Like a poorly told donkey vs. priest story, the USCC is one of those 'you had to be there' experiences. Engineering Editor Chen seriously had a nightmare prior to the event, with all sorts of horrible visions flying through his mind. And it's not just us that take the USCC this seriously. To many of the competitors, this is the place to stake out their A-game. The time when bank accounts are drained, experimental new mods are thrown on with a quick prayer for back-up and egos are laid right on the line.
To the casual observer, it's all about the numbers: lap times, skidpad gs, quarter-mile ETs, dyno figures, car show scores and miles per gallon. But the USCC is more than just scores and formulas. There's also a healthy dose of head scratching, frustration, scheming and fierce competition that can only be borne out of a 10-way slug-fest. Every team went home on friendly terms and no entrants were drop-kicked during the course of the event, but some great memories were created this year at the carnival of madness known as the 2007 Ultimate Street Car Challenge. Here's a small sample...
K&N Engineering once again agreed to open up its R&D facility for our tests and, before they could wise up, we managed to rope in various staff members to help us dyno and direct cars. Watching them strap down and run car after car in such a short span of time was impressive. With Dynojet and Superflow four-wheel-drive dynos side-by-side, as well as a sizeable parking area and drive-on lift outside, K&N Engineering is one of the few facilities that can actually house the USCC. At least it wasn't 150 degrees outside this year.
When it came time to decide who was the ultimate die-hard USCC entrant and fan, we ended up with a two-way tie. Think you want to enter really badly? You got nothing on these guys.
Dave Dunn built a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive Acura Integra in his garage, all by himself, on a modest budget. Then, showing some serious faith in his engineering project, drove five days straight from North Carolina to Calfornia for the annual Eibach Honda meet, where we met him and his creation. After being convinced to enter the USCC, Dunn drove across the country again, this time with his son, Eric, and arrived in California with tire troubles. The guys at Falken Tire were on top of their game, though, supplying Dunn with replacement Azenis RT-615 street tires after his initial problems, and later as well, after our test driver flat-spotted the rears on all three braking runs. Dunn, who had little space to carry more than a basic tool bag, is pictured here adjusting his front-end alignment after swapping tires the first time.
After bumping his daughter's baptism ceremony to make the USCC, Mike Kim decided to make the straight 19-hour drive from Bothell, Washington down to Riverside, California in his near-solidly suspended, open-cockpit Ariel Atom. Wearing shorts and a full-face helmet, Kim ended up with a lobster-red, scorched sunburn on his arms and legs. A one-man wrecking crew who didn't even pack a screwdriver, Kim proceeded to slog through all 15 of our grueling USCC tests without a single complaint. Even following the post-awards dinner gathering, when most entrants are eager to dive face-first into a soft bed, Kim decided to begin his return journey. The next day, he was back in Bothell.
The Engineering Guru Panel test committee is always made up of some of the most technical members of the aftermarket industry. This year would prove to be no different. From left to right: Jack Burns (founder of racing exhaust component manufacturer Burns Stainless), Jay Morris (from suspension expert Ground Control), John McNulty (SCC contributor and aerodynamics professional), Mike Kent (SCC contributor, engineer extraordinaire and head guru) and John Concialdi (USCC regular and Chief Engineer at AEM).
A riot and a half all by himself, James Chen from Axis Wheels arrived in his usual yellow garb, ready and willing for the Car Show test. Although the over-the-top yellow shoes, shirt and watch paled in comparison to the Lamborghini Countach Chen showed up in. Not quite the exotic supercar it sounds on paper, but the Countach's faded paint and sputtering exhaust note made an interesting distraction.
Don't say we never give you anything. Thanks to the help of some gracious sponsors (who know how much effort it takes to be in the USCC) we had a Sony PSP, PaRappa the Rapper PSP game, Dragon sunglasses, Mechanix Wear gloves, case of Eneos synthetic oil, Best Motoring DVD, Mothers car care products and Alpinestars bag for each team. That's right, we had 11 of each of these puppies stacked up in our office before the USCC. One set for each entrant, and one full set for the lucky reader who picked the USCC winner out of our November 2007 issue. Here's hoping it's you.