Hello, my name is Steve and I am a street racer
Hello, my name is Steve and I am a street racer. Well, okay, not so much lately because I now live in Los Angeles where the street scene is actually pretty lame. Lots of talk, very little action. Plus there’s this whole crack-down caused by the stupid hoopla generated by those damned Five Fast, Five Furious flicks that totally misrepresent what street racing is all about. But I’ll own up to the fact that I’ve shattered the calm of many a late night with full throttle blasts down plenty of darkly lit side streets. Don’t tell me you haven’t. You’re lying. I can smell the VHT.
|Steve was born in 1964 and grew up in rural Massachusetts. Steve’s interest in cars started with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars then progressed to plastic model kits when he discovered their superior level of detail.
After graduating from college he started buying, selling, racing and restoring vintage Mopar muscle cars. He’s owned a 1968 Hemi Charger, 1964 Polara Max Wedge clone, 1968 Dart 340 GTS convertible, 1970 383 4-speed Coronet 500 convertible, 1973 Cuda 340, 1970 Barracuda 383, 1967 Hemi powered Dart and several Slant Six powered early A-Bodies.
He moved from Massachusetts to California in 1991 where he has worked as an automotive journalist ever since. Steve has written for Chrysler Power, Mopar Action, Mopar Muscle, Car Craft and was the technical editor for Hot Rod for seven years. Steve is also actively involved as a host of automotive TV programs on the DIY Network, History Channel and Speed Channel.
Most recently, Steve can be seen providing auction block vehicle commentary at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions on Speed Channel.
My street racing days started back around 1986 in a 1968 Hemi Charger. That’s right, I was 22 and owned a legitimate J-code Charger (car number XS29J8B119772 to be exact). I bought it for ten-grand with inheritance money left to me by my grandmother. I was living in Massachusetts at the time and there was a deserted section of Route 67 located between the towns of West Warren and Palmer that was never patrolled by the cops from either town. It was way out on the outskirts and too much of a hassle. Unless somebody specifically called in a complaint, a rarity as there were no houses in the area, the only time the fuzz made the scene was once a night between 10:00 p.m. and midnight.
The road itself was a smooth four-lane stretch that went on in a straight line for nearly a mile. There was plenty of space to race the quarter and shut things down before the next corner. Traffic was practically non existent and we’d never run if approaching headlights were spotted on the distant horizon. Our threat to society was about nil, we did very irresponsible things…responsibly. Best of all, there were two rest areas – one at the start line, and one at the finish line – where racers and spectators could congregate and arrange the next race without being seen from the road. It was as if civil engineers designed the entire place for drag racing. We even called it “Dragway 67.”
At first I tried to run my Hemi Charger with the Daytona Radials it wore when I bought it. Though they were plenty wide at 10 inches, the rock-hard rubber compound made my mighty Hemi car vulnerable to any punk in a 5-liter Mustang. It’d spin all through First, Second and Drive while whatever was in the other lane walked away. It was fun to watch, but lousy to race with. Then I scored a set of used 10-inch M&H Racemaster slicks at the swap meet for fifty bucks. Suddenly the Hemi was hooking and those Mustang boys learned to stop referring to the Charger as a “pig” when I started putting 5 to 10 car lengths on them at the finish line.
Though I was a devout street racer and always carried the latest issue of Cliff Gromer and Tony DeFeo’s “Cars Illustrated” magazine to prove it, I drove the Charger up to Lebannon Valley Dragway in neighboring New York state just to see what I was running. With 12 pounds in the slicks and the Torqueflite shifting for itself at six-grand, I clicked off a bunch of 13.2’s at 102 mph with slicks and open headers. Not bad for a basically stock Street Hemi in a 3800 pound Charger running 3.23 gears in its 8-3/4 rear end. Sure, there were a ton of faster cars on the street, but in the mid to late ‘80s a low 13-second car was still respectable.