Ken Thwaits with his Mitsubishi Evolution/ Photo by Brooke Wanser.
By BROOKE WANSER
Inside Showtime Motor Sports, a warehouse in an unassuming business park in Franklin, Ken Thwaits puts stickers on a Mitsubshi Lancer Evolution, a car which reaches speeds of 165 miles per hour.
The car is one he will drive in this year’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car race next weekend, a series he has competed in for the past three years. He placed second last year, and hopes to take home the first-place trophy this year.
Growing up in Santa Monica, California, Thwaits began racing go-carts at age 14, then transitioning to open wheel cars, which he described as a “mini-Indy car.”
After marrying and moving to Phoenix, Thwaits started Precision Dynamics International from his garage in 1993, a company which specializes in training car sales consultants and service advisors on the products that they sell and service. He and his family moved to Franklin 11 years ago for his company to be near the Nissan headquarters.
Thwaits, now 60, resumed the racing career of his youth four years ago after becoming involved with the race series sponsored by the Optima, an after-market car battery.
“This is kind of a grassroots type of series where the normal guy who works on his cars in his garage can compete,” he said. “It’s basically a place for guys to take after-market parts that are cool, install them on their street car, and then go race.”
Thwaits said the race is differentiated from others because drivers must use regulation street tires, which he calls “the great equalizer.”
The race will take place after the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association conference in Las Vegas next week, and is the grand finale of a seven-race series which included races in New Orleans, Louisiana and Bowling Green, Kentucky. Only the top 100 competitors from an original pool of 400 compete in the culminating race.
On Saturday and Sunday, Thwaits said, his car will go through multiple layers of testing, which includes a judging element, a road rally, an autocross and speed stop contest, and finally, the road race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The grand prize, said Thwaits, is merely, “bragging rights,” along with a leather jacket and trophy. “It could be made out of Jell-o, but it’s pretty coveted in our circle,” said Thwaits of the trophy.
The price tag to compete, he said, is hefty: “If you guessed, add another zero on the end and that’s what it would cost.” But his business affords him the opportunity to participate, while his competitive streak propels him forward.
Inside the warehouse, Thwaits’ collection of new and vintage Chevrolet Camaros and vintage motorcycles sparkle underneath blinking neon road signs. One car has only ever been driven nine miles.
“I’m kind of a Camaro guy,” he chuckled. It’s apparent that Thwaits is more than just a Camaro guy; he loves fashion, recently opening Franklin Road Apparel downtown, and also collects vintage road signs.
Most of the signs come from auctions, and include one from Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Sinclair Oil Corporation, Phillips 66, and Chevrolet.
“This is the ultimate man cave,” he laughed.