WINGED WARRIORS/NATIONAL B-BODY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
30TH ANNUAL NATIONAL MEET -- RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA
Text by Sue George; Photos by Sue George, Janet and Curt Lawson, Rochelle Wilson, Wayne Perkins, Milton Wood
What a spectacular event it was....a super host, a wonderful group of Mopar lovers with their cars and a full schedule of things to see and do which made this one of the most diverse and enjoyable national meets ever. The only complaint we had was the very unseasonably cold and rainy weather. Members came from all over the country and Canada with shorts and T-shirts expecting it to be hot and humid as it usually is in South Dakota this time of year (June 16-19), and scrambled to the local Walmart to buy up sweats and coats. We toughed out the weather and had a blast anyway.
A group of us headed out from the Midwest on Monday June 14th and spent the night in Mitchell, SD. Our hotel clerk told us a group of winged cars heading west had stayed there the night before. Many locals who had seen the previous Mopars come through the night before came back to the hotel that night to visit with us and look at our cars. Tuesday morning, our group headed for Murdo where we spent several hours touring the Pioneer Auto Museum, which has a vast collection of every kind of automobile, tractor, motorcycle and memorabilia imaginable. The oldest car there was a 1902 Jewel Roadster. There were cars from the 1910s through the 1960s including several celebrity cars, one of Richard Petty's first crude old race cars, a collection of musclecars including a Superbird, Challenger and a very rare GTO Judge convertible. One very unique item was an old Chrysler sled as seen in the photos below. It was called the "Sno Rabbit" and was a cross between a moped and a snowmobile. Someone had hand-lettered a sign and laid it on the seat that said: "Chrysler Made. Unsafe at ANY Speed!" Everyone who saw it tended to agree! Another interesting car was the 1961 Dodge Hemi-powered Ocktocar. There was even a collection of rocks, gems and fossils and an antique village with old buildings filled with their original furnishings, such as a dentist office (looked more like a torture chamber!), post office/telegraph office, pharmacy, leather shop, etc.
After getting back on the road, we took a leisurely trip through
the Badlands, stopping at several viewpoints using the scenery as a backdrop for
some cool photo opportunities with our cars. Next stop was Wall Drug, which
became famous for giving free ice water to hot travelers before the highway was
built. After several hours of shopping, picture taking and taking in the history
of the area, we hit the road again and finally arrived in Rapid City at our
headquarters hotel, the Microtel, in the early evening.
Photos above are scenes from our trip through the Badlands with Sue and Ed George's orange Daytona, Janet and Bill Kuenkel's Sassy Grass 1971 Barracuda convertible, Janet and Curt Lawson's red 1966 Coronet and Cyndi and James Keehler's #88 Daytona clone, Roger and Rochelle Wilson's 1970 Lemon Twist GTX and four photos of the cars at the hotel.
Along the way, James and Cyndi Keehler's #88 Daytona clone experienced some carburetor problems, so Wayne Perkins unloaded his #99 Daytona from the rollback and loaded the Keehler's car on for the remainder of the trip. Luckily for us, there was a genuine old-fashioned speed shop just a few blocks from our hotel, so we dropped off James' carb there for a rebuild and detuning (it came off a race car). There are few real speed shops left in the Midwest, so it was a real treat to spend some time shopping around in there. By later Tuesday evening, there were members from all over the US and Canada congregated in the lobby area of the hotel for a meet and greet.
Our gracious host, Jerry Moore, left all day Wednesday open for members to see any attractions that weren't on our meet schedule. Groups of members went on cave tours, panned for gold, went to Reptile Gardens, go-cart racing, shopped for Black Hills gold jewelry, and toured the various attractions. In the afternoon, we registered members in the hospitality room in the hotel and handed out our special 30th Meet gold coins.
There is a story behind how we got the coins made. Late in 2002, a young man by the name of Justin Helin (the son of a friend) who was in the service stationed in Korea, came to our house in Iowa asking to look at the winged cars. He was a Mopar enthusiast and appreciated learning about the cars. He noticed the new club window decals, which I had just put on the car windows, and asked if we'd be interested in having the club logo duplicated on a gold medallion for our members. He was stationed near a company in Korea that made the gold coins for the government to award to servicemen for special honors and offered to look into getting it done for us. We thought this would be something special to give out at the meet instead of our usual dash plaques. I gave him a new club decal--which at that time were SO NEW they had not even been sent out to the members yet--and asked that it be made in full color on one side of the coin and told him to use his imagination for the other side. He returned to Korea and a few months later sent us a price quote. We decided to go ahead with the project and we had a small quantity made, without ever even having to put any money up front!
