Chrysler Performance West Celebrates 25 Years of Mopar Preservation

Chrysler Performance West's all-Mopar "Spring Fling" show turned 25 on a scorcher of day when the only thing more valuable than a Shaker hood or a 440 Six-pack was shade. Twenty-five years of surprise sunburns and burnouts that surprise nobody, twenty-five years of increasing parts availability and car clubbing in the digital age. As 2011 marks a quarter century of this SoCal/San Fernando Valley event, the milestone also highlights a growing Chrysler restoration community that has visibly and persistently risen above its novelty status.

Long one of the Western states’ premier Mopar events, Spring Fling’s companion activities now include a Mopar cruise to Malibu, a kickoff party at Ted Moser’s Picture Car Warehouse, a Cruise Night, and the track day at Willow Springs Raceway. It’s hard to imagine Spring Fling’s growth and expanding contribution to the hobby being anticipated even by those who created it. And where recreational parts-finders were once at the center of it all, many have now disappeared with the timeworn parts they unearthed, cleaned, and used to finance their own projects.  

Increasingly polished marketing from a snowballing number of entrepreneurs is now the rule, and with these newer vendors has come a remanufacturing gold rush. In the beginning, one had to rely on the gear head who’d dug up a set of factory exhaust manifolds and was willing to sell ‘em – to a friend. Next came the entrepreneurs who offered usable (and well-used) door hinges and window glass from every make and model of Mopar.

The guys who first assembled sixty or so Mopars at Woodley Park in the Sepulveda basin have seen those earlier parts pioneers endure, but they’ve also seen the field become crowded with reproduction parts that don’t need cleaning or chroming – and have no stories to tell. Today there are even mergers and take-overs. A Chrysler parts supplier catering to golf-playing resto-tycoons on Monday may well see his business sold to one of those same tycoons on Friday.

Predictably, sources can be sporadic, unlicensed, and varying in quality. Convenient and weirdly huge catalogs feature volume discounts, Chinese parts, and substitute items that range from authentic to “authentic appearance.” It will be interesting to see how ordinary Mopar restorers come to terms with the mass-market realities that Ford and GM restoration enthusiasts have never been without.