Monday, March 11, 2013

Revolution!-Trucks Invade the Optima Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational


Autocross definitely owes at least some of its popularity and success to the pro touring movement, which has become a huge influence on truck owners. But to be honest, I think the car guys that claim to have started the movement really stole it from the truck guys.

Yes, autocross events are full of pro touring-style cars that are usually classic automobiles built to handle like modern sports cars, and are capable of being driven from coast to coast without any problems. While most of the car guys won’t admit it, I feel that the pro touring movement took its winning play right out of the truck owner’s handbook. For decades truck owners have been modifying everything under the sun on their rides to increase performance, drivability and reliability.

One manufacturer has developed an event that offers an outlet to the world’s finest automotive minds, an event that offers a level playing field to the best vehicles. I’m talking about Optima Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational, or OUSCI for short. Last year marked the fifth running of the event that is held at Spring Mountain raceway in Pahrump, Nevada, the Saturday following the last day of the SEMA Show.

There are two ways to get your car in the event: win your way in by finishing on top at one of the approved qualifying events, usually a Good guys or an American Street Car series event, or be lucky enough to get a “golden ticket” from one of the Optima representatives who walk the isles at the SEMA Show.

Each year, 60 vehicles get the invite to come out and battle in these five categories: Street Driving/Open Road/Rally Competition, Autocross, Acceleration/Braking, 2.5-mile Road Course and Performance/Design Competition. This is center stage to drivers, builders and SEMA manufacturers, because the “put up or shut up” theme runs rampant throughout the pits.

Historically, trucks have been the underdog at all autocross events, because of their design. This has made the car the undisputed contender as far as putting together a successful program that will allow someone to go out and win races. However, 2012 brought many changes to the autocross and pro touring world, because the truck guys have been doing their homework. Autocross trucks are fast trucks and consistently ran at the top throughout the year at many of the Goodguys and ASCS events.

Validation of that success came in the form of official invites to the OUSCI. While some of the truck guys qualified in early with a win at a previous event, others had to sweat things out as they walked the halls of SEMA with their fingers crossed for a shot at receiving the coveted Golden Ticket.

This year more trucks were added to the competitors list than ever before. I hate to spoil the big surprise, but the winning vehicle wasn’t a truck, the car guys were victorious once again, but the big story of the event was that trucks held more than just their own. All five truck competitors finished in the top 25 out of more than 50 competitors, proving to the world that trucks can perform just as well, if not better than their counterparts with back seats.

Let’s take a look at the lineup.



Curt Hill
1972 Chevrolet Blazer
Finished 23rd
406 Dart SBC 500-plus-hp
Porterbuilt suspension
12-bolt differential with 3:73 gears
13-inch brakes, Intro wheels

Built at Hills Rod and Custom in Pleasant Hills, CA, shop owner Curt Hill talked long time friend Brett Alworth into allowing him to drive this awesome Blazer at the 2012 event. Although Curt himself was new to autocross, he showed the fresh build no mercy as he pushed the Blazer to its limit in all five events. He brings new meaning to “drive it like you stole it,” and a few times I don’t know who was more nervous, Brett watching Curt slide the thing around the first turn time after time on the road course, or Curt trying to keep it straight and on the track.  I guess it’s a good thing that Brett is friends with an awesome mechanic!




Rob Macgregor
1969 Chevrolet C-10
Finished 15th
LS 500-plus-hp
No Limit Engineering one-off chassis
Quick-change rear differential with floater hubs
Wilwood Wide Five brakes, custom wheels

This truck has had a target on its back since it debuted in April 2012 at the Del Mar Nationals. Owner/driver Rob Macgregor and his crew at No Limit Engineering built the truck, known to many of its followers as Hellboy.  Numerous wins have put the truck on top, and it’s the 2012 Goodguys truck class champ. There was some controversy that surrounded Rob and the ’69 C-10, including the big East coast/West coast rivalry with fellow OUSCI competitor the Summers and Sons team with their Saturday Night Special C-10. Rob had his work cut out to quiet the rumors that Hellboy wasn’t street worthy. He put everything them rest when he jumped in the truck at the SEMA show floor and drove the 100 miles to Pahrump with the radio blaring as the fuel mileage held in at around 22 mpg! Any time you mix exceptional handling with great ride quality, plus a low stance and big horsepower, you’ll be a winner, and that’s been No Limit’s goal since the beginning.





Phil Gerber
1970 Chevrolet C-10
Finished 12th
LS 700-plus-hp
Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis
Afco billet coil-overs
Wilwood brakes, Forgeline wheels

During one of the Goodguys events this past summer, someone asked me  what business the Roadster Shop had building a truck to go out and beat on, which I thought was kind of funny. I said, “Do you always phrase your questions with the answer first? Maybe you should go on Jeopardy!” Simply put, yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s fast, and yes, it’s a truck. If the name isn’t familiar, or you think that the shop only builds roadsters, then think again. Phil Gerber and the guys at the Roadster Shop mean business, and want to go fast—real fast. This truck is another one that has stirred the pot on the Goodguys circuit because it has been beating up the top car and truck contenders since its debut mid-season last year. After they worked out the bugs in the truck from the previous season, they pulled it apart to paint and shine it up enough to be featured in the Optima Batteries booth at the 2012 SEMA Show.




Chris Smith
1967 Chevrolet C-10
Finished 16th
383 SBC 500-plus-hp
No Limit Engineering Wide Ride suspension
Ride Tech Shockwaves
Moser-equipped rear differential
Wilwood brakes, Forgeline wheels

Back in 1999 when Mike and Chris Smith opened up a shop in Tiffin, Ohio, events like the OUSCI were around to allow shops just Like Smitty’s Custom Automotive showcase their talents in fit and finish, but also in performance. Through hard work and by providing excellent service, their shop has grown to 7,500 square feet and now employs seven craftsmen specializing in building show cars and trucks while having a great time. This year, the guys made the trek out from Ohio with this beautiful ’67 small window C-10 to show everyone that even a truck that’s on air and can lay out, will out corner even the best of them. Show-winning fit and finish is nothing new to these guys, as they’ve had some success in the show car world, including an Autorama Great 8 pick back in 2010, however Chris made sure that nobody called the C-10 a trailer queen at Pahrump because he drove it hard all day. Watch for this truck at an event later this year; the shop has big plans for this one.




Brad Coomer
1970 Chevrolet C-10
Finished 24th
LS 500-plus-hp
No Limit Engineering Wide Ride suspension
Ride Tech coil-overs
Quick-change rear differential with floater hubs
Wilwood Wide Five brakes, Custom wheels

There must be something in the water in the Midwest because everybody from that area is involved in some kind of racing. With that said, the name Trent Summers might be familiar to you if you frequent the Goodguys autocross circuit. Trent is the operations coordinator for all of the events. Watching everybody run their stuff time and time again gave Trent the itch to join in the fun and show some of the car guys a thing or two about how to tune a vehicle’s suspension. But with Trent running the show how would he be able to pull double duty? Enter Brad Coomer, who can be found over at the Summers and Sons compound every now and then and has been more than happy to not only lend his expertise on building this ‘70 C-10 named the Saturday Night Special, but also to show the truck and its competitors no mercy as he did in Columbus last July where he drove the SNS to the win and an invite to the 2012 OUSCI.

Needless to say, trucks will continue to make a huge impression on the car guys for many years to come. One advantage that we truck guys still have over cars is the fact that no matter how fast they think they are, girls still love trucks more!

Text and Photos by Marcel Venable

7 comments:

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