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Kurt Anderson is Clever, Creative and Competitive on the Track

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMCA and courtesy of Kurt Anderson
 
While Kurt Anderson could have chosen to purchase a newer car with the money he saved as a 13 year old, he went with a classic 1955 Chevy.
 
Everything about the car appealed to him, from the styling and the stance to the way it stood out from other cars on the road near his family’s home in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
 
As it turned out, the car was a catalyst for a line of work and a lifestyle that invigorate and inspire Anderson, who owns Autokraft Racecars and Restorations in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and races in NMCA LME Street King and MagnaFuel Open Comp in his stunning 1969 Camaro Z28.
 
When he is not at work or behind the wheel, Anderson goes cruising with his wife and fellow racer, Shawna, in one of their Camaros, Corvettes or Chevelles. Time spent in the cars, and seeing other cars, gives him ideas for projects he is working on.
 
He is passionate about that process, and that is one of the many reasons he so revered and respected in the world of racecars and restoration.
 
Read on for more about Anderson, who holds four championships in LME Street King and one championship in MagnaFuel Open Comp, and whose admirable approach is to take things one wheelie at a time.


 
A 1955 CHEVY IS A COOL FIRST CAR. WHAT WILL YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
 
As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it and wanted it, but because I was only 13 years old, my parents had to drive me to get it. I bought it with the $700 I saved from delivering newspapers and shoveling snow. Back then, that was a lot of money. Because I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, my dad had to drive it home for me. The car had a 327 cubic-inch engine and a four-speed, and I worked on it for a few years. When I was old enough to go for a driver’s test for my driver’s license, my mom wouldn’t let me take the 1955 Chevy because she thought it was too loud, so I had to take her Caprice. After I turned 16 and got a job at a body shop called Al’s Body Shop in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, I painted the car my favorite color, yellow.
 
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WORK AT A BODY SHOP AT JUST 16 YEARS OLD?
 
It was great. I would go to school until 2 p.m., and then work until 10 p.m. At first, I was kind of in charge of cleaning the shop, washing and detailing the cars, and then they started getting me into doing disassembly and assembly, and I became a painter basically overnight because the main painter had to have a car done the next day, but he had to leave at 5 p.m. When they asked me to do it, I was a little worried about messing it up because I was only 16 and they handed me the spray gun, but it was mint, and I was happy about that. I was still living at home, and I socked away enough money to buy my first 1969 Camaro. I was still 16, and I ended up back-halving the car and putting a cage in it, along with a hopped-up small-block that I built. I painted it Brandywine and I had it done before my senior year of high school.
 
WAS YOUR FIRST 1969 CAMARO ALSO YOUR FIRST RACE CAR?
 
It was. I took it to Rock Falls Raceway, Al Corda’s former track, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, when I was 18, for a test and tune session, and then I entered a race with it. I had done enough racing on the street to have a pretty good idea of what to do at the track, which was a lot safer with a guardrail, safety gear and an ambulance. I was racing on the quarter-mile and the car was running 12s. When I turned 20, I sold the 1955 Chevy, and when I turned 23, I sold my first 1969 Camaro. Believe it or not, I have since had over twenty 1969 Camaros, and still have several.


 
WE CAN BELIEVE IT. THE 1969 CAMARO MODEL IS BEAUTIFUL, ESPECIALLY  THE DAYTONA YELLOW 1969 CAMARO Z28 YOU RACE NOW IN NMCA LME STREET KING AND MAGNAFUEL OPEN COMP.
 
I bought this one in 2000 from my friend, Troy Emmons, in Minnesota. He was sad that he had to sell it, but he knew I wanted it and would take care of it. He was busy with his job making plastic parts for the auto industry, but he was sure to offer to buy it back one day if I ever sell it.
 
DID YOU BEGIN RACING THE CAR RIGHT AWAY, OR DID IT SPEND TIME IN YOUR SHOP?
 
I pretty much started racing it right away in No Box at Rock Falls Raceway. The car had a 406 cubic-inch small-block Chevy in it, and I was running 10.40s. Once in a while, I would send my friend, Troy, pictures of his former car. I have gone through a couple different engine combinations in the car, and my favorite was my 416 LS engine, but after a long run, it let go on me a year ago in Florida, but I have a new 454 LS engine by Wegner Motorsports, with an RHS block and RHS heads for this year, and it will make a little more power than my previous engine. I tested it last fall, and I went 9.09 at 146 mph, so I will move up to the 9.00 or 9.25 index this year.
 
