The Roadkill Zip-Tie Drags in Memphis, Tennessee was the third in our event series this year, powered by Dodge. The general set up was the same as the previous events and included a car show, lottery-chosen race of fans against Freiburger and Finnegan, and the very popular and controversial $3000 Hooptie Challenge. We had a special guest from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we met a couple on their honeymoon–they were traveling the country in a Dodge Dakota, there was a naked Vette-kart tribute (only it was nice and fast and running) and if you saw the preview gallery, we even had a famous Top Fuel drag racer stop by.
The weather was hot and muggy, but the racing and socializing was a ton of fun, and Finnegan not only had his best run EVER in the Blasphemi, but finally got his wheelie out of the car. Twice! It was a major win and everyone was stoked. We also found out that the ramp truck can do a killer burnout, spinning two tires despite being a one-legger—they are just both on the same side, it’s a dually thing. We gave away lots of great sponsor prizes, and ate a lot of fried foods. Memphis is a great town. Here’s a giant recap of the event followed by an even more giant gallery. It’s so giant. Seriously, if you aren’t in the photo gallery, we don’t believe you were there.
It’s just not a Roadkill event if there aren’t minibikes, and we saw a bunch, from familiar faces like Detroit Minibike Outlaws, the Keresis, to new machines like the one Justin Wilcox brought out. “It’s like a small-block Chevy – any part you want to upgrade you can,” says Justin Wilcox of his 212 cubes of Harbor Freight fury. He guesses he’s more than doubled the original 6.5hp rating thanks to roller rockers, bigger cam, and a bunch of go-fast bits and that’s before you even factor in the sticker on the front. Justin hails from Cape Girardeau, MO but races his little moto all over the place, including Wisconsin and Texas.
Travis Davis brought out his 1978 Dodge Aspen, “Yankee Rose.” The ‘Rose is powered by a stroked small block Mopar, built by one of Car Craft magazine’s favorite builders, IMM engines. “I figured if John McGann trusted them, they must be good,” Travis told us. The 408 has a Scat crank, Keith Black pistons, FiTech EFI and makes around 500hp at the crank. It’s backed by a 727 trans and an 8 ¾. Those wild graphics and louvers are all ’78 factory. Groovy.
Mikie Smith’s ’71 ‘Ratsun’ 1200 became a little pocket rocket after he jammed in a 3.8L Buick six-pot he nabbed out of a ’97 Poncho Grand Prix, then turbocharged it. Some useless knowledge for ya: the Buick 3.8L had brief fame in Australia as the mid-range engine of choice for the beloved Holden Commodore sedans of the 90s. The Aussie fuzz also got upgraded sixer Commos with stage 5 tuning, extractors, stronger 4-speed ‘boxes, sports suspension and exhaust and – wait for it – larger diameter wheel nuts. Mikie’s Datto (that’s Australian for Datsun) would easily outrun the bronze though; “It probably makes 350hp. It’s about 2250lbs and I do high 6.30s in the eighth mile,” he says. “I want to upgrade the engine management since it’s stock Grand Prix, but that’ll take away from the junkyard build part of it!”
This ’79 Datsun truck was pulled out of a cow pasture and was up and running in just two weeks. Tim Harrison from Corning, AK worked on it with his brother Chris, who passed away earlier this year. The Datsun served as the funeral procession car for Chris, and it loudly played the song of our people thanks to the 12:1-compression KA24 with straight pipe exhaust dumping under the cab. Tim brought the car to the Zip-Tie Drags in honor of his brother, and made his first ever passes down a dragstrip. In keeping with the cow pasture theme, he took off a set of nicer wheels before rolling through the gates. “It’s Roadkill … you can’t come here with chrome!”
Lon Hammett LS-swapped his ’88 Chevy step side after he fried the 700R trans and it turned out to be cheaper than rebuilding it. He bought the mill for $750 and sold off stuff he didn’t need for $805. All he had to buy was motor mounts, coolant piping and some wiring before doing the deed in his open-air driveway in Huntsville, AL. Lon didn’t race at Ziptie Drags but took home the Keith Turk Nepotism award at the car show for being the friend of our friend. Also, the truck was cool.
