Autocrossing: Running Wild

Image by Anthony Porta

Autocrossing: Running Wild

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

Autocrossing: Running Wild

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If you’ve been autocrossing for any length of time, you are likely familiar with rules. No matter the discipline, participation usually requires analyzing a set of intricate rules, and those rules can be downright intimidating. Certainly, there is no getting away from many of the SCCA’s rules as those are in place for the sake of safety, but others – well, what if those were eliminated? The result could be chaos, or it could be Classic American Muscle (CAM), one of SCCA’s hottest new autocrosses categories.

The CAM category as we know it today is actually the adaptation of something longtime member and SCCA Regional Solo Development Manager Raleigh Boreen witnessed in 2014. “A fellow in Indianapolis named Dave Dusterberg, myself, and our wives were at a Goodguys event in Indianapolis and they were having an autocross,” Boreen says. “He said, how would we get those guys to come to SCCA events?”

The CAM category has thrived in an environment free from complex rules. Images by Perry Bennett

Around this time, Boreen and his wife Velma were searching for ways to assist in SCCA’s membership growth. “Velma and I had been tasked with how to bring some new members into the Club, so really what I did was take what Dave and I talked about at that Goodguys event and played off that,” Boreen explains. “We looked at what other groups were doing, and we thought we could do this. But I told then [SCCA Vice President of Rally/Solo] Howard Duncan that if the rules have to go on to more than one page, I don’t think we should do it. We want to make this thing as simple as possible and see what happens, and he agreed. The CAM rules have gone on to two pages because of safety equipment and things, but we have been able to keep the essence of the category very simple.”

The simple set of rules allows competitors from another series to easily transition into SCCA autocross competition, and vice versa. “You can have a car that can run in any of the three series,” Boreen points out. “You could run three weekends a month. You can run a Goodguys one weekend, Optima the next weekend, and SCCA the third. You might not have the ultimate car for any one of the three, but you have a car that can run with all of them. We tried to keep the rules open enough that someone could do that.”

This unique approach has paid dividends when it comes to finding new participants. “It is working as a recruitment tool,” he says. “We can track through SCCA’s membership department that we are getting new members to join and renew because of the CAM program. Right now, CAM is about 90-percent new people. In San Diego, CAM caught fire like crazy and lots of good things have happened down there. In the middle of the country it’s been huge. It’s brought a bunch of new people into the Club all over the country.”

A great measure of CAM’s success, beyond membership growth, is the CAM Invitational that takes place in Lincoln, Neb., during the Tire Rack ProSolo Finale in early September. “We worked with Speedway Motors the very first year – they came up with the idea for the logo,” says Boreen. “The first year [2014], the CAM Invitational had 24 cars in it, running early in the morning just one day on the ProSolo course, and it went over huge. It was like a car show, and everyone had a great time. In 2015, it grew to 32 cars. Now it’s so big we have our own course, and it’s run more like a Match Tour. We had over 60 cars in 2016.”

Over the years, the CAM Challenge has tried a number of different formats as a traveling road show, and continues to fine tune its offering. “Tire Rack signed a multi-year deal to support the series all over the country,” says Boreen. “What has happened is we started out trying to run it like a Match Tour and we found out we had to modify it a little, just due to the economics. This year we are trying to run them at ProSolo events. The Invitational, however, will be a Match Tour format, and we hope to have between 80 and 100 cars this year.”

So, what is CAM? The category currently offers three classes, which encompass a wide range of cars, all of which can be extensively modified. The basics are simple: American muscle cars with the engine in the front, drive tires in the rear, sporting 200 UTQG tires, and maintaining some semblance of an interior. Obviously there are a few more rules than that, but that’s the gist.

Image by Brandy Phillips

CAM Traditional (CAM-T) is the home for almost anything resembling a 1948-’00 era road-going automobile. CAM Contemporary (CAM-C) includes most modern pony cars, starting with body styles originating in 2001. CAM Sports (CAM-S) is designed with sports cars in mind, but is also a landing zone for any other CAM car that manages to run afoul of the rules – it essentially serves as an “in-excess” class. “We never want to turn anyone away,” says Boreen of bumping some cars to the faster class. “CAM-S allows other CAM-eligible cars that might be underweight or missing required interior pieces a place to play.”

The freedom found in CAM is also appealing to many longtime SCCA members. “Sometimes, SCCA members autocross cars that can win rather than cars they like,” Boreen points out. “I think back to when Chrysler was paying a lot of money for wins in the Neon; some people hated the cars but made a lot of money doing it. In CAM, people are driving cars that they like.”

Autocrosser Dennis Bay is one such individual, as he approaches the completion of a four-year-long, pro-touring-style build. “I have always liked ’69 Camaros, ever since my good friend in collage bought one,” he says. “However, the dynamics of a 49-year-old car were not up to my modern standards, so CAM gives me a place to autocross my favorite car with the updates that give it modern dynamics and powertrain. Also, most everyone else running CAM-T is in a similar situation – a classic car with modern amenities.

Longtime SCCA autocrosser Dennis Bay has spent the last four years building his CAM-T Camaro – it’s a a labor of love, he says, and an opportunity to compete with a car he truly enjoys.

What does the future hold for CAM? Currently, CAM is still classified as supplemental in the Solo Rules, which means it does not crown a National Champion even though the classes are offered at the Tire Rack Solo National Championships. This supplemental status also gives Boreen and his team the flexibility to make quick decisions they believe are in the best interest of the category. “We are always trying to make things better in CAM, but right now we want the category to be stable,” says Boreen. “There is some thought of the new cars that are coming out – should we start moving more cars into Traditional? But that’s years down the road. We are looking at weights; some cars really struggle to get down to 3,000lbs, we want these cars to be drivable on the street and we don’t want to force people to do crazy things.”

The open rule set and engineering freedom allowed in CAM has resulted in some pretty incredible pieces of machinery showing up, but in reality you likely don’t need to go too wild to find your place in CAM. “There are some people out there with 700 or 800hp, which is great, but I’m not convinced you need that,” says Boreen. “I think if you have 350-400hp you can be competitive. You can do it little by little, and just have fun with it.”

For any automotive enthusiast, CAM – a near rules-free playground for American performance cars – is inspiring. And, it turns out, SportsCar magazine’s staff is not immune to CAM’s siren song. So check back next week as we start a CAM build of our own.

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