Threats of rain could not keep the Roadkill Nation from swarming M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan for the third annual Roadkill Nights event. For the second time, we closed off Woodward Ave and raced in the streets, but inside the venue we were having just as much fun. There were bouncy houses, thrill rides in Vipers and Hellcats, and acres of show cars–both Roadkill and resplendent.
The car show portion was presented by Pioneer Car Audio–the only nice part of the Roadkill Muscle Truck, and the winner, Patrick Schalles with a 1970 Duster, took home a $500 gift certificate for a sweet stereo. Gear Star transmissions walked the show too, and set Ben Whittier home with a 10-inch torque converter for his 1948 Chevy pickup. Sean Jamien got one too for a 2017 Dodge Charger Hellcat–assume he’ll use it for a different project, and James Styke got a Bully Dog cooler for his 1972 El Camino. Yay winners!
Our man Ben walked the show field and the staging lanes outside chatting up the participants, from stockers to full body swaps and customs.
Darrell Noble has owned this ’71 Ford pickup since 2014. It started as just a cab – he traded his buddy a shotgun for everything he had in his garage, including the front half of an F350 dump – and he picked up a free F100 frame from the same friend’s neighbor, who was going to scrap it. ‘It just kind of snowballed from here,’ he said, and the truck now has a full air ride suspension and the running gear out of a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, with the 4.6-liter V8 featuring the top end from a 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis.
This ’55 Dodge is riding on a 2002 Dodge Durango frame, and is motivated by a V8 lifted from an ’81 Chrysler Imperial. Featuring a gorgeous wood bed with his personal garage logo etched into the planks, owner Joseph Attard plans to install an overdrive transmission and, eventually, a 5.7-liter Hemi.
This 1974 Death Proof Chevy Nova has been a 23-year labor of love for Dieter Valoczky. Originally a 350 car, this flat-black hatch now sports a 9.5:1 454 with stock heads putting our around 450 horsepower, backed by a Turbo 400 transmission and a 12-bolt posi. Dieter installed wider fender flares fabricated from a spare set of Nova fenders to preserve the car’s body lines while still accommodating a wider tire.
How often do you see a rear-wheel drive conversion 1994 Chevrolet Beretta? We’re going to go with ‘never’ – especially not one that’s sporting a 350 V8 pushed so far back under the dash that it qualifies for front-mid-engine status. Built on an S10 pickup truck frame, the car was originally built as a burnout machine and features a 350 Turbo autobox. Owner Paul Dewolfe traded a dune buggy for this machine, because he wanted something unique and streetable. ‘No one can believe it when they see a Beretta light up the rear tires,’ he told us.
Dan St. John has owned this Tesla Roadster since 2010, when he bought it new (there’s a Model X in the driveway at home, too). “The advantage with electric vehicle drag racing is you don’t have to be very good,” he told us while laughing, “You just have to mash it.” The car’s drivetrain management system does a very good job of managing traction down the line, even with the instant-on torque of the electric motor.
It’s always a pleasant surprise when we talk to someone who’s still driving – and racing – their first ever car. Dan Bak picked up this 1967 Chevelle 18 years ago, and has stuck with his teenage dream ever since – even after the gas tank once fell off the car at highway speeds. “I’ll never know how the fuel line stay attached long enough for me to drag the thing to the shoulder.” The car was imported from Ottawa, Canada, and the Chevy’s foreign VIN number has made trying to piece together its history a challenge, but Dan knows it was an original 427 car. It now features a bored-over 396 that he built in high school, with plans for an L88 swap in the near future.
Who says you can’t have fun at Roadkill Nights with a near-stock pickup running drag radials? A bigger throttle body, underdrive pulleys, and SRT exhaust manifolds woke up this 2014 Dodge Ram shortbox just enough to put in a strong showing on Woodward. “I’ve been looking to line up against the SRT Ram I saw here,” owner Mark Welch told me – “I’m not scared.”
Alex Coubard bought this 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass out of Knoxville when he was 16 years old. Originally it had a 305 matched with a Turbo 350, but today the car features a 700r4. It’s also wearing the largest wheels and tires he could fit on the car – 17×8 at the rear – which is a big step up from the 15×6 stockers. Now that he’s headed to the University of Northern Ohio’s automotive program, plans include a move to a 327 V8 and either a five-speed or six-speed manual gearbox. “I really don’t want any more automatics,'”Alex told us. “Manuals are just too much fun to drive.”
Although he’s owned this Chevy pickup for eight years, Javier Corral just got the LS swap under the hood in December of 2016. “I’d always wanted to pop the hood and see a Corvette engine looking back at me,” he said. Javier picked up the truck from a former GM engineer in Arizona. “My father had one of these, but he wouldn’t sell it to me because he said the 305 under the hood wouldn’t even power the windows.” The LS2 more than solves that particular problem.
You don’t see nearly as many first-generation Chargers as you do their more famous TV-star siblings, but this ’66 wore an eye-catching, and some might say steel-piercing, patina that made it all the more appealing. “I’ve had the car for three years, and it’s running a strong 383 with fully-restored, original mechanicals front to rear thanks to help from my son-in-law,” owner Scott Cagle told us. “People keep telling me it’s a great car, and ask me when it will be done – and I tell them it is! Inspired by Roadkill, you could say.”
This angled-and-chopped ’32 Ford rod is riding on an upside-down ’47 Chevy truck chassis, features the drivetrain from a 5.0 Fox-body Mustang, and is titled as a ’68 Volkswagen Beetle – in other words, exactly what you’d expect from a Roadkill show-n-shine. Owner John Rokus did the work himself, but after a thousand-mile road trip through Oregon turned him off the car’s original roadster profile he crowdsourced a roof design via a contest at a family reunion where he had kinfolk draw 50 different versions of how the steel top could look before picking the final design.
Stock Daytona IROC cars are thin on the ground – especially ones as clean as this one. One of the few non-V8 turbo Mopars at Roadkill Nights, this 92 Daytona was acquired by Matt Edwards in 2009. The red interior / white exterior is one of a handful, and the car even features a super-rare rear wiper, which wasn’t offered with the much more popular option of window louvers.
This ’62 Chevy Bel Air is just waiting a final coat of matte and clear to preserve the weathered look that perfectly suits its restomod personality. With 410 horses at the rear wheels thanks to a 2010 Camaro drivetrain, the car features a brand new chassis sitting under the original body. Owned by Ernie Parison, his son Joe told us that his father searched out a post car for a very long time before hitting on this one, and he says none of his other rides have gotten the same amount of attention.
Have you ever seen anything sleepier than this LM4-powered 1962 Chevy II wagon? Found in a barn by Matthew Abbla while looking at some hunting property, he drove the car in its original configuration for a year before doing the swap. Previously used as a work hauler, Matthew fully intends to keep the stock look in place – down to the wheel covers – while he continues to build the drivetrain.
All the while that Ben was working the infield, professional drivers were drifting around the M1 track, and the line for rides lasted all day. Another crowded spot was the autograph session with Freiburger, Finnegan, Lucky, and Tony. We met folks from Canada, Arizona, France, Spain, and Australia, all in little old Pontiac, Michigan. Regular readers will be unsurprised to hear that I (Elana) petted a dog. Publisher Joe gave away cans of CRC brakleen and there were all sorts of hilarious car parts, hand-drawn posters, and cans of beer for the hosts to sign. We’ll have more stories and galleries coming soon, but for now, enjoy the show.