It all began at the SEMA show in 2004 or 2005. OPTIMA’s Director of Product Development and Marketing, Cam Douglass, was in awe of all of the pro-built cars being shown, and couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to these cars than just having brand name parts and looking cool.
It took him a few years of talking to people and a whole lot of planning, but then Douglass met Jimi Day, and the idea became a reality. It went from the SEMA show floor to the nearby track, Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch.
As expected, Pro-Touring cars were all over the headlines. I mean, how could they not be when iconic cars like RJ Gottlieb’s Big Red Camaro and Steven Rupp’s Bad Penny Camaro were competing? In fact, they continued to grab headlines because Gottlieb and Rupp were more than willing to push both themselves and their cars to the absolute limit.
In the first year alone of OUSCI (OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational), there were some well-performing cars in the field. There was a 2004 Porsche 911, a brand-new Pontiac G8, a Lincoln MKX of all things, a new Dodge Challenger, and several late-model Corvettes.
Why such a diverse field of cars? Because otherwise, how would you determine what the “ultimate” street car really was? The whole point of OUSCI is to see if SEMA show cars could perform as well on the track as they could look good at a show. There never were, and never will be limitations on the year, make, model, or build style of the cars. Otherwise there would be no real valid way to determine whether the winner was the ultimate street car.
The OUSCI field is the most diverse it has ever been, with cars like Jonathan Ward’s 1948 Buick ICON Special to Dieter Heinz-Kijora’s 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, and more than 100 cars in between those extremes. Yes, Pro-Touring cars are still a big part of the mix, but anybody who owns a street-legal car or truck has a chance at getting to the invitational. Just ask Thomas Smith about his 120,000 mile daily-driven 2005 Subaru WRX STI.
If you’re interested in going to a qualifying event to just watch, or to try and get to the invitational, they happen all over the country. I’ve attached a link for you, where you can register for a qualifying event if you’re interested at http://driveusca.com/events/
Every vehicle that makes the cut is placed on display at SEMA for a week, before heading out to the OUSCI at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.