Shane McAlary and his 1977 Chevy Vega, known as The Blackbird, made it to the famous “List” of the 10 fastest cars and street racers in Oklahoma City (OKC). The quirky star of the reality television series “Street Outlaws,” might have been several years late in joining the 405 Crew, but he had proven that he was a serious contender with his skills and competitive spirit. His rise to the top, however, was cut short because of the car crashes he was involved in – many of his fans awaited his return to the racing scene.
- 1 About the show
- 2 Get to know Shane McAlary
- 3 Shane in “Street Outlaws”
- 4 Shane’s car crashes
- 5 Close call with the cops during a real street race
- 6 What happened to Shane?
About the show
“Street Outlaws” made its TV premiere on 20 June 2013, and gave a deeper insight into street racing, as it focused not just on the actual races, but also on what went on behind the scenes. The central cast was the guys in Oklahoma, whose passion for unsanctioned and supposedly illegal racing exceeded their fear of being apprehended by cops. Justin ‘Big Chief’ Shearer was the “race master”, in charge of the 405 crew which originally comprised of Daddy Dave, Monza, Murder Nova, Doc, and others. They raced against each other to climb their way to the top of The List. Even those from out of state came or were invited for a race, for bragging rights and the prize money.
To say that it was a hit was an understatement, as it was on its 18th season in 2022, and has spawned many spin-off series, such as “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” and “Street Outlaws: Fastest in America” in which the drivers from the OKC, Memphis, and New Orleans series were featured. Millions of people tuned in to these shows, which were produced by the Pilgrim Media Group for the Discovery Channel.
The show attracted the attention of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), the governing body for drag racing. There was always a risk involved in motorsports, as the participants drove souped-up cars at speeds that exceeded the limit well over what was deemed safe on the road, but drag racing was a sanctioned event that was done in a controlled setting at a facility built for that purpose, unlike street racing in which, as the name implies, is a race on a street or a public road. The NHRA didn’t want to condone illegal races, and so threatened to revoke the licenses of those who appeared in the show, which would make them ineligible to participate in NHRA racing events.
The show might be about street racing, but the actual races weren’t illegal, as they had to acquire permits before they could film in the area, and the roads they used were closed. While many believed that it was all a sham, millions thought otherwise, or just didn’t care as long as they were entertained. Some said that all that mattered for those who stuck around were checking out the cool cars, as they continued to receive upgrades, and then seeing how they fared in each race.
Get to know Shane McAlary
Shane McAlary was from Elk City, Oklahoma – his family owned and ran a small dealership called McAlary ATV & Cycle. His father, Rex, was a professional racer in the 1960s, and used to race with his L Stock 1957 Chevrolet at drag strips in western Oklahoma. It was Rex who introduced his son to motorsports; he started with off-road motorcycle racing and dirt-track stock car racing. His first street car was a Blazer, and he also used this when he went off-roading.
His first Vega
Auto racing was an expensive sport, as the vehicles were constructed to be lighter, more powerful, and safer for the driver. Much care was put into modifying the cars so that they would deliver optimum performance during a race. Most street racers built their own cars, so that it would cost them less.
In Shane’s case, he chose a 1977 Chevy Vega for his race car when he was 16, but started with a dilapidated one. Reportedly, Shane had been part of a prank involving a monster truck and an Impala, and to get him out of trouble, his family bought the trashed car. The parts of the Impala that could still be used included the V8 engine and a nitrous oxide kit, which went into his Vega.
Bob, his racing companion
What set Shane apart from fellow street racers was having a racing companion named Bob. Some were freaked out while others found it hilarious that Shane was accompanied by the top half of a mannequin at every race. He bought this motorcycle jacket model in a Honda motorcycle dealership that was closing down and holding an auction. He brought it home, but his wife thought that it suited his shop better. Shane enjoyed pulling pranks on people or freaking them out, so he often took Bob with him, not only when he was racing but also when he was just driving around. As he considered Bob as a ‘co-pilot,’ he talked to Bob, and asked him questions; it was like he was having real conversations with the dummy.
Shane in “Street Outlaws”
How he became part of the reality TV series
Shane had been part of the street racing scene around Elk City, Sayre, and on Route 66 in OKC decades ago, and it was then that he met Shawn Ellington and became friends with him. For a time, racing took a backseat as he focused on his marriage and his responsibilities to his family. It was Shawn who lured him back when he took Shane with him to an Outlaw meet. Shane was immediately hooked, but told his friend that he needed a year to get his car ready. Once his Vega was good to go, he just waited for the perfect chance to compete against the guys from the show.
One sure way to be included in the hit series was to be in the top 10 fastest and baddest in OKC. Shane was introduced in season five, and from the get-go, he showed what he was capable, of as he took the 10th spot on The List. Getting onto the list wasn’t that simple or easy, but when Kamikaze took his El Camino off that list and dropped out of racing, the opportunity came for others to vie for the 10th spot.
A three-round run-off was held to determine who was worthy, and Shane with his 1977 Chevy Vega defeated the contenders including Farmtruck, and earned his place on the list. The Blackbird, as his race car was known, was ‘powered by a 437 cubic inch small block Chevrolet engine fed by an F2 ProCharger, backed-up by a Gen X torque converter.
Competing in the Hot Rod Magazine Drag Week
That he won in a “Street Outlaws” race wasn’t a surprise to many, especially those who witnessed how competitive he was during the Hot Rod Drag Week in 2014. It was a five-day event with different race car categories in which the racers would drive their vehicles over a thousand miles from track to track on public roads. The one with the lowest elapsed time would earn the title of Hot Rod’s Fastest Street Car in America.
