‘Tis Always the Mopar Season


If you’re a Mopar enthusiast, every day at the Jim and Rhonda Hatzelis household is like Christmas. The walls are covered in Mopar memorabilia, the décor skews toward Mopar, with a touch of Looney Toons (after all, Road Runner was a star in the Merrie Melodies cartoons long before he was the namesake of the famous Plymouth B-Body muscle car) and there is a stable of classic Mopars out front. During the Christmas season, however, things get extra festive.




Rhonda started the Mopar Christmas tree shortly after she and her husband Jim were married. She explained, “I’ve always loved doing themed Christmas trees. We had a Hot Wheels Christmas tree and a Looney Tunes Christmas tree and then I thought, ‘Why not do a Mopar Christmas tree?’ So, I did! Being that there weren’t many Mopar Christmas ornaments on the market, most of the ornaments are handmade.”




Jim and Rhonda Hatzelis LIVE Mopar. Every aspect of their day-to-day lives is at least freckled with some Mopar reminder. For Rhonda, it started with her father and brother each owning a Charger and Road Runner, respectively.

Rhonda still owns her father’s Charger and her brother’s “Bird.” The Charger is fully restored and the Bird is cooler than ever, now sporting a custom take on the famous Mod-Top and a bright green hue. “I saw my first Mod-Top at a car show 20 years ago, and I said, ‘I HAVE to have one of those! It’s so pretty and unique!’” she told us. In 2006, Rhonda saw another Mod-Top in the form of a yellow 1969 Plymouth Barracuda which only served to solidify her determination to have a Mod-Top of her own.





After spending a few years attempting to find a supplier of a Mod-Top, and a few let downs, Rhonda decided to have a custom one made by a local graphics shop. After a trip to the fabric store for pattern ideas and several months spent perfecting the color scheme, Rhonda’s Bird had its Mod-Top and she and Jim have been loving it ever since! “At first, people thought I was crazy, Jim included, ” she said. “Now, we get so much attention with ‘Mod-Top Bird!’ People just LOVE it, and we do too (even Jim)!”





Whenever the Bird comes out, so does Rhonda’s alter-ego, “Mod-Top Girl.” Clad in a shirt matching the Bird’s groovy top, white go-go boots and 60’s inspired accessories, Mod-Top girl looks right at home next to the Bird!


Jim’s love of Mopar began in 1971 when his father purchased a Dodge Coronet. Jim said, “I liked it so much that a few years later I decided to get myself a Dodge Charger. I’ve been a Mopar guy ever since.” Jim is also a big fan of creating his own custom model cars and dioramas.





Jim and Rhonda’s romance began in 1995. Rhonda was the newsletter editor for the Tucson Mopar Club and Jim was the treasurer. As time went on, and her affection for Jim grew, Rhonda found herself needing to go to Jim for money to buy stamps, copies, etc. more and more often (wink, wink), eventually, Jim got the idea and the two began dating. In 1996 they were married at a car show and since then, they have been livin’ the Mopar life, together.




Scott and I had a blast with Jim, Rhonda and the rest of the Tucson Mopar Club. We’d never seen a passion for Mopar quite like the one shared by Jim and Rhonda, and we hope, like their love for one another, that their passion for all things Mopar continues to grow.



  • tr4petty
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    I love it! I have a lot of Mopar stuff in my house, barn, pavilion, dock, etc, too. And every year, I put up a Mopar Christmas tree in my home office. It has nothing but Mopar-related ornaments on it and it has the pentastar hood ornament from a late ’80s New Yorker for the treetop star. That’s the hood ornament with the glass pentastar and I always have a white light behind it to make it really shine at the top of the tree. The rest of the office is filled floor-to-ceiling with Mopar stuff from diecast and tin, to belt buckles, old advertising pieces, etc., etc. A man’s got to have a hobby!

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I have almost have as much stuff, however, my wife will not let me “clutter” up the house with it. I have boxes of the stuff in the attic and I think the squirrels play with it. Somebody has to have fun with the stuff. My wife still wants me to sell my Superbird and 71 road runner so we can drive our new cars in the garage and not have to park them in the driveway. It would be nice to be married to someone who appreciates mopars. The Mod Top is a wild one. I didn’t know they made them in 1970. A neighbor down the street where I was growing up had a 1968 or 1969 Barracuda with one. Great stuff. There is nothing like a sublime mopar.

