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Real Street Eliminator VI

Tearing it up in Car Craft’s three-way shootout

How many times have you wondered, How would my car stack up against those cars I see in the magazine? It's the age-old question, and Car Craft answered it by evaluating readers' cars in 1986 with the first Real Street Eliminator competition. Back then, the event encompassed a variety of contests and spanned several tracks. Now, 35 years later, we're still testing street-car mettle, but we've pared it down to three simple contests: a rear-wheel-horsepower chassis dyno blast, three days worth of driving on a challenging and twisting autocross course, and a 150-foot-long speed- stop challenge we call Launch Box.

This year attracted another eclectic collection of competitors encouraged by a couple of small changes to what has become a hotly contested event. In the past several years, the Corvettes and Vipers began to dominate, so we gave them their own class. That opened up spots for what we expected would be an onslaught of new Camaros in the Late-Model class. Instead, the '11 RSE became the year of the Mustang, with no less than five ponycars vying for the top spot. This year also witnessed a varied collection of late-model competitors, with a Buick GN, one new Camaro, a '10 Challenger, and a couple of Lightning pickups, giving the Blue Oval a strength in numbers.

The Muscle Car class was thinner than usual and dominated by Chevrolets. Jeff Schwartz returned with a recently completed '67 Nova, and John Wegner returned with his '69 big-block Camaro. The dark horse appeared to be Scott Parkhurst's '67 quadra-door Malibu wagon. You’ll have to read the whole story to determine who won, but we'll add to the suspense with a hint that it came down to a dead-even tie in the Muscle Car class.

The Competitors

Muscle Car

Who: Roger Kunkel Where: St. Cloud, MN
What: '71 Chevy Nova
Engine: Stock 6.0L aluminum short-block with a Comp cam, L92 heads, LS3 intake, HiTech Motorsports t une, and Hooker 13⁄4-inch headers
Transmission: TKO-600 five-speed
Rearend: Moser 9-inch Ford with 3.89:1 Richmond gears and a Trac-Lok


Who: Scott Parkhurst Where: Belle Plaine, MN
What: '67 Chevy Malibu wagon
Engine: 385ci small-block Chevy, Lunati crank, Comp solid roller, AFR 210cc CNC-ported heads, Edelbrock RPM intake, Holley 750-cfm Ultra carb, Wilson Pro Flo nitrous, Doug’s tri-Y headers, and Flowmaster exhaust.
Transmission: Rockland Standard T-56 six-speed, Centerforce clutch
Rearend: Currie 9-inch with 3.89:1 gears and limited slip


Who: Jeff Schwartz (owner, Jason Whitlock)
Where: Crystal Lake, IL
What: '67 Chevy II
Engine: Schwartz Performance 675hp LS7; Schwartz custom cam, Edelbrock medium length headers, and SLP 3-inch oval exhaust
Transmission: Magnum T-56 six-speed with LS7 clutch
Rearend: Winters aluminum center 9-inch, 3.70:1 gears, and Eaton Truetrac limited slip


Who: Nathan Shaw
Where: Lakeville, MN
What: '71 Chevy Nova
Engine: 370ci, 6.0L iron block engine with Manley pistons; LS6 cam; Edelbrock Victor Jr. EFI; Master Power GT45 turbo; single 3.5-inch exhaust; and MagnaFlow muffler
Transmission: 4L80E automatic with a Yank 3,600-rpm converter
Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.42:1 gears, limited slip


Who: John Wegner
Where: Andover, MN
What: '69 Chevy Camaro
Engine: 502ci Ram Jet big-block Chevy crate engine, GMPP aluminum oval- port heads, 150hp nitrous system, Arizona Speed & Marine ECM, 58mm ASM throttle-body, and Hooker 2.0-inch headers
Transmission: Hughes 4L80E four-speed automatic, Hughes 2,500-stall converter
Rearend: 12-bolt, 4.10:1, GM limited slip

Late-Model

Who: Shannon Grewe
Where: Unity, WI
What: '10 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Engine: 6.1L Hemi, headers, exhaust work, and Kenne-Bell supercharger
Transmission: TR6060 Tremec six-speed
Rearend: Currie 9-inch, 3.25:1


Who: Gregg Hopper
Where: N/A
What: '06 Pontiac GTO
Engine: LS2 6.0L
Transmission: T-56 six speed
Rearend: 3.46:1 gear with a limited slip


Who: Dan Neinstadt
Where: Blaine, MN
What: '03 Ford Mustang Cobra
Engine: 5.0L Modular Mustang Racing short-block, 21-psi Whipple 2.3L supercharger, MAC headers, 60-lb injectors, and MagnaFlow mufflers
Transmission: T-56 six speed, Fidanza aluminum flywheel, Spec clutch
Rearend: 8.8-inch Ford IRS, 3.55:1 gears, limited slip


