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Article updated: 3/1/2013 9:54 AM

Pheasant Run car expo celebrates raw power

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Assembling a high-performance vehicle can be a daunting task for area novices and experts alike. Those seeking inspiration and guidance have a great local event to turn to, the Race and Performance Expo.

The three-day trade show, which just completed its sixth year, took place last weekend at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles. Although the focus is instructional seminars and aisles of the latest go-fast goodies and high-tech products, attendees were treated to a new section this year called the Car Builder's Showcase.

This showcase consisted of showstopping dream machines. The remarkable level of top-notch craftsmanship can be demonstrated by three examples from the show we highlight here.

1981 Pontiac Trans-Am Dale Schwartz, Schwartz Performance, Woodstock

If you want to go fast, you're going to need horsepower and this 1981 Pontiac Trans-Am, displayed by father/son team Jeff and Dale Schwartz of Schwartz Performance, packs plenty of it. The white asphalt missile is registering a whopping 1,038 ponies thanks to a heavily modified LS9 415-cubic-inch V-8, bolstered with twin 70-millimeter turbochargers. The vehicle was found in 2006 in Texas and offered a rust-free foundation.

"Dad has always loved the second generation TA. We built this to be his dream car with all the latest technology available," Dale said. "We strive to be different in our products and don't like to leave things stock."

After a multiyear overhaul, their performance Pontiac was completed in January 2012. In addition to the wild powerplant, the vehicle also features one of their G Machine chassis', a RideTech triple-adjustable coilover suspension and Baer six-piston calipers with 14-inch cross-drilled rotors.

"The car was built to be driven and not merely to put out impressive numbers," Dale said. To emphasize their vehicle's street prowess, the Schwartz team hopes to accomplish a major speed feat. "We're going to race and enter competitions to go 200 mph in a standing mile," he said.

1962 Ford Falcon Gasser Dan Ulreich, Derek Smunt, Midwest Hot Rods, Plainfield

When it came to straight-line performance in the 1960s, few vehicles were as iconic as gassers. These modified missiles had a specific look and Midwest's 1962 Ford Falcon nails it. The Coral Red cruiser was built by Dan Ulreich, owner of Midwest Hot Rods, and his employee Derek Smunt. They purchased the Arizona car in 2011.

"It was the perfect car to use to create a gasser. I've always loved the style of the early race cars," Ulreich said. The once ho-hum Falcon was stripped until it was a mere body shell before being rebuilt with a plethora of handcrafted parts and components.

Power comes from a 600-horsepower, 348-cubic-inch Ford small block V-8 mated to a Tremec T5 manual transmission. No gasser would be complete without a tunnel ram induction, straight front axle and hand-fabricated fenderwell headers, and this race-ready two-door has them all. In the cabin a full roll cage has been installed, along with black pleated vinyl upholstery. The project was completed just two days before the show and already Ulreich is planning massive seat time in the months ahead.

"We'll do some actual drag racing and see what kind of numbers we can achieve," he said. Not every trip will be for quarter-mile competition. "It'll also get to as many summer cruise nights as we can find."

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Roadster Shop, Mundelein

This 1969 Chevrolet Camaro rolled into the Roadster Shop as a fairly decent driver, yet before long it was transformed into a stealthy street cruiser. "It was a running, driving car but needed a whole lot of love,' said Phil Gerber, Roadster's vice president of sales and marketing. "When we were through with the vehicle, every panel had been removed and modified."

Work on the bow tie muscle car commenced in 2011. Underneath the jet black body is a Roadster Shop chassis, while a 585-horsepower LS3 V-8 is underhood. Gears are selected by a Tremec T56 six-speed transmission. Mounted behind the HRE 19-inch and 20-inch wheels are Baer 13-inch, six-piston disc brakes.

One of the elements that truly sets this Camaro apart is the amount of subtle body modifications. "There are a lot of little details that take hundreds of man hours to form and create," Gerber said.

These unique touches include a hand-fabricated chin spoiler, side gills and rear deck spoiler. The race-oriented cabin's appearance has been enhanced and modernized with the implementation of carbon fiber, which is inlaid in the dashboard and door panels.

"The project evolved as we went, with the final product being way more than the customer expected."

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