James Baldino is your average car guy. Granted, he works as a credit portfolio manager for Bank One, but outside of that he's just one of the guys. He's been married 28 years to a wife he's known since childhood and they have four children. James, like most red-blooded Americans, prides himself on his wheels. A man of his stature likes, nay, requires a ride that reflects power and dominance. His particular automotive affinity leans towards the arguably gorgeous big boy '96 Impala SS. He loved the car so much that he bought this very SS brand spankin' new in late 1996. James shares, "I thought it looked cool and it was pretty quick for a big car." Sounds like most Impala owners and enthusiasts. A club member of The Herd, he continues, "I initially added headers, changed the exhaust, air intake and tinted the windows." At this point most Impala SS guys would be content with the level of performance of their ride.
Save for the small percentage that refused to let a small thing like 2+ tons of massive sheetmetal deter them, most would have conceded the occasional street light ass-whipping by a total stranger or even a good friend. But James has a dirty, shameful little secret. A sick and dark memory that torments him. It's so sad and twisted friends, that...that we'll just let James tell you in his own words. "About six months after I bought the car I was at a stoplight and my wife pulled up next to me in her 1995 Cadillac STS with a Northstar engine. When the light changed green, we raced and she smoked me. I then challenged her to another race from a rolling start and she smoked me again. We then headed to the highway where we raced from a 50-mph running start. The results were the same. When we got home, she started laughing and said your car may look cool, but you'll know that any grandma driving a Cadillac will kick your butt." See what we mean? Lumped up by the misses THREE times in a row--OUCH. A direct hit to the nerve center of every guy's pride.
Licking his wounds, James took one step closer to that small percentage. "With her comments in my head, I added a supercharger, intercooler, bigger exhaust and fuel system changes. More specifically, James had a 383 stroker put in and topped with a Vortech supercharger and intercooler system. It was ON now! Jim was ready to get medieval on that Caddy!! Unfortunately, while this work was being done on the SS, James informed us his better half traded the Caddy in for a 2000 BMW M5. Damn. Hardly a grandma car. It turns out Mrs. Baldino is just as much of a speed freak as Mr. Baldino. According to James, "She was sick of losing to the WS6 and Camaro SS in the Caddy [Aren't we all?]. She was beating the Mustangs--they're easy [Aren't they all??]." At any rate we still had a personal grudge rematch to deal with. But hey, we forgot to mention the supercharger was a ProCharger F1 with a 3-core intercooler. BMW M5? Forget about it, right, James? His reply was "We raced again--same results--I was sick." That makes all of us!
With begrudging shame, James continued cruising in his not-stout-enough Impala, perhaps seeking weaker prey from Japan. He contented himself with having a cruising car complete with a 15-inch flip down TV monitor and an audio system worthy of it's own feature in Primedia's car audio magazine. Until one summer day in 2000, Hallelujah friends, with nowhere to go James found answers...redemption... revenge! James shares, "While at a local cruise night I met the people from Finish Line Performance in Naperville, IL, and decided to have them build me a whole new motor and drivetrain." He was having tuning problems from day one with the old 383 motor--still managing to rip off a 12.20 at 120 mph at the local track. The guys from FLP made a bold statement that if they couldn't tune it to his satisfaction, they wouldn't charge him anything. True to their word, they got the 383 running strong. After a headgasket blew, FLP was given strict orders to "Build me an all out LT1 I can drive on the streets. I don't want anything left in this car that was built by anyone else."
That meant a macho GM Performance 4-bolt LT1 built by Midwest Engine Tech of Mokana, IL. A ProCharger supercharger and intercooler went back in, but rather then relying on GM's management system, a F.A.S.T. system went in. And to make things just a BIT more level, that 4L60E auto tranny was yanked and replaced with a Hurst-assisted T-56 6-speed housing a bulletproof Viper mainshaft. James wasn't just whistling Dixie when he says, "I went all out--the results were outstanding. A 388 stroker motor with an F1 ProCharger, which just might generate 1000 horsepower at the flywheel." Officially the 4200-pound monster spun the dyno drums to a tune of 740 horses and 691 lb.-ft. of torque at 5800 rpm and 18 psi of boost. There is another 1000 rpm and 6 psi before maxing out if you doubt his claims. James was so impressed by the two-month turnaround and the professional personnel at Finish Line Performance, that with the encouragement of his wife, he bought the company!! And to keep the level of meticulous expertise high, he's even given a small percentage of the partnership to the engine builders.
We bet you want to know how the M5 fared with FLP's flagship battleship. Sadly the rematch never took place, but James sums it up thusly, "When I went to take her for a ride in the SS, with a turn of the key it was all over. My wife has given up trying to find a car to beat me. But I gotta watch her. She's a bandit in her cars." To prove his point she came home with a new '04 CLK55 AMG inquiring as to the whereabouts of the Impala SS. Packing over 300 more horses than the CLK, we'd have to say James has nothing to worry about and is finally over his abusive past!