They say everything old is new again, and the past few years we have seen a resurgence of the street car shootouts that were popular in the early- to mid-1990s when the NMCA Super Street class was all the rage and heads-up drag radial racing was just beginning to take off. Fast forward to today and we can plainly see the evolution of what exactly is, or isn’t a street car. From those early shootouts, and 10.5-inch tire racing, morphed a whole segment of the sport now engulfed with race cars running threes at over 200 mph. So, what happened to the little guy? Well, he didn’t really go anywhere … some are still at it, while plenty of new blood has joined the fray.
Many racers came up on the streets and graduated, if you will, to the track, out of safety and law enforcement concerns. Getting caught street racing was more than just a ticket and a tow home as priorities changed. Still, ever searching for a challenge, no prep racing was born, and in the age of the of the internet, it wasn’t long before YouTube made people famous, the small screen came calling, and the 405 was a national phenomenon with nearly everyone wanting a piece of the OKC Street Outlaws … to stake their own claim to the baddest in the land.
The racers in the 352 area code of north central Florida are no different, wanting to show one another, and the world, what they and their machines can do. Recently, they did, at Gainesville Raceway’s first ever small-tire street car shootout, to determine the 352’s own Top 10 List. We took it upon ourselves, however, to choose our own Top 10 — the baddest of the small-tire cars in the area, which are presented here in no particular order.
Tim Hafke’s “Ricky Bobby” 1991 Mustang GT
Tim Hafke’s Fox Body has seen better days, but pretty doesn’t make it fast. The car still hasn’t been painted from repairs made after nosing into the guardrail at Lakeland Dragstrip. Tim competes in NMRA/NMRA True Street and various local street car shootouts with the care Bassed out of Pro Fab Performance Plus in New Port Richey, Florida it is a multi-time event winner.
A Steve Schmidt big-block Chevy provides the ‘go’ with an Induction Solutions Fogger plumbed into a Profiler intake and a Pro Systems Dominator topping off the induction system. The power is transferred to an 8.8 rear by a CRT TH400 and PTC converter, with Matt LaRue from Pro Fab serving as crew chief and Andrew Richards and Andrew LaRue pulling crew duties at this event. The car was fully built in-house with a 25.5 cage and all the necessary equipment for safety and street reliability. This car isn’t just brought out for events and the 30-mile True Street cruise, no sir.
Jason Rollins’ 1971 Chevy Nova
Jason Rollins is another racer that competes in NMCA True Street as well as the local bracket racing program at Gainesville Raceway, and is familiar with the winner’s circle. Jason had a 1970 Monte Carlo in the mid-90’s and was looking for something lighter to put his engine in when he ran across this Nova for sale in the local paper. The car was clean and Jason jumped at it on the spot, buying the old classic Chevy, and driving her home in 1996.
He got to work on the car installing a 12-bolt rear from a 1965 Chevelle, swapping spring perches for the control arm mounts on the housing, and filling it with Strange Engineering components and 3.73:1 gears. The current engine is a 548 big-block Chevrolet topped with Air Flow Research 335 CNC heads and an Edelbrock Performer RPM plate set up by Induction Solutions. Power is transferred by an FTI transmission and converter built in-house at Rollins Automotive.
Landy Santana’s Stock Bottom End Test Car
Landy Santana finished his Mustang LS earlier this year, just before heading out to the NMRA season opener in Bradenton in early March. Labeling it the “Stock Bottom End Test Car” it has a 5.3-liter L33 LS topped with 243 casting heads he ported himself. That particular engine didn’t last the weekend, but those are the risks you accept running a stock engine, and fresh ones are still fairly easy to find. The car is fuel injected and runs an Accufab throttle body feeding into an Edelbrock intake. A camshaft from Martin Smallwood serves as the heart of the valvetrain. A Turbo 400 transmission from Robert Godfrey is turned by a PTC nitrous converter.
Santana did much of the work himself at home, with friends Michael Carpenter, Steven Sanchez, Jason Brown, and Kenny Dangler coming by to lend a hand, or to stand around and bench race, as needed.
Rob Brazeal’s “Granny” Malibu
Zombie Racing’s own Rob Brazeal makes the list with “Granny,” his four-door Chevrolet Malibu. Brazil picked up this one-owner, (formerly) cherry-colored ‘Bu to go grudge racing in various small-block 10.5 tire shootouts, and regularly competes in local events and around Georgia. “To get the look just right, we poured paint stripper, beer, and vinegar on it and left it outside for a couple of days” Brazeal. The 383 cubic-inch Kenny Paramore built small-block Chevy gets its kick from an Induction Solutions Sledgehammer plate nitrous system, and is backed by an FTI Powerglide transmission and converter. A Ford 9-inch rear is stuffed with 4.30 gears, and the car rides on TRZ Motorsports suspension front and rear.
