1971 Chevrolet El Camino - Trouble Maker

Stock Chassis, Nasty Motor, Willy At The Wheel

Ro McGonegal Oct 1, 2007 0 Comment(s)

If you roll out on California 74 (a gnarly collection of blind curves and sheer-death drop-offs) all the way east to the 215, you'll run right into the Perris junction. Out there in the hinterlands, a lifetime from the Big City, Perris is usually a dry, wind-boiled patch. Except when the El Nio blowdowns swamp the Southland, and the low places in the Valley take so much water that you can't drive through it. Perris hangs by the mainstream but will never be quite in it, geographically or kulturally. Perris has its own bullring too, the Auto Speedway, but no dragstrip.

Willy Recksiek is a denizen of this town. He doesn't race on circles of clay or dirt or tarmac. He likes winging it in a straight line on asphalt. He likes being far from the festering insanity that lies behind the Orange Curtain and on the ocean side of the Santa Ana Mountains. We'd like to think he can kick back, take it a little easier, and not be quite so harried by the pace of life where the hyenas live. High school girls in Perris aren't on their third plastic surgeon already.

But some things cannot be avoided for long or escaped forever. On Willy's side of the hills, hard-core car things have been rocking heavily for the last decade, taking firm root in the outposts of Murrieta, Temecula, Lake Elsinore, and now, apparently in good ol' Perris. Machine shops, specialty-coating houses, drag-race rubber, a car-enthusiast TV network, chassis builders, niche vehicle tuners, and so on all heard the quiet call of the Temescal Valley and have created a world of their own in a place that was just creosote-bush and scrub-pine nasty when L.A. was the hot rod kingdom. It's San Diego County's version of the Golden Triangle (up to Corona over to Riverside down to Temecula). All of this, plus the ministrations of Darryll Lynnes' Powertrain Plus (Mira Loma), put Willy in a very advantageous place.

About seven years ago, Willy's sometime hobby (which included clandestine racing for money) turned quasi-serious. His basically stock street car became a drag-race star. Like the bittersweet memory of the first girlfriend, he has an unshakable religion about that day he went to Pomona and ran a 13.53, the first time he'd ever raced on a legal quarter-mile dragstrip. So it was in him. But the money wasn't on him. He picked a class in the Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA) and went to it. In 2005, he won the Street Car SuperNationals in Open Comp. His '71 El Camino did the trick.

Curious thing about this car: Like a great many of its contemporaries, it retains the stock rear suspension configuration. There are lighter, quicker-reacting parts in the front end, so the car lifts the wheels from the asphalt easier and they assume nearly neutral camber, hang straight down, and attack the strip with a minimal amount of time-robbing friction. But realize that the drive tires are absolutely critical to this form.

At the rear, premium components that won't deflect under the initial torque hit enable smooth and even bite. (Bill) Hickock Race Cars planted a stout, extra-legal rollcage, notched the frame, and did the wheel tubs. Willie and pal Darryll fashioned the motor plates and anointed the altar for the influx of grunt. With the car going straight and with minimum bind in the suspension system, it doesn't need a completely redesigned chassis to work correctly.

Yo Willy, how long you gonna keep makin' that big noise out on Priceless Road? The West Coast Hot Rod and PSCA dudes are curious. Long time, right?

Drivetrain
Willy's of the mind that experts are the best thing that ever happened to a time-challenged hot rodder, so he happily turned over the machine work and bullet-building chores to Kevin Schmidt in Mira Loma. The Dart Big M block features CNC finishing and stepped (91/416- to 11/42- to 71/416-inch) oil galleries. With a 4.530 bore and 4.00-inch stroke, the Rat works 516 ci off a Scat forged arm, Scat connecting rods, and 14.0:1 JE pistons and pins. Lubrication is the key. Schmidt prompted the system with a Williams (Lake Elsinore) oil pan and pump. About that Isky camshaft, Willy declined on specification but said: "It came out of a 406ci big-block that had a four-speed manual behind it. We built the motor in four days." How's that for a non sequitur?

Manley valvesprings, 2.25/1.88-inch valves, guideplates, retainers, and locks are entwined with Manton 31/48-inch pushrods and a T&D shaft rocker-arm system. The engine's front is covered by a Comp Cams beltdrive. Up top, AFR Magnum aluminum castings feature as-delivered 315cc intake runners and a complete porting job by the hands at Flow Tech (Garden Grove). The Edelbrock Victor is paired up with a 1,150-cfm Holley Dominator that works with an NX 100-shot plate. To combat the high cylinder pressure created by the nitrous explosion, a strong, vibrant spark is invaluable to the whole, hence the MSD-equipped HEI ignition set at 36 degrees total advance.

Products of combustion are eliminated by Lemons Headers (231/48-inch primaries) that terminate in 4-inch Lemons collector mufflers. Engine cooling is realized through a Meziere electric pump and a Ron Davis single-row aluminum core.

Willy eschewed the usual Powerglide variant and stuck with three forward speeds from the Mike's Transmission-tweaked Turbo 400. It's fitted with a hairy 5,500-stall speed Munzinger (Chino) torque converter and a B&M fluid cooler. A 4-inch-diameter Inland Driveline 'shaft carries torque to 4.56:1 gears. Willy applies the brakes, pins the throttle, and flat disappears into the swarming engine music.

Chassis
After Bill Hickock established the rollcage, Willy and Darryll put up the Global West tubular control arms and solid body mounts, Moroso springs, and Alston VariShock adjustables. They located the Strange Engineering Fab 9 axlehousing on the factory coil springs and amended the whole with Hotchkis links and Alstonshock absorbers. A traction/antisway bar is not used. So by this very formula it would seem that a properly reinforced chassis that resists deflection and the inclusion of lightweight suspension members can easily process the torque and get the car out of the hole in an economical, judicious manner every time.

Wheels & Brakes
Willy retained the stock spindles but applied featherweight four-piston billet-caliper Aerospace brakes (1011/44-inch discs) and mimicked the setup (1131/48-inch discs) in the rear. Racing rubber includes M/T 27x4.5 Front Runners on 15x4.5 Weld Racing Draglites and M/T 29.5x10.5 ET Drag slicks on 15x10 Draglites.

Body
What you see is all there is: Mark Patterson smoothed the body, M&M Paint in Riverside applied the very yellow pigment, and Harwood supplied the 6-inch fiberglass cowl hood.

Proof
Though race motors occasionally get dyno time, most of them do not. The dragstrip assumes that capacity so there's no BS allowed. In ready-to-race form, the kinky Camino scales at 3,350 pounds. Combined with his nitrous Rat, Willy's seen a best of 9.20 at 147.6. CHP

Inside
The interior is race-car skinny: Grant wheel, lone Summit race seat, and a nitrous jug riding shotgun. A Simpson safety harness and Deist spider web would protect Willy in the event of untoward circumstance. The Auto Meter gauges require only minimal attention, and the trusty Painless wiring sequence requires none at all.

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Stock Chassis, Nasty Motor, Willy At The Wheel
Ro McGonegal Oct 1, 2007

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