The 2nd Annual ST Challenge...
The 2nd Annual ST Challenge got started where it all happens: the Petersen building parking lot. After being given a quick rundown of the weekend&8217s events, the owners fired up their trucks and headed down the road.
How many Sport Truck editors...
How many Sport Truck editors does it take to fill a gas tank? Jim Aust, Kevin Lee, and Rick Amado come to an agreement on the proper method to fill the tank of Gary Svecko&8217s Chevy.
A couple of the hardest working...
A couple of the hardest working guys of the weekend had to be Ted Hererras and James Paul, who mounted and balanced all 20 of the fresh, BFGoodrich-supplied tires. Besides our great debt of appreciation to BFGoodrich, we&8217d also like to thank the Palmdale, California, Sears Tire Center manager, Raymond Wilson, for having us back a second year and doing such a great job.
All in a row. The contestants...
All in a row. The contestants motor down the highway and head north in the first leg of the competition: the mileage test.
After the 60-mile jaunt to...
After the 60-mile jaunt to Palmdale, the trucks were gassed up again so we could calculate the total fuel consumption. All the rigs did surprisingly well--a testament to modern performance upgrades and overdrive transmissions.
After treating everyone to...
After treating everyone to a big lunch, we drove to the photo shoot location, and while we waited for the perfect sunlight, we had a chance to get better acquainted with the trucks and judge the high-quality craftsmanship of each entry.
Sam "Wild Willy" Head showed...
Sam "Wild Willy" Head showed the crowd how to click off a one-handed blast in his big-block-powered Chevy, narrowly beating all the supercharged trucks without even breathing hard.
The Sport Truck staff gave...
The Sport Truck staff gave 110 percent to make the Challenge a success. Here Jim shows off his "special" managerial skill learned from years of real-world experience.
The key to winning the Sport...
The key to winning the Sport Truck Challenge is versatility; Randy DuBois&8217 Dodge did it all well. Here, John Hotchkis pushes the Ram to a win in the Slalom category.
Hot shoe John Hotchkis was...
Hot shoe John Hotchkis was again an invaluable participant in another Sport Truck event. He squeezed everything out of the trucks, and the owners loved watching their trucks cook through the cones.
Jason Hammond&8217s Dakota...
Jason Hammond&8217s Dakota was our only casualty during the events. He tore into the challenge hoping to continue the good fight, but a teardown after the race revealed that all the clutch material had been torn off the steel disc.
Can you see the grin on Randy...
Can you see the grin on Randy face? After experiencing his first quarter-mile pass, Randy went home with a permanent smile.
Gary Svecko&8217s truck waited...
Gary Svecko&8217s truck waited until moments after the last event to let go of the smog pump bypass valve. The problem was easy work for this team of McGyvers, which quickly remedied the problem with a penny and a pair of Vise-Grips.
After the editors drove each...
After the editors drove each truck through a smooth and twisty piece of canyon on the Ride & Drive, everyone said their good-byes and put one excellent weekend under their belts.
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.