid hiatus. Fans came back in droves on April 23-24 as if nothing untoward had happened in the intervening 24 months, with gearheads swarming their favorite Mopars at L.A. ‘s vast Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. CPW’s Spring Fling Mopar show is generally recognized as the West Coast’s biggest show for Chrysler Corporation’s vintage diaspora, and the event brought out some eyebrow-raising Mopar machines we hadn’t seen before. It’s one of our all-time favorite Mopar shows and this time around we took special care to observe the seemingly random knots of fans gathered around a wide variety of vintage Chryco rides. Some of these fan-favorites were to be expected, but others exemplified the trend toward more affordable, offbeat projects and malaise-era Mopars that resonate with a younger crowd. We’ve got a huge set of shots from the show you can peruse in the gallery, plus some cool information below on the best of the best.
The CPW Spring Fling, in its 34th iteration in 2022, was sponsored by TTI Performance Exhaust, Stephens Performance, Rydell Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and AutoWebWorx (web crafters for many Mopar-specific websites). These are the guys who pay for Spring Fling, which allows spectators across the Mopar spectrum to visit the show with no admission cost (vendors and car show participants do have to pay, though!) Those coming from elsewhere should note that the CPW Spring Fling also brings some related activities to the area, like the Saturday night cruise to the Bob’s Big Boy in Northridge, California, the Spring Fling Speed Festival (an open track event at the famed Willow Springs road course on the Thursday before the event), and the Spring Fling Malibu Cruise the Friday before. There’s a ton of Mopar stuff to do around the CPW Spring Fling, so don’t be reluctant to head out to the L.A. area next April for Spring Fling 35.
1963 Dodge Dart Gasser Replica
What’s the big crowd doing around this car over here? When we finally saw the high-riding silhouette of a gasser behind all those fans, we knew. Gassers and gasser replicas have become all the rage; their solid-axle construction, simple running gear, and easily duplicated look make them fair game for gearheads on a budget, and you don’t need to start with a rare and expensive piece of history.
The choice of a 1963 Dodge Dart as a starting point makes the “Dart-o-Matic” a win-win scenario for the builder, the owner, the fans, and the collector crowd.
Given the Dart-o-Matic’s authentic blue-tinted glass, lightweight van seats, classic straight axle, austere performance gauges, Moon metalflake steering wheel, fenderwell headers, mechanical tach, throwback Ramchargers “Candymatic” style paintjob, and mechanically fuel-injected 273ci LA-series small-block, Rick Kaufman’s Dart-o-Matic 1963 Dodge Dart gasser replica was a leading head-turner at Spring Fling 2022.
1978 Dodge Street Van
Dodge’s YH3-code Street Van from its Dodge Adult Toys program of the 1970s is the poster child for the original van craze, and as such the Dodge Street Van is leading the reincarnation of the street van movement today. Just as the muscle car era was ending in the early 1970s, vans and other trucks began their ascent in popularity, and Chrysler was on the vanguard with its Adult Toys program, a group of adult-themed products consisting of the YH3-code Street Van, the Dodge Warlock truck, the Dodge Li’l Red Express, the Macho Power Wagon, and 4×4 Ramcharger.
The YH3-code Tradesman van contained only the basics from the factory; owners (and oftentimes dealerships) were responsible for customizing the Street Van on their own and the Street Van even came with a small cardboard box “kit” containing templates (for interior panels and window cutouts), decals, keychain, and a van catalog of bolt-ons to finish the job at home. You can read a ton more insider details about the Dodge Street Van program here. Cooper Olson of Del Ray, California, brought out the freakishly authentic Street Van pictured here. (You’ll dig on all the extra shots of Olson’s Street Van in our gallery).
1968 Dodge and Plymouth Super Stock Replicas
Two cars that need no introduction are Chrysler’s pair of Hemi Super Stock cars, the 1968 BO29 Hemi Plymouth Barracuda, and the 1968 LO23 Hemi Dodge Dart. The company TTI is known for its high-quality headers and exhaust products for vintage Mopars, and is a stalwart supporter of many Mopar car shows. At Spring Fling, TTI’s booth was given over to this pair of magnificent machines. Though they were both replicas, both are highly detailed, and looked just as they would’ve coming out of the Hurst Performance Center conversion facility in Madison Heights, Michigan in 1968. We asked the attendant at the booth who was responsible for the replicas and we were referred to an email address on the wall ([email protected]).
Legit Mopar Super Stock racers were originally built at Chrysler’s Hamtramck plant as 383ci-equipped machines, then were shipped to Hurst’s Creative Industries plant for conversion to 426 Hemi power and a raft of additional work like fiberglass fenders, lighter glass, acid-dipped body panels, Dodge A100 van seats, heavy-duty rear leaf springs, and four-piston disc brakes. We were even treated to some video footage of the Hemi Barracuda firing up that you’ll want to check out!
