MSD True Street Nationals - The Hard Way
They get driven on the street and they get beaten on the track, but however you slice it, True Street cars live a tough life.
From the February, 2007 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
Hot rodding is a lot like life: you pretty much get out of it what you put into it. Go to any event and check out the car show to see what I mean. In no time flat, you'll be drowning in a sea of highly polished restos with Cabbage Patch Kids Velcro'd to their grilles-none of which could lay down rubber before incurring coronary blockage in its owner. For the rest of us who prefer to enjoy the hobby while awake, drag racing is the preferred venue. But drag racing can take its toll in the payment of lost "utility" for its owner. To some of us, it's hardly fun drag racing if it means taking your pride and joy off the street. Building a dedicated race car can have certain rewards, but this by nature excludes such high jinks as toying with fart-pipe Hondas at the stoplight on your way to the Frampton concert; or lighting your plant in a crowded parking lot and hearing car alarms go off; or yanking Third and sucking the weather stripping out of a Porsche turbo.
Having a car that's capable of mundane street duty and straight-line track work is the only answer, and it's the reason why I created the True Street class 13 years ago. The problem with such dual-use cars was that at the track, they got much less respect than they deserved. A guy with a gutted Camaro and a 13:1 big-block running a 'glide and 31-inch slicks is going to make short work of an 11-second 5-liter Mustang that made the trip to the track on its own power. That Super Pro Camaro wouldn't get 100 yards down a real road-even if it were legal for the street. It was time for someone to come in and level the playing field, so True Street was born.
For the uninitiated, the MSD True Street class is open to any street-legal, registered, insured car. There are a few rules prohibiting racecars from competing (no full tube chassis and carbon fiber bodies for instance), and even 13 years later, the class remains remarkably pure. All cars must drive a 30-mile escorted route without breaking down, then make three full-out back-to-back drag strip passes without puking. And during all of that, to keep it street legit, none of the cars can pop the hood for tuning. When it's all over, we average the runs, and rank them from quickest to slowest. The guy with the quickest average is crowned the King of True Street, while guys in the middle of the pack can also take home cheddar with awards going to the cars closest to (but not quicker than) 10.0, 11.0, 12.0, 13.0, 14.0 and 15.0 average ET. Interested? The full set of MSD True Street rules is available online at the National Muscle Car Association's Web site, www.fastesttreetcar.com.
So here we are in Atlanta for the 5th Annual Nitto NMCA Hot Rod & Muscle Car Nationals. The Atlanta area is known for its hardcore street element, and a stout contingent was indeed on hand to battle it out, but the winner came from Memphis, another hotbed of supra-legal street action. Frank Savage was crowned the King of Atlanta, thanks to a car that can best be described as looking like a refugee from a retirement home. Savage's '86 Caprice wowed onlookers with outrageous launches and ETs deep in the nines. Competition only came from the unlikely '39 Ford coupe of Sonny Smart, who fell well off his low 9-second pace on his last run, leaving Savage to soldier on to victory.
Nine-second street cars aside, there was lots of impressive action brewing within the ranks. Take Jim Williams' budget-oriented Starsky and Hutch '76 Gran Torino. Williams has just $14K into his disco-era Ford, but it cranks out 11-second ETs on motor with the reliability of an Osterizer. Savage's Caprice and Williams' Gran Torino weren't the only big gunboats in attendance either. Regular True Street competitor Robert Wilson of Parrish, Florida, was also in the house with his '65 Impala, which was fitted this time 'round with his back-up 327 mill (how many thousand runs are on it?) and running 15s. If there's a guy out there having more fun with less, we haven't met him. The father-and-son team of Matt (34) and Chip (62) Leetch of Buford, Georgia, might give Wilson a run for having the most fun, however. These guys run Fords and have a blast doing it. Matt's twin-turbo '93 Mustang is the faster of the two, but dad has fun with his stock '04 Mach 1-a 14-second index win (good for $100 and a set of MSD plug wires) showed the son that sometimes the tortoise does indeed win.The range of emotion also included heartbreak, which was felt by Tom Heatley Jr. and his '69 Camaro. A strong early favorite to win, Heatley experienced sudden loss of boost with the ejection of a Kevlar blower belt from his Procharged big-block on the first run. It painfully illustrates the tough boulevard-like conditions of True Street that regular drag racers just aren't exposed to: unable to open his hood to put another belt on, Heatley could only watch from the sideline as Savage's proven street combo took top honors.
After Atlanta, the season ended with the Nitto NMCA World Finals in Memphis on October 7, where William Slavely took the MSD True Street win in his Mustang with a 9.292 average. We've had a great time covering True Street in 2006, and we plan on bringing you more of the world's most legit street car class next year. See you there, and hang on for the ride!
Every MSD True Street event...
Every MSD True Street event begins with a driver's meeting prior to the 30-mile tour. Here, technical director George Carey (in yellow shirt) gives instructions for the drive and the drag race. Carey, a True Street race regular, was featured with his '85 Corvette in our December 2005 issue, and decided to help out on the NMCA side this time around.
