The very first PHR Muscle Car of the Year (MCOTY) competition would try to answer the question: Who’s got the quickest Pro Touring muscle car in the land? Mike Coughlin’s ’71 Chevy Vega (built by Woody’s Hot Rodz) was an obvious contender, though it posted a DNF due to teething problems.

The speed/stop event is one of three performance tests at the MCOTY. It’s an eighth-mile drag race with a stop box at the end. It’s a great test of both acceleration and stopping power, but above all else, it’s a test of driver skill. Here, the Detroit Speed ’66 Mustang showed why it was the top car in attendance.

The autocross circuit at MCOTY is significantly longer, faster, and with more turns than the typical Goodguys autocross. With lap times in the mid 50-second range, it’s closer to a short road course than an autocross. It’s a great test of street handling—perfect for Pro Touring cars like Jon Clark’s ’68 Valiant. The Valiant would just miss completing the MCOTY when gremlins took it out before finishing the final autocross lap.

The first ever MCOTY was held at National Trail Raceway, about 30 miles east of Columbus, Ohio. The invited competitors arrived early on the morning of Monday, July 9, around 7 a.m.—just in time for a drivers’ meeting given by PHR Editor Johnny Hunkins.

Think high-end show cars aren’t fast just because they have awesome paint and fabrication to die for? We know there are readers who question the capability of show-winning cars like those produced by Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop, so we invited Alan Johnson to bring Nathan Powell’s ’66 Nova to the fray. It was Fourth fastest overall.

The Ghostworks shop was a cornucopia of Pro Touring goodness in 2012—it produced not only Kevin King’s turbo’d LS7-powered ’73 TA, but John Cunningham’s Edelbrock-blown LS7-powered ’73 Trans Am. How could we invite one without the other? We were dying to know whether the turbo or the blower would reign.

Picking cars to invite to MCOTY wasn’t the easiest, since we only had space and time to test 10 cars. Fortunately, there’s always something new and crazy coming out of the YearOne/Ghostworks stable in Braselton, Georgia—like Kevin King’s 780 (rear wheel) horsepower twin-turbo ’73 Trans Am.

Last year, Kevin Miller came out of nowhere with this immaculately built ’69 Camaro. It’s homebuilt and features a suspension setup of Miller’s own creation. Over the last year, he caught our attention by winning and getting runner-up at a bunch of events. Normally a very reliable and consistent car, Miller’s Camaro failed to finish due to a problematic clutch.

Of the privateers in our bunch, Bob Bertelsen’s ’71 Camaro was the only car that you could say is a contender to win a major national car show. Yet at the same time it was also designed from the outset to be a regularly raced track performer. Having just been built, this was its first-ever track outing. Trust us, there’s way more left in it than a mid-pack finish.

We reserved space at MCOTY for last-minute contenders, knowing that we’d be combing the Goodguys event the weekend prior to MCOTY. We found the perfect car and owner/driver in the form of Kenny Edwards and his homebuilt ’66 Mustang. We were impressed with Edwards’ driving skills, and he was a contender until his engine expired.

The testing at National Trail Raceway went so smoothly for our first MCOTY event (thanks to the Ohio Valley Region of the SCCA!) that we’re thinking about adding more open spots for 2013. We will be announcing the next MCOTY soon, so if you want to apply for one of the open positions, keep an eye on PHR for the story—we’ll lay out all the entry parameters.

Nobody wanted to compete in the MCOTY more than the guys from the Roadster Shop, so they were absolutely devastated when the client who owned their ’69 Camaro pulled out the day before. Could the Camaro have won? We’ll never know, however, we did invite the boys to bring their ’70 C10 Chevy truck to make exhibition runs and soothe the pain. If it had been a muscle car, it would’ve been our overall winner.