Dang, our fans are awesome. After a long HOT ROD Drag Week™, we turned up to Roadkill Zip-Tie Drags Presented by Gear Vendors and had such an amazing time at Gateway Motorsports Park. We saw a little bit of everything and loved all of it. The crowd was fantastic, the cars were amazing, and the atmosphere, well, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Let’s take a look at just a slice of the amazing stuff from Saturday at Zip-Tie Drags Gateway, where we held a Car Show, Fans vs. Finnegan and Freiburger races, and the hilariously terrible $3,000 Hooptie Challenge.
We like to think that Roadkill encourages younger car enthusiasts to build fun cars. However, Parkland College’s Motorsports program straight-up teaches younger enthusiasts how to build fun cars and we were delighted to see the program’s two cars, a G-Body Chevy Malibu and an SN-95 Ford Mustang come drag racing along with several students’ own cars. The program’s director and instructor, Jon Ross, started the classes in 2000 with money from a car show and with a Malibu—now thousands of passes into its life—that a student found for free. Students do all the preparation work on the cars and, cooler yet, get to make drag passes in the two cars. All for college credit.
Zip-Tie Drags immediately followed HOT ROD Drag Week™ and was just a couple hours away. As a result about a dozen Drag Week cars turned up. The Finnish Plymouth VIP put on some 9-second exhibition passes, even with a wounded transmission. Harry Haig’s twin-turbo Aussie Chevelle, a Roadkill Magazine cover car, put on a show with a half-track burnout just before the $3,000 Hooptie Challenge.
Kyle Karp might have the best attendance story of anyone at Zip-Tie Drags. He initially tried to make it to Roadkill Nights on Woodward Avenue, only to arrive just as the event was concluding early due to rain. There’s a long convoluted story involving the trip there, but we’ll fill that out in more detail later. This time around, Kyle trailers his late-1970s Chrysler 300S from his home in New Jersey. Normally, he autocrosses or takes the late B-Body to road courses, but Kyle made some impressive 15-second passes in the old personal luxury coupe.
We started Zip-Tie Drags as a low-pressure place for newbies to make their first drag passes. Becky and Josh Angle from Arnold, Missouri, bought this $400 1970 Ford Country Squire Wagon to run Zip-Tie Drag. With a 351 Windsor V8 and two-barrel carb, it wasn’t going to set any land-speed records, but Becky cut a great light on her first-ever drag pass. How awesome is that? The family, including son Eli, put the wagon together and Becky even took the kids to school in it. Next year, they said they’ll be back with the Windsor wearing a 77-millimeter turbo Josh has in the garage to “see how much boost it’ll take,” Josh said.
Of course, the Zip-Tie Drags attract a variety of regular drag racers and their cars. Dan Harris Jr. and Sr. brought their V6 Mustang that runs low 11s. No, really. It’s a nitrous-fogged 3.9-liter (the Harrises got the Canadian version with 0.1 more liter) in a chassis that started off for free, complete with swiss-cheesed rear quarter from “shootin’ car” duties. Better yet? The matching Ford Econoline they use for towing also cost them $0 to acquire. Of course, they paid for the trailer, right? “No, we got that for free from a junkyard, too,” Dan Sr. said.
Harry Stirnemann also brought out his serious drag car and we were in love with this ‘37 Chevy, which sports a turbocharged Chevy 292 inline-six engine. It runs mid-8s and Harry built it in the 1980s around the time of the Buick Grand National turbo-six craze. Freiburger recognized this car immediately, of course: Harry brought it to the very first Pump Gas Drags by HOT ROD Magazine, although the car broke on its first pass. Harry and his brother Jack have been around a bit; the two of them built a couple of cars that went in Bonneville’s 200 MPH Club and Harry’s son, Mark, has also built a pile of awesome hot rods. How cool is this thing?
We don’t like to play favorites, but how is the General Mediocrity not the greatest Roadkill tribute ever? Terry Miller and his son Trevor cooked up this idea with their friend Tim Bill Harrison after visiting Zip-Tie Drags Memphis. They started with a bone-stock ‘93 Festiva and spent a few weeks in Corning, Arkansas, building the absolute best General Mayhem tribute we’ll ever see.
The crowd went nuts for it at the $3,000 Hooptie Challenge judging. However, the axle-retainer clip broke as Terry drove away from high-fives and the highest accolades that Freiburger and Finnegan could give. Terry didn’t get to race, but we’re having a hard time telling the difference between the two.
