Honor-System Anarchy

As you’ve hopefully noticed, we are in the midst of a project car series focused largely on the SCCA’s relatively new Classic American Muscle autocross class. The rules of the CAM class are simple in that there are almost none.

The entire rules package for CAM fits on one side of a single sheet of letter-size paper—even in rather large type. And most of the text is concerned with classing, not preparation.

At first blush, you’d think this would make the average autocrosser extremely happy. Finally, they can escape from the totalitarian arbitration of the overly complex SCCA Solo rules and build what they want, how they want. They even get to compete with like-minded individuals.

But a funny thing happens when you unleash freedom on people. See, as much as we huddled masses yearn to breathe free, our brains are also comforted by structure and standardization. Our hearts crave freedom, but our heads demand order. It’s why all of our stop signs are red, and why the gas is always on the right and the brake is always on the left (or in the middle if you’re cool).

So it’s no surprise that there’s been some backlash recently in the CAM community over the rules and their future.

Actually, maybe backlash is too strong a word. It implies there’s resistance to change, but there’s been very little expressed or implied change forthcoming to lash back against.

So let’s just call it externalized internal conflict over our drive for freedom and our existential fear that somehow all fun things eventually get screwed up when someone pokes their eye out.

For its entire short existence, CAM has been governed by two sets of rules: the one on that single sheet of paper, and the one competitors follow as part of an unspoken social contract about the spirit of the class. The reality is that, if you go by the official rules, no one has really built a “maxed out” CAM car yet.

Our own project car, although it competes in the “anything goes” realm of CAM, would still be eligible for far more restrictive classes as of this writing, yet it’s somewhat typical of many current CAM builds.

It’s really quite fascinating to watch. When stripped of all restrictions, we still retreat to the comfort of familiar structures. There are plenty of theoretical CAM builds being floated around out there, but as yet, no one has brought a gun to the knife fight.

All this is to say that people don’t continue to bring sharper and sharper knives. The “state of the art” in CAM continues to evolve as cars are developed further and further at the chosen pace of the individual builders, which is suspiciously constant across the class.

I guess that’s not completely surprising. The autocross competitor demographic, while somewhat diverse, still devotes a relatively consistent amount of time and financial resources to their hobby. These real-life constraints, more than any arbitrary sanctioning body rule set, seem to have been the limiting factor in CAM development since its infancy.

So what’s this all mean?

Well, I’m not a social scientist, but if I were pretending to be one, I’d say that when confronted with the prospect of anarchy, our order-craving human brains find a way to create some structure from the chaos. If no overt structures exist–like thick rulebooks and governing boards–we’ll create implied and covert structures. Poll the paddock at a typical CAM event as to what the average CAM car should look like, and I’d wager you’d get a surprisingly consistent answer.

But the social sciences are sciences, too. And the CAM hive mind will inevitably evolve. Ask the same question five years from now, and I suspect the answers will be rather different–although broad similarity still wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Mutant creations will enter the scene and become the new alphas. The unevolved herd will be forced to adapt or lag behind.

The real question for me is this: How long can the CAM organism sustain itself and evolve along a natural path without the guiding forces of a thick rulebook directing its progress? The answer, hopefully, is for a while.

Hopefully CAM is on a successful trajectory, one that can be emulated in the future by other emerging classes and scenes. At the moment, it appears to be growing in popularity and performance at an organic, manageable pace for both the competitors and the organizers.

Although, as I write this, someone very well could be building their own giant meteoroid in their garage, ready to unleash an extinction-level event on CAM’s rules-free party.

But so far, the meteors have been avoided. Much like how the Wild West wasn’t in fact all that wild, CAM seems to be doing just fine with as few rules as possible. And that’s partially because everyone is afraid of being the one who pushes too far, too fast, and makes it so we can’t have nice things anymore.

Sooner or later CAM will gain more rules, as does every form of human competition. That’s fine, though. Once the giant meteor hits, GRM will run a nice, pretty feature on it for everyone to enjoy.

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Comments

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Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku PowerDork
10/27/16 6:30 p.m.

I'm running my former challenge car, a 1991 Firebird, in CAM and I'm pleased with the changes for 2016. The moved the cut off for CAM-T to 1990 (some grandfathering of older chassis like Fox bodies to '93 and F-bodies to '92) Previously I had to run with Coyote Mustangs with 295's all around and every trick piece of suspension tech you could by. Really frustrating, I gave up half way thru 2015. Now I'm playing with crazy built Chevelles, Foxes, and other assorted classics. Sure they beat me, but I don't mind a bit

bentwrench
bentwrench Dork
10/27/16 7:00 p.m.

Have no fear it will evolve to the point where the rules are changed because someone wins everything. Then another combination will bubble up from the depths to dominate. Then after much whining and gnashing of teeth that combination will be kicked out of the class or handicapped so severely no one will run it. Then another will bubble up, rinse and repeat. There will always be another unicorn, thats the way racers are and how we got to where we are. It's a good thing I am not running that class because I would screw it for everyone. First thing you do is dissect the rules look for all possibilities of advantage. Then build it and whoop ass! Then it's boring racing agains inferior cars.