Quite some time passed before we heard from Justin again, and then he was being transferred back to the US to a base in Texas. He said regretfully the coins hadn't been finished yet and he was leaving another serviceman friend of his, who remained in Korea, to follow through with the project. A couple of months later, a huge box arrived from Korea. It was full of crunched up cereal boxes, old grease rags, some old magazines--whatever was handy to use for packing I guess--and finally there was a very small extremely heavy box in the middle. In it were our coins! The second serviceman had picked up our coins from the company, paid the bill, packed them safely for the trip to the US and paid for the shipping without ever having any previous contact with us! A very big Thanks to Justin Helin and his friend in Korea for getting this done for us.
Back to the meet...on Wednesday evening we had a meeting in the hospitality room with the Black Hills Mopar Club. Jerry Moore and Martha Watkins ran us through a schedule of events and handed out maps of the area. All of our events would begin with the members gathering at the Civic Center parking lot a few blocks from our hotel so we could leave as a group. These were the most organized cruises to and from attractions that we've ever enjoyed. There were police escorts (thanks to Jerry!) that blocked off all the city intersections every day as we left town so we could stay together as a group. There was a lead car, someone in the middle of the pack and another at the tail end to help out if anyone got separated from the group or broke down. At each attraction, our group had a special designated parking area away from the general public parking.
Thursday morning dawned cold, windy and rainy. We all met at the Civic Center and our escort led us out of town for a leisurely cruise to Crazy Horse Monument near Custer. Luckily, by the time we arrived at our special parking area, the rain had subsided and we were able to get some photos taken. Crazy Horse is the world's largest sculpture, a family project started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and continued by his widow Ruth and several of their grown children. In 1998, the completed nine-story-tall face of the Indian Chief Crazy Horse, blasted and carved into the side of the mountain, was unveiled to the public. The family is currently working on the 22-story-tall horse's head. It's an awesome sight to see but unfortunately, will probably not be finished in our lifetime. There was a viewing deck below the monument and a visitor's center with theaters showing films of the progress over the years and even a flea market with Lakota Sioux Indians hand-making their various crafts and selling them. Photos below are from our trip to Crazy Horse Monument. The last two photos in the top row show the actual monument being carved into the mountain and the Crazy Horse model that is on display on the observation deck. You can see the real thing just beyond the model.
From Crazy Horse, we cruised to Mt Rushmore Monument. Once again, our group was directed to ramp six of the parking lot for our special parking area. Members took this opportunity to shoot some photos of the cars with Mt Rushmore as the background, and then we wandered down to the base of the monument for some close-up photos. There is a beautiful display of pillars and state flags that lead you out to the base of the monument. On the observation deck, there was a theatre showing films on the construction of Mt. Rushmore and a small restaurant and ice cream shop. While our group was enjoying the monument and learning about its history, a lot of the other sightseers at Mt Rushmore were walking up to ramp six to look at our cars! Photos below are from our visit to Mt Rushmore.
In the late afternoon, we left for the cruise back to the hotel for a little R & R before our evening picnic. Our picnic was held at the Civic Center and wow, what a fabulous picnic it was! Not our usual cooking out hot dogs and burgers on the grilles. We feasted on chicken, various salads, chips, baked beans, pies and cakes and cookies.....all of it made by the members of the Black Hills Mopar Club! A VERY BIG THANKS to all of those folks for such a wonderful picnic! After everyone had eaten all they could hold, the BHM gave away door prizes, of which many were donated by local businesses and restaurants. It was a very enjoyable evening where we enjoyed some fabulous food and the company of some very special people from the local club. And notice in the photos, we're all wearing heavy coats...it was only in the low 40s that afternoon!
Friday morning, we met at the Civic Center once again and cruised to the Boondocks, a little 50's town with several small buildings, a souvenir store, rock 'n roll dining room, and many really nice old cars and memorabilia on display. There was barely enough space for our 30 Mopars to get off the road and parked. We spent about an hour there taking pictures, looking through the buildings and old cars while traffic on the highway passed by very slowly looking at all of our cars. Photos below are from the Boondocks.
From there our group of Mopars went on a very scenic drive
through the Black Hills on a very windy road that the locals call the Pigtails.
This was a most unusual drive for most of us, with rotating bridges that were
built on tight circles, so they were actually round! The scenery was beautiful
and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime driving experience that everyone enjoyed.
Below are photos taken by Rochelle Wilson and Janet Lawson while on the Pigtails
cruise. Notice that in the last photo, you can see Mt Rushmore through the
tunnel with the Daytona!