Car Show Winners
Small Block Brother – Timothy Watters, 1997 Plymouth Neon ACR
We showed you this car in our Friday gallery, but Freiburger and Finnegan hadn’t seen it until we presented the awards. And they were blown away. For the uninitiated: Tim dropped in a Chrysler LA V8, a 360, along with a 904 Torqueflite into the original ACR Neon. Tim retained much of the original wiring and the stock firewall. The project isn’t 100 percent done yet—you can still see the driveshaft through the cut floor—but we hope it’ll run down the drag strip soon. In the meantime, we gave him the Small Block Brother award.
Big Block Brother – Eric Watters, 1995ish Dodge Stealth
Of course, there was a Big Block Brother award to match. Tim was hugely influenced by his brother, Eric, who built this Dodge Stealth with a Big Block Mopar and a Procharger. He started with a severely wrecked Mitsubishi 3000GT and then fit Stealth body panels in some places to complete the look between the Diamond Star Motors (DSM) twins. That included retaining the original Stealth interior. The kicker, though, came under the hood. The engine bay houses an absolute monster: a 498 cubic-inch Chrysler Big Block stroker with a Procharger that made 890 horsepower on the dyno. This kind of insanity easily won the overall Best in Show award and not just because it has a Gear Vendors Overdrive. No, this is proper insanity and we love it.
Roadkill’s Bad Influence – Russell Joyce, Alex Joyce, David Clune, Trisha Lancetta – 1950 Ford F47
The quartet of friends had always been interested in cars, but it wasn’t until they started watching Roadkill that they began turning wrenches on them. In just a few months, they went from zero pieces of yard art to at least five, mostly dumped on their parents’ property. Earlier this year, they traveled about 27 hours (one way) from Toronto to Manitoba to fetch this Canadian-market F47 pickup. They then cobbled it together from about nine different non-operational vehicles with a Flathead V8, finishing just a week before Zip-Tie Drags. Alex celebrated his birthday on Friday night by hot-lapping the 25-second truck, much to everyone’s delight.
World’s Classiest Custom Van – Blake Harner, 1977 Chevy G-20 Van
This was quite the tasteful custom van, which was never a guarantee in the golden era of vannin’ and truck-ins. However, Blake found this 40-year-old custom in tip-top shape with all the original coachwork. That means some of the coolest original interior you’ll ever find along with a proper bubble window and geometric, 1970s-colored goodness. This is high-brow stuff compared with the alternative: a Space Viking with a topless woman clinging to his leg. You done good, Blake. We can call this one a family-approved van and we like it.
Elana’s Gift to Dulcich – James Jones, 1964 Dodge Sweptline Truck
Roadkill Garage host Steve Dulcich loves old Dodge pickups and James Jones’ ‘64 Sweptline was right up Dulcich’s alley. Elana picked it as a winner so that Steve could appreciate it in front of the grandstand. James bought it from his father-in-law for a couple hundred bucks and put a ‘68 cab on it. He lowered it tastefully, using independent front suspension from a Dodge Diplomat. And we love the factory spare wheels from Ram pickup capped with ‘63 Dart hubcaps. That finish, believe it or not, is a rattle-can spray-paint job that looks spectacular. Did Dulcich enjoy it? Yes, he did.
It’s Butterscotch – Bradley Sawicki, 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner
Dulcich loved the color and the fact that all the living Dukes of Hazzard members had pictures with it except Boss Hog and Roscoe. It didn’t hurt that it was some quality Mopar in a car show that was full of awesome Mopars. This one wears the original Butterscotch color, which Dulcich pointed out was pretty divisive. The aging-mustard tone isn’t for everyone, but if you love browns and yellows on Mopars, this one is heaven.
Should Have Gone Home Already – Matt Bohesh, 1991 Nissan Skyline
Matt stuck around Zip-Tie Drags a little later than he should have; his wife had a college paper to write and was instead watching the kids while he brought his right-hand-drive R32 Skyline to Gateway. We thanked him for sticking around and if you’re wondering why we chose—gasp!—an import for this one, we just liked how unusual (and cool) something like this is. We love all car culture and if Freiburger knew nothing about it, we didn’t much care. Matt bought this Skyline while living overseas and when it was time to return stateside, he shipped it back with him.
Did You Get My Good Side? – Jim Lynch, 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator
Jim’s Cougar Eliminator was literally a basketcase. As in, he bought the shell of the car in Michigan and most of the rest came in baskets. He’s spent years putting it back together and, strangely enough, the Windsor V8 was swapped out long ago for a 351 Cleveland V8. Anyway, Elana first noticed this one during Car Show judging for how cool the driver’s side looked with just some hints of rust. When she walked around the other side, the door was knocked in about six inches. Jim says the “bad side” will get fixed soon, but we made sure to photograph its good side.
It’s a Champ! – Raymond Jahnsen, 1962 Studebaker Champ
We picked this late Studebaker pickup because these are super-cool little trucks that you just don’t see ever. Remarkably, Raymond Jahnsen informed us that this Champ is all original with just 14,000 miles on it. It’s never been restored and even has the weird bracket-mounted spare-tire kit on the side. If the bed looks familiar, that’s because Studebaker license-built Dodge beds from 1961 until the company folded in 1966.
