Check Out The Camaro Rally As It Invades The Black Hills


Sometimes, the destination means just as much to a car show as the quality of the vehicles that attend. The Black Hills of South Dakota is one such journey’s end for a growing number of gearheads, including Camaro owners.

The 6th Annual Sturgis Camaro Rally has grown from a meager 10 cars in 2011 to more than 250 multi-generation Camaros gathered on the same Main Street from June 23 through 26, where thousands of Harley-Davidson’s will park during the world famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. “Cruising the Black Hills is a huge draw,” says show chairperson Alexiss Miller. “And our goal is to also fill Main Street.”

About 250 cars were registered for the Sturgis Camaro Rally, and thousands of spectators took a walk down Main Street during the Loud American Show & Shine. Adam’s Polishes sponsored the show car competition.

So Much To See

Aside from the well-known tourist attractions like Mount Rushmore, the casinos of historic Deadwood, and the nature-rich Custer State Park, some of the most beautiful and car-friendly roads can be found in the Black Hills. Many “Best Driving Roads” compilations include nearby Spearfish Canyon, and the incredibly scenic Iron Mountain Road. Finally, Needles Highway will certainly challenge your vehicle’s turning radius.

Cruising the Black Hills is a huge draw. – Alexiss Miller

This 2016 Sturgis Camaro Rally was by all measure, a success, and although a little rain dampened the dragstrip on Friday, the rest of the weekend was a full schedule of activities that simply cannot be duplicated at car shows hosted at a fairground or race track. Not only was there a car show filling up Main Street, but there were also poker runs through the hills, and social gatherings at the many saloons in downtown Sturgis. Some of these saloons are as big as a cathedral in order to support all the bikers that invade the town for one week each year.

Gerald Jensen of the Northern Nevada Camaro Club showed off this 2012 SS/RS that was modified with a Lambo door kit from Vertical Doors, and a reverse-opening hood. The wheels are ZL1 replicas.

Gerald Jensen's Camaro features a Hellion twin-turbo kit installed by Real Performance Speed of Reno, Nevada. It also uses 14 pounds of boost, water-methanol injection, and a custom camshaft to put 830 horsepower to the rear wheels. Interior trim was painted to match the Victory Red exterior.

A quick thunderstorm hit the Friday night dragstrip, but soon cleared. The track was dried as a rainbow settled overhead.

Lingenfelter and Henessey were well represented at the drags.

More action from the dragstrip.

So Much To Do

During the event, there are drag racing and autocross competitions to parade one’s driving skills, and if you want to show your respect to our nation’s war heroes, drop by a mini show ‘n shine at nearby Ft. Meade. Sponsored by the local Fox affiliate KEVN TV, this year’s event welcomed residents of a local hospital to pick their favorites, and Camaros Unlimited sponsored the awards.

Dozens of popular tourist attractions are close to Sturgis, including the historic town of Deadwood, where numerous casinos line Main Street.

The Sturgis Camaro Rally continues to grow, thanks to the dedication of numerous volunteers and the drive of Alexiss Miller of Baker, Montana and Rita Herding of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “My husband, Brandon, built my ’69 Camaro in 2010,” remembers Miller. “We read in the newspaper about the first-annual Sturgis Camaro Rally, and decided to go.”

Jamie Igo has owned this ’69 Camaro since high school, and five years ago took it to Deluxe Rod & Custom in Spearfish, SD, for a makeover that includes a modified Hugger Orange paint, blacked-out chromed trim, and Rushforth wheels.

Igo's Camaro features a TCI torque-arm rear suspension, which helped him to a class win in the autocross competition. Power comes from a Turn Key LS6, backed by a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. The interior was stitched at Recovery Room Hot Rods in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

The Rally was conceived by Bernie Pettis, whom Miller says will always be known as “the founder who had the idea.” Less than a dozen cars showed up to the first show. Fortunately, Miller and Herding were there and assumed a leadership role in the organization.

Officially called the Loud American Road House Loud Pipes contest, it’s really a burnout exhibition to close out the downtown show ‘n shine.

