The Collection


Inside Steve Juliano’s unbelievable collection of Mopar memorabilia.

By Cliff Gromer Photos by TheBruntBros

Steve Juliano has since passed on and his amazing collection of Plymouth Rapid Transit System concept cars and countless Mopar memorabilia items sadly has been broken up and auctioned off piecemeal. We were fortunate enough to be one of the first to preview this treasure trove some years ago. Come along for the tour.

The crown jewel in Steve’s concept car collection was the Diamante. The car began as a highly optioned ’70 Challenger convertible and was the first convertible E-body produced.
Steve’s 3 Plymouth Rapid Transit System concept car are lined up under a mind-boggling tsunami of original Chrysler promo displays.
Steve hung each item as he went along, he didn’t map out the position of each item beforehand, as on graph paper. He said “it just worked out,” as he covered every available inch of wall space with posters. That’s Steve standing way back in the corner of his expansive warehouse where he set up his collection. From the photos, Steve looks to be about 3 ft. 4 in. tall. Actually , he was a tad taller than that.

Walking through the door of the nondescript warehouse in San Clemente, CA is like entering the Twilight Zone. It’s a trip back to Chrysler’s glory years—1965-’71. To the tenth power. Packed into 5600 sq ft of floorspace, from ceiling to floor, is every conceivable promotional and marketing item, showroom display and advertising gimmicks, service and mechanics items.

“Motion Makers” was a slogan coined by Chrysler in late ’69-’70 for its service and also for its performance cars. The monicker was replaced by “Rapid Transit System.”

Then there are the cars—ones of a kind. Virtually all of the Plymouth Rapid Transit System Caravan, reunited under one roof after 34 years. In addition, a One-of one ’71 Hemi sunroof Challenger. The R.J. Reynolds bench-seat ‘71 Hemicuda. An incredible ’71 Hemi Charger survivor. Chrysler Corp., DaimlerChrysler or even Batman couldn’t have put together an exhibit on this scale. It took the Memorabilia Mogul, Steven Juliano, to make it happen.

“Dodge girls” were a popular promotion. A blonde “Dodge Rebellion” girl was used in ’66-’67. For ’68-’69 Dodge switched to a brunette—Joan Parker, who also played one of the bat girls on the “Batman” TV show. Steve says Joan (left) is his dream girl. (That’s a stand-up cutout display of Steve on the right.)

A passionate collector for decades, Steve attributes his success in assembling this mind-boggling exhibit to hard work, a little luck, and maybe a competitive bent to show other “collectors” how it’s done. He says that he’s amused by some collectors of muscle-era Mopar displays of porcelain and neon Chrysler memorabilia. “Porcelain lasts forever,” he says. “You could still use the toilets in the Titanic. These guys have ‘60s cars yet back them up with porcelain signs and such from the ‘40s and ‘50s, because they say they choose to. I don’t sleep with Pamela Anderson because I choose not to. Right!”

In ’70-’71, the Dodge girl was a blonde from the “Daktari” TV series. Yup, she took it all off (all except her boots).

A dealer showroom stand-up of Sheriff Joe Higgins. Higgins had bad teeth and bad skin. Dodge changed the Dodge girls three times in six years, but ugly Joe outlasted them all, and then some. Jackie Gleason studied Joe Higgins commercials for his role as the sheriff in the film, “Smokey and the Bandit.”

According to Steve, the biggest memorabilia find known to man came in this mattress-sized box. It was the entire dealership Deluxe Showroom Kit for the changeover from the ’68 model year to ’69. The box was brought to Carlisle
by the grandsons of the dealer who had died before opening the box. The kit was purchased by Frank Mitchell of Mitchell Motor Parts. Mitchell showed it to everybody in the hobby, but the pikers tried to buy individual items in the kit. Steve sprung for the whole deal, as he felt that the items shouldn’t be separated. Steve realized that he had a complete NOS package when he saw the instruction sheet that listed all the items contained in the kit. Included were posters, danglers, banners stand-up displays and illuminated signs and much more.

What Steve really means is that “those guys” couldn’t summon up a decent collection of ‘60s stuff even if they chose to do so. Could it be that Steve has it all in his warehouse?

This dangler came with the instruction sheet on how to put it together. The reason that some hanging displays of this era are so rare, is that they are made from plastic and cardboard, and made to last just 10 months. They virtually fell to pieces when they were removed to make room for the next model year promos. Coming up with stuff like this, according to Steve, is real collecting.

The problem with Steve’s collection is that the real significance of much of it is lost on the average Mo’fan. It takes someone on Steve’s level to fully appreciate what has been laid out on display. Chrysler distributed books each year to their dealers showing the promo items that were available. These books themselves are prized collector items. Steve not only has all the books from ’65 thru ’71, he’s amassed virtually every item that is in them!

The kit also contained six “Beep Beep” Sweep posters and “Look What Plymouth’s Up To  Now” banners and illuminated signs.

The sheer volume of Steve’s collection is an invitation to sensory overload. The mind numbs as you walk through the exhibit, and the extravaganza of rare and super-rare pieces can take on the color of so many knick-knacks. Each piece has its own history and significance. You could conceivably take it all in, maybe if you spent a week in the place, with Steve serving as your personal guide.

In 1969, the Road Runner was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, and sales went through the roof. Chrysler Corp. and Plymouth Division figured the bird could sell anything, so they played on its popularity to push Top Quality Used Cars. In reality, the bird could have been responsible for selling Mustangs (used, of course), off a C-P lot.

Scat Pack danglers displayed different text on each side of the center panel that spun. There was a different bee (parachute, holeshot etc,) on each panel.

Even if we kicked all the advertisers out of Mopar Action to free up additional pages for this story, and we devoted several issues just to Steve’s collection, we’d barely scratch the surface. So, we’ll give you just a small taste of this gourmet feast—just the tip of the iceberg, as it were–concentrating on signage and a few neat display items. Needless to say, everything in the collection is a genuine original, there are no repros of anything. The items we’ve selected are based on no specific criteria other than our own warped sense of appreciation.

“Join the Scat Pack Club” posters measures 6.5 ft x 3.5 ft. The ’70 version shows a Scat Pack patch and a pistol grip shifter. The’71 version shows a ’71 Challenger and Charger.

Cardboard signs promoting the RTS Caravan were stapled to poles to let everyone know that the Caravan was coming to town. This sign is dated May 10, 1971.

In the ’69-’71 Chrysler accessories catalog, once you got past the tissue dispenser, fire extinguisher, and child door locks, you got to the good stuff which was saved for last. Check out this Chrysler Parts bowling bag–a must for everyone back in 1970, whether you bowled or not.
Another wall totally covered with posters–some huge. That bare floor would soon support additional displays. Steve managed to cover every square inch of space with Chrysler collectibles.
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