Boys Under the Hood

Colby Katz

A handful of cars dots the fast-food joints along University Drive in northern Davie -- so few it's almost not worth the eateries' while staying open late this oppressively muggy Saturday night in July.

Miami Subs, on the other hand, is bustling. Just a quarter-mile from the I-595 ramps, it has nary an open parking spot but for the three handicapped spaces by the side door. A steady stream of tricked-out cars circles the restaurant's driveway between the two rows of parked vehicles. Import-car zealots and street racers from three counties are cruising this Miami Subs, whose manager has sanctioned the group's gatherings -- much to the distaste of Davie police. A carnival-like din of distant bass, rumbling engines, and muffled conversations fills the lot. Groups of friends gather beside cars; a jumble of voices swirls from the booths and tables inside.

Just after 11, a ponytailed young man eases his Trans Am into one of the handicapped spots to pick up a couple of friends roosting on the curb. Sitting behind the wheel of the idling car, he is apparently unaware that police monitor the lot from afar; within three minutes, a squad car has the Pontiac blocked in. Because of the egregious nature of the crime, a second squad car joins in writing out the parking ticket.

Surveying the exchange, the veteran street racers cluster on their usual slab of pavement 20 feet away. Marlon Gurley is here with his 1985 Mazda RX-7; it's a fast runner, but its exterior wouldn't draw many second looks. Gurley waxes lyrical: "Cars get a reputation, you know? If you have an RX-7, you kind of keep your eye open for them. If you hear that someone in Miami is claiming to have a fast RX-7, you might drive down there to check him out."

Three of the racers have arrived on their motorcycles -- crotch-rockets, of course. One of them, Stefan Petrov, left his souped-up Ford Escort at home again because it just costs too damn much to run it every Saturday night. One racer left his fastest car at home, bringing instead a modestly zippy early '90s red Honda hatchback. It's faded, and dings cover the side. The front wheels don't match the back. Jesse Scungio, a rail-thin 18-year-old from Margate, has parked his silver Acura elsewhere, but mingles with the group, about a dozen strong now.

As a racing newbie solicits speed advice and drags Petrov off to look under his hood, a turbocharged import out on University gets a green light and punches it hard. The winding motor is a mix of roar and shriek; think panicked pig in a lion's mouth. Two Civics in the parking lot gun their engines, then slam on their brakes. Some of the race vets shake their heads, a bit disgusted that these two -- and yahoos like them -- only draw the attention of cops.

When Jeff Archibald arrives in his shocking yellow Nissan 240SX, the clique is complete. The racers' elder statesman of sorts, 35-year-old Archibald is the man who brokered the agreement with Miami Subs to gather here about four years ago. Not yet parked, his car is surrounded as though he's a wartime liberator. He's brought the good news that the police have agreed to let everyone hang out at the vast parking lot of the neighboring Tower Shops. He pulls the Nissan ahead, parks, pops out, and starts working the crowd.

On any given night of the week, you can find street racers and import buffs gathering in the parking lots of strip malls, superstores, and fast-food joints in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties. The Saturday-night summits in Davie are among the best attended because of the central location. Moreover, unlike other meeting spots that are frequently shut down by police, Miami Subs is a safe haven -- at least until its 1 a.m. closing.

About 15 minutes after Archibald's arrival, the Subs lot quickly hemorrhages people to the Tower lot. In a short time, Miami Subs looks as sleepy as the Taco Bell to the south. Archibald, already in the Tower lot, is surrounded by a throng of men and women, a mix of races and nationalities that rivals a United Nations conference. Around 6 foot 5, he looms over the crowd and holds forth in a thick Jamaican accent. He's wrangling with a bantam Puerto Rican who has driven down from West Palm Beach with a hopped-up, circa-1980 Toyota. The Puerto Rican wants to race, but Archibald and company know that there's not another car here that has a chance of winning -- at least by the rules the visitor insists upon.

"He's the fastest car here," notes Mike Reich, a Subaru owner, as he watches the deal-making on the sideline. Look at the roll bars, the rear racing wheels, he advises. He and others have seen it race at Moroso Motorsports Park near Palm Spring Gardens. "It's a 10-second car," he sums up, referring to the time it can cover a quarter-mile from a dead stop. "You're probably going 140 [mph] by the finish."  