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Man, love that ’70 Roadrunner. Now that’s a car! I’ve had to stop collecting that stuff….ran out of space for it all. Wife says I am “obsessed”, but at least it’s a good obsession!
    They just don’t understand. MOPAR RULES!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Anybody want to buy a whole bunch of Mopar memorabilia! I’m getting really disgusted with Dodge Motorsports! I just read where Dodge’s mediocre “focused effort” (per Ralph Gilles) of a 1 team (Penske) 3 car effort in 2010 is being further reduced to only a 2 car effort this year! What’s next for us Mopar Nascar fans? A complete withdrawal? Stick up the white flag? Throw in the towel? All through the Nascar season of 2010, I just sat in front of my TV on Sundays, thinking that things will get better as Chrysler’s future starts looking better. The 3 car Penske Cup effort last year was pretty pitiful but I kept thinking that it was due to the bankruptcy and 2011 would be better. But NO! The folks at Dodge apparently have given up on the most popular motorsport in the world! UNBELIEVABLE!! I’m ready to change allegiance and start selling off all my stuff! I’m tired of this crap from Dodge Motorsports! Start looking for my collection of diecast, antique toys, signs, knives, lighters, pins, buckles, etc., etc. on ebay!

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    tr4petty, to make matters worse, nascar is now crapping up the sport. Now, if Brad Keselowski picks cup racing to try for a championship, I won’t have any reason to watch nationwide this season. Nice one, nascar. Dodge may as well cut their funding to that series and probably put another 2 cars on the track in cup. Funny about the timing nascar has, changing the rules when Dodge wins a championship. They’ll probably make the cup series chase 43 cars this season so Jr. can be in the chase for the cup.
    If Dodge thinks 2 cars is gonna garner them any fans next season, then they’ve seriously lost touch with reality. And they would put any Dodge fan in no other situation than to walk away from the brand. Seriously, it’s not a joke. You have to be all in, or out all together! I’ve got to be honest here; I have never seen a car company that couldn’t produce one loyal driver/team in nascar, or alienate the one or two they did have in the past. Show me one driver who would say today that they wouldn’t race if it was not in a Dodge? I bet you can’t do it. What does that say about Dodge? It’s a bit disgusting. So, tr4petty I hear you loud and clear, and your sentiments
    are understood. I guess I’ll be watching a lot of F1 this year, especially now since they are going to broadcast it in Hi Def this season.
    Dodge is just another car manufacturer for Roger Penske, he’s a nice guy, but he is a business man also. If another manufacturer offers him a better deal….he’s gone. He’s not Hendrick who publicly pledges allegiance with GM (and has a mopar parts website also?), who vows to be there until the end. I only wish there was a team owner who could say that for Dodge.

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Dodge had ONE guy that could have and would have been a loyal Mopar guy forever, Richard Petty. But Dodge dropped support for his teams and went with Roger Penske, who will bolt as soon as he gets a little better deal from someone else. The rumors of him talking to Toyota and VW are persistent. And Richard Petty is the most fan friendly and most respected former driver turned team owner in all of Nascar! Could have been a loyal Dodge supporter and shifted a lot of folks toward the Dodge brand but NOOOOooooooooo; Dodge Motorsports drops the “King” in favor of a man that shows NO consistent loyalty to any brand and still refuses to put any real money into his Nascar teams. Penske is a former open-wheel driver and still shows his open-wheel teams much favoritism over his Nascar teams. For instance, why in he__ would he let Justin Allgaier go, when he knew that Nascar was about to disallow Cup regulars to run for the Nationwide title?!?!? Justin was the highest finishing Nationwide regular by far and would have been a shoe-in for the 2011 Nationwide Championship. Anyone else with Penske’s assets would have funded Justin’s team out of his own pocket if he had to. Why would Penske not even try to get Kasey Kahne on the team when he knew Kasey was looking for a ride, knew Kasey was connected to Dodge with his own Sprint car operation, and knew Kasey would be a super driver and a fan favorite?!?!? But when Kasey was asked in an interview about which teams had persued him before he signed with Hendrick for 2012 (he wouldn’t have had to sit out a year with Penske), Kasey named several top teams but did NOT mention Penske! Roger should have been after Kasey like an NFL recruiter after Tim Tebo! I just don’t know what’s going on with Dodge Motorsports but obviously they don’t care for Nascar anymore. If they only realized how many of their fans are also Nascar fans, surely they would be jumping into Nascar with both feet. I can tell you this for sure; a lot of us Mopar guys out here (I’m in two Mopar clubs and one mixed car club) are getting tired of waiting on our brand to give us some cars to cheer for on the weekend! They’re about to lose a big portion of their most loyal fans to the brand X’s!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Well, according to Nascar.com, Roger Penske has partnered with RWR to field the #77 car at Daytona. The only problem is; it’s going to be Steve Wallace in a Toyota! Way to go Roger; that’s showing the only Team Dodge spirit! I think I’m going to be sick!

