If there was one good thing about our Camaros, Firebirds, Turbo Buicks and AWD GMCs going out of production, it was the clubs that sprang up to keep their legacies alive. All of the above had their ground-pounding days cut short, but became instant hits to enthusiasts thanks to powerful engines and sleek, 2-door bodies. But for a while, the same couldn't be said about the bulky-but-powerful 4-door Impalas and Caprices that made up the B-body line.
Late-model Impala SS clubs weren't a dominating presence like F-body clubs were when the last B-body rolled down the Arlington, Texas assembly line in 1996. No, these V8-powered brutes were better known as taxicabs or cop cars than desirable collector cars. But B-body owners were just as enthusiastic about their purchases as the other GM drivers, and there was enough of a grassroots push by performance enthusiasts to create the Impala SS Club of America in 2000. When it came time to host the first annual ISSCA Nationals in the summer of 2003, the ISSCA made sure that it would be a well-rounded event to remember. We were curious to see what this group was all about, so on July 15, 2003, we headed to the Midwest for five days of five-seater fun.
Although the ISSCA organizers and a smattering of enthusiasts were at the Tulsa Marriott days earlier, the official start of the first annual ISSCA Nationals was on Wednesday, July 16. On this 97-degree day there was hardly a cloud in the sky, which afforded arriving participants the perfect weather to wash their road-soiled B-bodies in the hotel's expansive parking lot. Registration, which had been available throughout the day, closed at 10 p.m. It didn't take the land-yacht freaks long to converge on the many steakhouses and bars throughout the greater Tulsa area. With road racing at the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit looming at 8 a.m., the smart thing to do would have been to eat, have a couple of cocktails and call it a night, but for car fans taking much-needed summer vacations, those few good hours of sleep would have to wait.
A pity, too: Hallett's 1.8-mile, bi-directional course combines over 80 feet of elevation change, with enough wicked blind corners to make cycle riders cringe. Throwing 80 two-ton American sedans into that nasty cauldron meant three things--body roll, tire smoke, and one nasty wake-up call for those carousing party people. The road racers didn't show up with their pants completely down, however. Swaybars as thick as your arm and 50-treadwear stickies were common sights on the Impys and Caprices that traveled 35 miles west of Tulsa to navigate this course. The club had a road racing training seminar for newbies at 9 a.m., but intermixed with those who were four-wheel drifting for fun were some seasoned racers looking to get their bests out of heavily modded B-bods.
There were some impressive times turned in throughout the day for sure--the fastest cars got around in the low- to mid-1:30s. But the biggest applause came for those who let it all hang out--a couple of smoke-filled spins elicited roars from the crowd, and one particularly overachieving driver bent physics all the way through a tire barrier and out the other side. For sheer barricade-busting power, nothing beats an Impy. Racing ended around 5 p.m., and the caravan headed back to Tulsa to cool down over dinner.
One look outside on that Midwestern Friday morning told us that the car show and stereo sound off was going to be a scorcher, but the view from the hotel was more than enough to entice car nuts into the 104-degree heat. The Marriott's enormous double parking lot was overflowing with late-model Impalas and Caprices, lined up 30 deep in some spots. Water-laden showgoers--some from as far away as Hawaii--could only make it through a couple of rows before retreating into the ISSCA's tent for a temporary reprieve from the sun. There was another reason why this tent was mobbed--Jon Moss of GM Special Vehicles fame was on hand signing autographs and shooting the breeze with Chevy enthusiasts. Moss arrived with a few interesting GM cars in tow, as well. A supercharged 2004 Impy and an '03 Brickyard 400 Monte Carlo caught eyes, but the legendary 510 Impala SS, sporting its monstrous custom intake arrangement, took the cake. After posing for some photos with fans old and young, Jon put an exclamation point on his illustrious career with GM by hopping in the 510 and burning off a few thousand miles worth of rubber.
A dyno cell adjacent to the show field was available free of charge for those who were curious about rear-wheel horsepower, vendors offering everything from dress-up items to tire and wheel swaps kept minds off of the God-awful heat, and there was even a few activities to keep the kids entertained.
When the show judging and sound off were complete, it was off to Tulsa Raceway Park for some nighttime quarter-mile action. Participants had the opportunity to compete in several bracket classes, or go head-to-head with some of the local competition. The Super Sport ET bracket was particularly cutthroat, and seven rounds were needed to crown a winner. The locals didn't know what to think about all of the B-bodies taking over the track that night, especially the ones going 12s and 11s at 130 plus!