Archibald, arms flailing, tries to broker some kind of contest and proposes beginning the race with a rolling start. His Nissan, which holds a transplanted RX-7 turbo engine, can beat the Puerto Rican, he believes, because it has a top speed around 180 mph. The Toyota will top out at 140, 150. ("Puerto Ricans are famous for cars that are brutally, brutally quick because they get up so fast," Archibald explains later.)

No, no, Team Toyota balks, knowing full well the advantages of a quick blast out of the hole. "We're from the island," a friend of the Toyota owner jokes with Archibald. "We only do dead-stop starts."

Archibald gives up; the match seems doomed. The energy in the air tonight, however, is irrepressible. Word soon goes out that a challenger has been found. A Mustang is on its way.

News that the Ford would take on the Toyota reinvigorates the crowd milling around the Tower lot. At 1 a.m., rumors about the Mustang begin circulating: It will be brought in by trailer. No, two of them will be trailered in. They aren't street legal, so they can't be driven there. The delay is due to the Mustang owner sending a "spy" to look at the Toyota, talk to its owner, get a feel for the machine.

Then, in a flash, carus interruptus: At 1:15, Davie police in squad cars descend upon the parking lot. "Everybody out -- now!" yells one cop. "We have power of attorney for the shopping center. If you don't leave right now, you'll be arrested."

The synchronized ignition of engines must be audible for miles. Scores of cars snake out of the lot. They hit the road and head home -- or to another lot in a neighborhood near you.

Stop at any busy intersection in South Florida, it would seem, and you're beside an import car whose owner has ambitions of bad. You glance over, and he catches the fleeting motion of your head. He revs his engine, sets his jaw. Be heartened that many of them, to paraphrase one serious racer, are just kids with bad mufflers. There's a good chance they don't have anything under the hood that God didn't give them at the factory -- though that alone can be formidable. Still, it's hard to be sure, because the lust for modifying compact import cars for speed and looks has grown steadily in the Sunshine State. New cars show up weekly. They hang out in the parking lots of the countless shopping centers and megastores that dot the western suburbs. The local cops roust them; they scramble to the streets; a short time later, they've reconvened at a synonymous lot a few miles away. Repeat again. Possibly again.

For the sake of categorization, call them the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The Good are the head turners: show cars that bounce and hiss on compressed-air suspension, sporting $6,000 paint jobs and filled with electronic toys. By the estimate of one longtime South Florida car buff, about 1,000 of these high-end beauties cruise the tri-county area.

The Bad slip their big money under the hood, sometimes spending thousands of dollars to drop their quarter-mile drag time by one second. Their cars might have a few exterior flourishes, but their pride comes from blowing the doors off the next guy. The serious contenders -- say, those who can cover a quarter-mile in under 13 seconds -- number relatively few.

You've undoubtedly seen the Ugly: the 16-year-olds with loud mufflers and no common sense. Sound and fury, signifying nothing -- they annoy the serious buffs, draw police like flies to roadkill, and menace the driving public.

While the aficionados make such distinctions, most police officers don't. They see instead the dozen or so deaths the Florida Highway Patrol attributes to drag racing during the past three years in South Florida. Davie police are especially apprehensive after the racing-related deaths of three motorists on Stirling Road two years ago. Although the logic seems convoluted, police in almost every municipality routinely eject parked car buffs onto the streets in the name of public safety.

This itinerant lifestyle is a constant source of bitching for the import devotees. After a squad car orders about 50 people into the Davie Miami Subs on a late Saturday night, the topic gets another work over. "Just give us a place to race," says 41-year-old Petrov, who shaves his head and is wearing a red muscle shirt and thick gold necklace. "If they don't want us to race, the county should build a place for us to go."  

Aren't the police creating a greater hazard, posits Gurley, by chasing everyone out onto the streets? "We're here instead of partying, drinking, taking drugs. It's a hobby. It's about the people as much as the cars."

Indeed, most of the evenings are spent chatting, flirting, talking trash, greeting new arrivals, and discussing tips for squeezing out a few extra horses. And then there's the speed. A week later -- same place, same late hour -- Gurley, who owns Perfection Automotive in Hollywood, approaches. "I'll show you why we do this," he says beside his RX-7. Beneath the hood lies a 1.3-liter turbocharged rotary engine. The interior is stripped of nonessentials to reduce weight. He crawls in, and the motor rumbles as he backs the car out. He talks via walkie-talkie with several compatriots following him. The suspension is jarring: If you close your eyes, you can imagine riding in an old quarter-ton pickup. It's a deceiving notion. Gurley turns onto an approach to I-595 while his friends follow abreast in the lanes behind him, blocking any interlopers. Rolling ever so slowly, he floors the RX-7, which jerks to attention; nevertheless, the initial thrust is nothing compared to the turbo kick, which comes a second and a half later. There's a Star Trek warp-drive sensation, and the street lights are blurred stars. He must be nearing 100 mph before pulling back, but it's hard to tell; the gauges seem distorted too.

