August 13, 2014 - By Dan Shriner
Tom Bailey's 1969 Camaro, featured in this month's "Hot Rod" Magazine, goes about 220 mph. (click for larger version)
It is a classic American scene.
Two cars side by side, the drivers revving engines, eager to go as fast as the car will allow. Each driver wants bragging rights that he has the fastest car in the quarter mile race.
Well, Lake Orion's Tom Bailey has a similar vision except his is turbocharged with 3,300 horsepower and is beyond anything you have ever seen on any street-legal car. And he races against a clock.
Bailey's 1969 Camaro, according to Hot Rod Magazine, is the fastest street car in America and can go a quarter mile in six seconds.
That's about 220 miles per hour. The car reaches 100 mph in about one second. It takes two rear-mounted parachutes to help stop the car after a run. The engine is a 615-cubic inch big block Chevrolet with twin 94mm turbo chargers.
This month's Hot Rod Magazine has a feature on the Camaro and Bailey's efforts to make the car competitive for the next yearly Drag Week competition in early September.
His gold-colored Camaro won last season's Hot Rod Drag Week title in the unlimited and fastest division in the highly competitive and grueling series of races. Bailey is readying his car now to defend his title at a series of tracks in Oklahoma and Kansas.
He said he loves the competition and doesn't compete in other drag competitions. Bailey is low-key and prefers his racing to speak for itself.
He quietly goes about his business, according to those who follow the Drag Week competition, and is always trying to tweak this or that and make the car better.
"This is a perfect kind of race for me and I really enjoy it. It's the kind of thing I have always wanted to do."
To win Hot Rod's Drag Week, a competitor must prove the road-worthiness of their car by competing at five different drag strips in different states over a period of five days. Each competitor must race their car and then hook up a trailer that contains parts and tools and embark on a trip to the next location.
They must drive several hundred miles to the next track and race again the next day. This goes on for five days at five drag strips and a thousand miles or more of interstates and back roads.
The drivers must follow a set route and Bailey said there is quite a bit of excitement on the road in some small towns where residents come out to see the cars.
"They take us through every Podunk town between the tracks," Bailey said.
The cars often break down during trips to the next town. They are built for speed not for endurance and getting them to the next track can be a real test of car and driver.
"You have to make that thing last. Whatever it takes to get to the next location and race," Bailey said.
Bailey has participated in four of Drag Week races and had to drop out due to mechanical breakdowns twice. Most cars in the top division do not finish. Last year only eight of the 25 cars in the unlimited class finished.
Bailey's Camaro last year competed at Bowling Green, Ky., Indianapolis, St. Louis, Memphis and then back to Bowling Green. This year it will be at tracks in Oklahoma and Kansas.
He said he remembers one time being on a small road in the middle of a cornfield at 2 a.m. doing some needed repairs so he could get to the next town and race.
"There is no controlled environment. You can't get help from someone not in the competition. You need to be able to do your repairs and keep it running. It's man versus the machine."
What makes Bailey's accomplishments even more impressive is that he does all of this as a hobby. There are no corporate sponsors who pay for everything. Even when you win, as he did last year, there is little to claim in the way of a purse. The winner gets a cool trophy and a jacket with his name on it.
What you have a bragging rights and of course, the fastest street car in America.
Bailey said he doesn't race for financial gain but for the love of speed and the challenge of building and racing a car that is the fastest street-legal thing on wheels.
Bailey owns American Security Network in Waterford and lives in Lake Orion with wife, Dana, and their three children.
Occasionally, he takes the car out for a little drive around Lake Orion or Waterford, even going to Culvers a couple of times for their Tuesday car shows.
But, Bailey said, he doesn't really enjoy going to car shows.
"I don't like sitting around," he said, smiling. "I enjoy going fast."
Go to www.bailey-racing.com for more on Bailey, his car and the feature in Hot Rod Magazine.