Are you a gambling man? The five daring truck owners who put it all on the line at this year’s 2nd Annual Sport Truck Challenge were, and in the end everyone came up a winner. Winners because they came, they ran, and they left satisfied with competing and having made a few new friends.

This year&8217s event was a full year in the making; planning commenced immediately after last year’s inaugural "running of the trucks." A few of this year’s competitors got so excited reading about the 1999 event in the Jan. 1999 issue, they submitted their entry forms a year ago.

We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to write and express why their truck was a good candidate for the Challenge and share some great photos too. The array of great trucks submitted made the selection process very difficult. When we began choosing trucks for the event, we looked for the most balanced performance trucks and owners who were willing to put their rides to the ultimate head-to-head battle against other owner-built sport trucks. When the dust settled, we had six very serious trucks and no obvious winners. This was going to truly be anybody’s event--unlike last year’s event, which was dominated by the take-no-prisoners 1957 Chevy entered by Doug Blocker.

The six trucks that ran this year were a 454-powered 1967 Chevy shortbed; a 1988 Chevy fullsize with a Vortech supercharged Corvette engine; a 1994 Dodge Dakota prepped for serious quarter-mile action; a 1997 Dodge Ram SS/T packing a Kenne Bell supercharger; a 1998 Ford F-150 also sporting a Vortech unit; and a 351-powered Ford Ranger.

It looked like a balanced group of trucks, covering just about every segment of the performance-minded sport truck hobby; so we were, of course, excited. Unfortunately, the V-8 Ranger had tranny problems on the way to California and had to be towed home. We were down to five challengers.

All the contestants knew the simple rules: The trucks must be currently registered and insured to operate legally on California highways. The trucks would be required to compete in all the events with no major changes (for example, no removal of the sway bars or the tonneau covers, and so forth). They would compete on a brand-new set of owner-selected BFGoodrich T/As, which the company generously donated for this competition.

The challenge is broken into six separate events. A total of 1,000 points is possible. A maximum amount of points was designated for each event, and a percentage of points went to each contestant based on his ranking behind the First Place winner in each category. For example, if the fastest truck scored a 13.06 quarter-mile, then it received 250 points. If the second fastest truck ran a 14.30 second time, it received 228 points because it was 91.3 percent as fast as the First Place truck. The events we ran were as follows:

1. Quarter-mile acceleration (250 points): The contestants were given five passes down the quarter-mile; we used the best time from a standing start.

2. Craftsmanship (250 points): Scores were subjectively determined by staff members based on a number of factors like paint and panel fitment, chassis engineering, and interior design.

3. Ride & Drive (200 points): Scores were determined as the five staff members drove the trucks on a predetermined road course. Points were given for driveability, comfort, noise level, and general mechanical soundness.

4. 600-foot slalom (150 points): Scores were determined by the best of three runs through a tight slalom course consisting of six cones placed at 100-foot intervals.

5. 60-zero mph braking (100 points): Scores were determined by the best of three stops from 60 mph.

6. Fuel economy (50 points): Scores were determined by the best fuel economy during a 60-mile drive.

We tanked up all the contestants and took the highway to our desert destination. A quick trip out of Los Angeles, and we were in Palmdale, California. We refilled all the trucks with more 92-octane to calculate the fuel economy. The next stop was the Sears Auto Center, where we mounted all the rigs with fresh sets of BFG skins. The hardworking Sears crew, run by manager Raymond Wilson, made quick work of the 20 dismount/mount/balance jobs.

After getting the new tires, we took the contestants for a hearty lunch and then to the Palmdale Holiday Inn to check in. Everybody was allowed a little rest, and then we were back on the road, heading to a sunset photo shoot.

As we waited for the perfect (sweet) light, the Sport Truck staff broke out the judging booklets and graded the trucks on craftsmanship after each owner/builder gave a detailed walk-through of the special modifications he’d made to his truck.

After the beauty shots were on film, and the last drop of light was squeezed out of the sun, we headed back to town for a much deserved steak dinner. By now, everyone was feeling friendly, and stories of all types were swapped. After a good night’s rest, the anxious competitors were up early Sunday morning, raring to take a crack at performance testing. Another caravan was assembled, and spirits were high as the trucks were readied for battle.

At the track, the smell of competition filled the air. Tire pressures were lowered, and engines tuned in preparation for some full-bore quarter-mile passes. Things began great, but our most promising quarter-miler, the Dodge Dakota, made one spectacular launch then failed to find Fourth gear at the top end of the track. He coasted to a 13.00 and was unable to make any more serious passes. We knew the truck was broken, but it wasn&8217t until after the event that we discovered the first launch had spun all the clutch material off the disk, which made shifting nearly impossible. We were going to count the Dodge out, but the owner wanted to continue, and we applauded him for his fighting spirit.

The drags went well; the Dakota posted the quickest e.t., followed by the 1967 pickup, the 1997 Ram, the 1988 Chevy, and the 1998 Ford.

Next in line was the traditional 600-foot slalom. For this event, all the keys were handed to driver extraordinaire John Hotchkis. John put the trucks through the cones like nobody else could. The grace and agility the trucks possessed was amazing. This was the most tightly scored event in the competition.

The last performance event was brake testing. For this event, we’d suggest that anyone considering participating in next year’s event pay close attention: The brake test is what ultimately separated the First Place and Second Place winners this year, so don’t take this area of performance lightly.

The final event, which was the most fun for the Sport Truck staff, was the Ride & Drive. Staffers were able to put down the cameras and pens and do what these trucks were made for: drive. And, boy, did we see what these trucks were really made of. We tested comfort, acceleration, ride, functionality, and overall driving thrill. This was a great way to finish the weekend.

Later, we said our thank yous and good-byes and relished the fact that it’s nice trucks and great people are what make this event so successful. We hope to make next year’s event even more exciting, and, hopefully, you’ll be there to show us a side of truck performance we’ve never seen before.

SOURCE
BFGoodrich Tires
877-788-8899
www.bfgoodrichtires.com
Sears Auto Center
1225 Rte. 9 N.
Old Bridge
NJ  08857
Hotchkis Performance
12035 Burke St., Ste. 13
Santa Fe Springs
CA  90670
877-466-7655
www.hotchkis.net