If you roll out on California 74 (a gnarly collection of blind curves and sheer-death drop-offs) all the way east to the 215, you'll run right into the Perris junction. Out there in the hinterlands, a lifetime from the Big City, Perris is usually a dry, wind-boiled patch. Except when the El Nio blowdowns swamp the Southland, and the low places in the Valley take so much water that you can't drive through it. Perris hangs by the mainstream but will never be quite in it, geographically or kulturally. Perris has its own bullring too, the Auto Speedway, but no dragstrip.

Willy Recksiek is a denizen of this town. He doesn't race on circles of clay or dirt or tarmac. He likes winging it in a straight line on asphalt. He likes being far from the festering insanity that lies behind the Orange Curtain and on the ocean side of the Santa Ana Mountains. We'd like to think he can kick back, take it a little easier, and not be quite so harried by the pace of life where the hyenas live. High school girls in Perris aren't on their third plastic surgeon already.

But some things cannot be avoided for long or escaped forever. On Willy's side of the hills, hard-core car things have been rocking heavily for the last decade, taking firm root in the outposts of Murrieta, Temecula, Lake Elsinore, and now, apparently in good ol' Perris. Machine shops, specialty-coating houses, drag-race rubber, a car-enthusiast TV network, chassis builders, niche vehicle tuners, and so on all heard the quiet call of the Temescal Valley and have created a world of their own in a place that was just creosote-bush and scrub-pine nasty when L.A. was the hot rod kingdom. It's San Diego County's version of the Golden Triangle (up to Corona over to Riverside down to Temecula). All of this, plus the ministrations of Darryll Lynnes' Powertrain Plus (Mira Loma), put Willy in a very advantageous place.

About seven years ago, Willy's sometime hobby (which included clandestine racing for money) turned quasi-serious. His basically stock street car became a drag-race star. Like the bittersweet memory of the first girlfriend, he has an unshakable religion about that day he went to Pomona and ran a 13.53, the first time he'd ever raced on a legal quarter-mile dragstrip. So it was in him. But the money wasn't on him. He picked a class in the Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA) and went to it. In 2005, he won the Street Car SuperNationals in Open Comp. His '71 El Camino did the trick.

Curious thing about this car: Like a great many of its contemporaries, it retains the stock rear suspension configuration. There are lighter, quicker-reacting parts in the front end, so the car lifts the wheels from the asphalt easier and they assume nearly neutral camber, hang straight down, and attack the strip with a minimal amount of time-robbing friction. But realize that the drive tires are absolutely critical to this form.