Chris Morris’ Turbo Mustang
Chris Morris brought the only turbo combo to a nitrous fight and got the lucky draw, scoring a bye for two rounds before meeting up with Tim Hafke in the semi-finals. Morris lives in Bellevue and works at Jenkins Collision Center in Ocala, Florida and did his own paint and body work, with the cage done by good friend Richard Ness. Horsepower comes from a Fast Forward Race Engines-built, Dart block-based 342 stroker fed by a 74 mm Precision turbo, and topped with TFS Hi Port heads done by Kenny Paramore that were reused from his prior engine that split in half — a common occurrence with higher power factory 302 blocks.
Mike French’s 1968 Camaro
Mike French and his brother Chris own Jenkins Collision Center in Ocala and are regular bracket racers at Gainesville Raceway. Both were NMCA True Street participants the past two years down in Bradenton. Mike’s 68 Camaro is a plain Jane version featuring a nicely integrated tilt front end and show-quality paint that makes the car stand out in a crowd. The car sports wheels from Weld Racing wrapped in Mickey Thompson Pro 275 radials out back with split mono leafs, Cal Trac bars, and 9-way adjustable shocks from Calvert Racing Suspensions. Wilwood disc brakes reside at all four corners for reliable stopping power. The ‘go’ power comes from a Rollins Automotive-built stroked big-block Chevy topped with CNC-ported AFR heads and a plate nitrous system wired to an Edelbrock progressive nitrous controller to manage the power.
Chris French’s 1968 Chevelle
Chris’s car is another very clean muscle car by anyone’s standards and still retains the factory seats and interior. Suspension components were sourced from TRZ Motorsports front and rear, along with their anti-roll bar with rear lower control arm brackets from Southside Machine providing adjustment of the instant center.
Chris also runs a big-block Chevrolet on nitrous. He picked up a used 468 and topped it off with a set of Dart Pro 1 Aluminum heads that were on his brothers car and an Induction Solutions plate.
Patrick Mitchell’s Dodge Dakota Pickup
This little 1990 Dodge Dakota looks inconspicuous but could ruin your day with its 600 rear wheel horsepower on tap. Based in Gainesville, National Parts Depot employee Patrick Mitchell owns this ‘plain Jane’ sleeper that longtime friend Jimmy Wise built after Patrick got it from the junkyard. He keeps the truck at Rollins Automotive where it was tuned, both naturally-aspirated, and on the nitrous just before the event.
The engine is a 4-inch stroked 360 displacing 408 cubic inches with a pair of ported Mopar Performance Magnum RT heads, a Mopar Performance single plane intake, and an Edelbrock Performer RPM two nitrous plate set at 200 horsepower. Out back, the truck retains the leaf spring suspension with Cal Tracs and Mickey Thompson Pro 275 Drag Radials.
David Strohm’s Fox Body Stang
This clean Mustang belongs to David Strohm out of Ocala and features a Bennett Racing pump gas small-block Ford with a Speedtech fogger nitrous system as his power adder of choice. The engine is based around a Dart block and CNC ported heads, and a street-friendly hydraulic roller camshaft pumping out right at 600 horsepower before the giggle gas. QA1 shocks and struts are fitted at all four corners with UPR Suspension front and back.
David has had the car 15 years and did most of the work himself, including the mini tub, wiring, and C4 transmission. The cage, anti-roll bar, and some other fabrication was complete by Dan Neumann Race Cars. Strohm’s car is super clean with attention to detail, and a standout paint job by Dean Santiago.
Rick Merckley’s Gray Ghost Cobra Mustang
The Gray Ghost 1999 Cobra belongs to Rick Merckley who wasn’t able to run the shootout due to not having a valid NHRA license. The car was built by Ocala’s Most Wanted Street Cars by Michael Coleman with a chrome-moly 12-point cage It sat for about three years before undertaking the build, which took just about three years to complete.
He runs a nitrous-huffing 427-inch small-block Ford with Air Flow Research 225 CNC heads built at Kenny Paramore Motorsports. He runs a TH400 transmission and converter from FTI feeding the power back to an 8.8 rear which sees regular street duty around the Ocala area.
Central Florida’s Top 10 small-tire list will certainly experience a shake-up soon, as there’s already talk of another event, and adding in a Big Tire and No Time Grudge class, as well. We have to imagine there will be even more players coming out to take a crack at that number one spot.