The Grassroots Motorsports $2015 Challenge Is This Weekend! Cheap Speed!

The Grassroots Motorsports $2015 Challenge Is This Weekend! Cheap Speed!

One of the great budget-oriented motorsports events of the year is this weekend: The Grassroots Mororsports $20xx Challenge, presented by our friends over at Grassroots Motorsports Magazine down in Gainesville, Florida at the Auto Plus Raceway. For those that have never heard of this event, the premise is pretty simple. You have the dollar amount of whatever year it is (in this year’s case, it $2015) to build a car that can drag race, autocross, and look cool. There’s a simple rule set, and there’s lots of strategy and ingenuity that goes into the builds to make them competitive. I’ve attended this event many times since my first trip down there in 2009, and it is completely awesome. While we couldn’t make it down there this year, I figured I’d dig around the old photo archive to show you some of the interesting and crazy builds that I’ve seen in person at past events assaulting the track!


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Here’s a Ford Festiva that someone stuffed a blatantly turbocharged Mazda 1.8L into. This car was at the $2009 event, and was hilarious to watch, because it had absolutely zero traction ever. It squiggled well past the 60’ mark on the strip, and was a handful around the cones.

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Did I mention that Festiva had a working tap in the place of the rear window wiper which dispensed ice cold beer? Yeah, that is awesome.


This BMW Isetta at the $2010 event was nuts. The owner fabbed up a completely new frame and suspension, and it was powered by a Mazda Rotary engine that sat right next to the driver. The body was purchased from an old drug store, which was used as an advertisement. It did well on the autocross course.


Ahh, the infamous S00perTurd, fielded by Challenge legends Hong Norr Racing. As you can tell, it’s a rolling caricature of a Petty Superbird based on a Honda Civic, but the surprise is that it was FAST. This thing was running in the low 12-second range thanks to a turbo and tuning via a cheap eBay ECU upgrade.


Our team fielded this turbocharged 1991 Mazda Miata for a few years. I know that some people frown on the Miata for various reasons, but those that do need to take a ride in a properly turbocharged one. It will change your mind very quickly. We had this one running 13’s and competing in the top 10 in the autocross portion of the event every year.


How about a home-built BMW M3 DTM clone? The Condor Speed Shop team brought this fast E30 BMW to the event in $2010 that featured home-built fender flares and a turbocharged BMW inline six. It put down some serious power, and looked great doing it.


Notice anything a little strange about this old Ford Escort? This one from the $2012 event has a total of 12 cylinders located in the front AND the rear! A Ford Zetec four hangs out up front, while a Lincoln Continental 4.6L V8 was mounted in the rear. The V8 acted sort of like a power adder, kicking in when a bit of extra thrust was needed. Also, that is a real license plate, because two guys actually drove this beast from Indiana to Florida and back!


Here’s another crazy swapped car: a Fiero with Cadillac 500ci V8 power. This one made all sorts of cool noises.



This is one of the coolest Challenge builds I have seen, and one of the coolest car builds I’ve seen, period. Patrick Culkin and Bill Cuttitta and their buddies in the Shelby Dodge Automotive Club are always in attendance at these events, and have gone home with the gold more than once. This started off as a boring Dodge Aries K-car, but was magically transformed into an 11-second Touring Car tribute known as the ScAries. This car is easily the most awesome K-car in existence.


Where else are you going to find not one, but TWO Donohue Racing tributes built for under $2k each?


You’ve probably read about this Jeep before. It’s kinda cool.


This 4th Gen Trans Am was pretty fast and bottle fed. And yes, the car was really under budget; the thing was an absolute mess when purchased. A lot of paint wrenching, and detail work brought it back to life.


If you live in circle track country, old cast-offs can be had for cheap and turned into budget racers pretty easily. This “Ford F150” roundy-round truck got its second lease on life when a fellow named Stan Dorsey, a Challenge regular, picked it up and stabbed in a SBC. It made wonderful noises and went pretty quick.


Check out this Subar…uhh… wait, what is this thing? This Subaru Colin McRae Rally Car tribute was built by Team Gutty from a Honda Civic sedan. It was turbocharged and had AWD as well. They ventilated the block during testing, but the car was aiming for the 10-second range.


Questions about this Miata’s budget could be easily answered by looking at the fender.

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Here’s another one of the Shelby Dodge Auto Club cars, owned by Patrick Culkin. This Dodge Shadow ES ran into the low 11’s in Challenge trim, and has run in the 10’s in non-Challenge trim. That is some serious speed! Patrick and friends brought this car back for this year’s event to compete in the “Under $1000” class.


Part of the Challenge experience is walking around the hotel parking lot the night before the main event and seeing what people are up to. Last year, a bunch of guys decided to buy a questionable Fiero from Craigslist with a Buick Rendezvous V6 swapped in and sort it all out in the parking lot. And yes, it ran in the event the next day!


This sweet Pinto showed up last year with a Ford V8 swapped under the hood. It had the look, and made some sweet noises.


Edward Malle is another Challenge veteran that always brings competitive cars, and his entry last year won the top prize. It’s a highly modified Fox-chassis Mustang that was mostly made of fiberglass molded by Ed himself to reduce weight. This car ran a very low-11 second pass and terrorized the pavement on the autocross. It is a unique take on the tried-and-true Fox Mustang chassis. This may be the coolest Fox Mustang I have ever seen.


Another Challenge veteran, Steven Griffiths, purchased this MG, a former Challenge car rolling chassis, from fellow Challenger Andrew Nelson for last year’s event. Steven is a native of the Land Down Under, and inherently a little crazy, so he stabbed in a nasty Small Block Chevy with spreadport heads that he found on the cheap. This was a lot of power for a little car, and the little MG was one of the most violent Challenge cars I’ve seen to date. They tamed it over a few runs and got it deep into the 11’s.


Last year, my friends and I brought this sweet 1982 AMC Spirit down to the event after fielding the Jeep Cherokee XJ-R for three events. Under the hood is a turbocharged 4.0L Jeep engine running Megasquirt. Old street tires, a 2.31 rear gear ratio, and an ailing AMC/Chrysler 904 limited our quarter mile time to 14.7, but it was a blast to drive. Putting around Gainesville in this thing was hilarious and made people’s heads turn when they heard turbo sounds coming from a yellow-on-brown AMC. We plan on returning next year with this thing running in the 11’s after some upgrades.


Andrew Nelson and his family have been attending the Challenge for many years under the PACC Racing banner, and I always look to him to set the fastest drag time at each event. You may also know him from his participation in Hot Rod Drag Week and various ECTA events over the years. Andrew has brought many cool rides over the years to the event, and he always runs in the 10’s in the quarter. Last year, he found a rare Pontiac Sunbird Formula and stabbed one of his signature Small Block Chevy engines under the hood. Even with a hurt torque converter, Andrew still dipped into the 10’s on the juice. And yes, that’s within a real $2000 budget, folks! Impressive.

Like what you see? If you are local to Gainesville, Florida, this event is happening this weekend, and is free to attend. I highly recommend this event to any gearhead that likes fast and cheap racing with lots of creative builds. If you are interested in building a car for the competition, check out the Grassroots Motorsports website for more details. But be warned, once you attend or participate in this event, you’ll probably be hooked for life!

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