On Without DonIn the three years we've been hosting the Asphalt Ego-Rama, we've had our fair share of mechanical breakdowns, but this was the first time a participant had to drop out of the activity. On our second evening on the road, Don Dillard was injured as he was starting his Model A coupe. Standing just enough in the car to turn the key, Don wanted to warm up the engine for a few minutes. The brand-new Neutral safety switch failed, and as soon as he turned the key, the coupe lurched backward a foot or two, hitting a cement wall and knocking him to the ground. A few tense minutes later an ambulance crew showed up and transported Don to a local hospital. He was released several hours later with a possible vertebrae compression fracture and spent the next few days recovering at Rodney Bauman's nearby home. He has since been recuperating at his parents' house. The A was cared for at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido. We debated whether or not to proceed with Ego-Rama and, once we learned that Don was going to be okay, voted to keep going.

Before he even knew he was a finalist, Don started completely rebuilding his coupe in anticipation of this event. We were all disappointed that he had to drop out and missed his sense of humor and positive attitude (and the chance to ride in the Model A). But we'll all get a second chance when Don comes back for Ego-Rama '04.

Category WinnersAcceleration: Rex Marshall's '55 Chevy 210Braking: Norm Cowdrey's '56 Chevy NomadCornering: Larry Metz' '32 Ford cabrioletEngineering: Fred Douglas' '48 Oldsmobile convertibleGas Mileage: Rex Marshall's '55 Chevy 210Ride & Drive: Norm Cowdrey's '56 Chevy NomadBudget: Rex Marshall's '55 Chevy 210Style Points: Tim Nesmith's '41 Chevy coupePeople's Choice: Fred Douglas' '48 Oldsmobile convertible

Wanna Be in Ego-Rama 2004?Can your ego handle our Ego-Rama? If you'd like to take a shot at participating in Asphalt Ego-Rama '04, send us a letter describing in detail your '64-or-earlier rod or custom. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number, E-mail address, and a good photo of your car or truck. In addition, include a one-sentence explanation of why readers should pick your vehicle for Ego-Rama.

Send your letter and photo to:ROD & CUSTOM Asphalt Ego-Rama2400 E. Katella Ave.Anaheim, CA 92806E-mail to: rodcustom@primedia.com

Entries must be received by April 9, 2004.

Thanks To Our SponsorsThis year, the Asphalt Ego-Rama benefitted from the participation of four corporate sponsors in some of our competitive categories. Thanks to the following companies that helped us out.

Objective Test ResultsNorm Cowdrey's '56 Chevy NomadAcceleration: 13.96 at 96.78 mphBraking: 129 feetCornering: N/AGas Mileage: 12.75 mpg

Fred Douglas' '48 Oldsmobile ConvertibleAcceleration: 14.01 at N/A mphBraking: 163 feetCornering: N/AGas Mileage: 8.10 mpg

Rex Marshall's '55 Chevy 210Acceleration: 12.48 at 110.65 mphBraking: N/ACornering: 0.29 gGas Mileage: 16.67 mpg

Larry Metz' '32 Ford CabrioletAcceleration: 14.34 at 93.95 mphBraking: 138 feetCornering: 0.59 gGas Mileage: 16.35 mpg

Tim Nesmith's '41 Chevy CoupeAcceleration: 13.68 at 100.74 mphBraking: 159 feetCornering: 0.57 gGas Mileage: 14.30 mpg