1958 Chrysler 300D
Younger fans looking at the car show entry form in the window of this magnificent 1958 Chrysler 300D might be forgiven for doing a double-take—surely this can’t possibly be a 392ci Hemi with electronic fuel injection? That description reads like the brochure for a modern-day Chrysler 300C SRT8, but the 1958 300D predates any such animal by nearly 50 years. For 1958, Chrysler offered something that had never been offered before: electronic fuel injection on a 392 Hemi.
The Bendix Electrojector, as this fuel-injection system was called, only made it into 21 examples, and distinguished itself from other fuel-injection systems (like GM Rochester fuel injection available in the Corvette) due to its electronic control. Topping off the unusual option is the fact that 1958 was Chrysler’s last hurrah with the first-generation Hemi, which made 380 hp in carbureted form and 390 hp with EFI. The 1958 Chrysler 300D and its 392ci EFI Hemi was way ahead of its time, and this example owned by Per Blixt of Sunland, California, was a Spring Fling must-see!
1928 Ford Track Roadster
Whoa! What’s a Ford doing in here? Relax, locomotive breath—early Fords are the de facto receptacle for all manner of hot rod engines, and this one is given over to Chrysler’s amazing leaning tower of power, the Slant Six. Every kid from three to 93 had to steal a look at this time machine. We arrived just in time to witness it being fired up and blipped for the crowd. Model As, just like the Model Ts before them, have a long history of being chopped and diced to taste; think of early Fords like a hot rod parts kit and you’re on the right track.
Back in the day, racers grabbed whatever cheap materials were available, like Slant Six Mopars and old jalopies, this one being a well-preserved example of the time-honored practice. Cars like this were not street-legal as they were strictly race cars, and with no suspension, no front brakes, and no street registration, this one must’ve had quite a journey visiting the many small oval dirt tracks in the area that are now closed.
1971 Dodge Challenger Hemi R/T Survivor
In the 426 Hemi’s twilight year of 1971, Dodge only built 59 examples (some say 71) of the Challenger R/T with a 426ci Hemi and a four-speed manual transmission. How many of those 59 examples survive in unmolested form like this one is anybody’s guess, but what intrigued us the most was the very unusual and very non-stock tow bar welded to the frame under the front bumper, a sure sign that it was used as some sort of stock competition vehicle in its early life. The fact that it doesn’t also sport a rollbar or show signs of typical butchery from aftermarket gauges is doubly confusing, adding to the deep mystery of this survivor car.
Four-speed Hemi cars from the muscle car era are the holy grail for collectors, and untouched survivors like this are riding a wave of high value, supported by such venues as Mecum, Barrett-Jackson, and eBay Motors. This fine unit was brought to Spring Fling by somebody representing Mopars5150, an emporium you’ll want to check out for its pretty cool Mopar merch.
1972 AMC Gremlin Widebody Conversion
No Mopar represents the malaise era better than the AMC Gremlin, a car that was immortalized early on by the exemplary Mattel Hot Wheels car (the Gremlin Grinder) that most of us had in our toy box. This home built widebody 1972 Gremlin was brought to CPW Spring Fling by Ramiro Boyer, who claims that his is one of 21 widebody Gremlins built (we can’t back this up—a search for “widebody Gremlin” turns up nothing, though results will eventually turn up our entry here). The idea, however, is a solid one, and the widebody IMSA look of the mid-1970s seems a perfect style fit for the badass Gremlin body style.
What most show-goers at CPW Spring Fling liked the most about the widebody Gremlin was its sanitary AMC 401ci transplant under the hood. The 401ci AMC was the company’s top muscle car engine, and when coupled to the light weight of the 1972 Gremlin, the extra grip of the widebody treatment, and the short wheelbase, this has got to make for one crazy go-kart on the street.
1969 Dodge Dart GT
30-year-old Chris Kruse of Norco, California, brought his 1969 Dodge Dart GT street-fighter to CPW Spring Fling. He told HOT ROD he had just finished bolting it together the night before, which explains its rough-and-ready demeanor. The diesel mechanic bought the small-block car 14 years ago for $1,800, and its most recent iteration contains a turbocharged 440ci wedge from a 1974 Chrysler New Yorker. The RB big-block is mostly stock, down to its cast crank, stock rods, and low-compression pistons, but has 440Source.com Stealth aluminum heads, a COMP cam, and an 80mm VS Racing turbo (making 6 psi of boost), and is fed by a CSU blow-through carb set up for E85.
Everything else about Chris’s Dart is low-buck, except for the Weld wheels, Wilwood disc brakes, the built trans and converter, safety gear, and Holley digital dash. It relies on an 8.75-inch rear with a spool but otherwise works with the stock chassis and suspension. The crowd was mobbing Chris’s Dart when we first saw it; the mini-muscle car proportions of the A-body hardtop are hard to ignore, and its street-oriented running gear suggests outrageous performance made popular by shows like Street Outlaws and Fastest Cars in the Dirty South.
Check Out the Rest from Spring Fling …
These are just eight of the cool Mopars from CPW’s Spring Fling 34, but there were many more that you can see by clicking on the gallery, and don’t forget to check out the video with footage of the 1968 Barracuda Super Stock, the Slant-Six track roadster, and Dodge Street Van!