Just go straight to E Mod and quit messing around.....

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltimaDork
10/27/16 7:18 p.m.

I also think nobody wants to be the guy who spends $100k and breaks the class and gets his car banned. Creeping just a teensy bit further than the last guy makes it harder to get singled out.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
10/27/16 7:38 p.m.

The amc spirit challenge car was originally destined for cam. But the it went caged with a zolatone interior and window nets (all in the works). By reading the limited rules, no interior throws it right out, even though it is going to look like a vintage imsa race car everywhere. I'm sure they would let me play in the class locally, but don't want to be that guy.

snailmont5oh
snailmont5oh Reader
10/27/16 9:32 p.m.
Dusterbd13 wrote: The amc spirit challenge car was originally destined for cam. But the it went caged with a zolatone interior and window nets (all in the works). By reading the limited rules, no interior throws it right out, even though it is going to look like a vintage imsa race car everywhere. I'm sure they would let me play in the class locally, but don't want to be that guy.

Can't you just put carpet in from the firewall to the back of the seats and be legal?

moparman76_69
moparman76_69 UltraDork
10/27/16 9:41 p.m.

So the question is do you want to be the guy that blows the class away and does a mic drop after picking up his nationals award?

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
10/27/16 9:52 p.m.

In reply to snailmont5oh:

The way I read the rules, has to have a full interior and all glass.

Chadeux
Chadeux HalfDork
10/27/16 11:16 p.m.

I have a really stupid question. Is AWD allowed in CAM? Asking for a friend etc.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/28/16 12:00 a.m.

Should just be "no sponsorship, no company cars" keep things relegated to the average joe. And then Have a "I make six figs a year" class.

Driven5
Driven5 Dork
10/28/16 1:44 a.m.
Trackmouse wrote: ...And then Have a "I make six figs a year" class.

Followed by a "Living in San Francisco" exemption.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltimaDork
10/28/16 6:13 a.m.

CAM has the overwhelming majority of 'real money' cars in autocross. Not just expensive cars, but money spent by companies to advertise their ability to make got fast parts/cars.
SCCA is going to be careful keeping that group of big spending car guys even if this is going to be CanAm in a parking lot soon.

petegossett
petegossett UltimaDork
10/28/16 6:18 a.m.
mazdeuce wrote: ..CanAm in a parking lot...

I'd be 1000% ok with this.

STM317
STM317 HalfDork
10/28/16 6:24 a.m.
Chadeux wrote: I have a really stupid question. Is AWD allowed in CAM? Asking for a friend etc.

CAM is limited to RWD American vehicles

Madhatr
Madhatr Reader
10/28/16 6:59 a.m.

I was thinking about this, and while have no doubt that someone will push the envelope to it's breaking point.... (and this may be a stupid question, so forgive me) But, won't the minimum weight and tire specs be the limiting factor?

Will it come down to "how much tire can I stick under body 'x'" ?

Personally, I could see a copped/channeled 40's pickup, with an Ls, stock car suspension, and enough rubber under it's fat fenders to pancake Judge Doom.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
10/28/16 8:16 a.m.
mazdeuce wrote: CAM has the overwhelming majority of 'real money' cars in autocross. Not just expensive cars, but money spent by companies to advertise their ability to make got fast parts/cars. SCCA is going to be careful keeping that group of big spending car guys even if this is going to be CanAm in a parking lot soon.

Disagree. CAM does have a few high-profile builds, but they're certainly not making the classes unwinnable for anyone else. There's way more money parked on the average Super Street grid—where you basically have to have a late-model GT3 to be competitive—than CAM grids at this point.

Also, none of these high-profile builds, such as the Speedway cars, use any technology that isn't available to everyone else in the class.

At some point, someone will push past that line in the sand. It's inevitable. What I don't really know, though, is precisely where that line is located. As someone else mentioned, there's also a built-in limiting factor with weight and tires. Sure, someone could throw some carpet in a GT1 car, but they still have to weight 3200lbs and run 200tw tires.

klodkrawler05
klodkrawler05 New Reader
10/28/16 9:17 a.m.

From the outside looking in (I had plans to run CAM-S but the c5 broke every time I'd get to test it)

The SCCA claims the goal was to draw in Goodguys/Optima cars with this class. That being the case people have to remember that the cars built specifically for those series are going to be high dollar, big money cars, show casing what sponsor's parts are capable of and with pretty darn good drivers to boot.

