We went to the first track day of the year at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, this past weekend, and these are the five coolest cars we saw there:
2000 BMW 540i
Two things attracted us. First, the bike rack on back of this track-ready Bimmer, and second, the epic beard of car-owner Jess von Brandt. Known as JVB, von Brandt moved to Michigan from Atlanta two weeks ago to start a graphic design job in Kalamazoo. He picked up this BMW so he could get to physical therapy after crashing his KTM motorcycle. He almost ran into us when he blended onto the track for the first time, but he found the right line pretty quickly with a little help from Gingerman raceway instructor Bob Ashley.
2003 Campagna T-Rex
Joe Warren bought his 2003 Campagna T-Rex off a buddy a few years back. After he did, his friend Bob Scianci had to follow suit, picking up a 2006 model. The Chicagoans trailered their three-wheeled cars powered by 1.2-liter Kawasaki motorcycle engines to Gingerman, so we asked them if they drove their Campagnas on public roads. “Yup,” said Warren. “One time a bum ran into the middle of the street and asked if I was from the future.”
1994 Geo Metro LeMons car
The Team Charnal House Geo Metro looks like Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s record-breaking Pikes Peak racer. The 2200-lb Geo Metro has a front sub-frame from Mercury Sable and a rear sub-frame from a Ford Taurus SHO, and this enabled the wacky guys from Team Charnal House could shove a junkyard SHO V-6 under the rear hatch. Another great junkyard find is the shift linkage from a Porsche Boxster that the guys now use for the car’s five-speed manual transmission. Oh, and the ridiculous front aero splitter is actually a metal picnic table. It still works, too. The guys could eat off of it during it a race if they wanted to.
2010 Porsche 911 GT3
Gingerman Raceway owner Dan Schnitta couldn’t stand the Guards Red paint on his GT3, so he had a local paint shop paint it ruby red. Schnitta also has a modded Chevrolet Corvette Z06, a modded Honda S2000, and a modded Nissan GT-R, yet he hasn’t made a single mechanical modification to his GT3. Not even tires. Schnitta says, “I don’t know what to do to improve it.”
2013 SRT Viper GTS
What makes this Viper really cool is the fact that it’s driven by Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Group design president and SRT boss. We noticed the car didn’t have its instantly recognizable “STORM10” license plate anymore, and Gilles told us he’d gotten rid of it because of just that reason. (Ralph, we have to say that towing your white Viper behind a white Grand Cherokee SRT8 is still going to draw attention.) This 2013 Viper GTS carries VIN number 2, and it rolled on Pirelli World Challenge-spec tires this weekend. When we asked Gilles if he’d done anything else to prep the car for the track, he said, “I’m experimenting.” He plans to run the Viper at Virginia International Raceway in the coming weeks.