For only the second time in its 10-year history, a make that wasn’t a Chevrolet has won the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. Ken Thwaits’ 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX also marks the first time an import, a sedan, and an all-wheel-drive has taken the overall of the event.
Searching for the ultimate street car is a task that sounds as hard as it really is. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes a car a street car. Certain drag racing circles makes it as loose as a car that has street-legal tires, even if they are essentially slicks on a tubbed and back-halved car. Road racers can define it as a car meant for canyon carving and autocross duty but with no a/c or radio. Show car fans need a full interior with the latest electronics and full amenities to make driving comfortable while scraping pavement. Then there is the Ultimate Street Car Association and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational.
Determining the Ultimate Street Car
Instead of solely judging a car by its looks and features, the USCA and OUSCI put their cars through the paces as well as looking at the design and engineering inside and out. One of the must hit events to take home the OUSCI title is to go through the Lingenfelter Design and Engineering Challenge. Not only do the judges look for the safety aspect of a vehicle inside they also look at the creature comforts and how well the entire vehicle was put together. This includes lights, trim, horn, and twenty-three additional areas of criteria. There is also one other catch: How you present the vehicle at the Lingenfelter D&E is how you are to drive it for the rest of the OUSCI, including the Lucas Oil Road Rally.
There are performance tests for every OUSCI entrant as well, so again, this isn’t just a look over. Drivers must run in the Detroit Speed Autocross, the Powerstop Speed Stop Challenge, and the final event of the weekend – the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. “This event was born out of the desire to give the vehicles on display at the SEMA show floor an opportunity to showcase what they’re really designed and built to do – perform,” said Cam Douglass, director of marketing at OPTIMA Batteries.
Ken Thwaits and his Evo IX are no strangers to the OUSCI, though, and has been running this car under the Showtime Motorsports banner since 2015 and has been racing since the age of 13. The car is no slouch, even with a full custom interior. The 4G63 turbo four-cylinder is punched out to 2.4-liters with a billet crank putting out 600-horsepower to all four wheels at 30-PSI of boost.
Even so, it was Mike DuSold’s twin-tubo 1967 Chevrolet Camaro that took the win in the Lingenfelter D&E with 100-points. Ken was tied for third with John Lazorack III’s amazing LS-swapped 1988 Chrysler Conquest at 98-points.
The Detroit Speed Autocross was where Ken made up his points. Finishing first with a time of 59.181, he finished ahead of Austin Barnes and his 2010 Dodge Viper (59.532) and fellow Evolution IX driver Brandon Ranvek (59.640). Brandon Williams in his 2009 Nissan GTR finished fourth with a 59.984. This also meant that three of the Top Five in the autocross were imports. Thwaits would also take the win in the Powerstop Speed Stop Challenge on Sunday but the top five were close behind at this point.
It would be the results from the Falken Tires Road Course Time Trial that would determine the winner and the last chance to keep the title with an American make. Mike Barns would take the top spot at the time trial with his Viper but Thwaits was able to finish with just three-points to spare by finishing just outside of the top ten times in the road course.
Out of nearly 100 cars and trucks that ran the 2017 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, Ken Thwaits and his 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX takes home the overall with 488-points out of 500. “This car has never won a race and it’s the third year we’ve run it,” said Thwaits to Optima after the event, “After our failure at New Jersey we stripped it down and rebuilt it from the ground up. I’ll be back next year!” Ken also took home the Holley EFI GTL Class Championship for the 2017 USCA Season. Austin Barnes would end up second in the OUSCI but took home the 2017 Recaro GTS Class Championship. Mike DuSold rounded out the overall podium for the event with his ’67 Camaro.
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OUSCI Final Gallery