Finally we arrived in Deadwood, where the city had blocked off the main street downtown for our cars to be displayed. Deadwood, a very historic town famous for the slaying of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane's gravesite, is now a quiet little casino town. When we arrived there was no one to be seen anywhere, almost like a ghost town. As soon as the sound of 40 big blocks rumbled through the quiet streets echoing off of the buildings, everyone that had been inside playing slot machines and gambling at card games, spilled out of the store fronts with jaws dropped at the sight of all of our brightly colored cars invading the town. Once all of our cars were parked, the members took off to gamble, shop, eat and take pictures. There was a cowboy singing in a bar called the StockAid that had a rooftop veranda. Those that honored the one-drink-required rule were allowed to go up on the roof and take pictures of the cars below. Thanks to Doug Croxford for drinking the beer so I could get some good rooftop photos....hey, you do what you gotta do!
The members enjoyed checking out all of the casinos and the actual bar where Wild Bill was killed. Actor Kevin Costner also owns a casino/bar in Deadwood, where many of his movie costumes and and photos are displayed. Late afternoon, we started up our cars again, which produced another influx of patrons rushing out to look one more time, as the Mopars rumbled their way back out of Deadwood to return to our headquarters in Rapid City. Along the way, we took a sidetrip through Sturgis, the town famous for the Road Kill Cafe and the huge motorcycle ralleys.
Photos above are from Deadwood. In the first photos top left you can see mannequins that were posed in the second floor windows of the buildings in the "older" part of Deadwood, depicting ladies of the night.
In the evening, we held the member's meeting in the neighboring Hampton Inn where we talked about club business. Indiana member Rich Kelley told us a story about reuniting South Carolina member Browney Mascow with his Daytona's broadcast sheet, which was found in Rich's Daytona. Steve Redeker thanked several people involved in helping to reunite the 440 engine he had with Paul Francese's Daytona. Steve Netkow thanked Ed George for fixing the problem with his Superbird's brake lights while in Deadwood. Then we gave away a ton of nice raffle prizes. A very big Thanks to the following people who donated lots of nice prizes to the stash: Stan McGuire, Ric LaFollette, Steve Redeker, Harry Rupe, Mike Svec, Randy Morrison. After the raffle, a group of us stayed to watch a Superbird restoration video that Indiana member Doug Stanley made. It was quite informative, showing disassembly and details from various area of his Superbird during the restoration. Thanks to Doug for providing the entertainment and teaching us all something!
Saturday morning, it was off to the Civic Center once again for
the car show, sponsored by the Black Hills Mopar Club. We awarded the
prestigious sterling silver tankard Best Mopar award sponsored by the Mopar
Muscle Club of Great Britain to Martha and Bob Watkins' exquisite red and white
1970 GTX. Bob and Martha's GTX is show below....Congratulations!
A very big Thanks to our host Jerry Moore and his helpers who put on an extremely well-organized and enjoyable event for us! And thanks to the Black Hills Mopar Club members for the wonderful picnic! Except for leaving the miserable weather behind, it was sad to see this event come to a close. The Black Hills Mopar Club awarded "Top Ten Mopars" plaques after a participant vote at the car show. Photos from the car show are below. Here are the participants who received those awards:
Mike and Toni Svec, Richmond, Ohio with their black and white Daytona
Stan McGuire and Lori Grimes, Des Moines, Iowa with their red 1969 RoadRunner convertible
Milton and Pam Wood, Chelsea, Michigan with their custom silver Superbird
Tony and Dawn Heick, Belle Fourche, South Dakota with their yellow 1970 Coronet 500 convertible
Jerry Moore, Rapid City, South Dakota with his Limelight 1970 Charger
Dennis Bremman and Karen Erickson, Webster, South Dakota with their 1979 Lil Red Express
Ed and Sue George, Boone, Iowa with their orange/white Daytona
Wayne Uffelman, Hardin, Montana with his Plum Crazy 1971 Challenger
Harold Zajic, Hemmingford, Nebraska with his blue 1970 SuperBee
Cory and Tessa Voyles, Belle Fourche, South Dakota with their
green 1969 GTX
After the car show, members dispersed in different directions
towards their homes. Those of us who traveled east stopped off in Mitchell to
visit the Corn Palace. This is a huge building that houses a flea market and
other special events. The outside of the building is decorated with various
murals made entirely of corn and corn parts. The murals are quite intricate and
are changed several times a year. The last stop while still in South Dakota was
at Sioux Falls. Most people don't realize that this city is named so because
there actually are water falls there! Since they had received 4" of rain
just the day before, the falls were quite spectacular, especially lit up at
night, as you can see by the photos below.
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