If you follow Turbo Buick racing, you have probably already heard of Tony Gomes and his insane '87 Grand National. If not, let's get you up to speed. Tony campaigns this Grand National in a class called Turbo Street Outlaw (TSO), which is a heads-up, stock-style suspension class, based on stock-bodied Turbo Buicks. There are no cubic inch, cylinder head, or engine management limits. Competitors can run any turbo they want up to a mid-frame 88mm compressor and they must run on a stock-style suspension setup, with a tire no wider than 11.25 inches. With all of the safety equipment needed to run in this class and roughly 100 pounds of ballast, all cars must maintain a minimum race weight of 3,400 pounds.
For Tony Gomes and company, running in this class also means they can run a full exhaust (that exits behind the rear tire), a full interior (including the stock seats), and a pair of Mickey Thompson drag radials. So,what makes this car so special? How about the fact that it has gone as fast as 7.97 at 175.5 mph and is not only the record holder for e.t. and mph, but it is also the fastest stock-suspension Turbo Buick in the country. Still not impressed? How about the fact that Tony is also the first to go 7s on a drag radial in TSO trim? It takes a ton of dedication and hard work to go this fast.
"I bought a Grand National brand new in November of 1987. Since then, it has always been a passion. I sold that car a few years later and regretted it the very next day, but unfortunately life got in the way. Years later this car came up for sale and, without hesitation, I purchased it. I have literally changed every bolt on this car, it started out as a 10.30 car and has evolved from there, into the 7s."
The heart of the beast is an RPE-built 274 cubic-inch motor, built around an aluminum TA Performance block. Bobby Vaulding of RPE Racing Engines stuffed the block with a set of JE pistons and Oliver billet rods, which rotate over a billet Moldex crankshaft. While the camshaft specs are top secret, we can report that this is still a hydraulic roller with massive amounts of lift and a long duration. This custom cam actuates valves in a heavily worked set of Buick Stage 2 cylinder heads, which bring the final compression into the high 8:1 range. A Peterson single-stage beltdrive provides oil to the motor, which returns to a Billet Specialties oil pan. Tony reports having great success with the TA Performance block and feels completely comfortable with the RPE-built motor. "I met Bobby from RPE in 1994. We hit it off and from that point on I let him apply his talents to the motor. 7.97 at 175, enough said."
The maestro of this record holder is none other then Cal Hartline, who uses a FAST XFI engine management to dial in the tune. "Cal was a big part in going from an 8.40 car to a 7-second ride." Using an octet of 160 lb/hr injectors fed by a Weldon fuel pump and regulator, Cal is able to keep fuel under control, which is vital at this level of performance. MSD Ignition provides the spark, with a slick front-mounted MSD distributor and fender-mounted MSD ignition coil. The real horsepower is delivered by a Precision Turbo Billet GT47-88, which is fed by a pair of custom manifolds. After being compressed, air is funneled through a CAS V3 double-core front-mount air-to-air intercooler and up to a 90mm Accufab throttle body. Once opened, air enters into a massive Hogan sheetmetal intake before passing by the Buick Stage 2 heads into the combustion chamber.
Fueled and lit, power is transferred through a custom-built PTC converter to a Lonnie Diers-built sprag-less TH400 transmission. A 3-inch driveshaft mates to a Mark Williams fabricated 9-inch, which sends power outwards via a 3.90 rear gear and Strange 35-spline axles to a pair of 295/65R15 Mickey Thompson drag radials. "The car drives like it is on a rail." Tony uses a set of custom upper and lower control arms in the rear and a Wolfe antiroll bar helps keep him straight. A pair of QA1 springs and shocks keep the rear in line, while a set of AFCO shocks and TRZ upper and lower A-arms attempt to keep the front end on the ground. The setup from Markow Racecars must be killer, as Tony has gone as quick as a 1.31 60-foot, no small feat in a turbo drag radial car.
Besides being a multiple record setting race car, inside and out, Tony Gomes has built what some may call the nicest all-around Grand National in the country. Starting with an all-steel body, Tony had Miguel Morales of Pat's Autocare and Restoration make sure that every panel was perfectly straight and aligned before moving on to the paint booth. Here, Miguel applied a killer PPG black paintjob, one that looks much better than the one this car rolled off the showroom floor with in 1987. The only real clue that this is a race car are a set of beautifully polished Bogart Welded R/T's front and rear, which starkly contrast the layers of deep black paint. The interior, minus a couple of gauges, the AMS-1000 boost controller, and the SFI-certified rollcage, looks almost exactly as delivered, including a set of stock front seats.
Now that you are in the know, you might be wondering what's next. While no one can predict the future, we can rest assured that Tony will continue to push the envelope of TSO-legal racing. Although he certainly should take a second to soak in the fruits of his labor, Tony knows he has some stiff competition nipping at the heels of his record setting pass, and we are certain he won't take the rest of this season lightly.