Forget groundhogs, warmer weather and blooming flowers. To rabid Pentastar fans, the beginning of Spring is marked by the first big, modern Mopar show of the year, the FCA sanctioned SpringFest of LX/LC bodied cars in Southern California.
The 2019 iteration of this celebration of all things Challenger, Charger, 300 and Magnum marks the 14th annual occurrence of the event and promised to be the largest one ever.
For those not in the know, SpringFest began in 2004 as a celebration of the then-new LX bodied cars, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. The show’s genesis was humble with only four vehicles in attendance, but quickly grew, with 100 vehicles in 2005 and over 300 participants from all over the US and Canada in 2006. As the LC bodied Dodge Charger and Challenger were introduced, they too were eligible to be shown.
By 2010, Chrysler noted the unusual growth of the show and the intense enthusiasm of the attendees, and began sending corporate representatives to make appearances, such as then President and CEO of the Dodge car brand, Ralph Gilles. As the years went by, Chrysler’s involvement grew, and with it, so did the size and prestige of the show. In 2018 over 2000 cars were on show, and Chrysler brought a large display of current vehicles and sneak peeks at future colors and options.
My personal history with SpringFest began in 2012, after I had purchased my 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 and joined a Challenger club that attended the show en masse every year. I was impressed by the fervor and passion evidenced, and greatly enjoyed the cars I saw and the new friends I made there every year. It became an annual pilgrimage that I greatly looked forward to each Spring.
With great expectations then, I was excited for this year’s show, my eighth consecutive SpringFest, held on Saturday, March 23rd, which once again promised to be bigger and better than ever before. Here’s some of the things I experienced over the weekend.
My SpringFest 14 weekend began on Friday. I headed over to the Doubletree and La Quinta hotels in Pomona, which owing to their proximity to the SpringFest venue, the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, were the favored temporary residences and meeting spots for show attendees.
In the parking lots of both hotels, cars and their owners were already massing, and a party-like atmosphere surrounded the cars’ show prepping. Mobile detailing services were on hand, and more than one car was being wrenched on either in preparation for the show, or to repair damage that occurred en route.
A nice surprise in the Doubletree parking lot was to see my first Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye Widebody in person, a lovely F8 Green on Sepia interior example owned by Tom Ledoux, who drove the car on its maiden road trip from Pearland, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston. The car was loaded with options, and Tom had already performed some light modifications such as painting the front splitter and rear valence body color, adding green halos to the headlights and outfitting the car with F8 Green seatbelts. A very nice car.
After a light lunch with some friends, I headed over to Saturday’s show venue, where Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was holding their Friday media day event. There was quite a bit of excitement on hand, as Hellcats and Demons were being tuned on the quarter-mile drag strip for the Dodge Thrill Rides to be given to showgoers on Saturday, and Hellcat Charger and Challenger drift cars were also being dialed in.
But the biggest excitement of all at the media day event was generated by the reveal of the Dodge Charger Design Concept, a thinly veiled prototype of the forthcoming Charger Scat Pack and Hellcat Widebody cars that I reported on last month. The Concept looked superb despite its somewhat gaudy camouflaged paint scheme. The flared wheel arches, similar to the Widebody Challenger’s, simply looked so right, to the extent that I felt that this is how Chargers should have looked since their inception.
Saturday morning started off early for me, as I met my club, Challengers Unlimited at a predetermined spot at 6:30AM and we rolled to the Speedway together in a caravan. Beautiful, if not a tad nippy weather greeted us as we arrived at the festival site, and joined the lengthy cue of cars lined up to get in.
After my club’s cars were positioned in the parking lot, I immediately set out to see what fabulous cars were in attendance this year. My first stop was the official Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stand to see what goodies they brought.
And goodies they were. In addition to the aforementioned Charger Design Concept, FCA also brought a Chrysler 300 featuring a new color voted on by last year’s SpringFest goers called Cinnamon Stick. Similar to Toxic Orange that appeared on Challengers some years ago, Cinnamon Stick showed off the 300’s contours nicely. I’d love to see it on a Charger.
Also in the FCA stand was the new Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 1320 wearing another color voted on by last year’s attendees. Black Eye is a deep maroon that looks perfectly suited to a Dodge muscle car, and should sell well judging by the compliments I heard folks make about the hue.
