Lots of guys own muscle cars-some are restored, while others are modified to varying degrees. Nevertheless, only a small subset of them are driven enthusiastically. Those that are can usually be found at the dragstrip, where they express vigorous forward motion just 1,320 precious feet at a time-and oftentimes much less than that. But there are a select few guys and girls who choose to live life with their street machines to the fullest extent. During the week, the owners of these rides can be found tooling around town doing all the normal mundane things with their muscle cars. Then on the weekend, it's off to the autocross, road course, dragstrip, or open highway.
Ask many old-school hot rodders why they don't dare to challenge the track, and they'll say: "I didn't build this thing just to tear it up!" (Yes, we actually get told that.) The fact is, all hot rods take some-or all-of their styling and engineering cues from race cars, however, as the old Willie Dixon song goes, most hot rods are "built for comfort, ain't built for speed." Hey, that's fine by us. But don't you think you're missing out on something? If you're gonna date the girl, you might as well kiss her!
It seems ironic that the vast majority of "hot" rods fall somewhere in the range between "cold" and "lukewarm." That irony has not escaped these 36 car owners. They don't just cruise politely in them, they pound mercilessly on them-wherever and whenever they can do it legally. We found all the cars in this story at regular autocross events over the past three years, so we're not necessarily advocating taking your pride and joy on some über-expensive 300-mph death wish drive at Bonneville. You can do what these guys do safely, cheaply, and legally at a parking lot near you. Life is no dress rehearsal-get out there and do it, you won't regret it. We say, save your junk for no one. You paid for it, so g'head and use it. The decal on the rear windshield of Karl Stuber's '68 Chevelle sums it up pretty good: "Life's journey is not about arriving at the gate well preserved, it's about skidding sideways, all used up and worn out yelling 'God, what a ride!'"
1969 Chevy Chevelle
Byron Pryde, Queens Creek, AZ
When Byron Pryde bought his '69 Chevelle 24 years ago, we'd guess even he couldn't imagine the wild ride he would have over the coming years. The little old lady who sold the numbers-matching Chevelle to him with 120K on the clock was a dream come true for the up-and-coming fabricator-the beautiful blank canvas would make a great starting point for the all-around car he wanted. Over the years, Byron has progressed as a hot rod fabricator, working for Arizona Speed & Marine for much of his 30 years in the biz. In that time, his use of the Chevelle has evolved, first as a daily driver, then to drag racer (it's gone 12.60s at 107 mph), and now to corner-carving duty. In fact, he's logged over 100,000 miles behind the wheel of his Chevelle-a testament to both Detroit's build quality and his skills as a hot rodder. Byron loves to hit the autocross when Goodguys comes to town, and his choice of equipment-Hotchkis suspension, Bilstein shocks, Baer brakes, and Lee quick-ratio steering box-reflects that sensibility. Twenty-four years, however, is a long time to own a street machine, and Byron says it's beginning to be difficult to find suitable tires in a 16-inch rim size. Currently, the Mickey Thompson ET Street drag radials are the best thing he can find for dual-purpose drag and autocross use, but a set of 17-inch wheels and tires may be in his future.
By The Numbers
Engine: 461ci big-block Chevy
Induction: Edelbrock oval-port aluminum heads, Crane hydraulic roller cam, worked-over Quadrajet, Edelbrock Performer intake
Transmission: Turbo 400, Hughes 2,500-stall converter
Rearend: GM 12-bolt with 3.08 Strange gears, Posi, Moser axles
Suspension: Hotchkis TVS control arms (front and rear), B-body spindles, Bilstein shocks, Hotchkis sway bars, HO Racing springs
Brakes: Baer Sport brakes, 12-inch Eradispeed rotors
Steering: Lee 12:1 power steering box
Wheels & Tires: 16x8 Torq-Thrust wheels, BFG 255/50R16 (front) and Mickey Thompson drag radial 295/50R16 ET Streets (rear)
1970 Ford Mustang
Jack Nelson, Farmington, NM
As a lifelong Ford fan with a stable full of Mustangs, Jack Nelson had always had his eye open for just the right '69 or '70 convertible to add to the collection when a very rusty '70 crossed his path. Jack likes to save 'em when he can, and he saw potential in the rough little drop-top. Water leaks had caused enough damage to require the floorpans, rockers, and torque boxes to be replaced, but Jack didn't mind since he had a lot more cutting planned. Rather than work with the stock 'rails, the Mustang was cut off at the firewall and replaced with a Martz subframe and front and rear suspension by Wild West Street Rods. Jack prefers a stock look to his cars though, so the mods were kept very subtle. Externally, only a Mach 1 grille, stripe, and hoodscoop deviate from stock, but under that hoodscoop lies a 482ci individual-runner equipped FE stroker since Jack likes to drive his cars often and hard. That's doubly impressive because Jack is a double amputee who drives all of his cars with an NPS hand control system. And he's good with it as well; he was outdriving quite a few entries at the Goodguys autocross where we snapped this shot!