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    See tr4petty, that’s what I am talking about when it comes to loyalty. If I were Dodge i’d tell Penske
    that it won’t be happening if he wants any factory support in 2011. They still have time to do this, the season isn’t started yet! This is indeed sickening! Not a single loyal team. Way to go Dodge.
    I am going to stick with F1 this season. No Dodges there to worry about. The nationwide series is already gone down the crapper anyway.

    Posted January 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    HEMIhead, yes they just need to pull out of NASCAR for good and use the money to refurbish the Brampton, ON plant so they can spray more than five colors a day. Just imagine if you could order your 2011 Dodge Challenger or Charger in all of the boring colors they offer now plus all of the high impact colors. In addition, they could have a customizing shop built into the plant to make convertibles and anything else you want. T/A Challengers, 426 HEMI Challengers with shaker hoods…yes anything you could imagine. Penske is already turning the tide and will probably be thru with Dodge next year anyway.

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    That’s what I’m talking about HEMIhead! No loyalty in the garage for Dodge. Can you imagine Jack Roush helping a Toyota team field another one of their cars to race against him by giving him points to guarantee a spot in the race?!?!? Man, I wish Dodge had someone like Roush in their stable!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    Sublime, for all practical purposes, Dodge HAS pulled out of Nascar! They don’t run the truck series, they currently have nobody eligible for the championship in the Nationwide series, and are down to only 2 sponsored Cup cars. That’s about as close as you can get to pulling out of Nascar without making the formal announcement! Of course, Ralph Gilles will put some more spin on it and say that Dodge’s 2010 “more focused effort” is becoming “even more focused” for 2011! His “more focused effort” on the track was supposed to lead to a better chance for wins and a championship so, by his way of thinking, if they reduce the effort to 1 car, they’re practically assured of a Sprint Cup championship! What a strategy!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    OH, and RLD, what ever happened to the increased Nascar news you promised to give us a couple months back on this site? Yeh, it’s hard to squeeze blood out of a turnip isn’t it?

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    The “more focused effort” is meant to wean us off of Nascar entirely. I don’t say they’ll have
    any teams next year. One car could win the championship….if the other 42 don’t qualify!
    Good Grief!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    HEMIhead, it’s sickening isn’t it? As a long-time Mopar man myself, all this “news” about Penske fielding only 2 Cup cars this year and Penske partnering with RWR to field a TOYOTA in the Cup series is causing me mental anguish! Well, we tried to tell Dodge that Penske had NO brand loyalty; maybe they’ll believe us now!

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    HEMIhead, maybe Penske’s recent moves are the first signs that he is cozying up to Toyota in advance of switching brands when his contract is up with Dodge. There certainly has been plenty of persistent rumors about him switching. A lot of times in the past, when a team owner is thinking about switching manufacturers, you’ll hear of him doing “favors” for that manufacturer in advance of the switch. Remember Bill Davis Racing?

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    tr4petty, I hear you. It’s not a good enough effort by Dodge. They should just leave. I’d be
    doubtful they will have any teams for the 2012 season. Oh well, the Chrysler cycle continues.
    Maybe with Fiat they’ll try F1.