Way up there in the running for ‘America’s Longest Car, 1966’ was the Chrysler Newport with a whopping 219in nose-to-bum. While land yacht captain Glen Kostadina from Knoxville, TN still has the original 383, it spun a bearing, so he’s fitted the Newpie with a 440 instead. His buddy called him up one day saying he was junking a motorhome and the mill would be scrapped if he didn’t come get it. They wrenched it out with a Bobcat and for $400, the Newport was 440-powered. With awesome patina and a Lokar floor-shifter (Glen used to work at Lokar) it’s the ultimate vintage cruiser. Glen wasn’t even the only 440-powered Newport in attendance though. He had competition from Ben Blank in a 1971 Chrysler. Also 440-powered. Also enormous.
“My buddy called me up one day saying there was a golf cart buried in a thicket at his place that he was going to scrap, so I went out there. The golf cart turned out to be a T-bucket kit from the ‘70s!” says Jeff Wilke from Jackson, MS. His hot rod is a ’23 Model T roadster pickup fiberglass body kit sitting on a custom Z’d frame and powered by a 350/350 combo backed by a Ford 8.8 rear. The Chevy engine is .40 overbore and fitted with camel-hump heads. The build took him about six months and it’s all swap meet parts he collected over the past four years – the distributor still has a $40 price tag on it. Jeff’s best drag time is an 11.80 on the quarter. A big Harley guy, Jeff built the roadster to be as close to two-wheeled freedom as he could get, without taking the risks that come with riding a motorcycle on the road. He laughs when he tells us that. “This’ll kill me dead enough!” We certainly hope not. Ride safe, Jeff.
What pops into your head when you hear the words overhead cam, crossflow hemi head and magneto? Duh, Scoot Coupe! Spewing 8.6hp-worth of unbridled fury out of the 150cc Honda GY6, Scoot Coupe owners are lucky that Panther Motors fitted these street weapons with drilled disc brakes all-round otherwise there would be a spike in tricycle-related deaths. And the speedo goes up to 70mph. “No, no, it’ll top out at about 30,” said owner John Williams. He made numerous laps around the show during the event, and turned heads every time.
Pioneer Car Audio Car Show Winners
Everyone we met at the Zip-Tie Drags had something awesome, and an equally interesting story to go with it, but we had to pick some winners, so here’s who took home our Pioneer Car Audio Car Show prizes—which included the finest of cheap combo wrenches, a gift card, and for two lucky drivers, $500 gift certificates from Pioneer.
1977 Dodge D100
The “Obviously A Steve Dulcich Choice” Award
David’s 360-powered D100 caught Roadkill Garage host Steve Dulcich’s eye right away.” There’s something special about handing down a truck from father to son” said Dulcich, distinguished Dodge devotee. It’s no wonder Dulcich decreed David’s D100 a downright distinction.
1988 Chevy Silverado Stepside
The “Nepotism” Award
As mentioned earlier, land speed racer, helicopter pilot and Freiburger BFF Keith Turk liked Lon’s car because of the LS-swap – not because of performance or trend but because it was so easy and cheap that it was a better option than rebuilding a transmission.
The “Like The Crew Cab Chevelle Only Good” Award
When Dulcich saw Jeff Lynes’ clean, 350-powered Chevelle, he shouted, “It’s just like the Roadkill Garage Chevelle!” We looked at him and he looked shamed. “Only without a blown-up transmission,” he added. Jeff’s car has a tough Muncie and 12-bolt behind its small block, and now it has a Roadkill award too.
1954 Plymouth Belvedere wagon
The “Everything Old Is New Again” Award
Under the Ford-fronted 1954 Belvedere of Robbie Stockton resides a complete Chevy Blazer platform, including the 4.3L Chevy six-cylinder. Robbie and his friends put it together in just 40 days to cruise around and have fun in. “That’s biblical,” said Dulcich.
1991 Mercury Cougar
The “Best Joke” Award
“It ain’t pro, it’s po,’” said Robert Mebane when we walked by his ’91 Mercury Cougar. “It’s Po’ Touring,” he explained, and went on to totally crack Elana up with descriptions of how he acquired his “Brokeville, Tennessee” ride.
