Scott Lear
Scott Lear
6/4/19 1:47 p.m.

Story by Scott R. Lear - Photography by Tony Neste, David S. Wallens, Scott R. Lear, Tom Suddard, and Ed Higginbottom


Michael Crawford and Dallas James have been friends since the turn of the millennium, when they attended high school together in North Carolina. Both had a love for cars and a freshly minted driver’s license.

It should surprise precisely no one that when Dallas first let Michael take a spin in his 1966 Ford Mustang, the drive promptly turned into a street race against another student’s Toyota Supra. “I got my ass kicked in the Mustang,” Michael laughs. “I’ve been making fun of Dallas’s love of Fords ever since, 20-plus years later.”

Michael and Dallas also shared a penchant for low-buck modifications, and the Grassroots Motorsports $2000 Challenge was perpetually on their that-would-be-fun list. The end of school and the beginning of adulthood have a way of redistributing priorities, though, and when Dallas got married and moved to South Carolina, the two fell somewhat out of touch.

Still, Dallas was eyeing GRM’s budget-build racing event as early as 2005. He even bought a project car to enter in the competition: his grandfather’s 1980 AMC Spirit. But while delivering pizzas to make some extra money, Dallas drove it into a parking berm, breaking the crank with the crossmember. The Spirit was totaled. Dallas parted it out, but the rest wasn’t even worth towing to the salvage yard given the poor value of scrap metal at the time.

The AMC's rear wing is hard to miss. The source? a local drag racer who simply wanted it gone. The streamers were added for safety. 

Michael, meanwhile, had become a social worker specializing in crisis intervention and mental health. He, too, still hoped to compete in the Challenge, but each car he wanted to enter–first a Chevy S10 and then a Neon ACR–evolved past the mandated event budget and became his daily driver instead. By 2015, with a kid of his own and plenty to keep him busy, Michael was not actively looking for a Challenge build.

Back in South Carolina, Dallas’s life had taken a downward turn. He was running at redline, working desperately to provide for three children and keep his failing marriage afloat. In the process, he’d lost contact with just about everyone he once knew. Not Michael, though.

“Dallas showed back up in North Carolina with nothing and not a dime to his name,” Michael recalls. Divorce was imminent for Dallas, and the legal situation regarding custody of his kids had him in the roughest of spots.

Michael’s desire to help his friend is familiar to anybody with empathy, but his training as a social worker helped him diagnose the red flags regarding his buddy’s overall state of well-being. He knew his friend needed a quick course correction.

“Around here we don’t give a handout,” Michael explains, “we give a hand up.” The only nonessential physical object Dallas could claim as his own was the wrecked remains of his AMC Spirit. Michael bought the car for $200 and a cigarette to help get Dallas back on his feet. Then he realized that Dallas would need something to keep his mind off the divorce and custody battle, so he insisted that they turn the old lift-back into a GRM $2000 Challenge project.

Read the rest of the story

stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/4/19 1:56 p.m.

That thing was a ton of fun.

And it photographs well.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
6/4/19 2:10 p.m.

Yes it does! Had a blast with this one!

Hoondavan Reader
6/4/19 3:13 p.m.

This is one of my favorite GRM articles. I wish I was somehow in a position to buy this thing when it was for sale over the winter/spring.

Patrick MegaDork
6/4/19 6:35 p.m.

Looking forward to an article about the two datsuns from that challenge that had their pictures taken together?

also amc is awesome and i’m proud to call michael a friend.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
6/4/19 7:03 p.m.

Thanks Patrick.  Probably THE build im most proud of, that i had the least part in.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/4/19 7:05 p.m.

An even awesomer paint job was in the works for this before time ran out, I'll refrain from posting mockup pics in case Mike wants to save it for later wink

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
6/4/19 7:06 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH :

Go for it!

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/4/19 7:23 p.m.

Once you're sure...

A slightly modified version of the livery used when the AMXes ran at the Nurburgring:

wawazat HalfDork
6/4/19 7:56 p.m.

I got to see this in the steel in the Detroit area earlier this year.  It’s very cool and makes great noise up close!

Robbie GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
6/5/19 9:05 a.m.
wawazat said:

I got to see this in the steel in the Detroit area earlier this year.  It’s very cool and makes great noise up close!

Anyone in Michigan should come up to Oscoda this weekend, test and tune Friday Saturday Sunday, and we will be testing and tuning this beast!

The car is awesome and we are confident a little development time will bring it into top contention.

Robbie GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
6/6/19 9:36 a.m.

Someone paid $24k for an AMX. Last line of that article "We rated the car on-site as being in #2 (a little bit less than excellent) condition, but good luck finding a better one."

HA! We happen to HAVE a better one.

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