Though the weather was less than fully cooperative, it didn’t stop legions of late-model Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep fanatics from making the pilgrimage to this year’s Spring Festival of LX. Now in its 13th year running, what started back 2005 as a grassroots meet with a handful of cars in a strip mall parking lot has grown to become the premiere annual event for modern Mopar fanatics around the country and beyond.
And as the size and scope of the event has grown over the years, so have the venues. After a multi-year stint at a decommissioned air force base in El Toro, California, the meet more recently relocated to Anaheim stadium. But even the home of the Angels wasn’t going to be enough to contain the nearly two thousand registrations that organizers received for 2018.
As the Spring Festival of LX has expanded over the years, so has FCA’s involvement in the event. This year they went to the extent of renting out the Auto Club Raceway facility in Pomona, California for the day, providing fans not only ample room for the show and the various attractions within, but access to the venue’s quarter-mile dragstrip as well.
“We’re here because these are our owners,” explained FCA’s Scott Brown. “We’ve got the best customers in the world – we feed off them and learn from them. To see their passion for these vehicles is inspiring.”
That’s not just marketing speak according to Mark Trostle, Head of Dodge and SRT Design at FCA North America. Parked behind him was the company’s creation for this year’s Spring Fest: A Challenger T/A 392 in a one-off color that’s loaded with Mopar Performance goodies and outfitted with a custom Shaker hood.“I love the fact that I get to come up with stuff like this for Spring Fest,” he said.
“As Scott mentioned, there’s something special about the fact that we’re able to come down here and connect with our customers directly. I’ve got great friends that I’ve met though this event – I’m a car guy so I’d be here anyway, and that’s why I love it. So much so that we’ve brought eight designers from our staff to the event, some of which are new to my design studio. I think it’s important for them to connect with our customers to hear what they have to say about the vehicles and our ideas.”
Like the name suggests, Spring Fest is mainly focused on vehicles riding on, or derived from, FCA’s rear-drive, full-sized LX platform. That comprises the Dodge Charger, Magnum, and Challenger, along with the Chrysler 300, but other SRT-trimmed FCA vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and Dodge Durango SRT are allowed to join in on the fun too.
After hanging out with the FCA folks and putting both the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and Durango SRT through their paces out on the winding roads of the Angeles National Forest, we headed back to Ponoma the following morning to discover that although the weather didn’t want to play nice, it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the Mopar faithful.
We’re here because these are our owners. We’ve got the best customers in the world – we feed off them and learn from them. To see their passion for these vehicles is inspiring. - Scott Brown, FCA
Though Mother Nature’s waterworks put the kibosh on the planned runs down the dragstrip, that didn’t stop Dodge from providing wild, drift-filled ride-alongs for folks brave enough to sit shotgun with a pro driver.
With 650 pound-feet of torque to complement the 707 horsepower on tap sent to the ground from 275mm-wide Pirelli Pzero tires, it didn’t take much coaxing on the behalf of the pro drivers to throw these brutes into epic bouts with opposite lock for the fans, both when warming up and when giving passengers a taste of what a Hellcat can do.
A Sea Of Mopar Muscle
“This is not a car show,” said festival organizer John Fortuno back in 2017. “This is a mega-meet.” The implication is that while Spring Fest gives owners of heavily modified vehicles a chance to show off their creations, folks don’t need to have wildly tweaked and tuned Mopars in order to participate.
“First I want to thank everybody for coming out here,” Fortuno said when addressing the massive crowd at this year’s show. “We’ve been doing this a lot of years and what started with literally four cars has grown into what you see here today. This year we went out to Detroit and met up with Dodge to get some feedback from them. They said, “It’s good, but we think it can go bigger.” And here we are. You guys have truly made this what it is, and while it’s still a simple formula, we have people coming from all over the country and all over the world to be here. We’ve got race cars, we’ve got regular cars, we’ve got show cars, and it’s all because of what you guys have made happen for us.”
The show’s current configuration didn’t happen by accident though, Fortuno pointed out. “The process that it took to get to this level was mind blogging,” he said. “But what’s important to remember is that the growth of this show has happened organically – we’re not doing anything particularly special here other than putting a lot of enthusiasts together in one place.”
The process that it took to get to this level was mind blogging, but what’s important to remember is that the growth of this show has happened organically – we’re not doing anything particularly special here other than putting a lot of enthusiasts together in one place. -John Fortuno
FCA Design Studio
As we mentioned earlier, FCA takes feedback from enthusiasts to heart. This year they brought along their own miniature design studio, showcasing not only the aforementioned one-off Challenger T/A 392, but also an assortment of ideas that FCA designers have for new color options.
“Last year I was at Spring Fest and there was a B5 Blue Challenger sitting there and it just looked so good,” Trostle explained.
“That got me wondering about something – we have round table discussions and this and that, but you know inevitably they want to talk about future product that I can’t talk about. I thought that one thing we could do is take advantage of the sunshine, so I wanted to do a little experiment. We’ve got these awesome heritage colors, but they’re just that – heritage colors. I want to create the next generation of heritage colors and keep that passion and emotion going. So we’ve brought along [mockups] of 15 new colors, and I want to see what kind of reaction they get – which colors resonate well. I’ve got one thrown in there that’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later, so it’ll be interesting to see how that one shakes out.”
“We take back more than you know from these events as we’re working on our next generation vehicles,” Trostle told the crowd at the show. “And we love the fact that you are ambassadors for our brand as well.”
While rumors persist that FCA will be moving the Challenger and Charger to a new platform in the near future, with the recent introduction of the Demon and Hellcat Widebody models, it looks like LX platform-related production still has a few years left in it. Challenger sales stronger than ever too, besting the Chevrolet Camaro for sales on several occasions in recent months, so we can’t blame FCA for not wanting to mess with a good thing.
If those sales serve as any indicator, enthusiasts are still very much in love with FCA’s modern interpretation of the musclecar, and it stands to reason that the crowds at Spring Fest events will continue to grow in turn.