Ultimate Street Car Challenge 2007 - Contenders

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Prime the pump organ,adress the monkeys, find Grandma's teeth-it's almost time for the greatest spectacle of the year. No, not that Circus Super Lap Battle thing. We're headed for the freak show out back. Forget about lions and flaming hoops. We're talkin' bearded ladies and third nipples. Get ready for the one, the only...

Sport Compact Car Ultimate Street Car Challenge.

Once again, we've gathered a collection of cars and owners not content with being great. They demand the title: 'ultimate' and are willing to run through our cockamamie concoction of trials to prove it. The USCC isn't some watered-down, feel-good cocktail. It has flavor like a bitter winter brew, the kind that leaves a foul taste the morning after. But every year, when it comes around, you're ready for another sip. We start with the standard ingredients we're known for. Radar guns, dynos and accelerometers. Oh yeah, when it comes to performance data, we serve it raw. But as long-time readers know, it doesn't stop there.

While a certain degree of athletic proficiency is required, this pageant will also judge its contestants on looks, intelligence and character. That's right-our infamous panel of gurus will be giving thorough examinations from top to bottom. Our car show judges will be ruthless in their evaluations of fit and finish. If they miss anything, you know it'll get nagged about in the Girlfriend Test. Next, engineers will crawl under the hood and chassis, making sure all modifications are done right and locked down tight. We're even going to give 'em the ol' sniffer-in-the-tailpipe test.

USCC is a competition like no other. This is not a sanctioned boxing match where the best-trained fighter always wins. This is a street fight, where creative use of a two-by-four may not only win the round, but earn style points too. Innovative engineering and solid mechanical execution are the keys to emerging victorious.Past champions have come from all types of automotive disciplines and this year is no different. As much as we'd love to see a sport compact win this thing, it would be meaningless without beating old rivals along the way.

This year, the domestics are represented by what is without doubt the most wicked monster they've brought out yet. The last-generation Corvette Z06 has a reputation for stomping on 360 Modenas, Vipers and other baller-mobiles that make up our list of past champions. This particular Z06 has been tuned beyond anything we've seen so far. In any other competition, the 'Vette would be a sure bet, but not here.

The USCC is known for oddball creations no OEM would dream of engineering. This year, we have a trio of quirky almost-sport compacts that will likely bounce from the top to the bottom of the charts in the various events. First is a 300ZX, using the classic 'if you can't beat 'em, clone 'em' approach. Under the hood lies a healthy LS1 V8-much like last year's RX-7 that did so well. Next is the quintessential sport compact track car: a third-generation Integra. These days, motor swaps are about as common in these puppies as they are in their not-so-distant-cousin Civics. But, this is unlike any Integra you'veseen before.

Our ace in the hole is the Ariel Atom. Arguably, this isn't a sport compact. It's hardly a car. But it has a boosted 2.0-liter and falls into the super flyweight category. This little European creation probably stands the best chance at beating the big Chevy-even if it is powered by a little Chevy itself.

Speaking of Euros, they're in the mix too. We've dug up a group of geezers with a vintage BMW sporting a vintage motor swap. Yeah, good luck with that. If there's one thing old-timers are known for, it's bringing the biggest bag of tricks with them. Will they have what it takes? Do they even know what a Skyline GT-R is? They're about to find out. It's time to raise the curtain. Without further delay, we present the entrants of the 2007 USCC.