Asphalt Ego-Rama V
Putting The Best to the Test on out Readers' rods Road Trip Shootout
From the February, 2009 issue of Rod & Custom
By Tim Bernsau
Photography by The Rod & Custom Staff
What started as an excuse to go out and play with other people's cars has grown into something huge. More than a race. More than a road trip. More than a show. It's all those combined, plus some magazine-induced torture testing and a week's worth of adventure. Only 33 hot rods have ever competed in this event. This is the story of seven of them.
The Asphalt Ego-Rama finalists for 2005 consisted of:
Corey and Judy Cummings' '47 Ford coupe
Rich Guasco's '29 Ford roadster, accompanied by Jim Bell
Jerry and Cheryl Krob's '59 Chevy
Jack Parker's '41 Ford coupe, accompanied by Bob Klessig
Denise Sheldon's '47 Olds convertible
Jim and Eleanor Sheldon's '56 Olds
Jim Shelton's '32 Ford roadster, accompanied by Scott Gafforini
Asphalt Ego-Rama contestants were judged in nine categories. Craftsmanship evaluated workmanship, design, and detail. Ride and Drive (determined by riding in or driving every vehicle) included comfort, ergonomics, practicality, and passing power. Budget rewarded lower cost. Fuel Economy was calculated between gas stops. People's Choice was based on spectator voting at the Twilight Cruise at the NHRA Museum. Acceleration, Handling, and Braking tests took place at California Speedway. Style points (to promote sportsmanship and discourage whining) were evaluated throughout the event.
From our starting point in Lake Tahoe, we cruised through California's historic gold country. Sequoia National Park provided the opportunity for sightseeing as well as for putting the cars through the paces. Radical altitude changes and twisty switchbacks gave us the chance to see how each of these cars handled challenging real-road conditions.
We dropped out of the Sequoia's into California's flat central valley, and rode state Highway 99 into Bakersfield. The best scenery now was our column of cars running down the four-lane. At Ironworks Speed & Custom in Bakersfield, Rodger Lee hosted a get-together for Asphalt Ego-Rama participants and local rodders.The drive from Bakersfield to L.A. was our final long leg of the road trip. We stopped at the Big Dog Garage in Burbank, where Jay Leno stores his 89 cars and almost as many motorcycles, for a rare private tour conducted by Bob Sales, who helps maintain Leno's fleet. We agreed not to publish any photos (sorry), but ask any of the Asphalt Ego-Rama participants and they'll be glad to share a few shots of Jay's Stanley Steamers, Duesenbergs, Bentleys, and Bugattis. After lunch, we headed to the Justice Brothers Racing Museum in Duarte. We were fortunate to find Ed Justice there and he was happy to give us a personal tour to show off his collection of iron--from the Kurtis-Kraft racers that helped the J. Bros make their name in racing, to Midgets, Sprint Cars, Top Fuelers, and Indy cars.
Although Ride and Drive, and Craftsmanship make up a big portion of the Asphalt Ego-Rama, it's the track testing that everybody looks forward to. People want immediate results, hard numbers, and objective ranking. They got all that at the California Speedway in Fontana. Acceleration time trials were first. Everybody got to make numerous passes down the dragstrip, but Rich Guasco's Model A finished far ahead of the rest of the pack once he figured out he wasn't behind the wheel of his Pure Hell Altered and eased the roadster out of the hole. From the dragstrip we moved on to 60-0 mph brake testing. It's tougher than it sounds, but fun to watch--especially when participants start locking up the tires for big smoke (Corey and Jack), busting brake lines (Denise), and sliding toward the R&C photog (no names to protect the guilty). Jim's '56 Olds, with 13-inch Baer Racing discs at all corners, dominated, halting the black and silver Olds from 60 in a short 133 ft.
In the Handling competition, drivers took shots at slaloming through seven cones set 75 ft apart, as quickly as possible without knocking any over. It takes a well-tuned suspension and some driving skill to do it fast. It's not about horsepower here--a smooth constant run nets the best times. Even a lifetime of drag racing experience is no guarantee that your Model A roadster (for example) isn't going to break loose and find you pointing the wrong direction. Corey Cummings got a chance to show off his Corvette-suspended '47, which zipped through the pylons in 6.68 seconds at 42.8 mph.