By The Numbers
Engine: 540hp 482ci FE stroker, Redline-Weber individual runner with FAST XFI system
Transmission: C4 three-speed automatic with Gear Vendors overdrive
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with locker diff and 3.90 gears
Suspension: Martz Mustang II front suspension with coilovers, Martz four-link track bar in the rear with coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood Dynalite, Hydratech Hydroboost system
Steering: power rack-and-pinion
Wheels & Tires: 17x8 and 17x9.5 Team III wheels, 245/40R18 and 295/30R18 Toyo tires
1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Amir Rosenbaum, Ontario, CA
Running your own company that specializes in developing performance parts for cars has its perks. For example, you gotta have an inventory of projects to test and develop parts and promote them afterward, right? At least that's one of the excuses Amir Rosenbaum likes to use to justify his eclectic collection of muscle cars for his company, Spectre Performance. Amir may have only owned this '70 Mach 1 for the past six years, but he's literally known it for most of his life. Amir met the Mach 1973 when he was 13. He was always mechanically inclined, but this was right about the time he started forming opinions about cars. The Mach belonged to a friend of the family so he got to ride in it, smell the interior, and hear the exhaust. There was something special about this car. Over the years Amir kept in touch with the owner and always inquired about the Mach 1, but she just didn't want to sell. Then, in 2005, she emailed Amir to let him know she was ready to part with it. The Mach hadn't been driven in about 10 years, just cranked and let idle for 20-30 minutes every Sunday, but it gave Amir no issues on the drive home. Other than some suspension, wheels, and a few Spectre parts, the Mach will be staying just how Amir remembers it. While most of Amir's cars spend their time on the company rig traveling to various shows and autocross tracks around the country, the Mach is usually at home with Amir. "Some cars are just good cars," Amir told us. "It's a happy car, and every time I get in it to drive, I'm happy."
By The Numbers
Engine: 393ci Windsor stroker with Brodix 60cc heads, H-beam rods, KB forged pistons, MSD Pro-Billet distributor, ACCEL DFI EFI, Accufab throttle body, cold air intake
Transmission: T56 six-speed manual transmission
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with 3.50 gears
Suspension: Global West control arms and double-adjustable shocks up front, Global West leaf springs in the rear
Brakes: Wilwood six-piston calipers with 14-inch rotors (front and rear)
Steering: original style power steering
Wheels & Tires: American Racing Shelby wheels (17x8.5 and 18x10) with Toyo tires (255/40R17 and 295/35R18)
1971 Chevy Camaro
Brian Finch, Hermitage, TN
If there is such a thing as a "star" on the Pro Touring circuit, it's probably Brian Finch and his '71 Camaro. Equally prolific as a car builder and driver, Brian and his almost famous Chevy once lived a fairly mundane life. Back in 1991, he was a Navy man stationed in Alameda, California. When a '71 Camaro was abandoned at the base's hobby store, the Navy base decided to auction off the second-gen. Brian put in the winning bid for $325, and after a new carb, battery, and rear window, he was cruising it. When Finch moved to Oregon, he parked it under a eucalyptus tree for five years, where it quickly rotted. Then the Pro Street bug bit him, and some ladder bars, a back-half conversion, new paint, and full wheeltubs followed. Brian enjoyed drag racing it (it ran steady 11.30s with a 454 big-block and a ProCharger), but then in 2006, Goodguys held its first autocross event in Nashville where Brian was now living. Going up against Bob Johnson's famous g-Force 'Cuda, Finch won his very first autocross. That first event changed Brian's world forever, and the result is that he now makes his living building and driving handling hot rods. A big piece of that puzzle was getting the opportunity to drive Detroit Speed's '70 Camaro test car. The experience made Brian an immediate disciple of DSE, and a full DSE subframe and Quadralink rear suspension followed. Soon, Brian was winning everything in sight, both on the road course and autocross. Recently, Brian and his Camaro were asked to be in a new reality show on the Speed Channel, called Are You Faster Than a Redneck. While filming the pilot episode, a loose fuel line hosed his engine down with petrol, resulting in a major fire. Brian was not hurt, but the car needed rebuilding. By the time the series began filming in earnest, Brian had the Camaro repaired, and you can see it on prime time this fall when all eight episodes air.
