Interview with legendary streetfighter Steve Chryssos

Some words from the man himself..

A conversation with legendary streetfighter Steve Chryssos.

Do you think your car is a Streetfighter?

Yeah I do! Every time I see my car or climb into it, I feel like I just stole a race car from the track. And it polarizes people. Love it or hate it, there is nothing quite like it.

What do you think a Streetfighter car is?

The shortest path to an explanation is “Race Car for the Street”. That is the lowest common denominator. Lean and aggressive with a different priority sequence than, say a street rod or restored vehicle. How you achieve that end-game is up to you. It bugs me that people hijack the term to rationalize their cars’ deficiencies: “Budget” or “Ratty” or “Dented”. A streetfighter can have dents, but the dents to don’t make it streetfighter. One more thing: I hope that the term relates to cars that handle and brake well. As such, I view it as a subset of pro-touring.

How long have you been interested in the Streetfighter style build?

Long before it had a name, the cars have been around. A 1976 Porsche RSR is a race car for the street. I built a Tamiya 1/12th scale replica of that car as a kid. It inspired me to learn more about these cars. I was blown away that a car manufacturer would sell a car with a roll cage, rear seat delete and other key race car features as part of the homologation process. Big Red is a street driven race car as are a ton of movie and TV cars. Hal Needham in the 70’s, Enzo Ferrari in the 60’s–even those hooligan Bentley brothers in the 20’s. They all built streetfighters.

What do you think the point to a Streetfighter build should be?

The reaction might vary, but we build cars that punch you in the face when you see them. Each day, when I open the door to my shop and turn on the lights, I’m still blown away by how cool these cars are. Alternative striping, killer wheels with alternative finished and exposed hardware. Personally speaking, traditional pro-touring cars are too subtle for my tastes. Streetfighters make you stop and think. The adrenaline should start flowing as soon as you turn the key. Budget or not, funds are allocated towards performance parts before creature comforts. That doesn’t mean that all creature comforts are taboo. But if your car has working AC and a killer stereo but no brakes, you missed the exit. Turn around and try again.

Streetfighter and pro-touring… Similarities? Differences?

They both stop, steer and accelerate better than stock. That traditional pro-touring car is subtle. It looks like it drove out of a new car showroom—not escaped from a race track. And in the showroom, “fully loaded” is considered a plus. At the racetrack, fully loaded means overweight and slow. One example: Factory “Rally” stripes are right at home on a pro-touring car. We prefer to employ alternative graphics on the cars that we design. Shocked has a single rally stripe that runs perpendicular to the original design. I actually had some dude step up to inform me that we painted the stripe on wrong. Seriously.
Another example: Pro-touring cars could have softer suspension for long distance cruising. A streetfighter enthusiast might step up spring rates for high speed handling at the expense of low speed comfort.

The essential modifications visual and functional?

I don’t wish to demand a mandatory list of mods or cues. Doing so undermines the idea of a pro-touring alternative. A pendulum exists with race car at one end of the spectrum and touring car at the other end. My car has 650 pound front springs, 3 piece wheels, a roll cage, no back seat, no AC and stripes inspired by a Mopar. If I add AC tomorrow, the AAR cuda inspired stripe and sheet metal rear spoiler will still offend or inspire the same people.

Do Streetfighter builds only apply to the low-buck or are there High dollar fighters?

It has nothing to do with money. We are building a streetfighter right now with a twin turbo LS3. It ain’t cheap but it IS a race car for the street. It will be more hardcore than Hoover—the last build. But it will also be more expensive. I’m seriously weirded out by people asking if there car qualifies as Streetfighter. The build style is alternative and counterculture. Like punk rock (real punk rock) the Streetfighter build style flies in the face of convention. If everyone does it—or if you need to ask for permission, then you have it wrong. No one should be in a position to ask for or grant permission.

Do you think a Streetfighter build is restricted to American cars or others?

No, I don’t think there should be any restrictions. Domestic or foreign, I dig cars from all countries. My buddy Tom Heath has a turbo Miata with a WW II themed paint scheme. It hauls ass and offends everyone.

When they say “street” what type of conduct do you think applies to these cars on the street?

The more time I spend at racetracks, the less I want to mess around on the street. But at the same time, every hot rodder that I know exceeds the speed limit and experiences “excessive wheelspin” from time to time. Feel free to drive like a mook as long as you accept responsibility for your actions. Driving fast at a track is always ALWAYS more fun than messing around on the street. The only time you should be looking over your shoulder is to see if you are about to get passed. Unless you are robbing a bank, car chases are no fun at all.

The Streetfighter type people you have met along the way, what are they like?

There must be a streetfighter gene. It’s as though we were all separated at birth. We like the same movies, have similar taste in music, food, clothes and, of course, cars. A focused, competitive streak seems common to the genome, as well. And streetfighter types do not seem overly concerned about resale value.

To those who are afraid of this type of build style (i.e., because of chipping their paint) what would you say?

Make a complete list of your cars intended parts, specifications and goals. Then prioritize that list. You will find that your car leans towards one end of the spectrum or the other—race car or touring. It all comes down to how the priorities get shuffled. There is nothing wrong with traditional pro-touring. Expect better comfort and resale value from a good P-T car. It is entirely possible to build a fast, competitive pro-touring car. And you will always fit in at car shows.

But if you prefer to beat on your car and raise eyebrows, the pendulum might swing more in the direction of a stripped down, raunchy Streetfighter.

Either way, get your car done and drive it.

Posted by Mr. Vengeance on January 14, 2010 under Interviews