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I've got to give a tip of the hat to Bill Tichenor of Holley for almost single-handedly planning and presenting the Holley LS Fest, which took place at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this past September. While I was there, I got a sneak peek at Tichenor's "punch list" of to-do items, and it nearly gave me a headache! The event ran so smoothly, I would never have given a second thought to how much effort went into it.
The idea for LS Fest is to promote all things LS-powered. Older classics, late-model iron, GM-bodied cars, and anything else running an LS-based engine was invited to participate. In spite of the open call, I expected it to pretty much be dominated by late-model Camaros and Corvettes (especially since Bowling Green is home to the Corvette plant). Plenty of those were in attendance, but I was surprised that most of the cars were older, and not just GM classics either. Among the more notable "freaks": an LS-powered Mazda RX-7, a pair of Corvairs, a VW Karman Ghia, and a Fox-bodied Mustang.
Tichenor, like a lot of other intrepid hot rodders, has seen the future and embraced the modern build ethic. A large segment of our hobby has undertaken the modernization of hot rods with zeal, employing late-model drivetrains and electronic systems to the point where nothing but the car's classic skin is retained. One of the more impressive examples of this was Mark Stielow's '69 Camaro, which has a 7.0L LS7 short-block with the LS9 blower assembly, a six-speed manual gearbox, antilock brakes from the C6 Corvette, and even the C6's stability control system. It's basically a modded ZR-1 Corvette masquerading as a '69 Camaro. Yikes! The length of Stielow's build punch list must have rivaled Tichenor's for sure. We're going o be bringing you all the action from the Holley LS Fest very shortly, and we've also got a photo shoot on Stielow's Camaro lined up, so stay tuned.
In spite of all the LS-engine, high-tech "go-fever," there is still a large population of the hobby that embraces the old school. I'd reckon that better than half of guys fall into that category for one reason or another, whether it's for budget reasons, lack of local resources, mechanical skills, or just plain nostalgia for the old days. No matter what camp you're in, you've probably noticed that there is a fair amount of debate-usually by message board "experts"-over what build style is best. As long as that debate is healthy, it's all for the betterment of the hobby. Nevertheless, the Internet has spawned a vitriolic rift between the haves and the have-nots. At a time when our hobby is under assault by politicians and regulators, we need to pull together and act with one voice.
Sometimes the debate spills over into letters we get. Every time we feature a high-end build that pushes the limits of engineering, fabrication, and styling, we get email criticizing us of cuddling up to check-writing rich guys and pandering advertisers. All of a sudden, that's all we feature, we've lost touch with reality, and the editor has gone off the deep end. Then we'll run a bucks-down classic built by a youngster using stuff lying around and a lot of homegrown elbow grease. Now, we're lazy idiots because we can't scare up a decent spendy car to feature (usually the complainer's). We're paradoxically accused of being high-dollar and slum dog at the very same time.
But then something magical happens. Every year, we run our photo contest, which is a de facto Readers' Rides issue. The same thing happens with our annual Readers' Projects issue. Suddenly, the true depth and breadth of the muscle car world is revealed in all its glory. In this issue, we show no bias, other than toward photographic excellence. It turns out, there is no right or wrong way to build a hot rod. There is only "to build" or "not to build." So turn off the Internet, grab a beer, and enjoy reading about what real-guy hot rodders are doing.