September 29, 2021

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Hooptie World Championship! $5,000 Junk Cars Compete for Glory

Is it possible to compete in a multi-disciplinary motorsport event in junk cars? KJ Jones and David Freiburger intend to find out and offered six teams of two the chance to battle it out at the Pima County Fairgrounds and surrounding tracks in hoopties worth only $5,000. Welcome to the Hooptie World Championship!

The biggest barrier to entry in any form of motorsport is cost. Vehicle maintenance and modifications, transportation to and from events, insurance, the cost of the vehicle itself—it all adds up quickly. In some racing series, racers even have to bring their own sponsorships to teams just to be considered for a spot. The Hooptie World Championship is going to fix all that. The $5,000 initial vehicle budget and limited modification budgets make this type of motorsport achievable to a much wider group of enthusiasts. But what kind of competition is the Hooptie World Championship?

Get Your Junk Car Ready, it’s Time for the Hooptie World Championship!

The Hooptie World Championship picks up where the Holiday Hooptie Challenge and $3K Hooptie Challenge left off, but instead of using vehicles out of the Roadkill fleet, competitors have been tasked with bringing their own hooptie that can’t be valued at more than $5,000 at the beginning of the series. Hosts David Frieburger and KJ Jones will evaluate each car to ensure the competitors have stuck to the budgets and that each vehicle is, in fact, a piece of junk.

Six teams of two members and one car will compete in a series of multi-disciplinary motorsport events at tracks that included Tucson Speedway: drag racing, drifting, off-roading, handling challenges, and more. Each team will not know what event they are facing until after they have faced the eliminator —the qualification round—before each event. The slowest team in each elimination challenge will not be allowed to compete in each of six different events designed to test every aspect of race car and driver, and each team’s finish position in the eliminator determines their starting position in the points round. 

After elimination, each remaining team will have only 20 hours to modify their hooptie, however they see fit and within a limited budget, for the next event. The eliminator is not worth any points, but each round of competition will award points as follows: Gold, 3 points; Silver, 2 points; Bronze, 1 point. The team with the most points at the end of the series will be crowned Hooptie World Champion!

Meet the Contestants of the Hooptie World Championship

Team Blackhawk

Derek Bierei: One of Derek’s fondest childhood memories was watching his dad paint a ’56 Buick 2-door hardtop in a dirt floor garage. The car became a member of the family over the years, eventually getting passed to him when he was old enough to drive. Much of his youth was spent learning about automotive restoration from his father and grandfather, and as he aged, he continued the tradition, which he would ultimately segue into a popular YouTube channel called Vice Grip Garage.

Alex Taylor: From the time Alex was just a few weeks old, she was a permanent fixture in her family’s automotive shop. While most kids were staring at pink bunny mobiles, Alex was watching her dad work on a 427 tall deck LSX block. She was raised on racing and followed her family’s passion from day one. By the time she was 16, she was driving her family built ’68 Camaro in 2013’s HOT ROD Drag Week. By 23, she started her own high-performance automotive company: Alex Taylor Racing. She’s a builder, racer, automotive influencer, and content creator with an insatiable desire to go fast.

1988 Pontiac Trans Am: David Freiburger and KJ Jones agree, this gutted and beat Trans Am is worth exactly what Derek and Alex claim ($3,500), despite values starting to increase for late-’80s Firebirds. Powered by a carbureted 350ci V-8 with a 700R4 automatic transmission, the Blackhawk Trans Am is mostly stock and should fare well against the other hoopties.

Team Mob Z

Tim Cobb: Tim has been racing since his formative years, showcasing his natural ability on dirt bikes and go-karting tracks in and around Southern California. He cherished his time in the motocross world and excelled at the sport but made the transition to cars once he was legally able to drive. He stayed on course into adulthood, now spending his time as a camera operator and stunt driver for some of the big Hollywood studios. His passion for cars eventually parlayed into a career as a professional drifter, gathering numerous titles and accolades along the journey.

Aaron Parker: Aaron has had a passion for mechanics and creation his whole life. He started with BMX bikes, tinkering and upgrading at his home outside Los Angeles. Once he was of legal driving age, he graduated from two-wheeled, self-powered rides to import cars—intent on becoming a pro drift driver. He began with a modest Honda Civic passed down from his older sister, then moving on to an Acura Integra and eventually settled in with his infamous Mazda RX-7. 

2005 Nissan 350Z: Right off the bat, it’s plainly obvious that Team Mob Z’s car was in a serious rear-end collision. There are some modifications to the 350Z, but the 3.5L V-6 and six-speed manual transmission are stock. The judges are happy to accept that this trashed Nissan is worth only $4,000.

Team Liam Nissan

“Officer” Dan Brockett: Dan grew up in a military family, constantly on the move and living all around the world. After growing up riding BMX bikes and snowboarding, he eventually returned to the state of his birth, New Mexico, in 2003 where he settled in and dove into his passion for cars—specifically, drift cars. In 2015 he started GKTech USA, a warehouse distribution center providing drift accessories for Nissans.