Looking at regional/national events that happen to pop up near where those guys call home looks quite a bit different than what we saw at Lincoln this year. At Wilmington Danny Popp was almost 4 full seconds faster during the champ tour than the next fastest cam car, he was over 2 seconds faster at the pro-solo. Granted there are other events like the Cam Challenge in TX that a STU classed car was able to win by over 1 second (albeit extremely well driven by a national champion) however the 69 camaro it beat out was said to be having some teething issues and is one of those "meteorite cars" While the owner has done some awesome paint/interior work on the car in the truest sense of a street car, the under pinnings of the car are what really excite me. With pushrod suspension, twin turbo v8 that traps over 140 in the 1/4, stand alone ecu running traction control systems etc. It's a work of art in a classic body. Per the previously mentioned teething issues, that's a lot of car to sort out, and is one of the things people always point to, it's a lot of work to build a car faster than the GM/Ford engineers. But he's been sorting it pretty consistently for 3 years now and once it's fully sorted and becomes a meteorite, he'll have a multi year head start on development.

Neither the Dusold Camaro nor Danny Popp went to Lincoln though, and maybe those guys wont if there's no jacket to win, no prizes to gain etc. (the argument for keeping it not a jacket class that some hold to)

However, I think as long as we see: AS/STU c5's beating CAM-S cars and FS/ESP cars beating CAM-C cars, to worry about a killer car ruining the class is a bit silly. The Corvette forum is ripe with people bemoaning the cobra or solstice that could end the class as the reason they won't compete in the class. However there has been 1 maybe 2 national events all year that a CAM-S c5 has gone faster than a STU c5 and so that leads me to this: If you can't beat a base model c5 that is tire/wheel/power limited just by fixing the tire/wheel limiting factors, let alone power? then both the car and the driver have lots more speed to gain.

y860TTC
y860TTC
10/28/16 1:01 p.m.

I'm a series director for an "open" class - American Iron Extreme. We have still had a lot of success, even with the diverse entries. Everything form 400hp to all most 1000hp! May racers just like to openness and don't care if someone shows up and kills the class. They are more into building the car they want and driving it.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/28/16 2:23 p.m.
Driven5 wrote:
Trackmouse wrote: ...And then Have a "I make six figs a year" class.

Followed by a "Living in San Francisco" exemption.

Not sure I follow friend?

pushrod36
pushrod36 Reader
10/28/16 3:34 p.m.

Personally, I still contend that the true beauty of this class is at the local level where a muscle car club full of members with nothing other than maybe some drag racing experience can come and play without intimidation of people who trailered racecars to the event.

Everyone I know who owns a vintage American car has made some modification to it that would quickly put it in a "racecar" class per SCCA rules (thinking aftermarket carb or intake manifold).

That said, I know this applies to CAM-T only. I don't understand the other CAM classes.

Chadeux
Chadeux HalfDork
10/28/16 5:05 p.m.
STM317 wrote:
Chadeux wrote: I have a really stupid question. Is AWD allowed in CAM? Asking for a friend etc.

CAM is limited to RWD American vehicles

What I thought but was too lazy to go download the rule book again. The vehicle I have in mind is American, but AWD.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/28/16 7:24 p.m.

Must be a dadge.

Chadeux
Chadeux HalfDork
10/28/16 8:49 p.m.

In reply to Trackmouse:

Not really....but close.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/28/16 9:50 p.m.

Really... I was thinking charger awd... back to the drawing board... amc spirit??? Might be cool with a built 304 or whatever they came with...

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
10/28/16 9:54 p.m.

Hes rocking a brevada.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
10/29/16 1:04 a.m.

Ah the "bro-vada". A good choice.

Driven5
Driven5 Dork
10/29/16 2:39 a.m.
Trackmouse wrote:
Driven5 wrote:
Trackmouse wrote: ...And then Have a "I make six figs a year" class.

Followed by a "Living in San Francisco" exemption.

Not sure I follow friend?

The cost of living in San Francisco is notoriously high. In fact, it's the highest of any major city in America...By a pretty wide margin. For many people there, a six figure salary might still mean having to post/search Craigslist ads for room mates.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
11/1/16 2:10 p.m.
klodkrawler05 wrote: Neither the Dusold Camaro nor Danny Popp went to Lincoln though, and maybe those guys wont if there's no jacket to win, no prizes to gain etc. (the argument for keeping it not a jacket class that some hold to)

This. As long as it's not a "jacket class" the win-at-all-costs crowd should generally stay away. That said, as mentioned, this was never intended to be a "budget-build" class either.

FSP_ZX2
FSP_ZX2 Dork
11/1/16 2:47 p.m.
Dusterbd13 wrote: The amc spirit challenge car was originally destined for cam. But the it went caged with a zolatone interior and window nets (all in the works). By reading the limited rules, no interior throws it right out, even though it is going to look like a vintage imsa race car everywhere. I'm sure they would let me play in the class locally, but don't want to be that guy.

The Spirit has to run the the class (CAM-S) with Corvettes because of the 96" wheelbase. If it was say a Hornet or a Concord, it would run in Cam-T which allows 100" wheelbase...

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
11/1/16 3:49 p.m.

Oooooooo.....

But imsa can play?

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