Finalist
'74 Challenger
Craig Haburn
Wallingford, IA
When he was 16, Craig Haburn almost had enough mechanical ability to change his own oil, but he also had a deep desire to become a real hot rodder. Unfortunately those two conditions ended up colliding in the purchase of a '74 Challenger that was more than he bargained for. Overlooking the extensive rust, Craig managed to get in a couple of months of driving before the trans went out. Luckily friends took him under their wing to begin his mechanical education. Over the next 12 years of wrenching and drag racing, the Challenger went from a tired 318 to a man-eating 340, but it still looked like a four-color beater. One morning, Craig woke up and decided it was finally time; he and a friend stripped three layers of paint and performed a mild resto on the Challenger's body before spraying it yellow and adding eye-catching '70 T/A stripes, grille, and 340 Six-Pak decals.

BY THE NUMBERS
Photographer: April Green; Manson City, IA
Camera: Fuji Fine Pix S8000
Engine: 340ci, J casting heads with 2.02/1.60 valves, Lunati Voodoo cam, Weiand X-celerator intake, and Holley 750 double pumper.
Trans: 727 TorqueFlite
Rearend: 8¾ with 3.91 gears
Suspension: stock front and rear with 2-inch blocks added to the leafs
Brakes: stock discs and drums
Wheels: Eagle Alloy series 211
Great quote: "I'm still having trouble with hearing all the nice things people say about it. I'm so used to hearing 'that'll be nice someday.' "

Finalist
'65 Mustang fastback
Bill Gerlich • Marion, IA
A few houses down from Bill Gerlich's childhood home lived two early Shelby GT-350s, one of which was a legit R-code model that the owner ran in SCCA B-production races at Road America and Blackhawk Farms. Bill was able to tag along for a couple races, and the look and sound of vintage Trans-Am has been glued in his head since. Years later, Gerlich decided to build his own version of a B-production car with some modern performance upgrades. The goal was to make it vintage Shelby inspired without sweating the original details. Bill rounded up a rusted-out shell needing the quarters, floors, rockers, trunk lid, and fenders replaced-a tall order for his first build, but he accomplished all of the design and fabrication work himself, right down to prepping it for paint. Now Bill's the object of the neighborhood kids' envy every time he backs his Mustang out.

BY THE NUMBERS
Photographer: Bill Gerlich; Marion, IA
Camera: Nikon S-8000
Engine: Ford Racing crate engine with GT-40 aluminum heads, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, and Holley 670 double-pumper.
Trans: Ford AOD with shift kit and Lokar shifter
Rearend: 9-inch with 31-spline Moser axles and Boss 302 gear case
Suspension: Shelby mod and boxed lower control arms with 1¼-inch sway bar and rack-and-pinion up front, Art Morrison crossmember with a Panhard bar and Grab-A-Trac leaf springs moved 3 inches inward in the rear.
Brakes: stock rotors with ECI calipers up front, Corvette rotors and calipers in the rear.
Wheels: 16x8 and 17x11 American Racing Torq-Thrust
Custom touches: The cowl hood is actually two original hoods melded together and those vents on the front fender and the pop-top gas cap are Shelby Cobra pieces.

Finalist
'72 Nova SS
Dwight Tomczak
Jefferson, WI
Looking for a used muscle car after getting out of the Marines, Dwight Tomczak stopped into Dale Chevrolet and spotted a '72 Nova the salesman referred to as the "Dale Duster" (which we hear is another story). With only 2K miles, the Nova already had a banged fender and door, and was getting its current 427 swapped for a 350. Still, Dwight liked the car and took it home when the swap was finished. Soon after, an Isky-cammed LT1 350 was dropped in with a BorgWarner T-10 and steep 5.38 gears. Lots of drag racing ensued. But then life got in the way and the Nova sat for nearly 15 until friends convinced Dwight that it was time to get it back on the road. After some engine upgrades and fresh paint, the Nova returned to the road and drag racing. Unfortunately the 28-inch slicks paired with 5.38 gears redlined the 7,200 rpm LT1 before he crossed the line. No big deal though; the new set of 4.56s will cure that!

BY THE NUMBERS
Photographer: Geoff Weide; Lake Mills, WI
Camera: Nikon D3000
Engine: 350ci LT1, 202 angle-plug heads, Crane solid-lifter cam, Edelbrock tunnel-ram, Holley 450 carbs
Trans: BorgWarner Super T-10
Rearend: 12-bolt with 4.56 gears
Suspension: stock with Moroso bushings front and rear
Brakes: stock discs and drums
Wheels: Weld Pro Star
Great quote: "[The race] was not a loss for me; I walked away with great memories and a picture of my car with the wheels 9 inches off the ground and another good story. Even more importantly, my son was there to see it, and that, my friends, is priceless."

Finalist
'65 Mustang fastback
John Illies • Grand Rapids, MN
A '75 F-250 Camper Special was John Illies' first project, and apparently the results impressed his wife because she bought him a four-post lift for his birthday. Either that, or she felt sorry for him rolling around on the garage underneath it. To celebrate, John and his wife tracked down another project, a '65 Mustang fastback. They wanted to bring the Mustang to just the way they envisioned it, so during the next eight years of wrenching in between work hours they finished everything themselves, other than the final paint and bodywork.

BY THE NUMBERS
Photographer: John Illies; Grand Rapids, MN
Camera: Canon 50D
Engine: 302 built by the Engine Factory with Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads and intake, COMP hydraulic roller cam, and 650 Edelbrock carb
Trans: Tremec T-56 trans
Rearend: 8-inch with Richmond 4.11 gears
Suspension: Total Control Products coilover conversion up front with stock leafs in the rear
Brakes: Stainless Steel Brake Co. discs up front with stock drums in the rear
Wheels: 17x7 and 17x8 Centerline
Great quote: "The photos were taken in our driveway at about 10:30 in the evening. First we had to warn the neighbors about the burst of light radiating from the house, then we had to deal with all the nasty bugs attracted to the light. Did I mention it started to rain? Anything for Popular Hot Rodding!"