We dug Tom Heatley Jr.'s '69...
We dug Tom Heatley Jr.'s '69 Camaro (Gleason, TN), which packs an 8:1-compression 477-inch big-block with an F1R Procharger and ACCEL Gen 7 DFI. So far, it's run a best of 9.30, but that was before his new Romar air-to-water intercooler. Heatley told PHR: "I'd like to see it go 8.40 with the new intercooler, but we have a belt issue. It's throwing belts for some reason."
"Williams has just $14K into his disco-era Ford, but it cranks out 11-second ETs on motor with the reliability of an Osterizer."
We first met Jim Williams on the PHR message board, where he dared us to be different and feature his 11-second '76 Ford Gran Torino. We double dared him to come out to the Atlanta MSD True Street race from his home in South Park, PA (anyone else find that ironic?), and shot it for a feature you can see elsewhere in this issue. It knocks down 11s on motor easily with a 545-inch 385-series big-block Ford. Williams was aided and abetted by his brother, Chris.
Savage's '86 Caprice was not only the quickest car in the field in Atlanta, it was among the heaviest, with a full luxury interior. How does it manage to knock down nines? Start with a 9:1 502-inch big-block Chevy, add Dart Pro 1 heads and intake, stuff it full of boost with a Procharger F2 huffer blowing through a specially prepared Carb Shop 1150-cfm Holley 4150. A TCI-built Turbo 400 passes torque to a Moser 9-inch with 3.90 cogs and on to 10.5-inch slicks. And yes, it needs the 'chute: the two-ton B-body has run a best of 8.70/155 with an extra shot of nitrous through a ZEX plate. "It works good too on a blower application," says Savage.
Always the cool customer, Frank Savage relaxes in his trailer with crew chief Malcolm Williams before going out to lay waste to the entire Atlanta True Street field. Hey Frank, have a Coke and a smile!
Nicole Norris (18) of Greenville, SC, is a business student at Greenville Tech, and we spotted her lounging near the NMCA Pro Stock '93 Mustang of Scott Rogers and Rock Hosea. We convinced her to model for a photo shoot, but when Hosea lost in the first round, the mood soured, they folded tent, and headed for beer. Too bad-this quick snapshot of Nicole doesn't do her justice, but it'll have to hold you over.
This is Michelle Mattingly (23), the adorable spouse of NMCA B/Nostalgia Muscle Car racer, Jeramie Mattingly (Buffalo, KY). We caught Michelle posing with Jeramie's '72 Nova, which runs 10.60s via a naturally aspirated 412-inch small-block. Jeramie didn't have a snapshot of his wife in his wallet, but he did have his Lunati cam card: it's a solid roller with .640/.645 lift and 276/284 degrees of duration. Jeramie-you can cut this picture out and put it in your wallet now, 'cause it's got your cam specs on it, too.
Heatley poses with a belt...
Heatley poses with a belt he shredded earlier in testing. "I didn't get out 300 feet on this one." His '69 runs a Hughes Powerglide, a Moser 9-inch rear and 4.10 gears. Heatley ran a 9.86 on his first and only pass, throwing the belt before the finish line.
Lending our street mayhem...
Lending our street mayhem an air of legitimacy were Banks County Sheriff Sergeant Paul Lewallen (left) and deputy Shane Adams. They did a great job orchestrating the closure of intersections on our 30-mile drive.
With the smack-talk session...
With the smack-talk session under his belt, Tim Campbell (McDonaugh, GA) took his '93 Mustang LX to the track, where it laid down an 11.01 three-run average. Campbell elects not to rely on power adders-instead, a 10:1 compression 351 Windsor gets its oats from a pair of old-style TFS Street Heat heads, a Victor Jr. intake, a COMP 292 solid-roller cam, and a Barry Grant 750-cfm Race Demon carb. Power goes through a Lentech AOD and the stock 8.8-inch rear with Moser axles and 3.73 gears.
Terry Herbert is another MSD...
Terry Herbert is another MSD True Street regular and hails from Elizabethtown, KY. Since we saw him last, Herbert upgraded to a dual-stage NOS Big-Shot nitrous system. On this day, it helped his 434-inch small-block propel his '84 Monte SS to a new best ET of 9.97. Herbert's recipe: Pro Topline heads with a Victor Jr. intake, a 900-cfm Holley double-pumper, a Turbo 350 manual-valve trans and 4.56 gears loaded into a GM 12-bolt.
Between the 30-mile drive...
Between the 30-mile drive and the drag race runs, there's always a little time for some smack-talk, all in good fun of course.
Matt Leetch's LX uses an intercooled...
