Combine that with the general trend toward parts designed for handling and overall performance, the continual decline of attendance at dragstrips and closures, and the large surge in interest and attendance at autocross, open track, and rally type events, and it’s clear the tide is changing. It’s not just our opinion or provincial sphere; when we speak to shops about what they’re building, and what customers are asking about, 99 out of 100 are looking for all-around cars that take corners.
It’s becoming a badge of honor as well. Goodguys Street Machine of the Year competitors are required to run through an autocross course, not a dragstrip, and events like the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational are becoming the places to be seen and prove yourself. We can blame OEM manufacturers for this. To be perfectly honest, in stock form, drag racing was really all that muscle cars and hot rods excelled at. OE chassis evolution means that even the lowliest 10-year-old commuter sedan has better dynamics and can out-corner just about anything offered pre-1980.
That has created elevated expectations among hot rodders, most of whom have late-model daily drivers or have at least taken a turn behind the wheel of one. Cruising on vintage suspension that wallows around corners can drain the fun out of cruising in a classic. From our standpoint it seems clear: autocross, road race, and Pro Touring have become the benchmarks for hot rod style and performance.
Does that mean drag racing is uncool? Never! That’s why we built our big-block Ford-powered Project Fox. Low e.t.’s will always equal bragging rights, but we speculate quarter-mile specialized cars will be in the minority in the future. Feel free to email us your thoughts/hate mail!
There’s no doubt that when it comes to making horsepower, it’s never been easier or more plentiful. These days 500 hp is the new 400, and 300 is not even in the game unless it’s a V-6. Some claimed EPA restrictions would be the death of performance, but so far it’s been nothing but onward and upward with a nice helping of good fuel economy on the side. There’s never been a better time in history to be swapping bigger and more powerful modern engines into vintage steel.
Actually, those same emissions regulations have led to a heretofore unheard of move from an OEM manufacturer: GM’s E-Rod program. Smog-era malaise is a now a nonissue, since a properly installed E-Rod provides a clear path to 430 naturally aspirated horsepower that idles peaceably, gets respectable mileage, and blows EPA-approved air from the pipes. We took that path for our EcoNova project with an LS3 package straight from GM’s Corvette assembly line. Can you say perfect daily driver muscle car?
Want more? We’ve even heard of rumblings about homologating certain 50-state parts from the Camaro to also be legal on E-Rod swaps when properly installed, since there’s effectively no difference beyond the wrapper. Yes, that could mean emissions-legal blowers and turbos in muscle cars. Packages like the E-Rod (and a similar program that may eventually be offered through Ford Racing based on the Coyote) will be important assets down the road as emissions regulations get more restrictive. Even more importantly, the fact that these programs even exist and are getting OEM support represents an important shift in how the hobby is being viewed by the outside world.