Good Day for Rear A/C – Malachi Stowe, 1967 Chrysler Town & Country
You could probably guess that Elana picked the barge-sized C-Body Mopar wagon, right? Malachi brought a real car show-caliber Town & Country that he just bought a year ago. We aren’t sure if he knew he was pandering to Elana, but everything about this 50-year-old wagon struck her fancy. Even the rear air-conditioning worked fine, although its second A/C unit needs a recharge.
Fans vs. Freiburger & Finnegan
Every Zip-Tie Drags brings the opportunity for fans to race against the Roadkill hosts in the cars they’ve seen on the show. This time around, things really couldn’t have gone more Roadkill than they did, but fans at Gateway Motorsports Park got an extra-special treat out of the deal. You’re gonna be jealous if you weren’t there.
Things got off to an inauspicious start when Finnegan attempted to run Nascarlo at the crowd’s urging against the sleepiest Chevy Vega in the world. What could possibly go wrong racing a stock-looking Vega on 13-inch wheels. Things started to add up quickly that the Vega was a sleeper street-racer: the driver, Ben Stark, wore SFI gear and when it lined up waiting for Nascarlo, there was just the briefest sound of a nitrous purge. It turned out to be a tease, since Nascarlo never did end up starting again. The Vega backed out of the lanes to wait on another matchup.
In the meantime, Freiburger used Muscle Truck to beat the white fifth-generation Camaro of Ian Bokesch, who won a Car Show Award at Zip-Tie Drags Ohio for his GMC Syclone. Finnegan finally got in his first run with the Vette Kart, beating Dillon Charland’s 1984 Chevy C10, which was the first hooptie through the gates on Friday afternoon.
After monstrous side-by-side burnouts, Freiburger and the General Mayhem squared off with Mike Fecenko’s serious-looking fourth-gen Camaro. This looked to be a promising matchup and Fecenko launched well. Too bad, though, since the Camaro bogged off the starting line. He still ran a solid mid-12, but the Mayhem and Freiburger moved on.
And this is where things got nuts. The crowd began chanting for Stubby Bob, a truck that hadn’t run since the episode where it threw down an epic wheelstand. Would it go down the track? Who knows, but Finnegan decided to find out for the fans.
He faced off with Zack June’s ‘83 Datsun 280ZX, who nobody was watching, unfortunately. That’s because Stubby Bob lifted the front wheels at the start. And then 50 feet into the run. And then 150 feet into the run. And pretty much every time Finn goosed it. He still ran a 17-second pass at 77 terrifying miles per hour. Stubby Bob may have lost the race, but the fans won that matchup.
Brand’s orange ‘72 Plymouth Duster finished off the F&F part of the event. He knocked out Freiburger in the Crusher Impala with an eyebrow-lifting 11.94, which Bryan later told us was his best-ever pass in the car.
Zack June went on in the Datsun to face the Vega, whose caretakers were pretty patient after the Nascarlo’s failure. The nitrous-fed 4.3-liter Chevy V6 knocked out June’s 280ZX in a close race with 13-second passes for both cars. We’re not sure where the Vega found grip on 13-inch wheels, but since the people hanging around the Grandma Vega all wore matching drag-racing shirts, we weren’t super surprised by the elapsed time. Pro tip: If you want maximum sleeper points, dress like geriatric tourists at a Myrtle Beach golf course. There’s always next time.
With Freiburger and Finnegan both out but the General Maintenance left to run, Roadkill called in a couple of ringers to drive. Roadkill Editor Elana Scherr went rounds in the General Maintenance, knocking out Greg Lindner’s super-cool all-silver ‘72 Nova and Bryan Brown’s ‘86 Buick Regal to reach the final.
Steve Dulcich then borrowed the Muscle Truck for a couple of passes, too. He took out Alex Erb’s ex-highway department GM pickup and then narrowly defeated the nitrous Vega, which would have been an embarrassing loss for the fan favorite truck.
That left a final between Bryan Brand’s orange Duster and Elana Scherr in the General Maintenance. The traction control acted a bit wonky for Scherr while Brand assembled a dynamite run in the old orange Mopar to take the win, despite a flat front tire at the finish line. Figures we lose to a car with a flat tire.
Brand has owned the Duster for 20 years, having first gotten his hands on it at 14. He drove it to high school with a Slant Six in it, but he started building it in earnest after high school. When he was done at 22, the Duster sported a 408 cubic-inch stroker Chrysler Small Block. He only just began drag-racing it last year and said Zip-Tie Drags was by far the most racing time it had ever seen.