By The Numbers
Engine: 418ci LS3, Holley HP fuel injection system, ported L92 heads, COMP Cams hydraulic roller cam (.614-inch lift, 239 degrees duration at .050), 50-lb/hr FAST injectors
Transmission: T56 six-speed manual out of a Dodge Viper
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 3.89 gears, TrueTrac posi
Suspension: DSE full front subframe (front), DSE Quadralink (rear), JRI double-adjustable coilover shocks
Brakes: Baer 6S 6-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors (front), Corvette Z06 four-piston rear brakes
Steering: DSE rack-and-pinion
Wheels & Tires: Rushforth Livewire (18x10 and 18x12), BFG KDW (295/35R18 and 335/30R18)
1967 Ford Mustang
Ron Coon, Gilbert, AZ
This '67 Mustang has really been passed around Ron Coon's family; all three of Ron's sons received the little coupe as their first car when they were in high school. We figured they'd be upset to pass it on, but Ron made the decision easy by always replacing it with cool modern muscle. Once his last son had handed the keys back, Ron decided it was time to have some real fun with the pony. He'd been pondering turning it into a track car ever since attending a Shelby Mid-America event. At first he thought he wanted to make it vintage class legal, but after investigating the requirements he quickly realized he'd rather have modern parts and performance. Realizing that the stock parts still had value, Ron went around Phoenix talking to different shops hoping to find one that would give him credit for the value of the parts. The Mustang Shop of Arizona does a great deal of restoration business as well as modification, so they were happy to trade. Nowadays, rather than hiding in a garage, the coupe spends most of its time October through May on NASA autocross tracks in the HPD3 class, and occasionally on big tracks like Firebird Raceway, Buttonwillow, and Phoenix International Raceway. The car works so well, Ron is even pondering stepping up to full-on competition in the American Iron series.
By The Numbers
Engine: 520hp Roush 427ci Windsor stroker with 4340 forged crank and H-beam rods, Wiseco forged pistons with plasma moly ring and lightweight pins, 205cc Roush aluminum heads with 2.02/1.60-inch valves. Roush Intake with a Holley 750-cfm carb
Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed with Hurst shifter
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with Detroit Locker and 3.50 gears
Suspension: The Mustang Shop front coilover suspension, Chassisworks four-link rear with Panhard bar and coilovers.
Brakes: Wilwood 6-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors up front, 4-piston in the rear
Steering: The Mustang Shop power rack-and-pinion
Wheels & Tires: 18x9 American Racing Torq-Thrust M with 245/40R18 tires
1969 Ford Mustang
Erich Bollman, New Castle, DE
It's hard for new shops to make their mark in an industry full of innovative builders like the current crop of hot rodders out there. But if you're going to do it, one of the best ways is to showcase your talents in steel-then drive it hard on the autocross during the Street Machine of the Year competition in Columbus, Ohio. For some reason, Erich Bollman and his crew at Christiana Muscle Cars tend to get a lot of '69 Mustangs in the shop, so it just seemed natural to put forth their best effort on one of the cars that was helping build their business. This '69 SportsRoof, nicknamed "Nasty" after a Marine friend of Erich's, was built as a Street Machine of the Year contender last year. The Murray Pfaff-penned design took four years to build in-between customer cars, and features tons of custom body mods, such as the '68-style body cove and extended rockers. Nasty was well received and handled the autocross course with ease, but fell just a bit short of the Top Five. They did, however, garner a Ford Muscle award, plus plenty of attention for the shop, which is far more important in the long run anyway. Erich tells us that he has other ideas brewing for shop projects, so Nasty may be up for sale very soon. Get in touch quickly if you can see yourself behind the wheel of one nasty 5.4L-powered Mustang!
By The Numbers
Engine: 550hp supercharged Shelby 5.4L, Eaton Supercharged
Transmission: Tremec six-speed manual
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with Moser axles and 3.73 gears
Suspension: custom front suspension with RideTech ShockWaves, RideTech FourBar rear suspension
Brakes: SSBC 6-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors (front and rear)
Steering: power rack-and-pinion
Wheels & Tires: Bonspeed Quicksilver wheels (19x8 and 19x10), BFG KDW tires