Story and Photos by Steve Magnante
One of the nation’s premier gatherings of classic and modern Dodge cars and trucks is the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals. Held each summer for more than twenty years at the spacious outdoor Carlisle fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this year’s event took place on July 10, 11 and 12th under sunny skies.
An emerging trend is the growing presence of late-model Dodge Challengers, Chargers and Magnums. A rough estimate showed some 35 percent of the cars entered for show judging were built during the last decade. Before the 2004 revival of rear-wheel-drive, V6 and HEMI® V8-powered Dodge passenger cars, the Carlisle event was dominated by classic rear-wheel-drive Dodge vehicles from the 1955-1975 period.
Newer Dodge vehicles were certainly welcome, but with the exception of Vipers and Dakota R/Ts, the (then new) front-wheel-drive, turbocharged four-cylinder models were simply not “melting in” with owners of traditional rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered Dodge vehicles. That’s changed.
A survey of many folks who came in late-model Dodge SXTs, R/Ts, Scat Packs, SRT® models and Hellcats revealed them to be from two camps. First were those who had a “classic” Dodge at home in the garage but decided to drive the more modern car to Carlisle since it’s just as much fun, but more reliable, comfortable and fuel efficient.
The other camp consisted of those attracted to the new Dodge vehicles because of their style, performance, image and value. Both camps enjoy personalizing their new Dodge vehicles, a fact validated by the many on-site vendors of hop-up parts for the Charger, Challenger and Magnum (and to a smaller degree, the Dart).
Rolled together, the classics and the late models assure the growing strength of the Dodge enthusiast network while laying the foundation for a new generation of young Dodge enthusiasts. Will there be a Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals event in 2030? As the radio and TV ads used to say: Depend on it!
How far do you go to preserve history? When its HEMI V8 racing history, you do what it takes. These are the rusty but fascinating remains of the #48 Dodge Charger Daytona. Its best finish was a fourth place at the Texas 500 on Dec. 7, 1969. One of several cars in the #48 stable, it was sold early in the 1970 race season and gradually fell into obscurity. Happily, its current owners recognize its place in racing history and have plans to restore it to its 1969 race season glory.
Dodge was on hand with the Hellcat Thrill Ride, a 400-foot drag strip experience putting participants in the passenger seat for a full-throttle, 707-horsepower blast over a 400-foot drag strip. At the end of the strip, drivers slowed from approximately 80 mph, turned around and repeated the sprint back to the starting line. To keep up with demand, three Challenger SRT® Hellcats each made over three hundred passes per day for a weekend totaling nearly 1, 000 runs per car. I checked, and the Hellcats were standard production models with no enhancements to survive the constant full-throttle use on those muggy, 85-degree July days. If that isn’t proof of the Hellcat’s robust construction, nothing is!
Project cars were plentiful in the car corral. This 1964 Polara hardtop (like all 1964 Dodge vehicles) wore a steering wheel hub emblem celebrating the Dodge brand’s golden anniversary, 1914-1964. Originally equipped with a 383 big block and 727 push-button automatic, the cherry on top was build-sheet and fender-tag coding verifying it was “born” wearing PP1 Bright Red paint. That made it a match to the proverbial “brand-new, shiny red Super Stock Dodge” sang about in the sixties pop song. A North Carolina car with minimal rust, the seller was asking a very reasonable $3, 950.
Though sixties Dodge muscle cars like the Charger R/T, Coronet Super Bee and Six Pack Challenger get more attention, don’t forget that Dodge offered several high-performance packages in the fifties. This 1958 Coronet packs the Super D500 high-performance option and was the hottest Dodge offered that year. The D500 option included heavy-duty brakes and suspension, dual exhaust and most importantly, the new wedge-head 361 V8 with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors good for 320 horsepower. Still wearing most of its original black paint and in pristine un-restored condition, this push-button automatic-equipped example was spotted in the swap meet area.
One of the cleanest 426 Street HEMI engines on site belonged to a 1969 Charger 500. Sold new by Howard Taylor Dodge in San Diego, the Charger 500 was the Dodge brand’s first aerodynamically enhanced bid domination at the race track. Though its flush-mount grille (borrowed from the 1968 Coronet parts bin) and flush-mount rear window glass (installed by Dodge sub-contractor Creative Industries) helped reduce drag, more was needed. That came in the form of the Charger Daytona “wing car.” Though most of the 392 Charger 500’s built in 1969 carried 440 Magnum power plants, 67 buyers opted for the 426 Street HEMI engine upgrade. Of those, 40 were teamed with the 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission, like this example.
On Friday and Saturday morning at 10:30, members of the legendary Ramchargers Dodge drag racing team gathered for interviews on the Dodge Performance Showcase stage. Seated from L to R, John Werhley, Mike Buckel, Al Adam, Tom Coddington and Dave Rockwell shared adventurous stories of how they balanced regular 40-hour work weeks (for various branches of Chrysler Corp.) with a busy drag racing schedule. Notably absent was Tom “Father of the 426 HEMI V8” Hoover, who sadly passed away on April 29, 2015.