Curiously, he almost didn’t register to drag race at all. “I almost just put the car into the Car Show, but it’s not hard not to want to race with these guys,” he said. “I just wanted to be on the track with them.” Well, you beat them fair and square, Bryan, even with a tire that needed air between runs. Nicely done.
And now we’re 0-for-4 in these events, unsurprisingly.
$3,000 Hooptie Challenge
This might be the marquee event of Zip-Tie Drags, wherein Finnegan and Freiburger, along with help from the audience, judge whether or not your car is worth $3,000. It’s all speculative and subjective and fun, of course, just like Roadkill’s definition of “winning.” We always have fun with this and so does the crowd, because nowhere else will it be this fun to watch 18-second cars race each other.
First Place – Brock Dvorak, 1986 Chevy Monte Carlo SS
No other car came across quite as Roadkill as Brock Dvorak’s 1986 Chevy Monte Carlo SS. Brock runs a garage in Lincoln, Nebraska, and he has cultivated a reputation for building Roadkill-stye stuff. In this case, he mounted the turbo way up above the hood line with the exhaust following the A-pillar up and over the car.
The engine is a 4.8-liter Chevy Vortec engine from the LS engine family with a cheap knock-off turbo on it. Brock originally planned to mount the turbo halfway sticking out the driver’s side fender, but in mocking up the engine on a stand, he just decided to go with the top-mount style.
Aside from the exhaust bumping the windshield under load— “fixed” with duct tape on the windshield under the exhaust piping—everything worked well. In the $3,000 Hooptie Challenge, Brock let the combination eat in its first pass with a ridiculous 11.77-second run. From there, the engine started laboring, but it held together long enough to take on all comers. Congrats Brock! We’ll have more on this car in the next issue of Roadkill Magazine.
Second Place – Harry Kalb, 1978 Dodge Truck
Harry Kalb told us he hadn’t raced at Gateway since the track went the opposite direction many years ago in the ‘72 Plymouth Scamp he got when he was 12. However, Harry plucked from his 30-year collection of Mopars to put together this ‘78 pickup, which had lived its former life on Scott Air Force Base.
Under the hood of the rust-pitted Air Force truck was a Chrysler 440, which Harry pulled from a demolition-derby ‘67 Imperial 15 years ago. He later found out it had been a healthier replacement engine in 1969. Everything else on the truck, except for brakes, had been sourced from Harry’s old stash of Mopar things. That included motorhome manifolds and a stock fuel pump that couldn’t keep up with the 440 by half-track.
Regardless, Harry’s takedowns included a pair of very determined supercharged V6 cars and his truck ran consistent 13s to reach the finals. Unfortunately, a red-light start in the final round gave the win to Brock Dvorak’s Monte Carlo, but Harry told us he’d had the time of his life racing his hooptie against others.
The Hooptie Challenge again featured some of the most entertaining cars and races we’re ever likely to see. That began with the first pair: a 2005 Dodge Caravan besting a full-size Dodge Van by a few tenths in a battle of titanic 19-second people movers.
The V6 seems to be one of the preferred engines for this kind of thing. We didn’t catch people’s names much because of the event’s pace, but the paddock-install on this Pontiac Grand Prix went swimmingly during open Test ‘n’ Tune, where it ran consistent 13s. During the first Hooptie Challenge round, however, when the driver mashed the nitrous button—which was cleverly tied to the windshield wipers—the whole setup backfired like a rifle round and blew apart the intake plumbing. Again, we applaud the effort.
One might suggest this late-model Buick Riviera could fit more tire under the fenders, but the tire on it already doesn’t fit under the fenders. Or even come close. The hood holes serve as exhaust venting for the supercharged Buick 3.8-liter V6, a popular and easily found choice for the Hooptie Challenge.
The only thing that might have been cooler than that was a pair of Ford MN12 luxury coupes running hot-rodded 3.8-liter Ford V6s with superchargers. We’re not sure exactly how the Cougar XR7 or Thunderbird Super coupe were modified, but a fistful of 13-second timeslips and a pile of round wins suggest that they weren’t quite stock. We’ll be taking a closer look at these cars at the next Roadkill Zip-Tie Drags.
When is the next Zip-Tie Drags? We will hold our fifth ZTD at Tucson Raceway in January. You can find details on that and we will also have more information on a $3,000 Hooptie Challenge-themed show soon. We need to thank our sponsors, Gear Vendors Overdrive, Gearstar Transmissions, Pioneer Audio, and Sunoco Race Fuels. Winners of the events took home gift certificates for Gear Vendors and Pioneer products, plus we gave away two torque convertors, a transmission cooler, 200 utility jugs, and a bunch of Put Up Or Shut Up T-shirts. Don’t miss the next one!