Who: Joel Route
Where: Eagan, MN
What: '99 Ford Mustang Cobra convertible
Engine: Stock, 100,000-mile, 4.6L, 32-valve short-block with Dynomax headers; 3-inch exhaust; and Predator 93 tune-up
Transmission: Tremec T-45 five-speed
Rearend: 8.8-inch Ford IRS, 3.27:1, limited slip, and 29-spline axles


Who: Jim Schmittinger
Where: West Bend, WI
What: '87 Buick Grand National
Engine: Owner-built 231ci V6, 8.9:1, Diamond pistons, Kenny Duttweiler–ported heads, Comp hydraulic roller cam, and PTE 62mm turbocharger
Transmission: TH200-4R automatic overdrive
Rearend: 8.5-inch 10-bolt with a 3.42:1 gear and Auburn limited slip


Who: Rod Strumbel
Where: Rockford, MN
What: '04 Ford Mustang Cobra
Engine: Stock 32-valve 4.6L, Eaton supercharger, ported throttle-body, and 17-psi pulley
Transmission: T-56 six speed
Rearend: 8.8-inch Ford IRS, 3.55:1, limited slip


Who: Dean Swearingen
Where: Forest Lake, MN
What: '08 Ford Mustang GT/CS
Engine: 4.6L three-valve, Comp cam, long-tube headers, and Borla exhaust
Transmission: Tremec TR-3650 five-speed, Hurst shifter
Rearend: 8.8-inch Ford, 4.10:1 gears, limited slip


Who: Jason Taylor
Where: Mahtomedi, MN
What: '04 Ford Mustang GT
Engine: Stock 4.6L 16-valve, MagnaFlow after-cat exhaust, Trick Flow plenum, BBK 70mm throttle-body, and SCT tuning
Transmission: Stock 4R70W automatic
Rearend: 8.8-inch Ford, 3.27:1, gears, limited slip


Who: Carson Turnquist
Where: Apple Valley, MN
What: '02 F-150 Lightning
Engine: 5.4L Eaton, supercharged and intercooled; JLT cold air; Bassani exhaust; Metco pulley system; and Predator tuner
Transmission: 4R100 four-speed automatic, stock converter
Rearend: Stock Lightning 9.75-inch rear, 3.73:1 gears, limited slip


Who: Rick Adams
Where: Backus, MN
What: '11 Chevy Camaro
Engine: Mast Motorsports 416ci, 750hp crate engine with Callies crank; Mahle pistons; CNC-ported LS3 heads; Magnuson supercharger; and Billy Boat headers
Transmission: TR-6060 six-speed manual upgraded with better output shaft
Rearend: IRS with Strange 9-inch center- section, 3.89:1 gears, Strange limited slip, and Driveshaft Shop performance halfshafts


Corvette/Viper

Who: Joe Swearingen
Where: Menomonie, WI
What: '02 Chevy Corvette Z06
Engine: Stock 5.7L LS6, air filter, Bellanger headers, and cross-pipe
Transmission: T-56 variant six-speed transaxle
Rearend: 3.42:1, limited slip

Lucas Oil/E3 Spark Plug Dyno Challenge

The first big test many of the competitors took on was the chassis dyno. While the rules evenly split the three events with points, we use the horsepower numbers as a tiebreaker. So if two cars perform identically in one of the other events (which did happen this year), horsepower numbers determine the winner. That makes the horsepower event the most important test, with even a single horsepower making all the difference. Last year, Dan Neinstadt lost to Nick Abernathy by a mere 1 hp (559 to 558). Dan didn't forget that, and this year he arrived loaded with The Tune. Since RSE offers the opportunity to run early in the morning during all three days, Dan played the weather forecast perfectly, waiting until Sunday morning when it was cooler to make his run on Andy Wicks' Dyno Tune (www.dynotuneusa.com") chassis dyno. Dan pulled out an outstanding 612-rwhp number. The only other car to come close was Jim Schmittinger's impressive Buick Grand National turbo V6 car that put down a solid 548-rwhp number.

On the muscle car side of the ledger, Scott Parkhurst laid down a number few were expecting from the carbureted, 383ci station wagon. When the rollers stopped, he chalked up a 579 peak rear-wheel- horsepower number that was good enough for the Muscle Car class top spot. Nathan Shaw's turbocharged LS '71 Nova came closest for Second Place with 542 hp, and John Wegner was probably wondering what he had to do win a round in RSE with an ever-so-close 541 hp for the Third Place spot. Wegner didn't know it at the time, but Parkhurst winning the horsepower race made all the difference.

