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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Cliff Elliott of Aransas Pass, Texas, competes in the Ridetech Autocross Challenge at the OPTIMA Faceoff at the HOT ROD Power Tour in his 2011 Ford Mustang.

In Movies & TV Commentary

Paul Welch of Plano, Texas, competes in the Ridetech Autocross Challenge at the OPTIMA Faceoff at the HOT ROD Power Tour in his 1978 Pontiac Trans Am.

The search is on for the ultimate street car


The idea started on scrap paper. Now, hundreds of car enthusiasts participate and thousands of others watch as the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational unfolds on the SPEED Network.

"In 2008, the industry, just as most other businesses, was in the doldrums," said Cam Douglass, director of product development and marketing with OPTIMA. "We literally sketched out the idea on a napkin at a bar following one of our events."

The battery manufacturer, owned by Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls, was looking for a way to tap into the passion of car owners who make after-market modifications to their street legal cars to optimize performance. What was born was a televised event seeking the "Ultimate Street Car."

"We were fortunate to get some airtime," Douglass said of the first filming effort for TV. "We approached SPEED and they liked it."

The "OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational" can still be seen in repeats on the cable network, featuring the highlights and characters behind some of the greatest muscle cars to ever hit the highway.

Fast-forward to 2012, and the simple invite has grown in scope and scale.

"We have these beautiful show cars that people may see in magazines, but we wanted to show that they do perform. Owners can prove that in a competition environment," Douglass said of the qualifying events being held around the country, giving car enthusiasts a chance to race on a track with their street-legal cars.

This weekend, participants will partake in five different events in order to earn bragging rights and have the chance to be featured on a future SPEED Network show. First is a car show, where the vehicles are judged on appearance; second is a road rally from Milwaukee to Road America in Elkhart Lake. There is also an auto cross course and a speed-stop event, and the finale is a road race on the Road America racetrack.

"These are real people with real cars," Douglass said, explaining that it isn't often an owner can get the chance to race on a professional track like Road America. "We are looking for the ultimate street car and the neat stories behind them. We are finding that individual with a story to tell – great individuals with great cars."

If you enjoy looking at these high-performance cars, head out to Andrew Chevrolet on Silver Spring Drive in Glendale Friday after 4 p.m., or Saturday morning before the start of the road rally caravan event that's starting around 10 a.m. If you are a NASCAR fan, maybe you'll already be heading out to the Sargento 200 at Road America on Saturday.

The OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational participants will be on display at the racing event. Then on Sunday, the invitational is in the spotlight all day with the auto cross, start-stop and road race.

The top participants from the regional events will participate in the national invitational this fall corresponding with the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) annual convention. Air dates haven't been announced, but new specials should air sometime this fall on SPEED.

If you are interested in finding out more check out the site here, or see the video hosted by former professional wrestler Goldberg at last year's event:

MORE WHEELS: As part of a community outreach effort, sponsors of the Ultimate Street Car Invitational are making a donation of 50 bicycles to the Boys and Girls Club.

"For most of us who are into this, our first time making changes to our vehicles with wheels were bicycles while we were younger," Douglass said.

Johnson Controls staff members will be assisting with The OPTIMA Build A Bike program and the giveaway to adjust the bicycles and safety gear for the children Friday night at Andrew Chevrolet. Sponsors of the Ultimate Street Car Invitational include Royal Purple, K&N Filters, BFGoodrich, Ridetech, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Detroit Speed and Engineering, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering,Magnaflow, The Roadster Shop, Centerforce Clutches and OPTIMA.

MORE RACING: ESPN will air the Sargento 200 at 3 p.m. Saturday. The race at Road America is part of NASCAR's Nationwide Series.

WHOOP IT UP: Arsenio Hall is said to be making a return to TV with a talk show. CBS Television Distribution is marketing the show, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, the late-night show will debut this fall in major markets in the U.S., including Milwaukee.

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