These days, the Fling wouldn’t be the Fling without a visit from Jay Leno, who did not disappoint. Jay rolled up in his 1963 Chrysler Turbine, as much a tradition for Chrysler Performance West regulars at this point as it is a valuable show of support for the event itself.

But let us also acknowledge the Reliants, the LeBarons, and the Aspens, which, like it or not, have appeared in greater numbers at Spring Fling under the banner “Chrysler K Car Club.” If Mopar fanatics are dismissed generally as the oddballs of muscle car restoration, the K car crowd is the underdog’s underdog.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was a “retro-futuristic” ’70 Challenger designed for a not-too-far-off Justin Timberlake film called “Now.” In a bygone era, its driver would likely have earned a warning from Dodge Safety Sheriff Joe Higgins, whose family scoured their attics and drawers for memorabilia to share with show attendees.

One of the more poignant moments of the weekend occurred when “Big” Willie Robinson received an award from CPW in recognition of his storied Daytona Charger. An imposing, muscular, 6'6" Special Forces Vietnam Vet driving the Hemi-powered Daytona, Big Willie was the undisputed king of the late '60s-'70s East L.A. street racing scene. In response to the growing influence of drugs and gangs, Big Willie and his tiny drag racing wife Tomiko worked to organize gear heads of every color into a “Brotherhood of Street Racers” and was the driving force behind the Brotherhood Raceway Park on L.A. Harbor's Terminal Island. The objective was "peace through racing” by redirecting the energy of underprivileged youth away from crime and violence, “a quarter mile at a time.”

Because of wounds suffered in Vietnam, Big Willie has trouble waking these days, so he wasn’t able to march across the park for the presentation of his award. So the award went out to him in his trippy motorhome trailer, and the delivery turned into a small procession. Some grabbed their cameras and started clicking away. Some came running. Willie had an audience and seized it; he told stories and exchanged laughs and interacted as best he could with toddlers trying to climb him. He stood at attention in his trademark tiger stripe fatigues to receive his plaque.

In those exceptional few minutes with a slower, now elder Willie Robinson, it became clear that Mopar restoration inspires its younger participants to embrace a relationship with delayed gratification, whether in the shape of a K-Car or a ‘Cuda. For those who braved the year's first real wave of summer heat, it felt as if the schoolyard bully had elbowed his way back onto the playground. But there was no stopping the CPW club's all-volunteer army of Mopar fanatics from organizing and celebrating 25 years of this kind of spirit.