Snow is all but a myth here in Southern California, with rain a close second. So when gray skies and a cold front dumped rain at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, during the Auto Enthusiast Day put on by Nitto Tire, December 7, 2013, we were a little disheartened at the prospect of the show getting canceled.
Fortunately, hundreds of excited enthusiasts turned out at the event, bringing along dozens of red-blooded American muscle cars, tricked-out trucks and Jeeps, and insane imports from the SoCal car scene to strut their stuff. The show was a free event put on by Nitto as a symbol of appreciation for reaching five million likes on Facebook, and a little thing like rain wasn’t about to get in the way of the fun planned for the day.
At one end of the gathering we saw a couple lines of scissor-door Hondas and winged Mitsubishis, while not too far away you could spy the impressive lineup of late-model Mustangs and Challengers. Farther down stood a handful of pickups and 4x4s, including the Off Road Evolution tent with a handful of their best-built Jeeps on display.
We had the chance to speak with Mel Wade, president of Off Road Evolution (abbreviated as EVO), who shared with us some cool specs about one of the Jeeps, a ’97 white TJ. Also known as “EVO TJ,” the Jeep is an active competitor in the Ultra4 circuit, and managed to snag third place in the Everyman Class during the 2013 Nitto Tire National Championship in Congress, Arizona.
Wade told us that the build on the Jeep had taken EVO a couple of months. Starting life as an inline-4 underdog, the crew went to town loading on cool parts, like a 505 Performance 4.9L inline-6 (producing more than 300 HP), a Torqueflite 999 three-speed, a WARN winch, MasterCraft seats, and Dynatrac ProRock 44 axles.
A full custom suspension was installed by the guys at EVO, and the Jeep makes use of King coil-overs to glide over the terrain. Fourteen inches of travel for the rear, and 12 inches up front make this TJ a real competitor in the desert.
Wade said that his company uses Nitto on all of its builds, and it was easy to see why after viewing the 35-inch Trail Grapplers on EVO TJ. The rubber on EVO TJ was a bit chewed up from the many miles of rocky terrain the Jeep has endured, but nonetheless, it was easy to see how great the tires are for off-road trails with an aggressive tread design and mud-tossing voids.
After we said goodbye to Wade, we heard sounds of the drifting going on at the track. Scrambling up the staircase of the media tower, we could see the green and black Monster Energy stallion of Vaughn Gittin Jr. revving and drifting all over the place.
Though he shared the space with three fellow hooners in their imports, it was all eyes on Gittin as he sped around the slippery track in his 2013 Ford Mustang RTR drift machine. The NTO5s on his ‘Stang were sure getting a workout, but proved capable despite the adverse conditions.
All in all, the Nitto Tire Auto Enthusiast Day was a great success. Rain provided an additional, yet intriguing twist to the drifting, and we all got to see why Nitto was the tire of choice for off-roaders and drifters alike. For more information head over to Nitto Tire on the web and check out its Facebook page.