We know you're tired of magazines dictating to you what's cool and what's not. Why is it that some cars are deemed worthy of serious consideration, while others aren't? That's just not fair. Big-dollar guys hog up too many pages in too many books, while the average Joe gets treated as if he doesn't even exist. In all fairness, sometimes the dudes with bankroll pull off some miraculous stuff that get the rest of us buzzing and thinking about new ways of doing things, but how often can you say you were truly inspired by that?

Most of you want to know what other guys like yourself are doing, and that's one big reason we hold our photo contest every year. It's a great opportunity to strut your stuff, and see what other hot rodders are doing, without magazine guys stinking up the place with arbitrary or capricious judgment. For instance, how much is too much to spend on a project car? Regardless of what we think, we can say that you guys will admit to spending an average of $27,000 on your hot rods. What size wheels are the coolest? Again, it doesn't matter what we think. Just over two thirds of you have 15-inch wheels, or smaller. And you're a loyal lot too, with the average length of ownership at 10.3 years-way in excess of the national average.

For this contest, we received nearly 300 entries from readers across the country, some even further away. We promised to print all of them, provided entrants follow some basic rules. We tried to keep those rules simple-like enter by the deadline, give us five high-resolution digital images, fill out a tech sheet, and write a cover letter-yet a significant number of those entries were disqualified on those grounds. You may also notice that with the exception of two finalists, we did not print the ladies in this issue. Due to space constraints, we will have a separate story on our ladies' rides in our March issue. That promises to be a hot one, so look for that on the newsstand in late January.

When the dust settled, Tom and Amy Craig of Schertz, Texas, won our photo contest with their '68 Camaro RS/Z28. It wasn't an easy decision, since we had so many great photos to choose from, but we appreciated the very successful effort that Tom and Amy made, and the fact that neither is a professional photographer. Likewise, we're awarding the runner-up Mothers Picture Perfect award to Brian Ober of Dickenson, Texas. (Not that it affected our decision, but Brian lost his brakes and almost wrecked his Buick Riviera after his photo shoot. Nice save, Brian!) Tom and Amy will receive a set of tires from our photo contest sponsor, Nitto Tires, while Brian will get a selection of Mothers car care products. (And from the looks of his Buick, he needs them too!) All 20 photo contest finalists will get a commemorative PHR Photo Contest T-shirt, and some other PHR goodies including license plates and decals.

We'd like to thank all our readers who participated in this year's photo contest. If you didn't find the time to get your car in this year, we plan on doing it again next year. If you car isn't finished, we also plan on having a separate issue dedicated to unfinished reader projects sometime in the spring-so keep an eye out for details. As we said earlier, some entries we got were unusable for some reason, so if you fell into that group, feel free to try again next year. If you just want to complain and you didn't send us any pictures, you dear friend, need to get off the couch!

The Winner
This year's PHR Photo Contest winners are Tom and Amy Craig. Their winning photo was accompanied by this letter, which explains their life with this sweet '68 Camaro. For their effort, Tom and Amy will get a set of Nitto tires of their choosing. From the looks of it, they are in need of some better traction, and we know Nitto has just the thing they're looking for. Congratulations to Tom and Amy. Enjoy your newfound grip! Now, in Tom's words, here's their story ...

I'd like to introduce you to two beautifully stunning works of art. A '68 RS/Z28 Camaro, which was originally created by General Motors, and recreated by myself, the photographer. The other beauty would be a vintage 1970 model, my wonderful wife and owner of the car.

We are Tom and Amy Craig, and this is our story. My wife really likes horses; I really like hp. So we have more in common than you think. A few years ago, we owned a '86 Buick Grand National that my wife would drive to cruise nights. I would drive my car, a '71 SS Chevelle with big-block power. The Buick was the opposite of the Chevelle. The Buick had fuel injection, A/C, and a quiet motor. My Chevelle has none of those things, although it does have a 540 big-block making an honest 750 hp on pump gas.