1993 Ford Mustang LX
The “That’s A Clean Fox” Award
Wally’s immaculate Mustang elicited the exact same response from everyone who walked by it. It was a hard choice between his nitrous-huffing 408 Windsor and his buddy’s mirrored white Fox next to it, but we finally chose Wally’s because the tire fitment was bad-ass and we wanted to hear it run. Despite being a top quality build, the hubcap fell off when he took off down the strip #becauseroadkill.
1992 Ford Bronco
The “Staff Couldn’t Decide On A Name” Award
Dulcich thought John’s 408-powered Bronco was a great project, and should be given the “Work In Progress,” award. The rest of the team couldn’t stop making jokes about “The OJ Thing.” Either way, John got a prize.
1980 Chevy Monza
The “We’ve Never Seen A Monza In A Car Show” Award
No leaf blowers on Alan’s 2.5L four-cylinder Chevy. We liked the color though, and in true Roadkill style, the shift knob came off as he drove off after accepting his award.
1972 Olds Cutlass Supreme
The “Most Child Car Seats” Award
Hopefully Tim took his kiddos out for ice cream after they won him an award for his burgundy drop-top Olds. He had two car seats in the machine, and his little ones did their own track tear-up on the drift-track course outside the car show while Dad got his award.
1954 Ford Club Coupe
The “Three Generations” Award
Brian’s Ford has the heart of a 327 ‘66 Corvette, and was given to him by his father-in-law, who helped build it. Brian was at the Zip-Tie Drags with his son, so for carrying on the family tradition, he got the “Three Generations” award.
Fans vs Freiburger And Finnegan Sponsored by Holley
10 lucky racing participants put their names in the lottery box, and were chosen by our Make-A-Wish guest, James Torraville. They got to race Frei and Fin until those two predictably got themselves eliminated, and then they finished it up amongst themselves. Here’s how that went down.
Stephen Benn – 10 Chevy Camaro, stock V8
Jacob Riba – 69 Mustang Mach 1, 390 FE
Zack Tilley – 14 Hyundai Sonata, 2.0L Turbo four
Jeffrey Crowley – 11 Toyota Camry, 2.4L four
Jeff Shavers – 94 Chevy Cheyenne, LT1
Joseph Hayden – 83 Ford Mustang, 351 windsor
Benjamin Johnson – 06 Toyota Tundra, 4.7L V8
Donovan Leln – 12 Honda Civic SI, 2.4L four
George Sawtelle – 66 Chevy II, 194 six
Dillon Sawtelle – 72 Chevy C10, 350
Mike Finnegan flexed before the Fans vs. Frieburger and Finnegan challenge even began in the afternoon, when he ran his fastest ever pass in Blasphemi to kick things off. Much to everyone’s surprise, not only did it go in a relatively straight line and not scatter the trans across half of Memphis, but it pulled a wheelstand off the lights.
Despite Freiburger’s competition looking like a cakewalk, he had to roll the Nascarlo dice if he was going to make it out of the first round and thankfully the Roadkill gods smiled on the Monte Carlo and it worked just well enough to take out Donovan Leln’s stocker 2012 Civic by a hair under two seconds.
Finnegan then made short work of Benjamin Johnson’s ’06 Tundra in a truck vs. truck battle against the Muscle Truck.
Glad he’d made it through the first round this time, Freiburger then confidently jumped in the Impala to take on Stephen Benn in his eye-searingly yellow 2010 Camaro V8. Although he looked good and sounded good for the first 330ft, the Impala embarrassingly ran out of fuel halfway and was stuck with only coasting power and Dave’s prayers to take home the W… which he didn’t. Stephen edged through 0.4sec ahead.
Spying a threat to the Disgustang’s fame, Mike immediately took out its doppelganger in Jacob Riba’s ’69 Mach 1 with the mighty General Mayhem, ensuring RK’s latest junker Pony stays free from unwanted imitations and copycats!
Fearing another elimination in the FvFF challenge at the hands of the Ramp Truck, Mike then eyed down George Sawtelle who’d brought out his ’66 Chevy II to play. Even though it was powered by a breathless 194-cube straight six, it still had Mike worried. The Ramp Truck, however, lit up a huge burnout which shocked pretty much everyone, and then proceeded to launch nicely, drive nicely, and take home a 19.5-second win, nicely.
