MCG Editorial - MATS: Muscle Cars At The Strip

MCG Editorial

Reading Between the Lines

with Rob Wolf

Extreme motorsports.”  When you think of that term, I’m sure visions of X-Games kids, doing backflips on dirt bikes, is what you see in your mind’s eye.  In the Mopar world, we have our own version of extreme motorsports, it’s called “show promotion.”  Judging by the vast number of show promoters that have crashed and burned over the past five years, the show promotion business is obviously much harder and financially dangerous than one might think. Each November, I travel to the SEMA show in Las Vegas to see what’s new for the upcoming year.  Most of the time that comes in the form of parts and project cars, but the biggest news I have to report on this year is big changes coming to the Mopar show scene west of the Mississippi.
I ran into Phil Painter in the Hotchkis booth, and he presented me with a map of his upcoming MATS (traditionally an all-Mopar show) that was sure to have everybody talking. What he had laid out was a concept that had been theorized, and agonized over, for many years.  What if he held three shows at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the same time?  A Mopar show, a Ford show, and a Chevy show!  I must admit, I was intrigued by the potential of the concept.  Personally, I don’t need to see another Ford or Chevy, but if they were sitting in their own area, separated from the Mopars, I can’t say it would really bother me.  The same goes for the swap meet.  What really intrigues me the most, however, was the potential kickass racing that would culminate from all three American carmakers battling it out on the dragstrip.  What Phil was proposing was a true, all-American, muscle car event.
Holding events at state-of-the-art dragstrips is no nickel trick.  The average rent for the weekend is very expensive.  Add in staff, unexpected track prep, racing payouts, advertising, insurance, etc., and that can easily top $200,000.  Let’s just say the event is a total success, the said promoter will, at best, net half the cost of the event after everything is said and done.  Now, let’s think what would happen if bad weather killed the event.  That promoter still owes the track and, possibly, even some participants.  One bad show and it will take years to recover financially.  Have several bad shows back-to-back and that promoter is done for, through no fault of his own.  That’s exactly why you don’t see a series of MoPowered events by the Blankenships in the Midwest any longer – it’s also why you no longer see a major Mopar event at Topeka, Kansas, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Houston, or Fontana.  The business model, as it currently exists, is heavily weighted against the promoters.
For the most part, Mopar shows have reached a point in time where there’s little or no growth.  We’re losing friends as fast as we’re gaining them, and travel budgets are tighter for most people.  That doesn’t mean Mopars won’t remain a dominant force in the car world for many years to come, but it does mean, as expenses continue to grow, for many show promoters, the same old, same old, business model isn’t going to work going into the future.  I’ve known Phil a long time, and one of his best traits as a promoter is that he’s always eager to consider innovative ideas.  From a financial perspective, Phil’s new plan is brilliant.  By opening up the show to all three American makes, he could conceivably control costs, spreading expenses by a factor of three.  An even bigger factor would be that it now gives him the ability to bring in sponsors that would never consider the show if it remained strictly Mopar.  This will, at the very least, allow the event to remain financially healthy for years to come, and at the very best, open up a lot more money for participants in the form of increased racing purses.
A similar all-American muscle car show model has recently been proven a fantastic success with the Chicago MCACN show. Seven years ago, a stagnant Corvette show was converted into an all-American muscle car event that has quickly grown to be the premier gathering for collectors to show off their muscle cars – Chevy, Ford, and Mopars alike.  Because Mopar muscle cars were so prolific in the era, it’s no surprise this show is very heavily weighted toward Mopars.  In Phil’s case, the transition of “Mopars at the Strip” into “Muscle Cars at the Strip” must be done with a little more surgical precision.  Mopars at the Strip, while beat up a little from the weak West Coast economy, is still the premier Mopar event west of the Mississippi.  If the MATS was turned into just another generic car show, the magic would evaporate.  What’s being proposed here is three, distinctly different, gatherings of cars that happen to take place at the same place at the same time, each brand having its own specific car show and swap meet areas.  While the inspiration may have come from MCACN, Phil is setting off into uncharted waters – nothing quite like this has ever been done before.
I’m going on record this month and say these changes at the MATS just might be the greatest thing to happen to the show.  Despite Brand X cars being in and around for the weekend, I’m 100% certain that muscle Mopars will be viewed as way cooler than any Camaro or Mustang that might show up.  I’m also 100% certain that the increased traffic through the show will do nothing but expose more enthusiasts to the simple truth that Road Runners are cooler than Chevelles.  The one thing the Mopar hobby needs right now, more than anything else, is more exposure that will, in turn, have more people desiring old Mopars.  Where are these increased masses going to come from, you ask?  Hot Rod Magazine has signed on as a major sponsor of the opened up Las Vegas event – guaranteeing big exposure for the retooled show!
From Mopar Collector’s Guide’s perspective, we believe it to be our responsibility to work diligently on behalf of the Mopar community, behind the scenes with Phil, to make sure Mopar enthusiasts’ interests are not shorted; on the contrary, their experience should be enhanced as these changes are made.  We’re currently in the process of working to put our brand on both the Mopar-only swap meet and car show areas to make sure Mopar enthusiasts always have a familiar camp to call home.Chicagoland’s Valentine gift to you!
or the last two consecutive years, The Chicagoland Mopar Club’s winter swap meet at Larry Roesch Chrysler has been snowed out and forced to be rescheduled on a future date.  The problem arises because this is a full working dealership and a last minute snow makes it impossible to rearrange the working lot and service area to accommodate an onslaught of Mopar venders and shoppers.  For 2016, the club has secured a wonderful new facility that I’m told will not fall victim to those same woes.  The new venue is at ReNu Mobile Fleet Repair, at 271 North Ave. in Glendale Heights, Illinois, and the show will be held, sun or snow, February 14th.
MCG’s hope is that this new venue will allow the show to grow and ultimately turn into a two-day happening.  This year, the Chicago winter swap will take place on February 14th.  For more info, contact Ron Jones at 630-546-3855. XOn with this issue
After years of recovery from the recession, SEMA 2015 showed big numbers, estimated to be larger than ever in foot traffic and vender participation.  I’m certain this does not mean people were buying like it was 2005, but foot traffic is a great positive indication that the hot rod market is continuing to stay strong.  This month in my column, I’ve laid out some of the most interesting cars and parts I saw at SEMA this year.  We then move on to name the Mopar enthusiast of the year, and finish this issue off with the Top 10 Mopar cars and parts of 2015.  I hope you enjoy reading this jam-packed issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together for ya’ll. Until next month, “Mopar to ya!”XTo see full MCG article click here.

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