If there is one car and builder that deserves the title of “Ultimate Street Car,” you would be hard pressed to say that Mike DuSold and his twin-turbo 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, known as “Maiden Texas,” doesn’t deserve it. However, it wasn’t an easy fight as he and Austin Barnes were at tooth and nail the entire event. These are the results of the 2018 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) presented by Advance Auto Parts.
The OUSCI is the final event of the Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) series and only those who have won events in the 2018 season or got the invited during the 2018 SEMA Show can participate in this event. This is the book end event of SEMA Week, taking place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I’ve explained this in last year’s coverage, so if you need a refresher you can do so here.
The EVs Aren’t Coming. They’re Here.
While I have a full article on the three electric vehicles (EVs) you’ll see here, I have to say this was the surprise class of the event. What I loved was the enthusiasm these drivers had about their cars and the class in general. Many of my fellow enthusiasts, and even many of my professional colleagues, will argue that there is no passion or excitement in EV racing, I’d have to argue against that.
What I saw reminded me of stories I heard during the golden age of hot rods and race cars. Back when making those then new cars drive faster with more and more power. That’s what I saw in the EV class. Yeah, the noise of a V8 or Turbocharger isn’t there, but you quickly get past that as you watch these vehicles drive to their limits. The drivers all had some sort of engine-driven background.
The Chevrolet Spark EV driver owns a twin-turbo Mustang, the Tesla Model X driver has a classic Jaguar, and the Hyundai Ioniq EV driver not only works for Hyundai’s vehicle cooling but has autocross experience. All three told the same story: the idea that you’ll miss the engine noise goes away the moment you attack the first turn. I’ll have a deeper dive into these three drivers and their EVs in a future article.
Nearly All New GMs
I did a spotlight last year on all the Corvettes that were in attendance. This year, holy cow, there were 20 of them in the 87-car field. It wasn’t even the car with the highest tally, though, as the Camaro had 24 spots in the field and there was at least one of every generation. In total, GM represented over 50-percent of the entries of the 2018 OUSCI with 48 cars. Ford/Mercury were only represented by 12 entries. Mazda, Nissan/Datsun, and Dodge had four each while Hyundai and Honda/Acura had three each. Mercedes-Benz had two and the rest were makes in single digits. To top it off, 56 cars were 2000 model year or newer with the average year of all cars in the event being 1998.7 or just over 19 years old.
This Is A Problem
That’s cool, if you’re a modern GM fan. For everyone else, it’s a problem and especially so if you’re a long-time fan of the OUSCI and remember what this event was. Not so much the average model year but the drastic amount of GM product. This event was something people would stay for after the long week of the SEMA Show and even drive out to Pahrump, Nevada. It was taking the best cars from the show and across the country to see just how street and track worthy they were.
It does show that modern cars have become very impressive off the showroom floor. We as consumers demand high-performance models from even the very basic of cars. However, because of this, I’m starting to see an over-shadowing of the hand-built, custom car proving its worthiness and what originally made this event so amazing to cover.
What’s the Problem?
This event used to be delightfully unique and should be special, it should be the All-Star Race of Custom Builders after the SEMA Show. While I get the inclusion of USCA overall round winners and class winners from each of the seven rounds, I’m starting to think that should be reduced at the very least. If anything, it should only be the class winners of the regular season. Having over 80 cars is great for participation, but the event begins to lose its luster. This is especially so when you see so many of the same car or even the same make repeatedly year after year. The lack of fans that didn’t come with the teams or drivers shows that.
With so many cars entering, what makes this event any different from a normal USCA round? What makes it worth staying for? What makes it worthy of media attention beyond being the final event? Each year, it becomes harder to answer that question. It needs to return to that bookend event that makes fans want to stay an extra two days in Las Vegas after the SEMA Show. It needs to be special again.
What’s the Solution?
Reducing car counts and getting more SEMA Show cars would be a good first step as well as custom cars that get feature coverage along with the class champions after round seven. No, we won’t have over 80 cars again, but we will have the cream of the crop. We will have what the OUSCI once was.
The Road Rally needs to run either on Las Vegas Boulevard or drive through old school Vegas with checkpoints again (they didn’t this year and drove entirely on the 15 to Shelby). I also think the first day should coincide with SEMA Ignited to get fans excited and increase interest in the event. While we close in on its tenth anniversary next year, I just don’t see it surviving another three to five years without changes, never mind another decade.
Ken Thwaits Doesn’t Repeat
Anyway, back to coverage. After his overall win in 2017, Ken Thwaits and the Showtime Motorsports Mitsubishi Evolution did not take the crown. He wasn’t far off, though, taking home third overall just 11-points shy of taking the crown again in 2018. It just proves that consistency is more important than dominating in a single area.
You could win three events, fall very short in one and lose as Austin Barnes unfortunately found out this year. Despite his 2010 Dodge Viper winning the Hot Lap Challenge, the Speed/Stop Challenge, finishing the Road Rally, and taking second in the Autocross, his 84-point score in Design and Engineering resulted in him being nine-points shy of taking the overall victory.
DuSold Takes Overall
It was every bit of the phrase, “consistency is key,” that lead to Mike DuSold’s victory with Maiden Texas. He and his 67 Camaro took top honors in the Design and Engineering section, but finished sixth in Hot Laps, third in Autocross, second in Speed/Stop, and was able to finish the Road Rally to Shelby America to get 492-points total for the event. Danny Pop, the favorite to place high in any USCA event he drives at, placed fourth in his 2003 Corvette Z06.
The Maiden Texas
Mike’s ’67 Camaro takes its warbird theme from his time working around a WWII airplane collection. The theme is more than just a paintjob as the chassis and interior all have aircraft inspiration designed into it. The engine sits further back because of a swap to a Corvette transaxle setup that was built by RPM Transmissions. With this and safety in mind, away went the original unit-body and in went a full tube chassis.
Under hood, though, is all modern muscle with its seven-liter LS-block with an ERL bottom end. The valves in the CMP heads are bumped open by their camshaft with a Holley intake. Shoving air into that are a pair of Precision Turbos with matching wastegates. An AMP EFI engine management handles the tuning of the air, fuel, spark, and boost control. It even has launch control for maximum traction during the Powerstop Speed/Stop Challenge until he needs to stop, then the Wilwood brakes are controlled by a Bosch Motorsport ABS unit. However, it’s hard to break the grip of those 335/30R18 BF Goodrich Rival S tires on Forgeline CF1 wheels.
If you think this sounds like a SCCA Trans-Am chassis with a classic Camaro body, it’s more complex than those are and wouldn’t be a deep enough comparison.
Final Thoughts and Subscribe
While I have my criticism for this year’s event and what I’m starting to see, it was still mostly a joy to cover. I carp only because I remember what it used to be, and I passionately want to see it return to that.
I want to see this event survive because it encompasses what a custom street car should be with real results. It showed that a SEMA build should accurately represent the performance product it’s showcasing by performing on track and on the street. Most importantly, it showed off the hard work of custom builders across the country whose goal was to create the Ultimate Street Car, not buy the ultimate showroom stock car with the addition of tires, wheels, coilovers and maybe a paintjob.
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