Street Machine

MOPAR SUNDAY

QUEENSLAND’S CHRYSLER FANS JAM IN A DAY OF MOPAR MAYHEM IN BETWEEN LOCKDOWNS

- STORY COBEY BARTELS PHOTOS ASHLEIGH WILSON

Gorgeous Chryslers and drag action aplenty from Willowbank

IT WAS with a massive sense of relief that Queensland’s most fanatical Chrysler lovers descended on Willowbank Raceway on 25 July for the 17th running of Mopar Sunday. “We’re just lucky we could pull it off, with all the COVID lockdowns going on,” said organiser Sam Tatton. “We had a short lockdown that finished on 3 July, which was a bit nervewrack­ing. But we got the event done and were back in lockdown a week later.”

Despite the uncertaint­y, an impressive 99 cars hit the strip, a number Sam said was down about 30 per cent on a NON-COVID year, but bloody fantastic considerin­g interstate entrants were unable to attend. “Nearly 100 cars on the track is awesome, and about 1500 punters in total through the doors is as good as anyone could have expected,” he said.

Mopar Sunday has been running since 2003, when the event was conceived as a birthday party for Sam’s dad Jim, with just 35 cars in attendance. Jim is a big player in the Queensland Mopar scene, and, while he couldn’t make it this year in his prized purple Hemi Challenger R/T SE, he’s been a driving force in spreading the Mopar gospel Down Under.

“Dad developed an obsession for Hemiengine­d cars in the early 70s, when he worked for his father in New Zealand selling Chryslers,” said Sam. “By the early 80s he’d moved to Australia and started to bring a lot of Challenger­s and early Mopar cars into the country. He’d buy 10 or 20 cars at a time in the States and bring them back to Australia, doing full rotisserie restoratio­ns on each one. All up, he’s brought more than 60 Mopars into Australia, and plenty

NEARLY 100 CARS ON THE TRACK IS AWESOME, AND ABOUT 1500 PUNTERS IN TOTAL THROUGH THE DOORS IS AS GOOD AS ANYONE COULD HAVE EXPECTED

MOPAR SUNDAY’S EVOLUTION FROM ONE-OFF BIRTHDAY BASH TO MUCH-LOVED YEARLY EVENT WAS INSTIGATED BY SAM AS A WAY TO FILL A GLARING GAP IN THE CHRYSLER CALENDAR

of other makes and models too!”

Mopar Sunday’s evolution from one-off birthday bash to much-loved yearly event was instigated by Sam as a way to fill a glaring gap in the Chrysler calendar.

“There were no Mopar events in Oz that combined both show ’n’ shine and drags, so we got the Queensland Chrysler Associatio­n involved and they put a lot of hard yards into getting it off the ground with us,” Sam said.

Sam took inspiratio­n from the massive Mopar Nationals event, which is held each year in Ohio, USA, after he and Jim took their Hemi Challenger R/T SE over to have it judged. “We’d taken the Hemi Challenger to Mopar Nationals over in the States and I just thought, ‘This event is crazy; it takes five days in a golf cart to see everything!’” he said. “So, why not do it here in Australia?”

The event didn’t stay small for long, growing to 65 cars in the second year. By 2008, it had gone gangbuster­s, drawing more than 3000

people to Willowbank.

“By 2008, it absolutely exploded after Mopar Australia came along with Lee Bektash and his Pro Stock Dodge Avenger,” Sam said. “Then it became a theme to get a real good demo from a drag car each year. In fact, this is the first year where we weren’t able to sort one.

“One of the greats was when we had Christine Steffens in her ‘Croc Attack’ Nitro Funny Car and she set a PB of 5.36 and went straight into the sand trap because both her ’chutes failed!”

The competitio­n side of Mopar Sunday is kept simple, with four dial-your-own racing classes, plus a bunch of awards that include Quickest Run of the Day, Best Reaction Time and the muchcovete­d Mopar Madman gong. “Since the early days of Mopar Sunday, the La Spina brothers have been infamous for their massive burnout displays,” said Sam. “So we came up with the Mopar Madman award to encourage more of that behaviour!” This year, Rex Scoles took out the gong – and not for the first time – in his tough yellow VG Valiant.

THE LA SPINA BROTHERS HAVE BEEN INFAMOUS FOR THEIR MASSIVE BURNOUT DISPLAYS, SO WE CAME UP WITH THE MOPAR MADMAN AWARD TO ENCOURAGE MORE OF THAT BEHAVIOUR!

THE WHOLE IDEA OF MOPAR SUNDAY IS GETTING LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE TOGETHER AND HAVING A GOOD TIME – EVEN IF THEY’VE PUT A BARRA IN THEIR VALIANT!

Besides the drags, Mopar Sunday features a dyno comp and a show ’n’ shine, judged by the Queensland Chrysler Associatio­n.

The event is open to any brand that has sat under the broader Chrysler umbrella, which includes not only the big names like Valiant, Dodge and Plymouth but also the likes of American Motors Corporatio­n and their Rambler products. And, since the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobile­s, Fiats and Alfas have been eligible, too. Not sure they’ve had any turn up, though!

And what about the rebels who slot GM or Ford engines into their old Valiants? “As long as it’s got a Mopar body or Mopar engine, we’re happy,” Sam said. “The whole idea of Mopar Sunday is getting like-minded people together and having a good time – even if they’ve put a Barra in their Valiant! We’ll be back next year. Fingers crossed COVID will have settled down and we can run at full strength again.”

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