Until this point, Asphalt Ego-Rama points rankings had been unknown. Now that we were clocking some official times, we could sense a rise in the competitive vibe. But there was still a day and a half of Asphalt Ego-Rama left. The next morning, we visited the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino. The 150-plane collection includes flyers going back earlier than Wilbur and Orville, and prominently features WWII-era planes from the U.S. and Japan. We backtracked to SO-CAL Speed Shop in Pomona. Jerry Krob had been there all morning, replacing a driveshaft carrier bearing. Tony Thacker gave us a tour, and owner Pete Chapouris and hot rod legend Alex Xydias (who opened SO-CAL in 1946) joined us for lunch.
The Kennedy Brothers shop, about a mile from SO-CAL, is always packed with traditional hot rod projects. Joe and Jay didn't mind us crashing in for a look around. In fact, they were happy to show us the dozens of pallets of parts and a few '32s they had recently bought from a collector. From there we headed to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum for the Twilight Cruise Night, where spectators cast their votes for their favorite car of the bunch. Later that night, after we unwound with a good dinner in our guts, we counted ballots, reviewed track test numbers, and argued the merits and shortcomings of each car. With seven distinctly different competitors to evaluate, it was an apples-and-oranges comparison in many ways, but we had seven plaques and only one said "Winner." The ultimate decision was unanimous.
The announcement was made at Boyd Coddington's shop in La Habra. Boyd fed us and gave us full access to his very impressive facility. And unless we came on a slow day--there was far less drama than you see on "American Hot Rod." The real drama was reserved for our final bit of business--the awards presentation. The prize could've gone to any of these real-world, do-it-all rods, but Jim Shelton's '32 roadster ultimately earned it. Jim and Eleanor, Denise, Jack, Jerry and Cheryl, Rich, and Corey and Judy also earned our respect. All seven of these cars are hard-driven, big-mile rides, built to do exactly what Asphalt Ego-Rama was created to promote. Thanks to everybody.
Asphalt Ego-Rama's first day...
Asphalt Ego-Rama's first day on the road took us down the western rim of Lake Tahoe. We would have made better time, but we couldn't resist stopping for photo ops along the way. Our seven competitor cars made for some nice scenery as well.
Taking a break from some hardcore...
Taking a break from some hardcore driving through the switchbacks in Sequoia National Park. The cars look tiny next to the Sequoias, which can grow as high as 300 ft and as wide as 35 ft in diameter, and live for 3,000 years.
The Sheldons drove their '56...
The Sheldons drove their '56 out from Livonia, MI, along with their daughter Denise and her '47. Despite a fairly mild-mannered appearance (betrayed by the recent black and silver paint), Jim's Olds is loaded with successful performance modifications, which helped place it high in the Handling competition and at the top of the Craftsmanship and Braking categories.
From a photographer's viewpoint,...
From a photographer's viewpoint, Denise's '47 Olds was the rod to ride in since it's roomy and topless--perfect for shooting from. Denise was the most enthusiastic participant (who else would back up a steep mountain switchback and scramble down a ravine to retrieve a lost hubcap?).
After fueling our bellies...
After fueling our bellies in Lake Tahoe, our caravan traveled through several California gold country towns, such as Angel's Camp and Sonora, which have kept their 19th century look. Nowadays the gold comes from the pockets of the tourists.
A wayward spark plug sidelined...
A wayward spark plug sidelined the Sheldons' '56 briefly, but thankfully we had lots of knowledgeable help on hand to get it cruising again in no time.
Jack Parker rounded out the...
Jack Parker rounded out the entourage from Michigan, making the trip from Muskegon in his '41 Ford, co-piloted by Bob Klessig (who competed in last year's event).
A whole crowd of hot rodders...
A whole crowd of hot rodders showed up at Ironworks Speed & Custom. Many had been at the Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway. They must've heard that we were in town--or that shop owner Rodger Lee was providing free eats. Ego-Raman Jerry Krob was taking in the finer points of this straight-six-powered custom Dodge.
Don't you wish the office...
Don't you wish the office you worked in had a lobby that looked like this? Ed Justice (in the blue cap) is now in his 80s, but remembers the history and details of every car in the Justice Brothers Racing Museum.
Not one to be outdone, R&C...
Not one to be outdone, R&C staffer Jim Aust demonstrates the proper slalom technique on his restored Schwinn Stingray. Off camera, the Asphalt Ego-Rama emergency team gets ready with the Bactine.
Jack and his impressive garage-built...
Jack and his impressive garage-built coupe came ready to compete. Here he showed us the proper technique for flat-spotting some tires. A few others followed his lead.
It was obvious that the Krobs...
It was obvious that the Krobs enjoy driving their finned flier. The primarily stock chassis was built for the road, and while not dominating in any particular category, the big red beast held its own in overall Asphalt Ego-Rama competition.
You can take the man out of...
