A lot of mud is slung around internet forums about who has the fastest modified car. But no matter how hard you tap at your keyboard (or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you post), the only real way to see who’s fastest is by having it out on track.
Thankfully, events like the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) exist specifically for this reason. It’s an annual call out for people in the tuning scene to step away from their keyboards and track the hell out of their car to prove it’s no show pony.
It started in 2008 when people were sick of seeing SEMA cars hurriedly finished to just sit on carpet – paint barely dry – for a week without proving their performance claims.
So now after the show, close to 100 cars head from the convention centre to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a variety or tests to find the greatest modified car in the land.
And don’t think you can enter a stripped-out, dedicated racer. Entrants have to be bona fide street cars – albeit fitted with aftermarket parts – and have DOT approved, non-competition, treaded street tyres at each corner.
Hired hot shoes aren’t allowed either. You have to have the ability to drive your car as much as you run your mouth.
Cars are split into four classes depending on their weight, powertrain and spec. If yours was built between 1990 and now, weighs at least 1,451kg, is a 2WD saloon, four-seater coupe or late model truck (5th Gen Camaro, BMW M3/M5, late model Mustang, that kind of thing) ‘GT’ is your class.
‘GTS’ is reserved for two-seat sports cars from 1990 to now or all-wheel drive vehicles that exceed the 1,451kg limit (C7 Corvettes and Nissan GT-Rs).
Vintage cars fall into ‘GTV’ class. It’s our personal favourite with good old stuff like Mustangs, Monte Carlos, Pontiac Firebirds and Camaros. While featherweights that fall under the 1,451kg weight limit get pigeon-holed into the ‘GTL’ class.
As you can see from the gallery above, these radical classes create quite an eclectic collection of cars that thrash it out on track simultaneously.
So how does it work? Well, over two days five different disciplines are completed and scored out of 100 to find an overall winner. This is repeated at various tracks around America to create a championship, with the overall winner being the person who has accumulated the most points over the season.
First of all, there’s a design & engineering challenge that evaluates the build quality and mods that have been added. Cars that score well retain the look and feel of a high-performance daily driver and innovation in either performance, fit and finish or comfort is praised.
Then all the cars have to prove they’re capable of a long slog on a road rally, before hitting the track for three further disciplines; acceleration and braking tests, an autocross competition, then flat-out hot laps.
It’s a rigorous event that makes for interesting viewing. Primarily because the drivers are incredibly competitive. But also because they’re not pro drivers, so fall off the track a lot more than you’d think. But seeing a track day with old muscle cars, British lightweights, humble hatchbacks and proper performance cars all going at it is pretty special. Seeing them spin off and crash is just a slightly morbid bonus.
So which was the fastest car of them all this year? Danny Popp’s 2003 Chevrolet Corvette… for the third time in a row. A fact that we’re sure will result in some mud-slinging below. *Ducks for cover*
Photography: Rowan Horncastle