Shea Seefeldt: Since an early age, Shea has had a fascination with racing. The smell of burning rubber, the thunderous growls of super-tuned engines burrowed into his soul and set him on the path to eventually claim his spot in the winner’s circle. After spending 7 years racing with the SCCA and transitioning to the NASA Spec Miata series, Shea settled into his niche. He opened his own motorsports company called 10 Tenths Motorsports, which specializes in modifying street cars into purpose built racing machines. He is a self-taught mechanic who thrives in a shop setting. From electrical and mechanical to fabrication and design, Shea can do it all. 

2005 Nissan 350Z: Backyard engineering at it’s finest, this former drift car was purchased for $4,500 before it was made into a drift car. It might be exceeding the $5,000 vehicle value limit, but the Eaton M90 supercharger from a Toyota Tundra topping the 3.5L V-6 from a ’03 350Z with a tattered belt is a spectacle in itself our hosts don’t want to miss.

“Listen for the misfires, the mark of a quality hooptie.” —KJ Jones

Team Dirty Bird

Patrick Laughlin: Patrick grew up in a hot rod family, happily spinning wrenches and shaping metal since the tender age of 8. His father owned a custom shop since the ’50s, and Patrick cut his teeth in the garage working on souped-up vintage hot rods. After joining the military and becoming Army Special Forces, he continued working on cars whenever he got the chance. Once retired, he opened a custom chopper shop in New York, then eventually relocated to Tampa, Florida, where he owns and operates Conquer Customs. Now his days are spent “building kick-ass stuff full time. ”  

Gabby Downing: Gabby’s professional career began on the modeling circuit, but after 7 years walking the runway and posing, she decided it was time to follow her childhood passion and become a badass racing queen. It all began with her first car, a ’87 Honda CRX Si. While indulging her curiosity in the garage, she began to realize she could make her car go faster with just a few minor tweaks. And so began her journey into self-taught fabrication and racing. 

1951 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup: This nicely patina’d old pickup is way over-built. Already LS-swapped, with a Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission, four-link rear suspension, and Mustang II  front suspension, this is a $10,000 truck in a $5,000 fight. Or is it? Patrick Laughlin has text messages to prove he picked up the Chevy 3100 for only $1,500.

Team Wagonslayer

Doug Deberti: Doug grew up in a modest family of six in Butte, Montana. At an early age, he showed a knack for creating, building his own toys and bikes after scavenging parts at the local dump with his grandfather. Fast-forward several decades to when Doug bought his first truck and was disappointed with the aftermarket accessories available. And so began his foray into the world of creating a customized parts and accessories empire. In 1993 he opened Trenz, offering billet parts to individual customers and manufacturers alike. 

Brad Deberti: Brad was literally raised in a garage. Since the age of 5, he’s worked alongside his brother, Shane, and his father, master billet fabricator Doug DeBerti. Doug taught his sons about hard work, perseverance, and determination. If you wanted something, you had to build it, or work your fingers to the bone to buy it. But it wasn’t until 2015 that the DeBertis realized they had a racing prodigy on their hands. Brad trained with a professional off-road racer and ended up behind the wheel of his own desert-crushing truck. He won the 2015 Lucas Oil Off-Road National race as a rookie with no previous race history. From there, he was off—surprising the competition and racking up the wins.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX: The only all-wheel-drive vehicle in the Hooptie World Champioship, the Deberti family claims this salvaged-title Subie is only worth $5,000 due to hail damage. The lack of visible dents and the aftermarket intercooler and fuel pump regulator are a little suspect. Either way, the turbocharged 2.5L inline-four and five-speed manual with all-wheel-drive should make this WRX a stout competitor.

Team MR2-D2

Jeffery Le: Jeffrey grew up skateboarding and biking but always had an affinity for automotive sports. When he was first introduced to drifting, he was immediately hooked—appreciating the personalized style and swagger the racers would customize into their vehicles. To Jeff, it felt like an extension of the skateboarding subculture: an advanced form of self-expression but powered by a K24 RSX engine with a custom six-speed transmission. With his passion realized, he got into building and fabrication, saying it was less expensive than paying someone else to do the work. With a solid background in Lego construction and YouTube tutorials, he began tooling away on his ’95 Toyota Supra and hasn’t looked back since.

Kenneth Voung: Kenneth and his cousin, Jeffrey Le, grew up together, forming a tight bond over their competitive skateboarding and BMX sessions. As they got older, both transferred their passions to drift cars—finding the same spirit of competition prevalent in those side-sliding machines. Once he was old enough to drive, he bought an Acura RSX and dreamed of converting it into a drifter. But money was tight, and upgrades were expensive at the neighborhood shops. Sometimes, financial constraints can be the mother of invention, so Kenneth got online and started Googling how to make the modifications himself.

2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder: Another outlyer as the only mid-rear engined vehicle, this 2000 MR2 Spyder is more than meets the eye. The original Toyota engine is long gone with a turbocharged K24 out of an Acura TSX with a K20 head and K20a transmission. This lightweight drifter could be the dark horse in this competition—if Team MR2-D2 can get it running.

The competition over the next six weeks will be grueling. Do all the teams have what it takes to excel in different disciplines of racing? Will they be able to keep their crappy cars together? The only way to find out is by signing up for the MotorTrend App today