Trailer queen, show car, poseur−all derogatory terms placed on any car that’s “too nice.” Sure, these terms are usually bantered about by guys that don’t even have running cars, but the stigma associated with these labels still strikes a painful cord in any hot rodder. Take Pro-Touring cars for example. For a while it looked like they were going to flounder down the same tragic path that Pro-Street did back in the late 80s and 90s.
Cars that looked fast, but never were. A compilation of race parts assembled in a package that just didn't work, relegated to posing on fairground asphalt and cruising the local Dairy Queen. But then something happened—guys started actually taking their corner carvers to driving events and, in turn, more driving events started popping up. Owners were showing that their cars weren’t all form and no function.
Still, the stigma was still out there. Look at the high-end rides found displayed around the SEMA show. Some are so nice it’s hard to believe they even run much less drive. In an effort to see if pretty cars really could kick ass on the track, Hot Rod Magazine teamed up with Optima Batteries and FM3 Performance Marketing to put on a driving event. The plan was to assemble some of the nicest cars in the country and let them battle it out for the top spot.
The event became known as the Optima Batteries Ultimate Streetcar Invitational and the date for the contest was set for the Saturday after SEMA. This made sense since tricked out muscle cars from all over the country would be gathering in Vegas. A couple dozen cars were invited to race before the show and others were recruited during SEMA. In the end, 27 cars signed on the dotted line for a chance at the brass ring.
According to Jimi Day of FM3 Performance Marketing, “The event is a combination of styling, driving, handling, and acceleration/braking. The goal of the event is to bring a group of the best streetcars in the world to the track and put them through their paces, highlighting styling, performance, and overall build quality.” The three driving events will be a 2.2-mile road course, an autocross, and a 0-60-0 event.
• The first stop in our journey was getting our Camaro to the Magnaflow display at the SEMA show. With so much left to do on the car it would have been nice to have that week to wrench, but then again it was nice to relax a bit the week for before the race. We did sneak Mike Norris into the car to do a little clandestine tuning, but security had a fit when we fired up the car. We plead the fifth on that one.
• The G-Force Design Concepts-built ’69 Camaro owned by Dave Beddome wasn’t in the SEMA show, so Dave had the week to tweak on his ride. Problem after problem, from a fried clutch to a bad power steering pump, plagued the Camaro. But after countless hours and stacks of cash the F-body was fit for duty. Dave even brought out his dyno tuner to get the LS-engine running smooth. That’s dedication!
• After SEMA we drove the Camaro straight to American Touring Specialties (ATS) where Tyler Beauregard was letting the Optima Challenge participants borrow his lift and tools. While Fuel was occupying the lift we took a moment to put Penny onto the Longacer digital scales we brought along. Our weight without a driver and with over half a tank of gas was 3196 pounds with 52 percent of the weight up front. To put our weight in perspective, all of the other Camaros we weighed came in between 3,500 and 3,600 lbs, so we were feeling pretty svelte. The main problem was our crossweights, which would throw the car slightly out of balance in the turns.