He cruises back to Miami Subs and rises out of the car. "It's so good! It's so good!" he exults. "It's even more of a rush when you have someone next to you, and their car is just as fast or faster or real close. It's like a battle. You gotta fight to keep ahead of 'em."

A bald fellow with gold teeth, who recently lost a race to Gurley, advances and pissily seeks advice for increasing speed. Gurley good-naturedly opens his hood and dispenses some wisdom. He concludes by mentioning particular wheel rims.

"As long as I pass you, I don't give a fuck," mutters Gold Teeth, half-grudgingly, half-lustfully.

"That's the adrenaline rush," Gurley chuckles.

On a sweltering July afternoon, Ean Rollins adroitly lowers the rear suspension of a Mitsubishi Eclipse. "You want to keep it down for traction when you launch," he announces. Despite the nickname given him by South Florida import buffs, Honda Guy betrays no resentment working on a vehicle other than a holy Honda. Rollins labors six days a week as a mechanic and go-to guy here at Autotrix in Cooper City, which sells and installs performance parts.

Rollins is tall and lanky, and veins pop out on his arms and neck as he tugs and pushes on the coil springs. The 23-year-old is thoroughly pierced: rings at the top and bottom of both ears, the brow, the tongue. Colorful dragon tattoos cover the insides of his forearms. Beneath his greasy white T-shirt, however, is the body mod that says it all: the tattooed silhouette of a Honda.

"I got that about a year ago," he says, lifting the shirt to reveal a bellyful of greenish-blue Honda. "I was working at Autotrix in West Palm. My friend had a tattoo shop back then two or three stores down. I always wanted to get the tattoo, but my girlfriend was like 'No! No!' I wanted this particular car: the '92 to '95 Civic hatchback body style. One day after work, they were open late, we closed early ..." He chuckles. "I had the money on me. So I did it." Pressed about its cost, the Honda Guy feels sheepish. "Fifty dollars."

His enthusiasm reemerges quickly. "I like how this car looks," he extols. "The '92 to '95 Civic looks the best and has more potential than any car I've ever seen."

For all his current obsession with cars, Rollins, who grew up in Coral Springs, didn't even own one until he was 19 years old. Around then, he attended a car gathering at a local fast-food place where "the imports blew my mind," he says. "I saw a Civic beat a Mustang, and I thought that was the best thing in the world -- that that little four-cylinder could beat a big V-8." His enthusiasm led to a job at Autotrix in Tamarac.

"When I started to work here, I tried to stick to Hondas," Rollins says. "That's how people started to call me the Honda Guy: Every time they had a question about a Honda, I'd spit it out at 'em. I know all the little stupid things, like" -- here he reels off a list of Honda esoterica and acronyms that make the head spin.  

"Any week, on any given night, I can go to a spot, whether in West Palm, Broward, or Miami, and there will be people out there just hanging out or racing. That's what I love doing, racing. The more people out there, the better. That's what I think.

"Most cars around here run in the low 14s, high 13s -- the ones that are daily-driven. There are guys who have two cars: the one they drive to work and then one they take out on weekends that do 11s or 10s. If you want to be one of the 13, 14 cars, you're going to spend about two grand, fifteen hundred, easily. The fastest [daily] guys around here are running low 13s and high 12s. That's pretty fast. You're crossing the quarter at over 100 mph at 13 seconds."

Perhaps because he so often assists the neophyte racer, Rollins is a horsepower didact. "There are three different ways to get a lot of power: all-motor, turbo and supercharge, or nitrous oxide," he explains. "Whatever you decide, you're going to need more fuel and more air to get more speed.

"All-motor is nothing but motor: install different pistons, shave the head, add stronger rods, polish the heads, get bigger valves."

