There’s something about rivalry amongst peers that tends to bring out the bravado and machismo required to put a freshly built high-end hot rod through aggressive competition. That’s the best way we know to explain the phenomenon known as the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI). It’s become the one event that will make even the most cautious owner or builder decide to throw caution to the wind and bring his award-winning ride out to the middle of the parched Nevada desert to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch for a trio of trials. That’s why we love attending; there’s nowhere else you’ll ever see so many finely crafted cars in competition at the same time.

This year, 53 of the best cars in the country were chosen by the OUSCI committee out of nearly 700 applicants, as well as entries earned through a series of qualifying events throughout the year. All of them went head-to-head on the road rally, a 2.2-mile road course, an autocross, and a speed-stop challenge. And style still counts too; automotive artist Murray Pfaff headed a contingent of judges that evaluated each competitor on execution and originality.

Just to make sure even the hairiest track car still had true street car credibility, the Detroit Speed & Engineering Road Rally began on Friday in Las Vegas rush-hour traffic. No serious contender dared to skip out either, as making all of the required stops counted for a massive 25 percent of the final score, and every point counted this year. The level of cars and driver skill has never been so high, and every year we go to the OUSCI we get more hooked. We may just have to get out there and earn an invite for one of our project cars. What about you?

2011 OUSCI Final Standings*
*Top 10 overall participants, 110 points possible
Competitor: Total points:
1. Danny Popp 80
2. Mark Stielow 80
3. Brian Hobaugh 72
4. Gary Rubio 63
5. Mary Pozzi 62
6. Brian Finch 58
7. Mike Maier 57
8. Pete Callaway 50
9. Filip Trojanek 49
10. Kyle Tucker 42

1962 Chevy II “The Runt”

This diminutive little Chevy II may be known as “The Runt,” but the performance it packs is more like you’ll find from the pick of the litter. Gerry Kerna has worked with RPM in the past to create her ’41 Willys, but this time she decided she wanted more than another pretty face; she wanted a car built that was capable of competing in, and winning, autocross and track events. Rather than the standard suspects generally chosen for such projects, however, Gerry wanted to do it in an early Chevy II. The catch there is that to bring the little commuter car up to her expectations of performance and style, RPM knew they would have to start from scratch with a new chassis custom tailored to squeeze big rubber and big cubic inches in a tiny shell. With major amounts of fabrication in store for them already, RPM sought out a superclean all-original ’62 Chevy II that had little damage to be addressed. It was immediately stripped down, mediablasted, and mounted on a frame table in preparation for major slicing.