The coolest rallycross cars in the PNW

Northwest Rally Association's May-Hem at the Mill came to DirtFish earlier this month

Erin Alberta _ Stock RWD _ 1978 Pontiac Firebird _ Car 78 _ 2

The rain didn’t bother Josh Hunter. On the contrary, the muddier the better – those are the conditions where his 1967 V8 Mustang really works best.

Welcome to May-Hem at the Mill. Welcome to DirtFish.

We love rallycross here at the ’Fish. And Sunday May 5 reminded us all why. It was a great opportunity for 150 crews to shake off the winter blues and dive straight into the opening round of the Northwest Rally Association’s spring season.

Yes, it rained now and then. But it didn’t snow. And with two stages set up on the property, there was double the fun for everybody in every class. Don’t forget Rallycross stateside is similar to what might be known as single-venue rallying in Europe. But here you stick a lid on and run stock. The stopwatch is running, but smiles per mile are right up there as well.

And fun was what Hunter was all about. He’d had his eye on DirtFish for a long time and when he found a 50-year-old Mustang sitting in a neighbor’s barn, he’d found his ticket to ride.

Josh Hunter _ Mod RWD _ 1967 Mustang _ Car 84 _ 1

Josh Hunter's barn-find Mustang loved the wet conditions

“The guy wanted rid of the car,” he told DirtFish. “He was moving. I bought it, but it had been sitting there for 20 years. I cranked a ton of water out of the engine, but it came right back to life and it’s been running strong. I did all the work in my own garage.

“I’d had the idea of going to DirtFish, then I found out about Northwest Rally Association and I thought: ‘That’s how I’m going to get there…’ It’s great to be here. It’s very muddy out there, but I’m very excited to get sideways in this thing. I’m glad it’s wet out there – I’m way more comfortable on wet gravel than I am on dry Tarmac.”

And the automatic five-liter Mustang lends itself to the mud.

“The auto doesn’t shift very well,” added Hunter, “but that’s good – it revs really high.”

Moving on a decade, Erin Alberda brought her super-cool 1978 Pontiac Firebird for even more sideways. After 20 years of riding horses, Alberda wasn’t sure about the move to horsepower. Until she came to DirtFish.

Erin Alberta _ Stock RWD _ 1978 Pontiac Firebird _ Car 78 _ 1

Yes, that is a Pontiac Firebird on a rally stage

“I did a women’s class after the [Women in Motorsport] Summit the year before last,” she said. “I was hooked. We found this car a week after I did that class. It’s a ’70s muscle car. I love it. And this event is so good. We’re not here to beat the world, we’re here to slide around and have fun. The car’s big and pretty heavy, so I’m constantly thinking about weight transfer and how to rotate and pivot the car, but I’m hooked now.”

So is Bryan Booth. He did the full NWRA Winter Series with his 1975 Ford Courier, but as the seasons changed, so did the sound coming from under the hood.

“I switched the engine from a 1.8 [liter] with a super long stroke to a V6 Chevy engine,” he explained. “I was only getting 77 horsepower from the old engine and we had this new one just sitting around. My father-in-law and I swapped them over and got it running in three weeks.

Bryan Booth _ Mod RWD _ 1975 Ford Courier _ Car 38 _ 2

Bryan Booth went trucking in his Chevy V6-powered Courier

“There was a bit of work in there, but if there’s a will there’s a way. We did some fabrication, changed the steering and put an Impreza rack in there. We’ve had some little growing pains, but it’s been awesome.

“I love coming to DirtFish, it’s super-chilled here, everybody’s looking to help everybody out. It’s been very cool to have the dual track here at May-Hem, it gives you more seat time and it feels more like stage rally – and that’s the ultimate goal for me.”

Paul Kelly shares that vision for stage. But he shares it from behind the wheel of his 1983 Volvo 242 Turbo.

We love a Volvo here at DirtFish. Head instructor Jack Harrison, Sean Edwards and Jack Ramie are all fans of Sweden in the ’80s. Kelly’s right there with them.


Paul Kelly _ Mod RWD _ 1983 Volvo 242 Turbo _ 151 _ 1

Paul Kelly enjoyed the odd Scandinavian flick

“I’m hoping to build this car out for stage [rallying] in the next year,” he said. “I grew up wanting to race, but rallying caught my attention. I love the mix of surfaces, the drifting element, the technical side of the sport. It’s just great. I put an LSD in and some new suspension, did the [NWRA] Winter Series here [at DirtFish] and loved it.”

Great stories, great cars, competition and company – that’s what May-Hem at the Mill was all about.

And DirtFish? We didn’t do too bad. Among our star instructors, Kip Tischer won his class and Jacks Harrison and Ramie were second.