Saturday's autocross session turned out just as hot as the previous day, but the temperature again failed to keep participants and spectators alike from showing up at the Marriott's orange cone-laced parking lot. Running an autocross course is so fun because it takes all of the finesse of a road course, but you aren't running fast enough to really get yourself--or your ride--into trouble if you lose it. Seemed like the 60-plus participants had that mindset, because they were putting on a real show. Inexperienced and experienced alike were really pushing the limits, and mangled cones and Chevys sitting in clouds of smoke were the proof. Newbies who had taken a few warm-up laps graduated to nearly out-of-control, and their stupid grins at the end of the course said it all. And just like the road racing, there were a few who were dangerously efficient at pushing 4,000 pounds of Chevy through a tight set of cones. The highlight of the day came when a flamed wagon, packed to the roof with "navigators", made a pass to the delight of the spectators.
One awards banquet later, the first annual ISSCA Nationals was history. We were sorry to see it end: the organization of the entire event was top-notch, and the folks we spoke with were very excited to see their beloved B-bodies being celebrated in such grand fashion. It is rare for a club to pull off so many quality activities in such a tight time span, but if you anted up for this week in Tulsa, the ISSCA came through with enough B-rated content to keep you satisfied. At least until 2004, when the Impala SS Club of America will be rollin' into Sin City for all of the car-related debauchery that you can stand. The dates are set for June 23-25, 2004, so if hanging at Sunset Station and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway sounds up your alley, you'd better call 866-ISSCA4U or hit www.goissca.org, andstart making plans now. See you in Nevada!
|Road Course |
|Stock Class |
|1st ||#903 Dave Hulshof ||1:41.969 |
|2nd || #1337 Jerry Caudill ||1:46.915 |
|3rd ||#1473 Thomas Welles ||1:46.959 |
|Prepared Class |
|1st || #694 Bruce Stephens ||1:41.458 |
|2nd || #365 Todd Stranczek ||1:41.624 |
|3rd ||#680 Patrick Whalen || 1:45.379 |
|Modified Class |
|1st ||#457 Chris Mallory ||1:39.843 |
|2nd ||#236 Bob Ploof Jr. ||1:41.170 |
|3rd ||#327 Garry Forman ||1:41.255 |
|Race Class |
|1st ||#126 Harvey Clark ||1:33.118 |
|2nd || #1428 Rick Barger ||1:37.070 |
|3rd ||#332 John Dougherty ||1:37.395 |
|John Deere Award (Mowing the most grass) ||#551 John Madeley |
|Car Show People's Choice |
|Best Engine ||#1457 Jeff Wendling |
|Best Paint ||#160 Larry Hall |
|Best of Show (4-way Tie) ||#825 Jim Baldino, #551Dave Breiner, #160 Larry Hall, #1457 Jeff Wendling |
|Sound Off |
|High Wattage (401 & Up) |
|1st ||#1366 Paul Heeringa ||331.1 |
|2nd ||#825 Jim Baldino ||326.1 |
|3rd || #487 William Steubing ||302.1 |
|Low Wattage (400 & Less) |
|1st ||#690 Chris Nickell ||346.7 |
|2nd ||#693 Tom Hatcher ||321.2 |
|3rd ||#168 Gary Reas ||314.2 |
|Highest SPL (Sound Pressure Level) ||#1355 Paul Heeringa ||125.1 |
|Drag Racing |
|ET Bracket |
|1st ||#182 Karl Ellwein |
|2nd ||#1414 Rick Graves |
|Super Natural Heads-Up Class |
|1st ||#182 Karl Ellwein |
|2nd ||#1361 Andy Nick |
|Power Adder Class |
|1st ||#105 Mark Proper |
|2nd ||#1452 Jeff Pasrons |
|Stock Class |
|1st ||#903 Dave Hulshoff ||31.866 |
|2nd ||#1337 Jerry Caudill ||32.811 |
|3rd ||#591 Carla Russo ||32.844 |
|Prepared Class |
|1st ||#171 Charles Henry ||31.114 |
|2nd ||#365 Todd Stranczek ||31.216 |
|3rd || #694 Bruce Stephens ||32.411 |
|Modified Class |
|1st ||#236 Bob Ploof Jr. ||30.344 |
|2nd ||#234 Les Brown ||30.571 |
|3rd ||#1181 Justin Betts ||31.689 |
|Race Class |
|1st ||#126 Harvey Clark ||29.772 |
|2nd ||#1434 David Kutney ||30.206 |
|3rd ||#332 John Dougherty ||30.334 |
|Cone King Award (3 Cones in One Run) ||#796 Mark Sulimirski |