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6 Standout Race Cars Thunder Up Storm Hill for the Empire Hill Climb

You may recall last year’s Annual Empire Hill Climb coverage and the one-off vehicles that made an appearance, such as Cody Loveland’s purpose-built Enviate, and Mikko Kataja’s eargasm-inducing Toyota Starlet. This year brought an even wider variety of vehicles, partly due to the adoption of SCCA HillClimb rules imposing less restrictions. This means four-point roll bars are now allowed, a racing license is not required, and as always, the race is opened to the public for registration with approved safety equipment for drivers and their vehicles.

Nearly 30 competitors arrived to the small historic town of Empire, Michigan to challenge themselves and their vehicles by racing up the roughly half-mile long tunnel of trees on Storm Hill. The mixed batch of racecars included almost every major auto producing country, and the eclectic setups ranged from drift cars to nostalgic 1950s classics. Enough jibber-jabber, bring on the magnificent machines!

1951 Packard

1951 Packard Vintage Racecar

Not only does this '51 Packard have nostalgic good looks, it also has over 60 years of racing history under its wheels. It was driven in the Carrera Panamericana II, which is a dangerous border-to-border race spanning the entire length of Mexico. During a race in November '51, this car and its driver, Jean Trevoux, came in fifth overall. A restoration was completed in '95, but by that time Treveaux did not pass the medical exam required to race.

The Packard was then brought to America’s Packard Museum in Daytona, OH and remains in race-ready condition. Lucky for us, it was brought to Empire, MI, to get some exercise. The car may lack the agility of the smaller lightweight cars, but it makes up for it with raw torque. Dan Badger, who drove the Packard for this year’s Empire Hill Climb, agrees.

1964 Porsche 356SC

1964 Porsche 356SC owned by Dave Burton

Dave Burton has been racing with the SCCA since '99 and has been driving his #20 '64 Porsche 356SC Coupe since he purchased it from Vic Skirmants in 2001. He has raced, placed and won vintage races at Sebring, Watkins Glen, Road America, Mid-Ohio, VIR Raceway, Lime Rock Park, Road Atlanta, Grattan and Gingerman. It was an honor to see him piloting his Porsche through the shady tree line up Storm Hill.

1996 Caterham 7 Supersprint

1996 Caterham SuperSprint

Aric Streeter raced up the hill in his “Bruces 7”, a '96 Caterham 7 Supersprint with a 1.8-liter dual overhead cam K-series engine. Aric admittedly said that the car has way more power to put down, and by refining his skills, we believe that he has full potential to come out on top. Acceleration in 1st and 2nd gears caused a fair amount of wheel spin but the car handles the bumpy road extremely well. The fastest run was his last at 22.528 seconds.

The Beastie Hatch

Cody Loveland driving the Beastie Hatch

Cody Loveland brought the befittingly named "Beastie," a '93 Honda Civic (or what’s left of it) to the competition. Its 377-hp J-swap engine features a Garrett Turbo leftover from a previous phase of Loveland’s well-traveled Enviate. Also taken from a later version of the Enviate are the HRE wheels, allowing him to cram super-wide 335 tires under all four fenders. Now that he has the traction to more-than-handle 330 ft.-lbs. of torque, the next step in the build is incorporating insane aerodynamics, the stuff that LoveFab, Inc. is made of.

1973 AMC Gremlin

1973 AMC Gremlin Racecar

Owned by Ian Dawkins, caged by Ben Klienfelter, and driven by a fool (also Ian Dawkins)—this '73 AMC Gremlin was the Vintage Class winner, out-pedaling the Porsche 356C (above) and a ’61 Austin-Healey, among others. Dawkins' late father once beat a race-prepped Ferrari by driving a Gremlin in the early 70s up the same hill, and he helped Dawkins design the driveline in this car. The 401 engine came out of a mid-70s Jeep J20. It was punched to a 409, and the bottom end forged and balanced. SK Speed from the East Coast built the BW T10 transmission. Underneath is a '92 Ford Explorer 8.8 rear axle with 4.10 gears and a limited slip differential.

2002 Chevrolet Corvette

Daniel Milewski 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Empire Hill Climb

Daniel Milewski was crowned king of the hill during this year’s race, and his chariot was a Chevrolet Corvette. The mostly stock 2002 Z06 is prepped for SCCA T1 wheel-to-wheel racing. Special features include a GM T1 suspension package as well as a DeWitts radiator. According to Milewski, with the safety items and restrictor, it weighs 3,225-lbs. and should be making about 400-hp. Power, paired with skill, shot him into the 20-second club with an official time of 20.912. He is the first driver at the Empire Hill Climb to break the 20-second barrier! Perhaps next year Mikko Kataja will come back to defend his previous 21.222-second record time, hopefully with his screaming yellow and white Toyota Starlet.

There's a lot more cars where these came from! Check out the photo gallery below to get a taste of racing at Empire Hill Climb.

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