This is what Dan Weinstadt's 612hp mod motor looks like. While appearing deceptively stock, the combination of lots of valves and a supercharger was more than enough to earn this car the King of the Hill RSE horsepower award, topping all three classes. We had to go all the way back to RSE '08 and John King's 896 rwhp and Mustang tuner Dan Schonack's 817-rwhp runs to find bigger numbers.

Late-Model
Competitor RWHP Points
Dan Neinstadt, '03 Mustang Cobra 612 30
Jim Schmittinger, '87 Buick GN 548 20
Rick Adams, '10 Camaro 523 10
Shannon Grewe, '10 Dodge Challenger 517 -
Rod Strumbel, '04 Mustang Cobra 493 -
Gregg Hopper, '06 Pontiac GTO 438 -
Carson Turnquist, '02 F-150 Lightning 371 -
Dean Swearingen, '08 Mustang GT/CS 334 -
Joel Route, '99 Mustang Cobra 296 -
Jason Taylor, '04 Mustang GT 236 -
     
Muscle Car
Scott Parkhurst, '67 Malibu wagon 579 30
Nathan Shaw, '71 Nova 542 20
John Wegner, '69 Camaro 541 10
Jeff Schwartz, '67 Nova 524 -
Roger Kunkel, '71 Nova 388 -
     
Corvette/Viper
Joe Swearingen, '02 ZO6 Corvette 333 30

QA1 Autocross

There were plenty of surprises as well in the QA1 autocross. This year, our friends at the Land O' Lakes SCCA club laid out a longer but much tighter autocross course, which put greater emphasis on driver skill. Because we don't limit the number of runs an RSE competitor can make, Saturday and Sunday saw long lines of cars waiting their turn at the course. To emphasize the autocross as a driver's course (and de-emphasize horsepower), we put five laps on Bill Irwin's stone-stock, 200,000-mile '02 Camaro. With hard, 400-treadwear tires and dead shocks, we posted the second quickest overall time on Friday with a 47.382 and lowered that to a 47.194 on Saturday.

The quickest QA1 Autocross lap of the RSE weekend actually went to a muscle car—and a nose-heavy, big-block Camaro, at that. John Wegner showed that his driving skills and ability to modulate the throttle on his 502ci Rat-motored car was worthy of attention, with a quick 47.345-second run that was also slightly ahead of Late-Model class winner Rod Strumbel in his bright-orange Cobra Mustang. Rod is another repeat RSE competitor who is clearly learning how to negotiate those tight corners. Muscle Car class horsepower leader Scott Parkhurst struggled in his long-wheelbase wagon, finishing Fourth, which put even more pressure on him to do well in the Launch Box if he was going to pull out the overall win.

Late-Model
Competitor Time Points
Rod Strumbel, '04 Mustang Cobra 47.426 30
Dan Neinstadt, '03 Mustang Cobra 47.579 20
Joel Route, '99 Mustang Cobra 47.813 10
Gregg Hopper, '06 Pontiac GTO 48.199 -
Jim Schmittinger, '87 Buick GN 48.493 -
Shannon Grewe, '10 Dodge Challenger 49.328 -
Carson Turnquist, '02 F-150 Lightning 49.535 -
Jason Taylor, '04 Mustang GT 49.859 -
Dean Swearingen, '08 Mustang GT/CS 51.107 -
Rick Adams, '10 Camaro DNS -
     
Muscle Car
John Wegner, '69 Camaro 47.345 30
Nathan Shaw, '71 Nova 49.265 20
Roger Kunkel, '71 Nova 49.519 10
Scott Parkhurst, '67 Malibu wagon 50.780 -
Jeff Schwartz, '67 Nova 51.388 -
     
Corvette/Viper
Joe Swearingen, '02 ZO6 Corvette 47.8 30

Mobil 1 Launch Box

Even though this is the third year of Launch Box, the short exercise in acceleration and braking has yet to earn as much attention as the other two events. Yet despite its humble reputation, the event is every bit as important and is weighted the same as the autocross and chassis dyno. The smart RSE players know this and practice several times over the course of the weekend. As with the autocross, RSE rules do not limit the number of attempts. That may change in the future, since the serious competitors will make upwards of a couple of dozen attempts over the course of the weekend. The surprise was how well both Scott Parkhurst and John Wegner performed, eventually tying for the lead at nearly two-tenths quicker than Dan Neinstadt's quickest Late-Model time. If you pay attention to such things, it's clear that the key to Launch Box, much like in a drag race, is in the launch.