Turbodrive comes stock on some cars, but can also be added later. Turbo is basically two fans -- one on the engine's exhaust port, the other at the air intake. As the car revs up, the exhaust turns the blades, which spin the other fan and force more air into the engine. With more air, you can add more fuel, which all results in a bigger bang in the engine and more horsepower. Supercharging is very similar, except that the fan forcing in the extra air-fuel mixture is belt-driven, much the same as a car's air conditioning.

Nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas, is blown into the engine's cylinders from scuba-size tanks that are usually anchored in the trunk. During the combustion process, oxygen is released from the gas, which increases power by allowing more fuel to be burned. It also has a cooling effect.

"Some people are afraid of turbo," Rollins observes. "There are a lot of stories about blown motors going around. People who do put turbos or nitrous on their cars sometimes get crazy and don't know what they need, so they blow their motors. You can put a certain amount of nitrous or certain amount of turbo on a car, but you can't overstep your boundaries."

Bob Bauman is a plastic surgeon of vehicles, transforming the ho-hum into exotic four-wheeled chariots at Mad Mods in Hollywood. Some of Mad Mods' flashier masterpieces have been featured in trade 'zines, from which framed and shellacked pages are secured to the shop's wall. They're the kind of bright-colored, low-riding, body-mutated machines that turn heads on streets and in shows.

Recently, however, the 34-year-old Bauman has looked anything but beautiful or flashy. A motorcycle accident in early June left him with a broken leg, arm, and fingers. By early July, he's back at Mad Mods, but stuck in a wheelchair and able to do little more than supervise. He's wearing a black baseball cap, T-shirt, and jeans. His bare foot is swollen; it continues to balloon as he talks. He little resembles the hard-driving, Mohawked, densely pierced Bauman of pre-collision days. The passion for wheels, however, is unabated.

When Mad Mods opened about four years ago, customers demanded conversions that stood out. Bauman's response was bright, pastel paint jobs. "Everybody was calling us the Skittles Crew," he recalls.

Body kits, prefit for almost any import, are de rigueur. They include skirting that lowers and streamlines the sides and "lips" that enhance the prow. The boys are separated from the men, however, with the "shaved" look, in which stock door handles, taillights, tailgate seams, and gas tank locks are removed. Glass inlays on the hood are in vogue for showing off customized engines. Door, trunk, and hood hinges are a playground for alterations -- for example, hoods that pop forward and curl down over the bumper or suicide doors, which catch the wind and tear off if opened accidentally while the car is moving. Mad Mods' signature is a lopsided frame for the rear license plate.

Bauman and his small crew can spend months on a fully tricked-out car, and at this point, he wants to work only on vehicles intended for car shows, whose owners usually want changes for each show. Mad Mods could stay busy with work for high schoolers, who love imports and are often endowed with money from parents, but those cars tend not to last long on the road, he says. "I've been more selective. Then again, I'll give a kid a price, they'll pay it, then they really get into it as a hobby. They get the bug. Some kids you don't even think ... it totally surprises me."  

For the reason of simple economics, most import buffs pour money into either speed or looks. Take, for example, Jonathan Jeffery, a 19-year-old Boca Ratonian who moved to Florida from Long Island, New York, about a year ago. He'd been into cars since before he could drive. His first vehicles were American, including a Pontiac Grand Prix. "I really wanted to get more into the import scene," he says with the quick cadence of an L.I. native. "At first I made fun of them, you know, they're rice burners. Some kid puts a bad muffler on one, and it sounds like crap. They were in New York, but they weren't done right -- not in a way that would turn me into wanting to do something with the car. When I got down here, I started hanging out with a bunch of people, and that's when it started: This is what I have to do."

So this spring, he bought a Nissan Sentra. (For the buffs: Aztec red, SE-R Spec V engine, 175 HP.) Press him on what approach he'll take to hooking it up, and he'll give you the 60-40 ratio. "Sixty percent nice, 40 percent that I can kick someone's ass on the road," is how he breaks down his plans.

"When I was younger, I used to be nuts," he confesses. "I still drive fast, but not as fast as I used to. I loved the adrenaline. Now I get a rush hearing people say, 'That's a helluva nice car.' Being in the limelight for that little moment makes you feel good about what you do.

"They've got big shows, where you get to show your car and what you're made of. It's kind of an egotistical thing: who's got the best, who's bigger, who's badder."

Jeffery normally shows up Friday nights at Tower Shops in Davie, home to a weekly hot rods and classics auto show in the parking lot. Tricked-out imports -- the bastard children of muscle cars -- cluster around the periphery. The owners of the showiest cars turn on their strobe lights, crank up their mega-amp sound systems, huff and puff the suspension airbags, and show off the toys they've installed inside.

