At Roadkill we’re not really car show people. Given the choice, we feel like cars are best seen in motion rather than surrounded by lawn chairs and crying baby dolls. HOWEVER, we get that sometimes just getting the car out of your garage is challenge enough, and once you get to a destination, you’d rather sit down with a cold drink and your friends than battle breakage on track. So we had a car show at the 2017 Zip-Tie Drags in Tucson, Arizona, and you known what? It was really fun! We enjoyed seeing all the weird and wacky machines people brought out, and it was a great mix of beautifully finished projects, unique takes on newer cars, and good old fashioned Roadkill leakers. Well done.
If it had been a traditional car show we probably would have awarded something like Best Paint to the pretty ’40 Ford or one of the customized pony cars. This was a Roadkill show though, so we made up our prizes as we walked through with Finnegan, Freiburger, and our special guest from Make-A-Wish, 10 year old Victor Gellineau. Victor had scanned the carshow before we got there, and he was insistent on his choice for winner, practically dragging Finnegan across the lot to Jim Hatzelis’ 1966 Dodge Coronet.
Jim’s 440-powered Mopar started as a tire purchase at a swap meet, and grew into the brightly-colored altered-wheel-base car that caught Victor’s eye. “I traded a ’66 Satellite for the Coronet,” says Jim. “I liked the Dodge lines better.” He built a wooden rotisserie to clean up the body in his backyard, and made almost everything, dash, door panels, wheel tubs, motor plates. The rest he found on eBay, including the front axle from a ’58 Ford pickup. The paint was a local job, less than $800, and Jim designed the lettering and decals. The “J&R Auto Sales,” sponsor is a nod to his wife, Rhonda, who joins him in the car collecting hobby, and was at the Zip-Tie Drags with her own mod-top Mopar. “It took me about 10 months in all to finish. And yes, I drive this car on the street, even with the 4:56 gears. It gets about 4 mpg, but what a blast. Thanks again to Roadkill and Victor from Make-a-Wish.”
WINNER: Victor’s Choice – 1966 Dodge Coronet – Jim Hatzelis
Just around the corner from Jim and Rhonda’s cars were a couple of big beasts that stopped Fin in his tracks. We all know Finnegan has a soft spot for boats, and that includes the kind on four wheels. “That is amazing,” he said admiring the heavenly combination of snowy-white paint and interior topped by a subtle shimmer of blue on a lowered and shaved Cadillac. “This is the car I want,” he told Victor. “I’d put my boat motor in it.”
The car’s owner Joe Enterline might have something to say about that, since he spent six years bring the Cad to its current glory, and it already boasts a pretty nice engine swap—a 6.0 out of a 2004 Escalade backed by a 700R4, which makes it extra Cadillacky, for you purists. The car sits pretty on airbags, and every bit of work, from the metal flake roof to the shaved door handles and modernized drive train was done by Joe in his home garage. “I’m not a professional mechanic. I’m actually a fire chief, but my dad and all my uncles were into cars, and I learned the skills from them.” Joe is the second owner of his Cadillac. When he bought it at the Pomona Swapmeet in Pomona, California, around 2010, it had been sitting in a garage since 1972. “I bought it just to make a driver, but one bolt led to all the bolts and then a full frame up. The Zip-Tie cruise was its first long road trip.” Joe and his dad Larry made the journey a family adventure as a birthday present for his 13 year old son, Anthony.
WINNER: Car that Finnegan Most Wants to Put his Boat Motor In – 1961 Cadillac – Joe Enterline
Freiburger isn’t one to car show when there’s a drag strip nearby, so when we asked him for input on his best in show he immediately answered, “Unimog,” and then went off to race Steve Dulcich in a muscle truck showdown.
The Unimog is a 1962 Mercedes 404 ambulance belonging to Robbie Laity, a Tucson local. Robbie tells us the truck is running the stock M180 engine “with civilian ignition conversion,” and a whopping 85 German horses behind its mesh grille. “The drive was interesting to say the least,” says Robbie. “Roadkill style, the 30 minute drive to the drag strip was the first time I’ve had that truck on the road around other vehicles so I was somewhat nervous. I was not sure if I would even make it there without breaking down but for the vehicle’s first trip and first car show, it did very well.” Robbie says the ‘mog is his first big restoration project, and he’s been learning a lot from rebuilding carbs, drum brakes, and working on the old engine. He plans to convert it into a day camper and portable workshop once all the mechanicals and rust issues are addressed.