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Yeh, HEMIhead, I don’t see them continuing in Nascar after this season. Penske probably knows it and that’s the reason he’s cozying up to Toyota and helping them guarantee another Toyota on the track at Daytona. What’s the point? A 2-car effort isn’t enough to increase your fan base so they may as well try to save face and bow out like they did in the ’70s. I started driving Fords after 1977 because Chrysler pulled out of my favorite sport. I wish now that I hadn’t gotten rid of all my Ford swag. Oh well, it probably wouldn’t fit now anyway! I did occasionally peak at a Nascar race from time to time to see how Buddy Arrington was doing. He was the only Mopar on the track for many years, unsponsored by Chrysler or Dodge of course. He was simply a loyal Mopar guy. Don’t have any of those anymore. Dodge doesn’t seem to want to bother with fostering any loyalty in the garage these days. I don’t even know anyone that would be a candidate for a loyal Dodge team owner since they shunned Richard Petty into the Ford camp. I can’t imagine that Chrysler would ever get into F1 simply because of the cost vs reward. F1 costs about $500 million per year per team. Toyota is rumored to be spending $1 Billion on theirs. That’s many times over what Nascar Cup teams cost and wouldn’t have nearly the following in this country as Nascar. Chrysler probably could get a decent return for their investment if they got into the IRL and gave Chevy and Honda some competition though. And I’m sure the IRL would be much more affordable. It would be nice to see Dodge get into the IRL and kick some Penske butt because Penske has already signed to go with Chevy in 2013. If I were in charge of Dodge Motorsports, though, I would be jumping into Nascar, all three top series, with both feet and much vim and vigor!

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    tr4petty, to see them in IRL would be cool. F1 is wicked expensive, true. You can tell what Penske’s intentions are, and you can tell what type pf person he is. There’s no loyalty, only opportunity that knocks for him. He’s going with whatever manufactuerer gives him the best deal. Ya, I agree. I wouldn’t be able to guess who would be loyal to Dodge anymore? I know Arrington was a true Mopar guy. If I want to buy anything or need advice for my car I always go to Arrington’s first, just to try and give the guy/family the respect they deserve for being there for the Mopar fans. A 2 car effort in Nascar is just an excuse for saying you’re in Nascar.
    They jump ship so often with teams, nobody wants to take a chance on them anymore. And who would blame them? I think Petty was kind of “the Last Straw” so to speak, for many past fans. It sickened me for sure.

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Well, I think Ralph Gilles’ interview on Nascar Race Hub says it all. He’s satisfied with top 10 or even top 20 finishes!!!!!!!!! And he was asked about the future of Dodge’s Nascar involvement and he DIDN’T answer that part of the question!!!!!! VERY TELLING!!!

  • HEMIhead
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Well, I guess they are done.

  • Jim Hatzelis
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    This story is about us and our club, not a BS session for Nascar.

  • tr4petty
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Jim, there are a lot of Mopar/Nascar fans out here and since Red Letter Dodge rarely ever talks about Nascar, even though they have promised to give us more Nascar info, we do seem to get off on the topic a lot. We have no where else to vent.
    I’ve already commented above about how much I like your collection of Mopar stuff. My house is quite similar so I understand where you’re coming from. I have well over a thousand diecast; dioramas built and displayed; I have a Mopar train set up; We do a Mopar Christmas tree every year; I have signage everywhere in my home office, our pavilion, my barn, and I even have some old Chryler Marine stuff on our dock; I have a special cabinet full of all kinds of Mopar memorabilia, like knives, lighters, banks, cards, etc, etc., many of them antiques.
    I apologize for getting this string off-topic but RLD has promised to give us more stories on Nascar and they NEVER do, so the result is, we tend to get other stories turned into vent sessions about our favorite sport, which Dodge seems to be slowly abandoning.

  • Keith
    Posted August 31, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I have a question and I hope you can find out.  My friend bought his 1970 Superbird new.  He only has 1500 miles on the car.  Every couple of years, he will go through the engine and keep it up.  This year he cleaned the interior.  When he lifted the back seat out, he found a metal plate stamped ” nascar 30- no. 1″.  Could you please find out what this means.  He is anxious to find out.  Thank you very much.  Keith

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