It had rained most of the day on July 5, so in the evening, the car show crowd is thin. Two local car clubs, Unconquered and The Firm -- mostly imports -- gather in the southeast section. The occasional couple with small children, on their way to the classics, wander through the cacophony and shake their heads.

Fred Albuquerque, a 20-year-old from Coral Springs, pulls in with his 2001 Ford Focus, hooked up with a full body kit, spoiler, three television sets (one on the dash, one each embedded in the neck rests), a PlayStation 2, and DVD player. "I'm very obsessed with it," he declares. "I've probably spent 20 grand." He plans to install three more TV screens. Why? "Attention," he responds. He was lucky enough to bag JBL as a sponsor, which means the audio company gave him the $11,000 worth of speakers that jam the back of his car in exchange for his agreement to attend a set number of car shows in one year. He's looking forward to tomorrow, when he plans to drive to a car-audio competition in central Palm Beach County. "I wanna go to the car show, get the trophy, and go home the winner, man," he blusters.

The Davie police, however, greet that hubris a few minutes later by issuing Albuquerque citations for the dashboard TV, loud music, loud muffler, and neon lights beneath the car.

On July 5, shortly after 10 p.m., Davie police swoop into the Tower Shops parking lot. Officers in four squad cars and on two motorcycles shout at the import crowd that they need to get out immediately. Clearing the parking lot, however, is a secondary mission for two obvious reasons: No one demands that the muscle-car owners leave straight away, and many of the import owners are stopped by police for just trying to leave.

The owner of a modified blue pickup finds that his battery has died, and some of his friends remain parked beside him. "The battery's dead, and we're waiting for a jump," he tells a female officer who's rousting him.  

"You're not all stranded, are you?" she rejoins.

She departs, and minutes later another squad is there. "What kind of car club are you if you can't even keep your cars running?" the cop scoffs. The officer, still seated, eyes one of the women smoking a cigarette and asks for her ID. She's 21 years old, he discovers. "You're a little old to be hanging around here, aren't you?" he posits derisively.

Dozens of cars are stopped, in some cases for no reason at all.

According to Major Scott McInerney, who is in charge of special operations for the Davie Police Department, the crackdown was a "special enforcement" prompted by complaints of noise and insults to patrons on Friday nights. "It's not the intent to allow them to stay there and party all night," he adds. "We have a file of complaints. There have been complaints about burnouts. We're looking for reckless driving. We're just trying to avoid another tragedy. The message is that if you're coming here to race, it won't be tolerated."

Still, it's hard to understand how citations for neon-lighted undercarriages and similar picayune offenses benefit the public.

Police, of course, have pursued drag racers for half a century, but the June 2001 release of The Fast and the Furious, a film that glamorized Southern California street racing, led to a crackdown on imports here, according to many veteran street racers. For example, just before Christmas last year, the Florida Highway Patrol arrested 172 people in a drag-racing dragnet on Okeechobee Road two miles south of Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade County.

But the occasional high-profile accidents also keep the heat on. About a dozen deaths in the past three years in Broward and Miami-Dade counties have been attributed to drag racing, most involving teens, according to the FHP. In one of the deadliest, police claimed that 16-year-old Michael Yousko died while drag racing in March 2000 on Stirling Road in Davie. Yousko's Toyota flipped over the median and flew into a Mazda, killing him and two passengers in the other car. Police charged Dale M. Quimby, the 18-year-old with whom Yousko was racing, with manslaughter and vehicular homicide. A jury convicted him of reckless driving and culpable negligence, for which he received 180 days in jail.

Some police officers are more deft than others in dealing with street racers.

Just after 11 p.m. on a Monday in unincorporated Boca Raton, a sheriff's deputy turns into the parking lot of Lowe's on Highway 441. Scungio and Gore and their buddies watch through the light rain, which has helped clear away the show cars that were here earlier. "We've had a complaint of loud music," the deputy says. No radio is playing, nor has one been on for at least a half-hour. The guys glance at each other. "Why the fuck do you have to hang out in my zone?" the deputy wisecracks, hitting just the right note.

"Where should we go?" someone asks.

"Broward," he quips, then surveys the dearth of good-looking cars. "So this is the fucking car show. Who's going to want to look at this shit?"

"Girls," another voice pipes up.

