‘Street Machines’ Set to Race on National Show

By Beacon Staff

Members of the Rocky Mountain Street Machines, a local car enthusiast club, thought they would be lucky to successfully enter one car to compete on the national television show “Pinks: All Out.” Instead, they got three.

“I couldn’t believe it; I mean, we watch that show every week,” Kavin Morsette, the club’s founder and president and one of the show’s future contestants, said. “It didn’t really feel like reality until I got the entry ticket in the mail.”

The Chevrolet emblem contrasts the burnt gold color of a 1972 Vega.

“Pinks: All Out” is a drag racing competition that airs on the Speed Channel. Up to 400 cars race in qualifying runs to see which 16 cars will provide the most competitive racing. Then those 16 cars race against each other, all in the course of a few days. The winner of the finals takes home a $10,000 cash prize and a tool chest.

Last month, the club’s members sat poised at computers throughout the valley, waiting to sign up as soon as the show’s online registration opened. Their chances of placing even one contestant were slim: In just the first minute of registration, more than 300,000 people vied for the 400 available spots, Morsette said.

But the group beat the odds and in early August, Morsette, a Columbia Falls resident, and two of the club’s other members – Shane Baker of Eureka and Jeff Turner of Columbia Falls – will travel to Morris, Colo., to compete in front of thousands of spectators on the show. The trio will represent the valley with an eclectic mix of cars.

Morsette has transformed a gas-sipping, 1972 Chevy Vega – originally made to be an inexpensive, fuel-economy car – into a gas-guzzling speedster. Baker, on the other hand, has revamped his red 2001 Camero, making it turbo-charged and boosting the horsepower, all while ensuring the car gets good gas mileage and even prepping it to one day, hopefully, run on ethanol.

“We all have our different interests or specialties,” Baker said. “For me, I’m interested in ethanol fuels because I think it’s the way of the future and I want to be a part of it.”

Turner will compete in a 1972 AMC Hornet. The red-white-and-blue car has a “real nasty little small block 360 AMC motor,” he said, and is still all-natural and without turbos.

Local residents can get a glimpse of the television-bound vehicles, and other Rocky Mountain Street Machines cars, as part of Heritage Day festivities in Columbia Falls. Heritage Days, an annual event, kicks off Thursday, July 24, with a concert in Marantette Park and continues through Sunday, July 27, with class reunions, rodeo, carnival, parade, craft show and basketball and golf tournaments.

Gauges that measure “everything in the motor,” according to Kavin Morsette, are mounted in front of the Chevrolet’s wind shield where Morsette can monitor the oil, water, boost and fuel.

On Saturday, the Rocky Mountain Street Machines will hold its annual car show in the Glacier Bank parking lot and perform burnouts near the Pamida in the evening. In the past, Morsette said the group has had anywhere from 180 to 250 vehicles participate in the show, which is free to the public.

Morsette started the car club in 2001 at the suggestion of a law-enforcement officer who had pulled him over for drag racing. “The club gets people off the streets and gives them a safe place where they can still get on it and have some fun with these cars,” Morsette said.

Interest in the group has been higher than even Morsette imagined; around 80 people showed up at the inaugural meeting. Since then, the club has growing rapidly and now has around 350 members, most of them local. Some members, like Morsette, build their own cars from the ground up and like “to get the cars dirty racing and driving them around,” while others invest money with specialists and prefer to keep their cars in pristine condition.

Either way, the group’s members say there is a strong bond that brings the varied club members together – a shared love of everything related to cars.

“I like that it’s a group with a bunch of other gear heads and horsepower junkies like me,” Baker said. “We’re always looking for parts for each other or trading tips. It’s not just show-and-shine.”