A little off the top

Becky Vargo • Feb 24, 2018 at 2:00 PM

A car with its top chopped off is creating a buzz in the Tri-Cities area, considering temperatures have mainly been in the 30s and lower 40s.

But owner Dylan Lavine says they are just trying to work out the kinks and make sure the 1999 Saturn can make the upcoming Chop Top Challenge trip to New Orleans.

Lavine and friends Owen Sanborn, Kollen Erickson and Jordan Wilson plan to take on at least 20 other competitors in the rally that starts March 24 from Chicago. The college students say the trip should cost them about $1,200, and sponsors Baker Lumber and Marushka are picking up part of the tab.

Lavine said he first learned of the challenge a couple of years ago when the organizers had a promotional car at the Coast Guard Festival car show. The chopped Honda CRX was painted with chalkboard paint and there was a container of chalk for people to write on the car.

It’s been on his mind ever since, and Lavine said the group was finally able to find a car that they are fairly certain would be able to make the trip — there and back.

Some people have follow cars and some will just ditch their cars and fly back, Lavine said.

All of the vehicles are required to be street legal and all riders must wear a full-face helmet, Lavine said. The drivers must also follow all of the rules of the road.

“Technically, you don’t have to have a windshield as long as you have wipers and a rear-view mirror,” Lavine said. He noted that a law from the days of fold-down windshields on some older vehicles allowed for that technical slip-through. 

Because they don’t have a top and a windshield, riders are strongly encouraged to wear very warm, windproof clothing and helmets with communication technology.

“We already know that from riding around in 28-degree temperatures,” Sanborn said.

It’s also strongly recommended that the car have a roll cage, and the local participants said they are still trying to find a sponsor to weld on some safe equipment.

To make the challenge more interesting, organizers will divulge a scavenger list, not available until the start of the rally, in which participants can earn points along the way. Last year’s challenge ended in Las Vegas. One of the items on the list was to find Will Smith, Lavine said. One of the participants was able to get a selfie with Smith, he said.

The young men have a tentative itinerary that involves some nights in a motel and some nights camping, weather permitting. They said they have no idea how the scavenger list will affect their itinerary.

The rally ends with a parade down Bourbon Street on March 27, followed by an awards party.

The prize is dependent on the number of entries, Lavine said. Last year, it involved pesos and poker chips.

Some people also use the rally as a fundraiser for a charity.

The Grand Haven team will shoot video and photos of their ride, and plan to keep the public informed of their status on social media.

The first Chop Top Challenge was organized by a couple of West Michigan teachers, brothers who wanted to go for a drive in a vehicle they chopped. They decided to go during spring break. Their first rally went to Miami.

For more information on this year’s challenge, visit www.choptopchallenge.com.

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