All this time however, Stephen Benn in his new Camaro, and despite claims of never having done this before, had been quietly taking down late model opponents like Zack Tilley in his 2014 Hyundai Sonata and Jeffrey Crowley in his 2011 Toyota Camry and was now facing his fate at the hands of General Maintenance. Doing his best John Force impression to intimidate Stephen, Finn laid down a huge smoker and double-bulbed to put the pressure on. Maybe a little too cocky as the christmas tree fell, Mike not only red-lit but smoked up the first 60ft and Stephen won by default!
Despite being the tidiest and brightest car in the field, no one had given much attention to the Camaro, but now it was game on for the rest of the Fans to stamp it out and take home the victory and the complete nitrous kit from sponsor Holley.
“He’s on a roll! I think it’s the red calipers” cried Joe Sebergandio from the announcer’s mic as the ‘Maro took down Jeff Shavers in his LT1-powered ’94 Cheyenne then immediately after that crossed Dillon Sawtelle’s ’72 C10 off the list.
It was down to the last race.
Stephen Benn… in the stock Camaro.
Joseph Hayden… in the ’83 Fox-body with a 351 Windsor pulled out of a boat (there’s a sentence you don’t hear often).
And Stephen takes the win by over a second!
It seems like there’s a formula here folks – if you want to win the Fans vs Freiburger and Finnegan challenge, bring a citrous-colored Camaro! All three winners have pedaled the esteemed badge to victory, and it doesn’t matter which generation, 2nd, 3rd and 5th have all taken home top spot. All have been either yellow or orange though. Meaningful? Must be.
After driving the six hours out from Moss Point, MS, Stephen was already stoked to be at the race when he drove through the gate, let alone racing against Finn and Fri and then somehow managing to take home the trophy. The first time he’d ever drag raced was only last weekend so maybe we can put it down to beginner’s luck? Or maybe there’s a bright (bright-yellow, that is) young star in the making? Is he hooked on drag racing now? “Man, I was hooked on my first run last weekend, this is just crazy!”
The $3000 Hooptie Challenge
This was the Facebook Live hit of the Zip-Tie Drags. It’s always funny to hear the banter as people try desperately to convince Freiburger and Finnegan that their cars are just junk, and for the Memphis event, Elana and Dulcich spent the race making bets at the start line. Note: Do not bet against Steve Dulcich. The man is like a hooptie-whisperer or something. He always picked a winner.
The Crawley crew’s ’85 C10 was givin’ them hell all weekend trying to get it to run right, but driver Thomas Crawley gave it a few hits during the Hooptie Challenge, which it easily qualified for. The only chrome bit on the entire car is the in-line fuel filter. The hand-painted Roadkill livery does add about 20hp though.
Matthew Gunnison normally works on Chinook Helicopters as a military mechanic, but decided to have some fun playing around with this retired fuzz-machine. He traded a rifle for a Jetta, fixed it up a little and traded it for this ’05 Crown Vic. It’s stock as a rock, but Matthew assures it’s got an upgraded stereo – from an ’09 Crown Vic.
George Sawtelle was having obscene amounts of fun at the Ziptie Drags in his ’66 Chevy II despite having probably the slowest vehicle there. It’s a genuine, bona-fide field car that he dragged out of the bushes about two months ago. One of those ‘ran when parked’ deals (erm, 30 years ago), George got the 194-cube straight-six huffing and puffing again only a day before the Ziptie Drags and proceeded to drive the 140 miles from West Point, MS. It’s rusty and tired and leaky and awesome and George had no problems wailing on it in test ’n’ tune, FvFF, and the Hooptie Challenge, clocking mid 20s. “Just being here is a win. If I can make it home, it’s a complete success!” George beamed. “I’m just going to drive it stock until something breaks.”
“Here come the crowd control jokes” laughed Mallory Boberg of Little Rock, AK when defending the crappiness of her late model Mustang for the Hooptie Challenge. Despite being super new, it’s a salvage title V6 that’s been in two big wrecks. It was a graduation gift from her family – if she could fix it up herself – and Mallory resuscitated it about a year after finishing college. There’s no doubt it’s junk though; everything is mismatched, the seatbelts don’t retract fully and not many mod-cons work. Mallory laughs that the dash looks like a christmas tree with the amount of warning lights flashing at her. She turned 21 the day after the Drags and it was her first time ever drag racing but she was giving it a boot-full and having a blast.
