All year long, the staffs of car magazines everywhere prepare tech stories and features on the cars of their choosing, be that of in-house projects, or finished jewels they find out on the road. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with holding up stellar examples of the breed for all to see, for the most part, the projects of rank-and-file readers—the backbone of any magazine readership—are largely ignored. The fact of the matter is, though these cars might not always be the most lavishly built, they are the cars that are in our garages. They mean a lot to us, even if they are still works in progress.

Popular Hot Rodding recognized years ago that the vast, silent majority of our readers never got the smallest shout-out in print. Not only was this wrong, the fact was, we weren't accurately representing the cars and equipment of our readers. There is a lot of cool hardware out there being built—both mainstream stuff and off-the-wall. Some of it might not be ready for prime time yet, but that's not to say there isn't anything interesting to see. The thing is, we all have a natural curiosity about what other regular guys have in their garages. We see them at car shows, drag races, and autocrosses when they're finished, but we never get to see them up close when they're going together. We also don't get the full background story, because as you well know when you're at a show, the owner is never around!

For this issue of PHR, the readers got to decide what's in the magazine. Back in our June issue, we put out the call for your in-progress projects, and this story is the result of that callout. To sweeten the pot, we asked the cool tire dudes at Mickey Thompson to give up a set of their new Street Comp ultra high performance tires to the project with the best combination of execution and photography, and they agreed. The catch? We asked you to pick up the camera, shoot some high-res pix of your in-progress project, fill out the form, and write a short one-page story. If you followed our directions and got your stuff in by the deadline, it's in here.

We're pleased to announce that Tom Craig of Converse, Texas, won the Readers' Projects Contest Sponsored By Mickey Thompson by submitting some beautifully composed shots of his LS-powered 1966 Chevy II Nova project. Tom has performed almost all of the work himself at home, and his project difficulty and performance goals are quite lofty. The thing that put us over the top was the care he took in taking his photos. The photo composition, setting, and lighting was quite nearly in the pro ballpark, and when the total sum of all these factors were considered together as a whole, we had no choice but to crown Tom as our winner.

In the January issue, look for the results for the Popular Hot Rodding Photo Contest Sponsored By Auto Meter. Stay tuned!

Mickey Thompson Street Comp Tires
Tom Craig of Converse, Texas, is the winner of our Readers' Projects contest, and he receives a free set of Mickey Thompson Street Comp tires to outfit his '66 Chevy II Nova! These high-performance driving shoes have a sexy asymmetric tread design that works well in both wet and dry. With a UTQG treadwear rating of 300 and traction/temp grades of "AA" and "A" respectively, the Street Comp is a great all-around tire for the street and occasional track use. The Mickey Thompson Street Comp tire is built for ultra high performance applications, and provides incredible traction, crisp handling, and high-speed cornering ability with the outstanding appearance you'd expect from a Mickey Thompson tire. They also have a great look for muscle cars and will complement Tom's hot LS-powered performer. The Street Comp is a tire that we're very excited about here at PHR because it's built specifically for our heavier mid and fullsized muscle car classics in beefy widths with rim sizes from 17 to 20 inches.

Mickey Thompson Street Comp Sizes
245/45R17 255/45R18
275/40R17 235/50R18
235/55R17 245/40R19
235/40R18 285/35R19
275/35R18 255/40R19
245/40R18 255/35R20
225/45R18 275/35R20
275/40R18 275/40R20
245/45R18 245/45R20

1966 Chevy II
Tom Craig; Converse, TX
The story of project Super Nova, as Tom Craig calls it, began a little over two years ago while writing the cover letter to his entry in PHR's 2010 photo contest. His intent at the time was to build an LS-powered 1966 Chevy II, but a remark from his wife altered the plans a bit. "That looks like a granny car," is something no man wants to have in the back of his mind while heaping time, sweat, and money into a project car, so the Chevy II morphed into a 1968 Camaro Z/28.

That's really not such a bad compromise, but the lust for a well-built Chevy II still picked at Tom's mind. After much searching he finally came across a complete and solid six-cylinder hardtop. It had never been raced or abused, but did have a nicely done small-block conversion. And it was affordable! Tom was so excited about the find that the only driving time he put on the car when it arrived was from the transport trailer to his garage for disassembly. He had his vision and he was ready to start immediately.

At first, the build began slowly, however, when Tom and his wife decided to part with the Camaro, the build ramped up quickly. That doesn't mean that it was going to come easy, though. Tom says this build has really caused him to challenge himself to learn and do more. Some quality time with his dad and a Millermatic 140 welding machine yielded new floorpans and a support brace. After that confidence-builder, Tom went on to add Detroit Speed and Engineering mini-tubs, and even cleaned up and flattened the factory firewall. With the tub solid, Tom tore out the factory suspension for a full upgrade front and rear with Total Cost Involved (TCI). He had always planned to create a Chevy II that could handle, so TCI's Pro Touring front clip and torque arm three-link rear suspension were the choice. Of course it had to be LS powered as originally planned, so an LS3 and a Master Shift prepped 4L70E were paired with a Holley Dominator EFI system.

More good news for the Chevy II project: Tom just completed a 30x40 shop that will give him the space, capability, and motivation to really spend some time building the Chevy II he's always wanted. We dare say, we think even his wife will like it when he's done!

Engine: LS3 with COMP Cams Stage 2 cam
Trans: GM 4L70E with Yank Performance 3,600-stall converter
Rearend: Currie 9-inch with 3.70 gears
Suspension: TCI Engineering Pro Touring front clip, TCI Engineering torque arm three-link in the rear
Brakes: Wilwood discs
Wheels & Tires: 17- and 18-inch Budnik wheels with Mickey Thompson tires
Future plans: When finished, the Chevy II's paint will be some shade of metallic silver with a bright red interior.