Last year 27 cars showed up to run hard and prove that with the right combination of parts, and driver's skill, old cars can be made to perform as good as, if not better than, modern sports and muscle cars. The event was the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, and it was part of a growing trend we're very happy to see.
We still remember when cars were judged by how many square feet of chrome festooned their engine bays, and how fast they appeared, not by how fast they actually were. No one really cared if it could handle; all that mattered was "the look." In hindsight, those were dark days. Today we can have our cake, and chow down on it as well. Our cars can look wicked fast and actually back it up on the track. This is thanks in a large measure to the aftermarket, which has stepped up to offer a plethora of performance-based upgrades for our Camaros. Another reason is the desire of builders and owners to run their cars hard. In turn, this has driven the aftermarket to work even harder to churn out cutting-edge performance parts.
Last year our 1968 Chevy Camaro took home the top honors. We had a good car and a great team of drivers. As winners, we were the first invited back, and we knew it was going to be a whole new ball game. You see, last year there was a scant two months' notice of the event, but this time everyone had a full year to prepare. What kicked ass last year would only "keep up" this time around.
For the most part the rules were the same as last year. Each of the three performance event's lap times would be accumulated into a final score. Think of golf: The low score wins. The build quality and style portion would be judged on a 1-10 scale with 1 being the best score. Also, any car not able to finish all the events would be disqualified. On the big course, there would be a warm-up lap followed by two timed laps, then one cooldown lap. The cars would be sent out individually; it wouldn't be fender-to-fender racing though. The autocross would consist of three timed laps. Hitting a cone would result in a 1.5-second penalty, and making a wrong turn in the cones would result in a DNF. One change this year would allow drivers to be able to throw out their worst time in each event. This way if you made a mistake, you weren't taken out of the competition.
This year a big change was made to the rules. Well, sort of. According to last year's rules, anyone was allowed to drive any car. If you could have talked Michael Schumacher into driving your ride, then more power to you. This year it was stipulated that the owner or builder had to drive the car. The only problem was that the term "builder" wasn't clearly defined.
Last year we put together a team to drive our Bad Penny project car. David Pozzi got the road course, Mary Pozzi got the autocross, and Steven Rupp was to handle the 0-60-0. The new rules meant Mary Pozzi was off the team since she hasn't spun a wrench on the '68 enough to be considered a builder. Sure, we could have embellished a bit and got her on the team, but that wouldn't have been keeping with the spirit of the event. Dave Pozzi would drive the road course and Rupp would handle the autocross and 0-60-0. Rupp is no Mary Pozzi (who is?), but he's gotten enough practice over the summer to become fairly adept at dodging pylons. Besides, driving is more fun than taking pictures all day.
We also gained an invitation to bring our new '10 SS Camaro out to play. Since Rupp was busy with Penny, the natural choice to dive the car was editor Nick Licata. In a former life, Licata was the official wheelman when magazines needed to test cars. In other words, he can drive.