WINNER: Freiburger’s Choice – 1962 Mercedes Unimog – Robbie Laity
We had a bunch of guest hosts with us at the Zip-Tie Drags from HOT ROD Garage’s Lucky Costa to House of Muscle’s Mike Musto, but only Roadkill Garage’s Steve Dulcich brought his kids along for the ride. A wander through the show field with the Dulcich clan led to an argument about whether or not a car can be cute. “How can a car be cute?” demanded Steve’s son, James. “They don’t have fur or anything.”
“They have little faces!” retorted Steve’s daughter, Emily, who promptly declared Brian Genda’s 1978 Mini Cooper the cutest of the cute. So there, James.
Hearing his car was just the cutest widdle thing made Brian laugh. “Yeah, it’s adorable, until you have to bend in half over the engine bay to fix something!” Brian would know, he’s done a lot of work on the low-mile, UK-bought Mini 850 since he bought 10 years ago while stationed overseas with the USAF. He chopped the roof, smoothed the body, painted it, and souped it up with a Stage 3 JonSpeed Racing 1275cc engine bored .060 over to make it a 1330. The lil guy is lowered and has upgraded brakes and suspension. There’s more, but if we list it all, this story will be bigger than the car.
WINNER: Cutest Car As Chosen By Steve Dulcich’s Daughter – 1978 Mini Cooper – Brian Grenda
Our next award was created based on a story we heard while walking through the show. A cheerful red beard in one of our original MINT design Roadkill shirts was leaning up against a 1964 Chevy truck. Beneath the beard and shirt was Mac Hoag, a Navy man from Lemoore, California. “I’ve been trying to catch up to you guys for two days now,” he said. “First I was just pulling into Irwindale Speedway as the last of the cruise was pulling out, then I made it to the lunch stop right after everyone left, and got to the track just as it was winding down Friday night.” Being always a step behind is pretty Roadkill, so we decided to give Mac an award.
Mac’s always-behind truck is a C10 longbed with the original small block 283 and aluminum 2-speed PowerGlide. It burns about as much oil as it does gas, and Mac had a couple of parts store stops on the way to Tucson. “I bought the truck in the Fresno area in non-running condition and have been putting it back together for a few months. This is my first project vehicle and has been an awesome learning experience. I’m trying to do a majority of the work myself to learn as much as possible,” he says, adding that none of the windows sealed against the rain and the wiring appeared to have been sewn together in the dark by a 4-legged spider. Well, he said it was bad, we embellished a little. Anyway, the point is that he didn’t think it would make the trip and he was really excited to let his wife—currently serving on the USS Carl Vinson—know that he’d made it to Arizona and back in his new project. “I’ve been watching the show from the beginning when I first came across it on YouTube while in the military,” he told us. “I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with next.”
WINNER: The Hour Behind Trophy – 1964 Chevy C10 – Mac Hoag
If Finnegan hadn’t already picked his winner, he probably would have chosen Tim Foster’s fire-breathing, breathtakingly slow Ford Courier pickup. Since he couldn’t give it the Fin’s choice, he awarded Tim the Muffler Bearing prize. It’s a pretty fine award for a truck that was purchased for less than $100. Tim did all the modification on the truck, from shoving bigger rubber under it and converting it to disc brakes to making a bumper and exhaust stack—which is a 36-inch glass pack with a spark plug to shoot flames. The engine is a 2.0L Mazda engine backed by a 5-speed. “Eventually it will get a 13b rotary turbo,” says Tim, “but I need to rebuild one of the two I have. Almost everything I built for the truck was from scrap I found in the desert. I drive it every day.”
WINNER: Best Use Of Muffler Bearing – Ford Courier – Tim Foster
You really can’t have a Roadkill car show without awarding someone for automotive overkill, and that’s how we ended up declaring Matt and Kat Leischer’s 6-71-topped 2006 Chrysler one of our show winners.
Matt’s flat-black 300 is a 6.1 Hemi bumped up to 6.5L with a K1 crank, forged H-beam rods, Wiseco pistons, and a Bullet camshaft. Of course it’s all crowned with that massive blower, and Matt says he bonds with his car parts by cuddling them and playing them good music during assembly. You can try it, but he says it doesn’t stop the engines from occasionally blowing up. “I’d never seen piston parts in the tailpipe before,” he says of the previous implosion, but it didn’t slow him down long. He’s clearly in it for fun, using the Chrysler to practice skills, from Plastidip coating to body mods. “The rear door handles have been shaved cause I wanted to try it. I failed but learned a lot. The front door handles are NOT shaved because I’ve lost remotes before.”