The deputy stares: a rain-drenched, goofy-looking bunch of guys, bereft of female company, standing in a dark parking lot. "Yeah, the girls are just swarming here, aren't they?" he ribs. "You guys are fine," he announces, sliding back into his car. "Enjoy yourselves."

It's just past 10 p.m. on a Monday in July at the vast parking lot of the Lowe's store on Highway 441 in west Boca Raton. A storm has drenched the area and moved to the east, but it's obvious from the lightning to the west that another downpour is on the way. Still, the import lovers aren't deterred from showing up at this staple meeting spot. Soon, a couple dozen vehicles have gathered. The guys with the fastest cars -- about a dozen strong, including Jesse Scungio -- sit in the back of a pickup and on its tailgate. Chris Gore, a round-faced 24-year-old with a winning smile, cajoles each newcomer to flick his lighter; it's a prank, however, and a coil inside delivers a handsome jolt. Gore owns GR Technologies, a tiny shop in Plantation where he builds fast cars, which are among the swiftest at the Davie Miami Subs.

Three young, midriff-bare girls -- strangers to the car scene -- pull up and approach. As though turbocharged, a gaggle of young men leap from the pickup to make time with them. The married Gore remains seated. The girlie distraction is a welcome aside for most, as no one's been too keen on racing, what with the wet roads.  

Scungio, however, does have a competition with which to contend. Another young driver has been badgering him to get in his RSX Acura and race. Scungio has resisted, believing this particular challenge by a lesser car to be pointless. Nevertheless, in a few minutes, he and the other car are rolling out toward 441. In less than 10 minutes, they are back, Scungio having stomped him by a "fair distance," he says to his buddies. "He wanted to race again, but I said no way; once is enough. It costs too much in gas and nitrous. If it was close, maybe, but it was ..." He holds his hands flat to represent the cars, showing his fingermobile smartly pulling away from the challenger.

Scungio is a relative latecomer to fast cars but certainly not to speed. Until last October, he got his kicks atop motorcycles -- you know, those crazy guys who pass you on I-95 doing wheelies at 90 mph. It was during his two-wheeler days that he met Mike Reich, now 25 years old, and the two became close friends and business partners, selling motorcycle parts over the Internet. (They've since opened a store called Motor Matrix in Margate, which offers performance auto parts.) By late last summer, the duo had had enough near misses on cycles to make them look for safer thrills.

"My parents were all on me about bikes being dangerous," Scungio explains. "My girlfriend was on me. Mike's girlfriend. One day, just out of the blue, Mike says, 'Let's sell our bikes and get some cars.'" Around October last year, Scungio bought the 2.0-liter Acura; Reich went with a turbo WRX Subaru.

"It was pretty hard at first, leaving bikes," Scungio says. "When Mike and I started [with cars], we didn't even know where to go. It'd be kind of weird: Both of us driving different cars, going out to look for some people to hang out with.

"When we got in the car game, nobody knew who we were. The first time I went to a car show, everybody's like 'You wanna race?' 'You wanna race that thing?' It's because of the car. Nobody knew me. They wanted to see what their car could do against that car. Most of the kids out there who ask to race are not trying to see if they can beat me; they pretty much in their head know it. They don't want to race unless they know they're going to beat you. If they have doubt in their mind, most people won't race.

"Pretty much the kids are the ones that challenge. They get intake and exhaust on their cars, hang out in a bunch, and think their shit is so fast. You'll notice that a lot of these older guys are just chillin' their ass."

Scungio's car is not ostentatious; it's mostly stock, except for upgraded intake and exhaust systems, drag tires on the front, and a nitrous tank discreetly secured in the spare-tire cavity. The nitrous is a don't-tell-'em-if-they-don't-ask advantage, Scungio says. He's clocked a quarter-mile under 14 seconds at Moroso Motorsports Park, he claims.

So who really gets his goat out there?

"Somebody who talks a lot," he replies. Like the dudes the other night at the Home Depot parking lot, hectoring him that his car was slow. He finally raced them and won twice. "I said, 'I gave you a fair run, right? Right?'"

The competition, however, evolves ever so quickly. Honda Guy Rollins offers a final cautionary tale for any would-be street racer. He recalls a friend of his was once hanging out with everyone at Miami Subs in Davie around 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. The friend raced and lost. "He got pissed off," Rollins recollects with relish. "He went home, changed engines in two and a half hours, came back, and beat him."

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