12.99/$1,299 Update – Fired up and it’s time to stand on the gas



Fired up and it’s time to stand on the gas.

By Dennis Pittsenbarger


This time of year does not do me any favors on time to sort things out at the shop. Christmas shopping, holiday family gathering, entertaining a 10yr old on winter break and trying to keep up with the business side of this roller coaster have all been things to keep me from finishing the 12.99 Challenge Camaro Z28. That and at this point what is almost certainly a bad head gasket.

A lot of friends are asking me when and how I’m going to get that elusive 12.99-second time slip. And, of course, I’ve got a lot of keyboard warriors telling me how and why I’m doing it wrong. Well guess what Captain Obvious? There is no right way, there is no perfect plan and just to make it clear – I’m completely aware that I do not – let me repeat that I DO NOT know it all.

See this is just what the name evokes, a challenge. A challenge to find the way to make any shitbox turd for sale out of a backyard or back ally able to run a 12-second pass. And, let me tell you it’s not easy. Somewhere around 300 different people have suggested strategies on car choice or car set up. This ranges from what I have to do with powertrain, transmission, or other pieces sure to get me and a clapped out third gen Camaro to make it. But, I’ve got a little explaining to do.

See, win, loose or draw, I’m a winner. Why? Because I’m giving this thing my all in the sense that almost anyone in the real would can. There are others attempting that and sure, I’ve even got a few manufactures to hop on the 12.99 Challenge. They have even took shots at me making sure I knew they were gonna kick my ass at this and run even better than a 12.99. And, for the love of God and all things cheap performance, I hope they do. Why?

Because it not the destination, it the journey. It’s the knowledge that I’ve gained while on this journey that I did not have prior, and now I have a better understanding of just how brutal the Cars Illustrated 12.99 Challenge can be. And, that is the point – that there is so many people out there that are down right scared to even think about working on a car let alone trying to make it run 12’s. Now maybe there is not a need for a TPI expert in the world of performance circa 2015/6, but if you are broke down on the side of the road with fuel delivery problems in your 1988 GTA Trans Am, you want me to be driving by with some tools.

Speaking of tools, I must point out one of the things that is driving me crazy the most – Mike Christopherson at Pro-Tek Automotive and his knowledge of automotive repair. See Mike works on and repairs automobiles all day long, and for the record he is not working on archaic mid-80’s fuel injected heaps like my 91 Z28. It’s BMW, Audi, and Porsches that need their dual-cam Vario system repaired. And, I’m the guy who has to constantly remind him that part of the 12.99 Challenge is making you take into consideration the budget. It’s in a lot of ways completely backwards from the normal way of doing things that make sense. You THINK I wanted to chase that water problem down, or waste time trying to bandaid the fuel problems in that mullet mobile? No and again for the people in the cheap seats – absolutely not!

But all of it brings me to this place and time – the time to stand on the gas even harder and pound this thing out. And, in case it has not hit you yet, I’m sort of pissed about it. Many years ago, I walked into a newspaper office and sat with a executive that told me I did not have the knowledge, the skill or the education to write, let alone work for a newspaper or media in general. Well, that piggish bitch of a woman lit a fire under my ass that propelled me to not only work for her competition, but take a majority of her clients on my way to hosting several radio shows, then television, and now even being a part of SEMA itself. And, what does it mean to my time with Cars Illustrated?

It means two things – one is that I have finally found a home that will let me write, host and talk about the cars that I repair, test and install goodies to make more power. But, more importantly, two – that I will not be denied victory for lack of zest to finish the task of hitting 12.99 for $1,299 dollars and prove that any knucklehead, loudmouth body and paint retarded idiot like me can do it.

So for lack of better ways to say it, either “grab a weapon and stand a post” or maybe better said – either grab $1299 dollars, start your thread on the Cars Illustrated forum, start your journey and show everyone how you would and will do it. Or, choose a team and cheer on those who have the guts to try it.

As for me and that burgundy turd waiting to go 12.99, I’m gonna rip the heads off, fix that 350, strip as much weight off as I can, rig up some cheap NOS system and spray myself right into the history books of Cars Illustrated! I might not end up being the first guy who gets it done, and I certainly won’t be profitable while doing it, but I will be damn sure expecting the haters, doubters and naysayers to say the same words as me… when I pass 1320 feet – victory.

To quote the one and only Tony Defeo “It’s not how fast you go, but how you go fast.” And that is exactly what I’m trying to figure out.


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