While the rest of the country begins to batten down the hatches for the winter and stow their cars away from the punishing weather, the hot rodders in the Phoenix area are just beginning to hit their stride. You have to keep in mind that they have been trying to stay out of the triple-digit heat for the last six months, and by the time the middle of November rolls around, it's just getting seasonably cool—like mid 70s. It's for this reason that the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association schedules bookend events in the Phoenix area in both early March and mid November. If you're a hot rodder living in the Midwest, Northwest, or East Coast, both of these events—which are held at WestWorld of Scottsdale, are a great gearhead vacation destination at those times of the year. And while we usually fly to the Goodguys events we attend, Scottsdale is one we always plan as a road trip—it's a really beautiful journey from any direction.
The great road trip aside, we were there to cover the last of the five PHR-sponsored Street Machine Autocross events for 2012. Some background: Goodguys holds its autocross at most of its events, space permitting. These autocross courses have typical lap times ranging anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute in length, and rarely do speeds exceed 30 mph. The thing we dig the most is that any car in the joint can pull up and run laps for free. All you gotta do is let Goodguys check your ride for safety, and sign a waiver. The course is usually a pretty simple affair; tight turns and sweepers with the car in Second gear are the norm. Drivers stage just like the dragstrip, and cars run one at a time. A one-second penalty is incurred for each cone that's knocked over, so drivers are rewarded with precise, deliberate driving. That's not to say there aren't some spectacular displays of reckless abandon! It's all good though. Everybody has a great time whether they're driving or spectating; vehicle damage is rare, and usually limited to rubber cone marks on the door.
The Goodguys autocross is broken down into a couple of classes, the largest of which is the Street Machine class. This is for '55-72 model year cars of all persuasions—front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, domestic, import, it doesn't matter. At the five PHR-sponsored Goodguys events, this is the class we focus on most. There are also classes for trucks (pre-'72), street rods (pre-'55), and there's a Pro class, made up of previous Street Machine winners and Goodguys vendors. During Sunday's activities, Goodguys also opens the entire place up to late-model cars and trucks, and these folks get their own Super Sunday class. Got something that doesn't fit handily into any of these classes? There's a catchall "Fun Run" class with no trophy; it's for guys who might not qualify for one of the other classes. In the past, we've run our Chevy Laguna in this class because it had tires that were stickier than the 200 UTQG treadwear minimum.
For the 15th Southwest Nationals, the PHR Street Machine class was once again the largest, and its 42 competing machines were dominated by Chevys. (Six of the ten fastest cars were Camaros, and there were 23 Chevys in all.) Ford stood tall with 10 cars making laps (five of which were Mustangs), while the Mopar camp managed a token showing with two cars. (Thanks go to Dan Weishaar and Mark LaCasse, who single-handedly saved the Chrysler camp from a complete epic fail.)
The big news in Scottsdale is that we had a severely handicapped underdog come from behind for the win. It's the first time we can recall this happening in the Street Machine competition, and our hats are off to Rodney Prouty of San Mateo, California, for pulling off the upset with his rather modest '68 Camaro. It proves that skills—and a little bit of luck—can win out over cubic dollars.
This wraps up our coverage for the 2012 PHR Street Machine autocross circuit, but we will be back for 2013 for five select events. If you've got a Pro Touring muscle machine—or even a mostly stock muscle car—and this looks interesting to you, we would love to have you. We see a lot of guys out on the autocross who just want to stick their toes in the water to try it out, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about. Bring it out and see how it stacks up against the rest!
Terry Work makes a mad dash through the Street Machine Autocross finish line with his ’65 Mustang fastback.
Jim Demetrus’ ’67 Chevelle wagon shows that anyone can get into the autocross game. We dig the “time bomb” license plate. Tell us if you know the answer to this: Why is it that Chevy guys try it more than any other group?
Joe Witte did most of the work on his ’68 Camaro convertible, which sports a 383ci small-block, and a Gearstar 200-4R automatic. The rest is mostly stock. Good driving and good tires put him better than mid-pack.
Heath Elmer Restorations of Gilbert, Arizona, is responsible for minting this awesome ’70 Camaro for Marty Ceccarelli. The 427ci EFI small-block, six-speed second-gen was 15th fastest in the field.
You all know this ’70 Challenger as the Hotchkis E-Body suspension test vehicle, which was piloted by Dan Wieshaar this weekend. Running gear includes a built 340ci small-block with a six-pack, mated to a Tremec TKO-600.