Additionally on hand at FCA was a 1968 Dodge “Super Charger” concept. Featuring a modified ’68 Charger body housing the new 1000 horsepower “Hellephant” 426 Hemi Mopar crate engine, the Super Charger garnered quite a few “oohs” and “ahhs.” It certainly was mean looking, embodying more than a little Fast & Furious vehicle in it with its flared arches and Brass Monkey colored Devil’s Rim wheels.
After perusing the rest of FCA’s offerings and having a brief chat with Mark Trostle, Head of Performance, Passenger Car and Utility Vehicle Design for FCA who was on hand, I wandered the seemingly never-ending show field. This year’s SpringFest had a total of 2488 registrations, including 1062 Challengers, 1044 Chargers and 382 other LX variants, from places across the continent as disparate as Ohio, Georgia, Wyoming and Ontario, so you can imagine there was a lot to take in.
Right away, I came across a Challenger Demon, looking ultra-devilish in TorRed paint. In addition to its lowered stance, dark tint, Hoosier drag radials and aftermarket splitter, the owner told me to keep my eyes open at next year’s show, as some serious performance enhancements were coming down the pike shortly.
Nearby was a stock-looking Charger Scat Pack 392 that nonetheless managed to catch my eye, owing to the fact that it was wearing Chrysler’s newest color for 2019, Triple-Nickel. The color looked outstanding, with just the slightest touch of blue in it, smaller metallic flakes and a paler overall hue. I found it much more pleasing than Chrysler’s previous silver, Billet.
Another Charger Scat Pack was close by, wearing Go-Mango paint that made the car look as if it was going 100 mph standing still. A great color for modern Mopar muscle cars.
MotorTrend Television’s favorite restorers, the Wheeler Dealers were on hand and brought a custom 1965 Barracuda. Next to it was Hot Rod Magazine’s 1960 Plymouth which was for a time the Daytona Beach and Bonneville Salt Flats speed record holder. Two superlative pieces of vintage Mopar muscle.
At around this time, I came across the absolute craziest car in the show, a Chrysler 300 that had more than a touch of Mad Max to it. This creation was absolutely monstrous with a through-the-hood blown Hemi, Gatling guns in lieu of fog lights and oh-so-perfect dirt and dust covering the car’s flanks. Madness!
After spying the majority of the cars on display, I ventured over to the drag strip where Dodge was giving spectators thrill rides in a cadre of Hellcats and Demons. I stayed for a few passes, standing near the quarter mile trap. Some serious times were being set there including some sub 10-second runs by a screaming Dodge Challenger Demon.
As the day wore on, I took in some of the show’s sponsor stands.
aFe had a huge display, which featured many of their top-notch intake, header, air filter and exhaust systems.
Pennzoil, the official oil supplier of all Fiat Chrysler automobiles was present as well. Their interactive displays highlighted the close working relationship FCA and Pennzoil has developed together since 2012 that has resulted in a special 0w40 SRT oil recommended for all SRT cars.
GTHaus, a premium exhaust tuner and manufacturer brought a host of Mopars ranging from Challengers to Chargers and Durangos, all outfitted with their superlative systems such as American Roar Racing, Musa and Meisterschaft. They were happy to demonstrate the sound of their systems, so the booth was growling all day long.
Other non-sponsor booths included aftermarket companies such as Vortech and Paxton Superchargers, auto detailing specialists like Chemical Guys, body wrap specialists like DrivenDesignz and too many more to mention.
As the festivities wound down, I said my goodbyes to old and new friends alike and passed by the kid zone, where children were still taking advantage of the bouncy castles and other attractions. I headed to the exit, and decided to stay for a few moments and watched as the incredible stream of Mopar enthusiasts’ cars headed out of the show, much in the way they entered early in the morning. Some chose to exit with a requisite burnout and others a drift or two as they sped out.
I reflected on the day, and came to the conclusion that the ever-increasing size of the show from year to year was bringing so much to SpringFest. New people, new cars, and new vendors made this truly the best Springfest yet. I have no doubt though that the organizers will find a way to outdo themselves next year.
If you’re a certifiable Mopar Nut, and have never attended SpringFest, I suggest you consider going next year. It is by far my favorite car show in Southern California.