No Hard Parking Allowed
The Challenge

The SEMA show is the world’s greatest car show. Every year, thousands of cars gather in Las Vegas for the annual event. Some of the cars are jaw-dropping and some of them are sacrilege. I think it’s great and all, but wouldn’t it be cool to see the cars on the show floor in action?


We’ve featured a ton of SEMA coverage already and because of the book launch on Friday, things have been a little busy, but we wanted to make sure we still brought you coverage from this amazing event. The Optima Street Car Challenge takes place the day after the SEMA show is over, but it’s not like any other street car competition in the world.


These are SEMA cars, and they’re all put to the ultimate test and undergo rigorous critiquing by a panel of judges.


They look at the overall design of the car, but that’s where the hard parking stops. Each and every street car has to go through a series of tests, which I’ll go into detail about later.


There was a total of 54 cars that competed in the one day competition, and each and every one of them was in show car condition.


Eight of the top ten finishers competed in American muscle cars. Six of those were new and old Chevy Camaros.


You never know what you’ll find at the Ultimate Street Car Challenge, and I’m glad that the field was as large as it was. I didn’t really have a chance to walk the show this year, so it gave me the chance to check some of the cars out, up close and personal.


Mr. Pikes Peak himself, Mike Ryan, brought out his massive Freightliner to put on a demo for the spectators.


The event itself was held at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. It’s one of the few country club tracks that exist in North America. This is the perfect event for the amateur Speedhunter, as there’s plenty of access and you can get very close to the action.

Not just muscle

The top ten field may have been dominated by American muscle, but there were a few imports scattered in there including seventh place finisher, Steve Kepler, in his 2013 Nissan GT-R.


Another Japanese car also in the top ten was the 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII driven by Todd Earsley. He ended up in sixth place.


It seems RWD and AWD cars reigned supreme across the grid. There were a few FWD entries, but they finished near the bottom of the pack.


This Mazda RX-7 FD had a V8 secret. Crazy motor swaps were quite common.


Such a clean and good looking build. Form and function all in one package.


My day to day morning routine has changed after racing the Idlers 12 hours of Motegi in a RWB 964. I now wake up, search Craigslist, Ebay, and every other online car buying website, and look for a used 964 Porsche 911.


After finding none or a few that are out of my price range, I crawl back into bed and cry myself to sleep.


One day I will join the ranks of the elite, but until then I can only ogle at the wonderful creations of BBI Autosport.


The boys who built Jeff Zwart’s 911 GT3 Pikes Peak car are at it again. This time they built a throwback 997, with the intent of competing in many different disciplines of racing, including standing mile events.


Behind the wheel was Betim Berisha, co-owner of BBI and all-round crazy guy. He just does not lift.


They ended up in 14th position, which is not too bad considering it was their first outing with the car here.


They usually compete in a Porsche 930 turbo, which has earned them a few top ten finishes. I know they’ll be back next year, hopefully with a even more retro livery.

Show cars

I was always under the assumption that SEMA cars were only for show and most of them can’t move under their own power.


So when I saw this Mach Forty Mustang last year at the SEMA show, I figured it was just a crazy show car that may never see the track or the street.


I was totally wrong. This thing absolutely rips, and it looks amazing doing so.


The interior was still perfect, and less than 24 hours prior, it was bathed in the florescent lights of the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Rod Chong asked me what my favorite car was at SEMA this year and I blanked out. I didn’t get to see much, but a few cars put a lasting impression on me.


This was one of them. This was the most beautiful muscle car build I’ve ever seen.


Along with the aesthetics the cars are put through an auto-x course and also put to a braking test, where drivers have to stop in a marked box. A marshal stands there watching and if you go over the line just by a hair, he raises the flag and you throw away your run.


Of course if you do poorly on one test, you have the chance to make it up in the next. Whether it be the braking test, or the road course hot lap.


Although I have a feeling that this Icon truck was out there just to have fun. It was driven by the the builder himself, Jonathan Ward.


Another one of Jonathan’s creations was out there having a blast too.


This Lincoln was another one of my favorites out there. It just looks so out of place, but I love the concept.


