Each MCOTY competitor was given 10 chances to run each of the three tests—drag race, speed/stop, and autocross. The PHR staff duly recorded each car’s run in every class, and every competitor had to finish at least three clean laps in each test event, with the maximum number of tries capped at 10. To tabulate the results, we simply took the three best times in each “event,” averaged them, and added all three averages together. With the drag race portion, it was pretty straightforward—anything that would get you disqualified in a regular drag race (red lighting, crossing the centerline, and so on) would get that run tossed. In the speed/stop challenge, the rules were the same, except with the added requirement that cars stop completely inside the stop box. Sliding out the back of the box, knocking over a cone, or any part of the car coming to rest outside the stop box would result in a DQ run. At the autocross, the standard penalty of 1 second per knocked-over cone was in force.

Each team was allowed one set of tires for the entire event, and the treadwear rating for the tires was limited to a minimum of 200 (i.e. no changing to slicks during the drag race). Each team was allowed the driver of their choice, and teams were not allowed to change drivers between events. Also, drivers were not allowed to pilot multiple cars, as has been the case in other competitions. Simply put: Drivers and their cars were married monogamously throughout the length of the MCOTY competition.

And while there was no “judged” portion of the MCOTY for aspects like true streetability, overall engineering, originality, build/bodywork/paint quality, or suitableness for a given job, we did establish minimum requirements for roadworthiness. All cars were required to have a reasonably complete interior, finished bodywork in good condition with a completed paintjob, street equipment (headlights, turn signals), tags, and a valid registration. Cars also had to pass both an NHRA and SCCA safety inspection. Beyond that, it was our goal to have a variety of makes and build styles represented.

Drum Roll Please …

When the dust settled, some of the results were pretty predictable, while some really threw us a curveball. The fact that Detroit Speed won with their incredibly well-sorted ’66 Mustang didn’t take many by surprise—they’ve been testing their white blur of a fastback for the last year and a half with almost reckless abandon. The simple fact is, once the Ford world figures out how good the DSE Mustang parts really are and how noninvasive they are to install, it will reset the bar in the Blue Oval world. Mustang men—you are in for a wonderful treat!

Then there’s the Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop (JHRS) ’66 Chevy II Nova SS. For such a shining jewel of a car to roll right out of the JHRS shop and onto our tarmac without so much as having turned a tire in anger, and for it to finish Fourth overall without a hiccup is absolutely amazing. It is the one car in the MCOTY competition we would most want to drive on a daily basis. Alan Johnson has once again proven why he is one of the top car builders in the land; he not only makes them knockout gorgeous, but they are also equally capable performers.

We dare any home-based hot rodder to claim he’s made a larger commitment, put in more build hours, or sacrificed more than Bob Bertelsen in his quest to build his ’71 Camaro. It is truly the equal of most pro-built Pro Touring cars, yet as an owner, Bob is decidedly different than his more well-heeled peers in that building every part of his car has imbued him with the confidence to push his machine to its limit without fear of damaging it. There’s simply nothing on the car he could break that he couldn’t fix, and if he did, it would only be an opportunity to make it better. You can buy a car like Bob’s, but you’ll never be Bob, no matter how fat your bankroll.

YearOne’s ’73 Trans Am McQ twins have probably put to rest once and for all the argument over which is faster in a straight line: turbos or blowers. Both cars are for all practical purposes identical, but the twin turbo was so much faster through the dragstrip speed traps that there was no contest. Controlling all that boost on the autocross, however, is another matter. While the turbo car was technically quicker around the autocross, it was far trickier to drive than the blown car with its more linear power delivery. For the drags, give us the turbo. For the autocross, the blower will be faster in the hands of most drivers.

The biggest heartbreak of the day was arguably Jon Clark’s Plymouth Valiant. The flyweight Mopar showed serious potential early on with amazing performances on the dragstrip and in the braking test, but on literally the last lap of the day, the diminutive A-Body just could not complete the autocross, even after turning two very respectable laps in the 54-second range. In the end, we learned much about what it takes to build a well-rounded Mopar performer, and we plan to crib a few tricks from the Flat Bastard if we get management’s go-ahead to move on our own ’68 Valiant project car.

What can we possibly say about the Roadster Shop ’70 C10 truck other than watch out muscle car guys, sometimes an old truck can clean your clock! Classic trucks like the ’67-72 Chevy C10 are not only way cheaper to buy than Camaros and Chevelles of the same year and condition, they’re relatively light compared to today’s trucks. Pull the old clunky chassis out, bolt in a Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis with an LS/T56 powertrain, and go hunting for six-figure exotics on the autocross, road course, or autobahn. We’ve made bones about how DSE spent the last year-and-a-half tweaking their Mustang stuff—well, the Roadster Shop is no less fanatical and has spent at least as long fine-tuning their Fast Track chassis for the C10, with the result being much the same. You’ll be hard pressed to find a quicker setup for a muscle truck than the Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis. If it had been a muscle car and not a truck, the Roadster Shop’s C10 would’ve been our winner with a best overall score of 72.987. Alas, it is a truck, and could only run MCOTY as an exhibition vehicle. Embarrassment spared.

With the 2012 MCOTY in the books, we look forward to 2013 and the fresh and as-yet-unfinished cars it will bring. This year, we saw dominating performances by a few builders, privateers, and suspension manufacturers, but we know there are others out their lurking on the sideline, waiting for the chance to strike. With any luck, we will find them, and shine a very bright light on them for the world to see. In the meantime, you can enjoy the 2012 MCOTY video coverage on our YouTube channel (, and you can see all the photos in our MCOTY gallery at Look for details on the 2013 MCOTY in the spring!

Final Results: Muscle Car Of The Year

Rank:Team/car:Drag:Speed/Stop:Autocross:Final score:
1DSE ’66 Mustang12.5479.24451.55073.342
2Kevin King ’73 Trans Am11.8039.26753.99975.069
3Ringbrothers Producer Mustang12.6839.83954.03376.554
4JHRS ’66 Nova SS13.8089.67453.37176.853
5Bob Bertelsen ’71 Camaro13.1499.66455.77178.584
6Mike Cunningham ’73 Trans Am12.6869.94558.21080.840
7Jon Clark ’68 Plymouth Valiant12.6639.543DNFDNF
8Kevin Miller ’69 Camaro12.844DNF51.645DNF
9Kenny Edwards ’66 Mustang12.462DNSDNSDNF
10Mike Coughlin ’71 Chevy VegaDNFDNSDNSDNF
EXHRoadster Shop ’70 C10 Chevy truck12.3079.32351.35772.987

DNS = did not start, DNF = did not finish, EXH = exhibition