Matt Leetch's LX uses an intercooled ITS twin turbo kit (out of production) making 15 to 16 lbs of boost into an 8.5:1 347-inch Windsor. Fuel management for the fuel-injected small-block is via a PMS computer and Pro-M "Univer" mass air meter from Anderson Ford Motorsport that drives 60 lb/hr injectors. The stock T5 trans has been tossed in favor of a Tremec TKO 600. The stock 8.8-inch rear houses highway-friendly 3.27 gears. Although Matt claims it runs fine on 93 octane, he opted to run 110 octane race fuel for this event. His best ET so far is 11.60, running the 93 juice.
The father-and-son team of...
The father-and-son team of Chip (left) and Matt Leetch hails from Buford, GA. On matching polo shirts is embroidered "Going For Broke Racing," which hardly imparts the fun-loving spirit of this family venture. Dad drives the '04 Mach 1 in the foreground while Matt pilots the black twin-turbo '93 LX notchback.
Fresh out of the build shop...
Fresh out of the build shop was Joe Kosiba's small-block '63 Nova. "I'd like to see maybe an eight out of it, but the car's brand new," quipped Kosiba. In shakedown passes, the Hoffman Estates, IL-based Chevy ran 9.65 at Union Grove, WI. The combo consists of a 406 small-block with Brodix Track 1 heads, Edelbrock Super Victor manifold, a Holley 950 HP carb, a COMP cam, and a NOS Big-Shot nitrous kit. Running gear is a Turbo 350 with a 9-inch Ford rear loaded with 3.50 gears.
It's a nice change of pace...
It's a nice change of pace to see traditional hot rods represented in True Street, and Sonny Smart stepped up with his '39 Ford. This is no fairgrounds cruiser though-it runs some serious ETs with a best of 9.20/146 under its belt, thanks to a 496-inch big-block Chevy with Dart 320 heads, a Weiand tunnel ram, two 1150 Dominators and a 175hp NOS Big-Shot nitrous hit. "This is a real-deal driven car," says Smart. "We drive it about 200 miles a week. It was originally a four-door sedan, but we made it a coupe. It's an all-steel stock-frame '39 Ford. The engine mounts are even stock."
When we last saw Robert Wilson,...
When we last saw Robert Wilson, his '65 Impy was knocking down low 13 with help from a new 383 small-block. "It keeps eatin' the thrust bearing in the 383," muses Wilson, "but I'd really rather not badmouth the machine shop." For the Atlanta outing, Wilson's old 327 was placed back into duty, and ET dropped back into the 15s.
Leading the pack out of the...
Leading the pack out of the track for the 30-mile cruise was Phil Bonner (Lilburn, GA) in his stock 2000 Corvette. We asked him if he was related to the "real" Phil Bonner, pilot of the famous Warbucks A/FX Mustang, and he told us: "I'm related to him some how on my daddy's side."
True Street is a great cross-section...
True Street is a great cross-section of hot rodding culture, and Mike Puckett (Norcross, GA) proved it by bringing out his '90 Thunderbird Super Coupe. With a best ET of 12.71/108 under its belt, Puckett's T-bird is no ordinary sled. The Eaton-supercharged 3.8L V-6 has been tweaked with a reground cam from COMP, a C&L mass air housing, a larger homemade air intake, a Magnum Powers throttle body, a 5 percent Auto Specialties overdrive blower pulley, a homemade double-row intercooler, larger 42-lb injectors and a Superchips Custom Tune by Higgins Ford Performance.
| || Car || Run 1 || Run 2 || Run 3 || Average || Notes |
| Fred Savage || '86 Chevy Caprice || 9.287 || 9.383 || 9.429 || 9.366 || King Of Atlanta |
| Sonny Smart || '39 Ford coupe || 9.366 || 10.441 || 10.441 || 9.768 || runner-up |
| Joe Kosiba || '63 Chevy Nova || 10.008 || 10.037 || 10.2 || 10.082 || 10-second index winner |
| Terry Herbert || '84 Monte Carlo || 9.974 || 10.219 || 10.106 || 10.1 || |
| Tim Campbell || '93 Ford Mustang || 11.057 || 10.989 || 11.009 || 11.018 || 11-second index winner |
| Matt Leetch || '93 Ford Mustang || 11.242 || 11.271 || 11.331 || 11.281 || |
| Jim Williams || '76 Ford Torino || 11.804 || 11.82 || 11.824 || 11.816 || |
| Chris Stratton || '73 Ford Maverick || 11.971 || 12.069 || 12.058 || 12.033 || 12-second index winner |
| Phil Bonner || '00 Corvette || 13.221 || 13.161 || 13.061 || 13.148 || 13-second index winner |
| Mike Puckett || '90 Ford T-bird || 13.334 || 13.662 || 13.698 || 13.565 || |
| Chip Leetch || '04 Ford Mustang || 14.231 || 14.21 || 14.382 || 14.274 || 14-second index winner |
| Robert Wilson || '65 Chevy Impala || 15.198 || 15.202 || 15.167 || 15.189 || 15-second index winner |
| Tom Heatley Jr. || '69 Chevy Camaro || 9.868 || DNF || DNF || DNF || |