The outside patina is preserved, but the body is fairly straight. The paint was pretty much non-existent.


I don’t know if I would fit this car, because I don’t look as badass as this dude, but I would still cruise down the middle of Hollywood with this beast.


The interior was as perfect as it could get. Just absolutely beautiful. When the sun hit it just right, I nearly lost my breath.


It’s not a surprise that this car did not finish well, but in my book this was an ultimate street car in its own right.

Sore thumb

Another car that stood out like a sore thumb was this Mercedes SLS AMG. In a sea of muscle cars, this German machine held its own.


It was built by the boys at Speedconcepts in Wisconsin. They wanted to pay homage to the SLS GT3 car and there was no widebody kit available for the Mercedes, so they took it upon themselves to design their own.


The fitment was incredible, but I won’t go into detail right now as I shot a full feature, so expect to see that soon.


To test the drivability of all the cars, each competitor had to drive from the SEMA show to an undisclosed location. You don’t have to drive fast, but you just have to get there under the car’s own power.


The craftsmanship on this 1973 Chevrolet Camaro was second to none. It’s so cool to see all these muscle cars built not just for straight line speed.


Just check out that trick wing mount. It was built by Randy Johnson of D&Z Custom in Wisconsin.


If you want to talk about show stoppers then this 1969 Ford  Torino built by ‘Rad Rides by Troy’ was the craziest of them all.


After how much effort those guys put into the car and how clean it was, I couldn’t believe that it was out there thrashing tires with the rest of the competitors. That makes me like this car that much more. Hopefully I can feature this for you guys soon enough.


Out of the 54 cars, one stood out as the true ultimate street car, with lightning-fast lap times and looks to back it up. Brian Hobaugh took top honors in his super cleanly built 1965 Corvette.


After the event the organizers gathered everyone up for a single photo, with all of the competitors standing next to their cars on the skidpad.


It took the better part of an hour to set it all up and by the time everyone was in position the light was perfect and the shadows were super long.


Don’t you hate it when a group of spokesmodels get in the way of your shot? MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! #SpeedhuntersProblems


I’m actually disappointed in myself for not checking out this event earlier as this was my first year covering the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge. It also makes me want to enter my 240z Ole Orange Bang one of these years. After some new paint of course, and maybe new seats, new brakes, carpet, exhaust, wheels, turbo, intercooler, LSD, coilovers, ugh….



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Hi, I'd like every car in this article please? M'Kay? Thanks!


That Gran Torino is bad ass. I saw it in another outlet's coverage and just drooled. Also, feature on the winning Stingray? I have a thing for them.


Speedhunters_Bryn I can see you in that awesome Thriftmaster. I'll have the ’46 Club Coupe, please.


I have a new found respect for American muscle n sema cars all together.


P1 Race Photography The Sting Ray has been on the radar for a while, it's just trying to be in the same place as it for long enough!


d_rav Then Optima's work is done! :)


obsession_Si Speedhunters_Bryn They're from the same place, Icon Automotive, however you're looking a half million dollars worth of metal between the two. 
So yeah, let's do it!


Troy builds incredible cars. I'd actually be ok if you featured basically everything in this post.


"Behind the while was" - other than that I love this, makes some of the builds seem more worth it. the less garage queens the better.


I love Mike Ryan's rig. The Banks super-turbo diesel motor is about as American as it gets. After he made his run up Pikes, when all the cars came back down, that supercharger made it sound like a freight train. That guy is the man, serious wheelin'!


P1 Race Photography Except it wasn't called a Gran Torino in '69. The Torino line didn't pick up the Gran prefix until 1972. Part of what makes that Torino so awesome beyond the amazing work that's been done to it is the fact that it's a Talladega model which was produced to dominate Nascar and subsequently lead to the production of the Plymouth Super Bird and Dodge Charger Daytona.


PowerTryp Fair enough. I thought it didn't look like any Grant Torino I'd seen, but wasn't sure. Thanks for the education. :)


and the best thing about this article?
the download wallpaper button on the supermodels photo.... ;)
only joking, I'm still trying to decide which car i want the most (after the Freightliner that is...)


