In case you're new to the whole Asphalt Ego-Rama thing, here's what's been happening. R&C readers chose these six cars from twenty semi-finalists presented in the October '03 issue. These lucky six will met in L.A. in November for five days of competition, cruising, and camaraderie. The R&C staff will ride along to judge each car in nine categories: Acceleration, Braking, Cornering, Driveability, Engineering, People's Choice, Budget, Mileage, and Participant Attitude. At the end, we will pick one--and only one--as the '03 champion. Which car will it be? The A coupe? The wagon? The big Olds? We can't tell you. At press time, our "duke-out in the desert" is still several weeks away. You'll have to wait 'til the April issue for our mile-by-mile play-by-play. Which one do you think will win?
Norm Cowdrey's '56 Chevy Nomad
Don't let the family funster facade fool you. Norm says the wagon--which he built up from a heap--is "basically a '96 Corvette with a Nomad body on it." The Nomad rides on a Paul Newman frame with C5 aluminum and carbon-fiber suspension stuff. The engine is a rare fuel-injected Scoggin-Dickey ZZ430 tied to a six-speed ZF transmission.
Norm has been racing since the '60s, when he competed a blown Chevy-powered Austin Healey, which he claims was the world's fastest sports car. The Nomad, he says, "...is not going to be a strong quarter-mile car, but it will be respectable. It's a real cruiser and can run 70 mph at 2,000 rpm on the freeway. It corners like a BMW, and it stops really well."
Don Dillard's '30 Ford Five-Window Coupe
Dillard's A was basically a pile of parts when he bought it in 1997 but has been on the road ever since. Don's been into rods since his teenage years and used to bracket race musclecar-era Mopars. Lately, he's been thrashing on the coupe, testing it at nearby Irwindale Dragstrip. "The first time I took it out I had traction problems, so I swapped in a Posi third member and got some stickier tires. Now I'm going to tune the engine, carb, and ignition and swap the heads.
"All in all, I've got a good balance in enough categories that it'll make a good showing. It's a beater hot rod. It's not a polished, plated, painted show car, but it goes down the road as well as any car out there. It's a little noisy, but it's a hot rod."
Fred Douglas' '48 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible
Fred has owned the Olds since 1994 but says it was the introduction of the Chevy 502 Ram Jet engine that inspired him to get serious building it. Since it was finished in February, it has covered several thousand miles, been entered in the World of Wheels, and won Pro's Pick at the NSRA Nats. Fred has been hot rodding for 45 years, including experience running a flathead Ford roadster in a D-Altered class in the late '50s and early '60s. The Olds has never been on the dragstrip, "but will be before the competition.
"It handles as good as it looks and runs with the best of them. It ought to be interesting to put the car through it at this event, just to see what it will do. "
Larry Metz' '32 Ford Cabriolet
Larry's spent his whole life making flatheads go fast. His first hot rod was a flathead-powered '53 Willys Gasser that went all the way to the final round of the '63 Winternats. "I built cars like a typical kid back in those days--never quite right. I didn't have the money and the knowledge to know what I needed to do right." Things are different now, as we'll see when the Deuce--homebuilt and running a blown flattie--shows up for the Ego-Rama.
"It runs mid-14s in the quarter-mile," Larry claims. "I've had it at California Speedway up to about 120 mph with no problems. It'll drive and go at any speed you want to drive it. It's a cool-running flathead that goes anywhere."
Tim Nesmith's '41 Chevy Coupe
Tim grew up in a family of gearheads with a driveway full of musclecars and hot rods. His coupe was a rust bucket when he started building it 10 years ago. "It was built to be a street/strip type of rod," he told us. "I built everything for street, but if I wanted to put a pair of small slicks on the back, I could." The '41 Chevy rides on a 2x3-inch frame, a Mustang II frontend, ladder bars, coilovers, and a 9-inch rearend with Moser axles and an Auburn differential. It's got a NASCAR front swaybar and rear swaybar with Panhard bar. "I built it to be something I could do anything with. You can really sling the car into corners. It top-ends pretty good, handles good, and accelerates really well. Plus it's got all the creature comforts."
Rex Marshall's '55 Chevy 210
West Bountiful, UT
Rex has been building cars since he was a kid. "I got my first car done before I got my driver's license," he says. "My brother had to drive me around in it." His cool old '55 has a lengthy resume. It was first built in '60s as a street freak, followed by a stint as a drag racer. The following owner intended to turn it into a street machine but ended up putting the Chevy in storage in 1980. It didn't come out until Rex heard about it and persuaded the owner to sell it. Now it's primarily a street car but does see a little quarter-mile action from time to time. "The car drives good and it has a lot of crowd appeal. Anybody with any time under his belt can really relate to it. Everybody with no hair and gray hair loves it! It'll be a lot of fun to participate."