It was nice having two different types of cars, one with a loud thumping cam and lots of torque and speed, the other with quiet turbo power and air conditioning. I've never had a hot rod with A/C. It spoiled me.

The Buick made decent power, but I couldn't start modifying it to go faster; it was too clean and original. Just the idea of a fuel-injected car that was cozy to ride in with A/C and over 500 hp made me tingle, and my wife would drive it too. Keeping my wife involved in my hobbies makes it a lot easier to spend money. Hot rodding is expensive. (You know what I mean.) I wanted a '66 Nova. She wanted a '68 RS Camaro. Guess who won? It's OK though, I love this car too.

This Camaro has an iron-block GM 6.0L engine with 10.7:1 compression, L92 heads, and intake. The cam is an SLP 224/228 duration with .591/.600-inch lift. The transmission is a 4L65E overdrive automatic. It has Street and Performance headers, aluminum driveshaft, Moser 12-bolt rearend with 4.10 gears through a Detroit Truetrac differential, Detroit Speed and Engineering QuadraLink rear suspension, QA1 shocks all around, and subframe connectors. There are Budnik Lateral wheels wearing Michelin Pilot Sport tires (335/35R17 rear and 225/45R17 front). For brakes, it has SSBC discs all around. The interior is an updated deluxe houndstooth with '97 Camaro front seats custom upholstered to match the original. We installed Hot Rod air conditioning, a custom steering wheel, and Auto Meter Phantom Gauges. The paint is PPG black. It was built to be driveable for my wife, as well as powerful for me. I had no idea how fast and powerful that little 370ci motor would be. It's never been on the dyno, but according to other similar builds I've read about, it should be making about 550 hp. That's what I call big-block power in a small-block package. You would think those 355 tires would get traction. Nope!

'68 Chevy Camaro
Amy Craig, Schertz, TX
Engine: 370ci LQ4 small-block Chevy
Cylinder heads: factory
Camshaft: SLP; .591/.600-inch lift, 224/228-degrees duration
Induction: EFI
Transmission: 4L65E automatic
Rearend: Moser 12-bolt, 4.10 gears
Front suspension: factory
Rear suspension: DSE QuadraLink, QA1 shocks
Brakes: SSBC disc front and rear
Wheels: Budnik Laterals; 17x7, 17x11
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport; 225/45R17, 335/35R17
Performance: 550 hp
Invested: $50,000
Years owned: 3
Photographer: Tom Craig
Camera: Canon Rebel X5
Shoot location: Schertz, TX
Model: wife/owner, Amy Craig

Mothers Picture Perfect Award
This month, in place of our normal "Hometown Hot Rodding" section, we're running "178 Real-World Rides." In place of awarding our Mothers Picture Perfect Award to the Hometown Hot Rodding photo winner, we're bestowing that honor to the runner-up of "178 Real-World Rides." This month, that goes to Brian Ober. Congrats Brian! You'll have some fine products to maintain your homegrown paintjob. Next month, we'll resume giving the winner of "Hometown Hot Rodding" an assortment of Mothers products to keep his or her ride looking nice. Mail us a photograph or, if you're a modern guy, email us a digital image. Remember that digital images need to be 300 dpi, and the bigger the image, the larger it can run. Also, be sure to include info on the car, along with your name and address.

MOTHERS PICTURE PERFECT RUNNER-UP
'66 BUICK RIVIERA GS
BRIAN OBER, DICKINSON, TX
Engine: 425ci nailhead
Cylinder heads: factory
Camshaft: factory
Induction: 750-cfm Quadrajet
Transmission: Switch Pitch 400 automatic
Rearend: factory
Front suspension: factory
Rear suspension: factory
Brakes: drum front and rear
Wheels: Buick Ralley
Tires: Douglas
Performance: 345 hp
Years owned: 5
Photographer: owner
Camera: Samsung Pro-815
Shoot location: Galveston County, TX