AdamBasing Damn, that Freightliner doe!


JakWhite Good spot - fixed now.




I too hope you can feature that Torino soon. Damn.


SuzyWallace Spanks!


DaveT Too many amazing cars, head exploded.....


d_rav You are telling me...


Speedhunters_Bryn Just be like @Speedhunters_mike and buy all of the cars.


I miss seeing that Gold & Black 67 Nova at work everyday. Speedhunters has got to go visit Jet-Hot's Facility in Burlington, NC for some Muscle Car goodness.


Larry - you forgot


For your 964 daily search


Speedhunters_Bryn P1 Race Photography Funny I just approached the owner of the red Stingray on Saturday when he was competing in the Goodguys Autocross.  I have his number now, we have to feature it!


More please!!!


AM81 Lol if Craigslist and Ebay prices have him crying himself back to sleep...


'65 'Vette looks Beast Mode just sitting there.  The Mach 40 had me sitting here like "somethings not right..." before I recognized what it was.  If dudes were building cars like this when I was younger I probably wouldn't be such an import fan.
Booo to V8 RX-7s.
Loving the Apple livery on the Porsche.
This looks like a pretty sweet event.  I'll make a note to keep track of it next year


If you want to buy a 911 for use as a track rat, just get a 930. They're pretty much identical to a 964 but a little less sophisticated and a lot more fun to drive - the 964 is well known for being one of the more sedate generations of 911.


Larry, I found a 911 in your price range. It's perfect too because it's local.


I would love to see a feature on that Torino it's badassery all the way, I may be wrong but its been spotlighted twice already, i think.


Holy......DAT VETTE!!!!!


Look at that Mustang behind the small it was!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


LouisYio I should get myself one of those so i can say " yeah that's right i own an old 911"


That Mach Forty Mustang is just amazing!


AM81 Great site


Larry Chen DaveT This is an event I really want to go to. I should try and extend my next visit to vegas..
I need to hit up a GoodGuys autocross too.


I think that DRIVE did a segment on that red stingray on youtube. Great post. That Mustang is badass.


Every time I see that red Vette I say to myself "damn!" I vote full feature on it, car is amazing. Is that mustang mid engine now?


CSAlltrac Yeah that Mustang is mid engine. It also sounds amazing.


greenroadster haha


D1RGE I know, it's crazy how large the front tires are on that thing.


Trentworth Yeah, I have seen it at a few shows, but it's hard to get it to a secluded place for me to do nasty things to it.


FeelXtra LouisYio Damn, I just hope no one buys it before I do.


Jmayhem I want one as a daily driver, as oddly as that sounds. Because I already have a track rat, and that is my S30. The paint is coming off and it is loud as hell, but it is fast.
I think the 964 ot 993 would be my ideal daily, It's fast, but it wont get me in trouble. It has power everything. They are reliable if you take care of them.  For the Iders 12 hours of Motegi, we drove the 964 and 993 RWB cars to the track, raced them for 2500km, then drove them back. All 6 of them made it no problems, because they were taken care of.


Simply P It really is THE thing to do after the SEMA show.


KeithCharvonia Speedhunters_Bryn You are so sneaky.


Larry Chen Simply P That or sleep until check-out time at the hotel, which is what I did.


Larry Chen KeithCharvonia Speedhunters_Bryn #SpeedhuntingNinja


Larry Chen Jmayhem Yeah, power-steering and ABS make the 964 far more enjoyable as a DD compared to the 930. Only downside (for any air-cooled Porsche mind you) is that you have to do a valve adjustment every 12,000 miles which is quite pricey/time-consuming maintenance for a daily driver.


Great article and pics! I'm a little bummed you didn't get pics of John Lazorack's 88 Conquest that was the cover car for September's Modified Magazine. He competed in their shootout and got 3rd place.


Wonderful story and photo set.


No love for the 1,000hp 2nd Gen blue '81 Trans Am from West Bend Dyno Tuning? For shame, for shame.


That Vette is an absolute monster. Nothing is better than seeing a show car or a classic actually perform.