MATS: Musclecars At The Strip And Why You Need To Go This Year

PROMO-Dodge-Rocks-camaroTimes change, and sometimes change is good. But this time, change is going to be great because progress never happens when you rest on your laurels. Ask Phil Painter about progress, and he’ll tell you all about change for the better.


That’s about 11 million bucks, right there.

He’s been the promoter of the biggest Mopar party in the west with the former Mopars At The Strip (MATS) event held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Why do I say “former”, you ask? Because there have been some changes to MATS, and I’m going to tell you why you need to go this year.

MATS was one of the biggest Moparties west of the Rockies, with live music at the Cannery, car shows, drag racing, vendors, and a swap meet all in one event. MATS was the event to attend here on the west coast, and drew people from all over the country for a three-day weekend full of Mopar muscle.

Musclecars At The Strip 2016

What to expect at MATS

  • Dodge Rocks with Hellcat and Viper rides
  • Autocross
  • Three separate car shows: GM, Ford, Mopar
  • Drag racing all weekend
  • Vendor alley
  • Three swap meets
  • Concerts and great entertainment
  • Joe Woods from Street Outlaws
This year, however, the ‘M’ in MATS has changed a bit, and now it stands for Musclecars At The Strip – and any musclecar, to be exact. While it’s still expected to be a huge Mopar turnout for all of its fans, GM and Ford musclecars are now going to be a part of the mix, and we’re encouraging everyone to show their pride for the Bow Tie, Blue Oval, or Pentastar this coming March 18-20, 2016.

Admittedly, the first news of the new format stung a little, and I was disappointed. Having attended my first MATS show last year, I was looking forward to going back this year, being able to say that it’s not my first rodeo.

But if you look more into the reason for the change instead of trying to keep it exclusive, you start to realize that there’s something to all of this. I have attended shows because I wanted to be with friends, even though my car didn’t fit the venue. So I get it, I really do. And I called Phil Painter to ask him about this change for the better.


When I sat down and talked with Painter about this event, one of the bigger concerns was how all of this is going to come across. While not wanting to rock the Mopar boat that he has been so grateful for after so many years, he also knows a bit about business.

MATS201606Putting on an event like this requires a huge investment, and part of that investment means drawing not just spectators and participants, but sponsors and vendors, too. If you’re a company that sells a lot of GM and Ford, and some Mopar, your budget is best served attending shows that cater to the largest consumer base. Owning a Mopar, I get that, too.

Painter said, “We can’t get approval to appeal to just a small market. We’ve been told we have a great thing here and that we should open it up to others.” Those “others” means more musclecar enthusiasts from the likes of GM and Ford. The economy has seen a lot of shows dwindle down, and Painter knows that if he doesn’t make change for the better, this dwindling down will eventually affect MATS, too. So it got him to thinking, and he thought long and hard on this change.

MATS201602Change For The Better

For the thousands who have attended this event in past years, we all know it’s been a blast. Many participants have brought their friends, and seeing the fun and the atmosphere they’ve wanted to bring their own cars – even though they owned something other than a Mopar.

And that’s a good thing; it’s great that others want to share in the activities because they know that this event is a great one: car shows, swap meets, autocross, drag racing, and vendor’s alley – how can a gearhead not like that?

MATS201622This opportunity also opens up for more vendors, as well. Painter said, “Every year at SEMA and PRI I’m told that manufacturers have to spend their marketing dollars where they can best cover the whole market.”

What that means to everyone is that we can potentially see a vendor show up at MATS who might sell only a small percentage of Mopar components, but they sell a larger share of Ford and GM components. It’s a win-win for everyone, regardless of where your loyalties lie. This is an opportunity for other vehicle owners to strut their stuff, and see who has the best turnout.

Painter knows that, like any change, it may take a bit to sink in; he says that they are doing this to help the event long-term. But this change was not a quick decision, and he does still feel a loyalty, a family atmosphere, with the Mopar community.

Just like we did in the 1960s and 1970s, we now have a great opportunity before us to relive the manufacturers competition that is brewing lately. These are exciting times, it doesn’t matter where you hang your hat, we have musclecar wars again from the Big 3.

It may still be hard for some, and Painter knows that. But we need to look to the future and move forward and accept that change is inevitable, and if you aren’t willing to change you’re just captaining your own sinking ship. Painter wants to keep this ship afloat for years to come, and hopes to see it grow into something great again.

But this is not merely change for the sake of change, this has become more of a change out of necessity. We’re all musclecar enthusiasts and while many of us have our own brand loyalty, we also have friends and family with their own identity – and yet we can still coexist at local events or car shows. So why not coexist at MATS and bring all your friends and family?

Show promotion, if you didn’t already know, requires the investment the size of a small home. But more than that, it requires the investment of the promoter’s time and effort to make the event enjoyable as well as a success. This is no nine-to-five job, this is a mad rush, 24-hour-a-day job that keeps you busy when you don’t have time to be busy. Painter said, “Most promoters I know never stop working on the next event.”

MATS201628With car shows and events faltering as they have the past few years, it’s a wonder that some promoters haven’t jumped ship. But Painter doesn’t do this because someone has to do it, he does it because he wants to do it, he loves doing this. It’s easy to stop caring about an event and put it all on the people, because, let’s face it: if 200 people don’t show up it’s because they didn’t show up, not because the event wasn’t everything it could be.

How many times have you heard someone say they aren’t going this year because turnout last year was low? That kind of logic doesn’t make sense, it’s a defeatist outlook. We need the “if you tell two people, and they tell two people…” logic, and we need to start encouraging people to pull together. Because lets face it, we are the reason a show is a success or not, and we have everything to do with the show’s turnout. How can you not get that?


I’m going to be there with my project car, and plan on having a blast networking with friends, checking out some cool rides and watching the races. I’ll even take my ’65 Plymouth through the autocross a couple times. But I’m not going there because it’s work, or because I have a Mopar – I’m going because it’s a chance to take a long cruise with friends, hang out with other enthusiasts, and revisit some great relationships I’ve made over the past couple of years. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something big, and new this year, and to come back with some great memories.

I encourage you to show up, too, and let’s see who has the biggest turnout. Want to take a ride in a Hellcat? Or would you like to stand by your Mustang and chant, “Fat cat can’t handle?” Either way, it’s all good. Let’s bring back that healthy rivalry and relive the 1970s manufacturer’s wars … it was fun then, and only we can make it fun again. So fire up the old beast and make a Prius owner cry: it’s show time, who’s going with?

If you haven’t registered, just head out to, but do it fast because pre-registration closes March 5th. For more information and to stay up to date, visit the MATS website and the MATS Facebook page. We’ll see you there!


About the author

Michael Harding

Michael is a Power Automedia contributor and automotive enthusiast who doesn’t discriminate. Although Mopar is in his blood, he loves any car that looks great and drives even faster.
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