The smoke show was staged under the watchful eye of the local authorities. The supercharged second-gen Camaro of Warren Navrude (top left) was named the winner.

Glen Delabarre in his ’90 IROC-Z won the NXB class at the JDP Motorsports autocross competition. He was also a runner-up in the shown ‘n shine. Photo courtesy of Chris Yushta of FotoMotive.

Other trophy winners include, from left, Jordan Priestly in a 2016 SS, first in NXR; Justin Hendrickson in a 2011 SS, second in NXR; and Bryan Lum in a '96 Z28, second in NXC. Photos by Chris Yushta of FotoMotive.

This stylish ’69 Camaro is owned by Tim Novak of Alexander, North Dakota. It took second place in the Gen 1 show ‘n shine.

“We wanted to make this show big, because the Mustangs already have a rally here,” says Miller, also noting that Corvettes and street rods have major events in the Black Hills. “We needed a Rally in Sturgis for Camaros.”

Facebook and other social media outlets proved to be a gold mine for drawing car owners to the second show, which recorded around 150 registered entries.

One of the best performing vehicles was this ’69 Camaro built by Rick Lensegrav and his son Joel. It features a big-block based on an .080-inch over 427ci block, and 454ci crankshaft. Rick purchased the car for $1,100 in 1976, with no engine or transmission. It’s been painted twice and has used three engines since then. Joel won the Street Class at the Friday night drags, and also stirred the crowd in the burnout show (below).

“We worked the clubs and Camaro forums,” says Miller. “Loud American (a Sturgis nightclub) helped us set up a webpage as part of the sponsorship, and we advertised in some magazines. Also, Scott Settlemire (also known as the Godfather of the F-body) brought out a new ZL1 and really helped us promote the event.”

Sampling of paint styles found at the show.

At the same time, several local Camaro owners wanted to resurrect the Black Hills Camaro Club. Since then, rally organizers and the Camaro club have worked closely together to organize the annual show.

One of the first fifth-gen COPO cars delivered is owned by Chris Fiester and Randy Blakeman. While at the 2012 SEMA Show, Fiester was invited to enter the lottery for one of the first 69 models. He was ultimately selected, and after partnering with Blakeman, the duo spent just under $94,000 for car No. 34. Fiester did not race the car at the rally, but rather, raffled off rides to support a charity that helped a young boy severely injured in a farming accident.

The COPO is powered by the 427ci engine option, and backed with a Powerglide transmission. Its best 1/4-mile time is 10.44 at an event in Denver, when the air was equal to an altitude of 9,000 feet.

According to officials, 232 cars were officially registered at the show, and dozens more could be found parked on the surrounding streets. Several Camaro owners chose to not enter their cars in the show, but simply walk through the show and cruise the hills that weekend.

“We had 265 last year,” says Miller. “I had about 30 or 40 from my Canadian group not show up because the exchange rate hurt their ability to attend. It’s a shame. We miss them. They’re a good group.”

More scenes from downtown during the show 'n shine.

So Much More Than Just  A Single Event

Some other events within this gathering include a parade to the nearby town of Whitewood following the burnout contest, which is formally called the Loud American Road House Loud Pipes contest. Saturday’s schedule finished with a banquet and awards ceremony at the Iron Horse Saloon. Sunday is getaway day, but there is a final fun run that features a group photo at the famed Crazy Horse Memorial.

Jamie and Lyndee Christopherson of Gillette, Wyoming own this nice looking ’69 with a Procharged small-block.

While the Camaro Rally is dominated by fifth-gen cars, some of the more creative entries are from the early years. Updated suspensions, cooler exterior colors, and more powerful engines were spotted in many sections. “Last year we had 175 fifth-generation cars,” says Miller. “That’s what’s popular now.”

For more information on next year’s show, check out the Rally’s website.

Photo gallery


About the author

Mike Magda

Mike Magda is a veteran automotive writer with credits in publications such as Racecar Engineering, Hot Rod, Engine Technology International, Motor Trend, Automobile, Automotive Testing Technology and Professional Motorsport World.
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