Mobil 1 Launch Box
Competitor Time Points
Dan Neinstadt, '03 Mustang Cobra 4.42 30
Rod Strumbel, '04 Mustang Cobra 4.48 20
Jim Schmittinger, '87 Buick GN 4.50 10
Shannon Grewe, '10 Dodge Challenger 4.61 -
Dean Swearingen, '08 Mustang GT/CS 4.70 -
Rick Adams, '10 Camaro 4.74 -
Carson Turnquist, '02 F-150 Lightning 4.76 -
Gregg Hopper, '06 Pontiac GTO 4.80 -
Joel Route, '99 Mustang Cobra 4.80 -
Jason Taylor, '04 Mustang GT 5.10 -

Muscle Car
Scott Parkhurst, '67 Malibu wagon 4.26 30
John Wegner, '69 Camaro 4.26 20
Jeff Schwartz, '67 Nova 4.45 10
Roger Kunkel, '71 Nova 4.48 -
Nathan Shaw, '71 Nova 4.60
     
Corvette/Viper
Joe Swearingen, '02 ZO6 Corvette 4.61 30

The New Tire Rule

Several competitors showed up at RSE this year with soft-compound tires, only to discover that a rule change required a 200-treadwear-or-higher rating on DOT tires. We made this change after last year's event, when it became apparent that both the QA1 autocross and the Mobil 1 Launch Box could be easily dominated with a sticky tire. Virtually all major Pro Touring events now incorporate this rule, and by adopting it, we make it easier for RSE cars to compete in other events. Unfortunately, several competitors weren't aware of this rule change. We allowed them to compete with the understanding that their times would not be official. The soft-tire cars included Nicholas Polentas' '05 XLR Cadillac with a very quick 46.677 in the autocross using 140-treadwear tires. The tire rule also bit Jessie Kalvik with his red Lightning pickup and Richard Adams with his '09 Vette.

The Winners

Dan Neinstadt arrived at RSE this year focused on winning. Last year, he ended up in Third Place behind two strong Corvettes. When we moved the two-seaters to their own class, Dan saw his chance to win RSE. He aimed first at the autocross, barely missing out on a win by less than a 0.15 second. He waited until Sunday morning when the air was cooler to do his dyno test, which probably bumped the power up a little with an excellent 612hp run. Finally, he kept hammering until he took the Launch Box win for the Late-Model class. All that totaled 80 points for the championship. His buddy Rod Strumbel put up a great fight, with his Achilles heel being the dyno, where his 493 hp was only good for Fifth place and zero points.

The race was much tighter in the Muscle Car class. Scott Parkhurst's big wagon surprised us not only with its horsepower but also with its Launch Box performance. Parkhurst slipped positions on the autocross enough times that it looked like John Wegner might be able to take command with his negotiated win around the cones. So it came down to the Launch Box. Parkhurst added to the drama by tying Wegner on the Launch Box, giving him 10 precious win points by virtue of his higher horsepower number, which is the tiebreaker. That produced another dead heat, with both earning exactly the same number of total points. Again, the horsepower tiebreaker came into play, giving Parkhurst the win in the tightest finish in recent Real Street history. Wegner came in Second in the Muscle Car class back in '09, which just shows how competitive Real Street has become. But instead of just reading about it, why don't you plan on racing with us next year? It's a lot of fun and a great test of street-car skill. We'll hold a place for you.

Late-Model
Name Dyno HP Autocross Launch Box Points Total
Dan Neinstadt, '03 Mustang Cobra 612 (30) 47.579 (20) 4.42 (30) 80
Rod Strumbel, '04 Mustang Cobra 493 (0) 47.426 (30) 4.48 (20) 50
Jim Schmittinger, '87 Buick GN 548 (20) 48.493 (0) 4.5 (10) 30

Muscle Car
Name Dyno HP Autocross Launch Box Points Total
Scott Parkhurst, '67 Malibu wagon 579 (30) 50.780 (0) 4.26 (30) 60
John Wegner, '69 Camaro 541(10) 47.345 (30) 4.26 (20) 60
Nathan Shaw '71 Nova 542 (20) 49.265 (20) 4.60 (0) 40

Corvette/Viper
Name Dyno HP Autocross Launch Box Points Total
Joe Swearingen 333 (30) 47.80 (30) 4.61 (30) 90

Volunteers and Sponsors

As they did last year, our pals Doug Eisberg (right) and Eric Rosendahl (center) from San Diego helped with Launch Box, as did another Car Craft family member Don Young (left) who drove up from Cedar Falls, Iowa. Bill Irwin also helped out this year, driving from his shop in Thayer, Iowa, though he escaped before we had a chance to shoot this photo. Of course, we also want to acknowledge the Land O' Lakes SCCA club for its continued help with both the professional-run autocross course and Launch Box. And, of course, we couldn't have put all this off without help from Lucas Oil, E3 Spark Plugs, QA1, and Mobil 1, who sponsored each of our three events. Thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success.

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