Shane competed in the unlimited category, in which there were no rules and they could do whatever was necessary to go fast. His car was assembled in just a few weeks, so it wasn’t surprising that he encountered problems during the race, such as having a wrong gear ratio and valve train troubles. With his F-2 Pro-Charged Vega, he finished the event in 10th place in the class he was in, with his best elapsed time of 8.32 at 166mph.
How his car was named
He damaged his car in 2014 at the Thunder Valley Raceway Park, weeks before the Hot Road Drag Week. Team McAlary searched for a tube-framed Vega roller that they could use to construct a race car, and found one in Utah. They made it in time for Drag Week, but they were unable to give it the paintwork it needed, so it was all black with no graphics or designs. As a result, the announcers at the event called it “The Blackbird,” and the name stuck.
Shane’s car crashes
Danger was part of racing as anything could go wrong once the light came on that signaled the start of the race. Not being the first one to cross the finish line was not the worst thing that could happen, but losing control of a high-performance car traveling at an excessive speed was, as it could cause the car to flip violently, hit the opponent’s car, smash onto the guard rail, or catch fire. The car could sustain damage which would be costly to repair or replace, and the driver could sustain injuries, or even die, or end up being unable to participate in any race until he recovered fully, and had his race car ready to go again. Shane was no stranger to car crashes.
The Sayre crash in 2016
It was a shock to many of Shane’s fans when they heard the news that he wrecked his car at the Sayre no-prep drag strip, and that he was airlifted to a local hospital. Reportedly, the race was not part of a “Street Outlaws” filming, but a private one. Shane was conscious, and as he waited for the air ambulance, he inquired about the result of the race and was elated when told that he won by a car and a half, which was considered a large margin.
His team’s theory about the crash was that the Vega’s tie-rod end snapped on the third member locating wishbone, and caused the vehicle to violently swerved off-course, then flip and roll several times at over 150mph. The car didn’t survive the crash, but Shane only suffered minor injuries, and a severe concussion.
His dad said that the crash was a big setback for them as the air ambulance flight cost $40,000, and they had to construct a new race car, another Vega, which featured an F-3R-121 ProCharger that fed the 2000hp small block V8, and took two months to finish. It looked like his old car, as it had the same black color with a red stripe, but a better version of it.
Shane had no choice but to take his car off the list and start over. He knew it would be a challenge working his way back up the list, but it would be fun.
The Bristol crash in 2017
During the semi-final round of eliminations for a no-prep race at the Thunder Valley Raceway in Bristol, Tennessee, Shane crashed his Vega. He lost control of his car in the middle of the race against Big Chief, crossed the centerline, smashed into the concrete guard rail, and spun around facing the direction of the starting line. The crash wasn’t as bad as that in Sayre, as he was uninjured. As for his Vega, there was damage to the front suspension with the front clip beyond repair, and the worst ones were to the roof and quarter panel. His team immediately went to work on the car as they were in the middle of filming for the show. Not wanting to miss any more races than he had to, when his car was good to go even with no bodywork on the front before the firewall, he went back on the street to race.
— Street Outlaws (@StreetOutlaws) January 4, 2018
Close call with the cops during a real street race
Like most guys from “Street Outlaws”, Shane still participated in street racing whenever there was a chance for him to do so. In 2017, with no production crew from the Discovery Channel filming the event, Shane went up against Jerry Bird for the final race with $15,500 at stake. Unbeknownst to them, however, there were police cars waiting near the finish line.
As street racing was illegal, it went without saying that those who engaged in it did so under the cover of night on some road where there was no traffic or people. However, no matter how the guys went mum about where it was going to be held and at what time, there was really nothing they could do if someone saw them by chance, and called the cops to report them; a truck driver did that, and bragged about it on his radio.
Before Jerry’s Probe and Shane’s Blackbird could cross the finish line, the former, who was on the left lane, was stopped by the police as he was coming straight towards them while Shane put on the brakes, backed up, and slowly made his exit on the right, away from the main road, not stopping until he reached his open trailer, loaded the car, and drove away. Usually, in a street race, someone was on the lookout for cops and would signal the drivers if he saw one or heard the police siren by waving a flashlight, so the race could be aborted and they could escape. That night, however, it seemed that Jerry didn’t notice the warning while Shane did and evaded being caught by the authorities. Jerry was arrested, and his car was towed and impounded.
There was a big argument afterward with Jerry’s team wanting to claim the prize money for winning the race, while Shane’s team said that the race wasn’t finished because the warning signal was given, and Shane reacted quickly so he could get away. Some jokingly said that the cops didn’t pursue the Vega because it had a passenger in it, referring to Bob, and thought it couldn’t possibly be involved in the race. Eventually, they were able to settle things as there were rules to be followed, and the race was recorded on camera, so they could review what happened to help them decide. The guys from 1320 Video were there to film the cash days’ race upon the invitation of BoostedGT. The video was uploaded online with the faces blurred although names were mentioned.
What happened to Shane?
Many of Shane’s fans are wondering what was keeping Shane busy these days, and if he really quit “Street Outlaws.” Apparently, during a race he had against Jeff Lutz, The Blackbird made a hard right, hit the curb, and rolled numerous times before stopping on the field – he was unharmed, but his Vega was destroyed – he announced that he was done racing after this, saying that he was broke, and his business couldn’t afford to build another car.
Some believed he only said that because he was frustrated with the way things turned out; he had been on the 10th spot for too long, and was desperate to move up on the list, back to the 6th spot held before, or even higher. Others said that Shane had a reality check, and accepted that perhaps he wasn’t cut out for this. This happened in 2019, but the footage was aired in 2021, as they halted production for a year due to the pandemic.
Shane was not that active on social media, and his posts were mostly about cars and his work at their shop. He did post about his old Vega, the red one, in August 2022 and said that it was up and running after 15 years had passed. Fans remained hopeful that he would make a comeback in the near future.