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7 Cars That Took the Empire Hill Climb to New Heights

The 2016 Empire Hill Climb brought reverberating echos of rumbling exhaust and howling tires, mixed musically with the whirring superchargers and spooling turbos, to upper Michigan’s lush woodland. Fresh fall air enhanced the scents of burning rubber and high-octane fuel, which left exhilarated spectators with a gratified, warm-and-fuzzy feeling as each of the 22 registered racers whipped around the winding, wheel-squealing corners. Here are seven cars that left their mark:

1. Record-Setting 1980 Toyota Starlet

1980 Toyota Starlet

VHT Racing Engineering’s 1980 Toyota Starlet was a white and yellow blur that only left behind swirling leaves and rebounding roars as evidence of driver Mikko Kataja’s multiple full-throttle runs up the hill. Every spectator knew who earned the balls-to-the-wall driving award before even looking at the scoreboard, and of course, it was the Starlet with a 21.222-second overall best time, which set a new record for the entire event’s history.

2. Lola T-192 Open Wheel Racer

T-192 Open Wheel Racer

Mead Korwin’s 1971 Lola T-192 was a rare sight at the Hill Climb, being the only car in the Open Wheel Class this year. The little blue slingshot ran a jaw-clenching 23.092-second best time, which took second-place overall.

3. The Comeback Enviate Hypercar

2016 Enviate Hypercar

Everyone knew when Cody Loveland of Lovefab, Inc., was about to make a pass. The 2016 Enviate Hypercar’s launch control sent him off with rocket-like big bangs, which likely shook the resident houses below. After years of blood, sweat and tears, the Enviate is proving its capabilities by earning first place in 2WD-Over 2.5-liter class and the third best time overall with a 23.507-second run time. What better way to test and tune a Pikes Peak build than compete in the Empire Hill Climb?

4. 1987 BMW 325is That's More Than Just Looks

1987 BMW 325is

Ascended Motorsports’ Patrick Waligore crossed the finish line at 24.038-seconds with his brilliant blue 1987 BMW 325is. He finished first in the 2WD-Under class, and he looked good doing it.

5. AWD Class-Dominating 2000 Subaru Impreza

2000 Subaru Impreza

The Relentless Rally Team fan’s entertainment was provided by driver Dylan Helferich, who skidded to an effortless win in the AWD class with his rough-and-rugged 2000 Subaru Impreza, securing a time of 25.59-seconds.

6. Awe-Inspiring BMW 2002

BMW 2002

Andrew Eagan traveled from Beaufort, South Carolina, to sweep spectators off their feet in his vintage BMW 2002. His throttle broke on a practice run, but he was able to get it repaired in time to dominate the hill for the remaining time he had left.

7. Tribute-to-Dad Porsche 911

Porsche 911

A neon-yellow Porsche 911 immediately caught our eye when it whizzed by.

"This was my dad’s car," driver Justin Cutler told us when we caught up with him later. "I’ve always wanted to drive it as a memorial to him." Justin gained experience through lemon racing, then made it to the Empire Hill Climb for a fantastic tribute.

Empire Hill Climb

After a solid eight hours of racing, the whimsical town returned to its tranquil state, but rubber scarring the pavement serves as nostalgia, at least until the snow flies.

See more beautiful shots from the Empire Hill Climb in the gallery below, and explore another popular hill climb—Pikes Peak.


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