The Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, which runs alongside the SEMA Show, is the final event of the year for the Ultimate Street Car Association.
Ultimate Street Car events consist of a series of sections which test every aspect of a car’s performance and usability.
The cars are all judged by a panel of engineers who judge the quality of modifications against the stock vehicle.
The cars have to complete a road rally, which ranges from 25 to 100 miles, to make sure that they can safely and reliably be used on the road. At this event that’s a drive to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to compete in the Road Course tests, to see how the cars handle a larger circuit.
There’s a acceleration and braking test, which I was able to watch. In this the cars launch from a stand still, race up to a sharp hairpin turn which they have to navigate, then they race back down the track to a box which they have to stop in. The fastest car to complete the course without wiping out any cones wins.
It’s sounds simple but it’s a tonne of fun to watch.
I managed to catch some footage of the cars running in a number of short videos. I stitched them together into a YouTube video which you can watch here:
The autocross, which I believe was done at this space too, sees the cars run through a tight course to test slow speed handling.
There was a huge variety of older American cars taking part in the event. As you’ll see there’s no one right way of building a car for this event.
There were lots of newer American cars too. Camaros seemed to be rather popular.
It was nice to see a couple of Vipers and C8 Corvettes as well.
There were also a lot of trucks competing which I also found quite surprising. They aren’t what I’d immediately think of to build for an autocross or road racing event. They did look really cool going around though!
A couple of kit cars were competing. The GT40 was absolutely brilliant to watch! It was very dramatic especially during the brake test when it would slide into the box with all four wheels locked up.
I would imagine electric cars will become popular for this sort of event in the future. The instant torque provided by the motor and regenerative braking systems will be great for acceleration and braking tests and for the tight autocross tracks.
There were only a couple of Teslas in the field this year.
There were a smattering of Japanese cars. The FB RX7 tok my heart. In my opinion these are an underrated little car compared to the newer FC and FD.
I would have thought Miatas would have been a more popular choice of vehicle considering their huge aftermarket support. I bet the small, RWD platform is great in the autocross too!
There were a couple of 240Zs. Plenty of cool points!
The coolest car on the grid in my opinion was this W108 Mercedes. As I’ve said hundreds of times on this blog, a stacked headlight Mercedes is at the top of my bucket list of cars. I absolutely love them!
This one reminds me of a modern reimagining of Rote Sau (probably thanks to the colour and the huge arches). To me, it’s just brilliant. Hopefully it can make it to SEMA again next year as I would love to see it running.
If you’d like to see a full breakdown of results, please click here: https://clubregistration.net/clients/usca/results/overall.cfm?eventID=12049&class=Overall
Thanks for reading. The Street Car Invitational is a really cool part of SEMA. To the best of my knowledge, when I last went in 2019 it was just a static display of cars, and the whole competition was at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hopefully I’ll be able to see a little more of the competition itself next year.
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By Richard Francis