WHEN DID YOU JOIN US IN THE NMCA FOR THE FIRST TIME?
 
My first NMCA experience was at the St. Louis race in 2010, and I ran in the Rumble class. There were 128 cars in Rumble that weekend, and I had never raced on a Pro Tree or on an index. I was not sure what to think going into the race, but I wanted to try something new. I had a new engine in the car, and the place that did the engine did not have the right tune in it, so I could not get it to run right. I called Joe Oplawski from Hyperaktive and he had some ideas and said he would come to the track to help me get it tuned up, but he got caught in traffic at the gate to the track, and they about to call the Rumble class to the lanes. So I got on my golf cart and ran to the gate to meet him, and he grabbed the thumbdrive, made some changes and got my car to fire up and I was the very last car in the first qualifying session but I made it and ran a 10.48. Joe kept looking at the tune and a couple keystrokes later, I picked up to a 10.35, followed by a 10.28. Then Joe said data was showing that was pretty much what we were going to get out of it. It was master chaos, but believe it or not, I ended up winning the race, and that definitely made me want to commit to NMCA. I started running LME Street King in 2015 because I wanted to use a transbrake and two-step. I have done pretty well in Street King and I have earned four championships. They were in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021.


 
SPEAKING OF YOUR LME STREET KING CHAMPIONSHIPS, YOU ALSO BEGAN COMPETING IN NMCA MAGNAFUEL OPEN COMP IN 2016 AND EARNED A CHAMPIONSHIP THERE IN 2018. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO COMPETE IN TWO CLASSES, AND EARN A CHAMPIONSHIP IN TWO CLASSES IN THE SAME YEAR?
 
I discovered that I liked competing in two classes at each race, even though it gets pretty hectic, especially when I am having a good weekend and going rounds in both classes. It keeps me on my toes and I like the challenge. It felt very good to earn a championship in both classes in the same year. It was a rewarding experience.
 
YOUR WIFE, SHAWNA, ALSO HAS A VERY COOL RACECAR THAT WE HAVE SEEN YOU BEHIND THE WHEEL OF.
 
Yes, Shawna does have a nice racecar. I call it Plan B when my car is down. Her car has an LS3 engine in it, and it pulls the wheels like my car. Shawna races at our local track, Rock Falls Raceway, and at the CTech Manufacturing Badger Classic that I and a couple other people put on each year at the track to benefit a local charity called Joshua’s Camp, which helps children with cancer. We have raised more than $70,000 for them in the past few years. The track, which is owned by CTech Manufacturing, gave us $5,000 to give away as a grand prize for the raffle, which we appreciate.
 
WILL YOU TAKE US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY AT YOUR BUSINESS, AUTOKRAFT RACECARS AND RESTORATIONS?
 
I started building my business in 1991. It was in a building next to my home in Eau Claire, and I moved to a much bigger building in Eau Claire in 2013. We do a lot of restorations and concourse-like builds. We work on chassis, suspension and rollcages. We are pretty much a one-stop shop, except we don’t do engines or transmissions. I have two other guys working with me. I would say we do an equal amount of racecars and street cars.
 
WE HAVE SEEN CARS IN THE NMCA AND NHRA THAT SERVE AS ROLLING SHOWCASES FOR WORK PERFORMED AT YOUR BUSINESS.
 
Yes, we have worked on cars for many NMCA and NHRA racers, including Bruce Lang, Shawn Calabrese, Kevin Lumsden, Russ Berens, Tim Frees, Al Corda, Mike Pryka, Jim McMillan, Jim Kroeger and others. We worked on Jim Bailey’s 1963 Dodge Max Wedge for A/Stock Automatic and he won a Best Engineered award for it. I put my heart and soul into these cars, and I cannot even put into words how good it makes me feel to see the drivers out there doing well. I treat each car as if it were my own, and I always will.
 
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR 2024?
 
I was not able to make the first race of the year, which was hard to take because I can’t remember the last time I had to miss an NMCA race, but I do plan to make the rest of the races this year. With the new engine, I’m going to focus on getting the car dialed in for the 9.00 or 9.25 index, and then I am going to take it one race at a time and have a good time.
 
 (Interview from July 2024 Fastest Street Car)



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