Matt says he and Kat had a great time at the Zip-Ties, because it wasn’t just about the big dogs or the fancy cars. “If you couldn’t race, you could show and hang out. if you raced, you didn’t have to be the ‘best’ or the ‘fastest’. If you couldn’t make the actual event, you could tag along for the cruise. If you couldn’t do any of it, you could still follow along with all the online and social media content that kept coming.
It’s very approachable and non-intimidating, like running into Mark Ruffalo in a grocery store.”
We’ll take your word for that, Matt, and you can take your prize.
WINNER: Most Mad Max -2006 Chrysler 300 – Matt Leischer
Here’s a true story; once Elana took her 1970 Dodge Challenger to a car show and won Second Place, losing top honors to a Ferrari…that was under a car cover the entire time. Yes, Roadkill cars can’t even win against a car that is not visible. In that spirit, we’ve picked our next winner even though the cab of the truck was totally full of luggage and junk all weekend. We knew what was underneath the toolboxes and dufflebags of David Carroll’s 1980 Chevy Luv pick up, and it was glorious.
David and his brother-in-law, Landon bought the Luv sight-unseen, picked it up the night before the cruise and drove down from Morgan Hill, California. “It’s 100-percent ‘80s retro one-off custom with velour and custom wood panels and even a velour shifter boot,” says David The velvet shifter boot alone won it the prize. The exterior is equally spectacular with flares, custom stripes and a Led Zeppelin mural on the tailgate. Somebody chromed the diff, leaf springs and even the lowering blocks.
David and Landon made a video about their Zip-Tie adventure, so you can experience the power of Luv.
WINNER: Best Interior – 1980 Chevy LUV – David Carroll (Norcal Garage)
Question: Does it pay to bribe Roadkill staffers?
Answer: We aren’t for sale, but please don’t stop trying.
Our next winner caught everybody’s eye on the cruise with an unusual 1969 Ford Cortina station wagon. Later the owner won over Elana completely by not only telling us that he once owned an Opel, but also handing over an Opel-branded sweatshirt. She claims the Cortina would have been her pick anyway, but we all know the truth.
That’s not to say Michael Fonfara’s wagon isn’t win-worthy, it’s a neat machine. Originally it came with a 1600cc four-cylinder making 57 horses, but Michael upgraded to 302 small block backed by a Tremec 5-speed and a Ford 8-inch rear. He says the drive out was fantastic, with only a loose starter and a small fuel tank slowing him down. “It was my self-given birthday present! It was so great to see you all, and I’d never been in Arizona either. I had a blast!”
WINNER: Elana’s Choice –1969 Ford Cortina – Michael Fonfara
And finally, for summing up the general do-what-you-like attitude of Roadkill, let’s take a look at Fernando Lizarraga’s turbo-charged, Jurassic Park Mazda Miata. “The whole idea of the build came to me when I couldn’t afford a Jeep,” Fernando told us. “In Arizona, Jeep prices are insane. I was building a drift car to start drifting again and the car was already red…. so I figured might as well go Jurassic Park on it. It was am instant hit with the crowd. After a year I decided to turbo it and make it more wild. The turbo setup came out of my crazy brain and was made reality by 18Fab on an 1.8L built by Silly Slow Miata. The widebody is from an FRS.”
We dug the cartoonish styling of the Miata, and the best part was when someone asked about the wing, and Fernando called it a “hater wing.”
“Does it work?” the first guy asked, rather doubtfully.
“It does if you hate it,” answered Fernando, and everybody laughed. You gotta have a sense of humor in this hobby. “It was really fun being the small import riding along all the sexy muscle cars,” Fernando says.
And for that confidence and enjoyment in the fun of machinery, we declare the Miata a winner.
WINNER: Best Use of Hater Wing – 2000 Mazda Miata – Fernando Lizarraga
We really enjoyed walking through the show field. Keep bringing such cool rides to our events and we might get won over to this whole car show thing! Everyone who entered got a free sample of 1-Tank from CRC, and our winners will be receiving some spectacular prizes attached to cheap wrenches thanks to our sponsors–with Jim Hatzelis claiming the top spot, thanks to Victor.
Car Show Overall Winner – Victor’s Choice
-NASCAR Experience Courtesy of McLeod
-Speed Strap Prize Pack
-Pioneer $500 Product Credit
-ARP $100 Product Credit