You can take the man out of the dragstrip, but you can't take the dragstrip out of the man. Rich was looking for any advantage he could get and removing the windshield seemed like a logical choice.
We predicted in print that...
We predicted in print that the Cummings' '47 Ford was going to surprise everybody in the slalom and--how about that--we were right. Give credit to the Fourth-Gen Corvette suspension underneath the car.
The second quickest dragstrip...
The second quickest dragstrip time was posted by Jim's full-fendered Deuce. Jim raced a rail himself back in the '60s, and although the '32 was built for the highway, the small-block can pull it down the quarter-mile just fine.
Kevin was the man with the...
Kevin was the man with the numbers everyone wanted as things started heating up during the performance testing.
Getting a little sideways...
Getting a little sideways in the '29. Hang on, Rich! Looks like he forgot this was the slalom course, which is not about horsepower. The end of the course is actually behind him.
At SO-CAL Speed Shop, we got...
At SO-CAL Speed Shop, we got the full tour, plus lunch. In addition to some amazing hot rod buildups, SO-CAL is always involved in a number of high-tech race projects.
After feeding us lunch, Pete...
After feeding us lunch, Pete Chapouris and Alex Xydias answered questions, posed for photos, and autographed stamped aluminum SO-CAL shop signs, which they gave to every Asphalt Ego-Rama participant.
We spent some time at the...
We spent some time at the Kennedy Brothers shop, checking out the traditional rods, such as this unchopped '32 five-window (the body is going to stay just like that) and the radically chopped, Hemi-powered version next to it.
The Twilight Cruise is a first-Wednesday-of-the-month...
The Twilight Cruise is a first-Wednesday-of-the-month tradition at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, drawing hundreds of pre-'74 cars and thousands of spectators. The organizers saved seven primo spots for Asphalt Ego-Rama participants.
At the end of a long, fun...
At the end of a long, fun week, the Asphalt Ego-Rama awards presentation took place at Boyd Coddington's shop, but not until everybody had a chance to look around.
Jim Shelton's goal was to...
Jim Shelton's goal was to replicate the style of the first hot rods that could drive to the strip or the lake, compete, and drive home. In the two years he has been driving the roadster, he has covered more than 45,000 miles. He finished first in Fuel Economy and Ride and Drive categories, and very high in Craftsmanship, Braking, and People's Choice, and is the 2005 Asphalt Ego-Rama champion.
|Category Winners |
| || |
|Acceleration: ||Rich Guasco's '32 Ford |
|Braking: ||Jim Sheldon's '56 Olds |
|Handling: ||Corey Cummings' '47 Ford |
|Craftsmanship: ||Jim Sheldon's '56 Olds |
|Ride & Drive: ||Jim Shelton's '32 Ford |
|Gas Mileage: ||Jim Shelton's '32 Ford |
|Budget: ||Denise Sheldon's '47 Olds |
|People's Choice: ||Denise Sheldon's '47 Olds |
|Style Points: ||(Tie) Rich Guasco and Denise Sheldon |
| || |
|Corey Cummings' '47 Ford || |
|Acceleration: ||16.54 at 87.15 mph |
|Braking: || 176 ft |
|Handling: || 6.68 seconds at 42.8 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 19.4 mpg |
| || |
|Rich Guasco's '29 Ford || |
|Acceleration: || 13.01 at 113.48 mph |
|Braking: || 159 ft |
|Handling: || 7.01 seconds at 40.9 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 17.3 mpg |
| || |
|Jerry Krob's '59 Chevy || |
|Acceleration: || 17.28 at 82.58 mph |
|Braking: || 169 ft |
|Handling: || 8.23 seconds at 34.9 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 16.4 mpg |
| || |
|Jack Parker's '41 Ford coupe || |
|Acceleration: || 14.43 at 98.40 mph |
|Braking: || 165 ft |
|Handling: || 7.10 seconds at 40.3 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 16.1 mpg |
| || |
|Denise Sheldon's '47 Olds || |
|Acceleration: || 15.71 at 88.65 mph |
|Braking: || 169 ft |
|Handling: || 7.62 seconds at 37.8 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 14.4 mpg |
| || |
|Jim Sheldon's '56 Olds || |
|Acceleration: || 14.73 at 96.79 mph |
|Braking: || 133 ft |
|Handling: || 6.89 seconds at 41.5 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 14.8 mpg |
| || |
|Jim Shelton's '32 Ford || |
|Acceleration: || 14.12 at 100.08 mph |
|Braking: || 147 ft |
|Handling: || 7.19 seconds at 39.7 mph |
|Gas Mileage: || 20.9 mpg |