2nd place – Brandon Crowell
No, the front end is not broken… that intense amount of steering angle and track width is actually so that Brandon Crowell can take his ’90 Fox-body Mustang drifting. He jammed a 90,000mi junkyard motor in there with a shiny new $200 cam while his wife Tessa reassembled the heads, did the timing and helped get the tired Pony buttoned up right before the Ziptie Drags (#spousegoals anyone?). Brandon jokes that he’s probably got more in the front end set up than the rest of the car, and will be giving it its first drift thrashing next weekend.
While the outward appearance of the car might suggest Brandon doesn’t give two Fox, he does, and loaned his other ride – an ’83 Mustang – to Joseph Hayden who came second in the FvFF Challenge with it. Brandon followed in his footsteps and was runner-up in the Hooptie Challenge after a close final race where a miss-shift might’ve cost him the biscuit.
Two Foxes, two second places… the best first loser!
1st place – Alan Peters
How often do you see an ’89 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe? Well, we got to see one in all its hideous late 80s glory take home top spot in the Hooptie Challenge at the Ziptie Drags. Alan Peters and his buddy Mike Fullerton were up at 4.30am to make the drive over from Plano, TX to beat on the T-bird for the day. Costing him only four Benjamins, Alan proceeded to strip everything including the kitchen sink out of the coupe – 1000lbs total – and splashed some extra cash on headers for the otherwise-stock 3.8L supercharged V6.
It has all the traits of a Roadkill trophy holder: no hood, mirrors or interior, exposed wiring, an air intake made out of a funnel and vacuum hose, and space saver front wheels. Alan laughs that the drag radials on the back are the nicest and most expensive part of the car.
“I love the junkyard race class!” he says, hopping out of the echo-chamber cockpit after his roll down victory lane.
You wouldn’t think racing such junkers would be much fun, but we were laughing our butts off watching round after round of wheezing naturally-aspirated engines and squealing economy tires whittle the field to three – Brandon Crowell in his ’90 Fox-body drift junker, Alan Peters in his stripped out and funnel-inducted ’89 Thunderbird Super Coupe, and one of the Kuntz brothers behind the wheel of the 4BT-powered bread van, Lil’ Debbie.
Despite punching seriously impressive 14-second passes throughout the Challenge, ol’ Deb was made short work of by the tinny T-bird, who managed to keep its oil funnel air intake free of the rolling coal smoke by taking about a one second lead on the ice cream truck in the semi-final.
After a brief cooldown where the finalists got their chance to make last minute race preparations to get the edge on their opponent (erm, if you’ve already stripped out every last inch of the car what else is there to do?) it was a showdown to settle once and for all who had the fastest, crummiest car in Memphis. Two fine examples of esteemed Blue Oval badges – the sleek performance of the classy Thunderbird against the race-bred power of the mighty Mustang. Conjures up great mental imagery, right? Just kidding, this is Roadkill.
Brandon in the Fox-body got the jump on Alan and as both cars wailed down the track with terrible exhaust notes, it sounded like Brandon couldn’t get a shift timed right, allowing Alan in the T-bird enough slack to come through with a 14.02 over the Fox’s 14.72.
In the end, despite hot weather and a flash flood the night before (starting to be a Zip-Tie theme) everyone had a riot at the third Zip-Tie Drags, and we gave away lots of prizes from Holley, Gear Vendors, Sunoco, and Pioneer, as well as signing autographs, and meeting some really great people. We’ve heard from more than a few of the participants that they really appreciate the chance to race their slow cars and daily drivers, to get the feel of the track and meet the hosts of the show in a truly family friendly atmosphere, and that makes us feel great. The most Roadkill thing in the world is having a good time with your car, whatever it is. Scroll on through the photos, find yourself or a car you like, and come join us for Roadkill Nights in Detroit August 12, 2017, and Zip-Tie Drags in Madison, IL, Sept 16, 2017.