There's nothing quite like an adrenaline rush that overtakes your senses the first time you visit a dragstrip. The air is tinged with the scent of race fuel, burnt rubber, and track food from the concession stand—only surpassed by the visual onslaught of the most wicked, hopped-up quarter-mile asphalt burners on the planet. Now imagine being 1 year old, in the pits with your parents, and absorbing all this into your very young mind. If this doesn't pave a path for your future something is definitely amiss. For 23-year-old Buddy Buser of Severna Park, Maryland, it was very real and the perfect way to establish a lifelong family bond and a direct connection to drag racing. It was his dad, Henry, who got started in the sport back in 1978 while campaigning a small-block–powered '57 Anglia at local tracks, including Maryland International Raceway (Budds Creek), Capitol Raceway, and U.S. 13 Raceway in Delaware. He gradually moved up in power and then onto a Pro Gas '48 Anglia urged by an injected big-block consistently turning 8.90 e.t.'s at 151 mph. From there, he purchased a former Warren Johnson Pro Stock '84 Oldsmobile Cutlass. This was right around the time when Buddy was old enough to race home from school, finish his homework, and help out in the garage till dark.
With the support of his mother, Terry, and sister Jamie to keep everything organized, the family rallied each week to prepare the Cutlass for its next trip down the track. It was during these formative years in which Buddy would listen intently to numerous old competition stories his dad would tell of the rivalry between the Snake and Mongoose, and the amazing presence both Tommy Ivo and Jungle Jim had back in the day.
With every passing year Buddy's responsibilities with the family race car grew while also assisting with his sister's 10-second Pro Street Vega. When it came down to it, however, it was his dad who was not only his finest inspiration but also his best friend.
One afternoon in 2005, Buddy (then 15 years old) tagged along with his dad on a stop to bring a mutual friend over to meet classic car broker Russell Hood who had a '72 Camaro for sale. The friend passed on the car and Buddy wasted no time letting his dad know he had to have it. A deal was made and the car was brought back to the family garage for assessment.
While the second-gen was a decent driver with a warmed-over 350, it didn't have the right stance or power combination. Once the garage door closed, the two tore out the interior and started cutting. Within the first weekend they had removed the rear floor and dropped the stock rearend and suspension. A fresh rear clip was fabbed-up using 2x3-inch boxed 'rails incorporating a Dana 60 rear filled with Strange Engineering 35-spline axles. Next up, coilovers, ladder bars, and Trac locator bar were bolted in. An old set of Centerline wheels with mile-wide rubber were tucked into the fenderwells, while the anemic small-block was replaced with a nasty 482ci Rat turning 13:1 slugs linked to a TH400 trans. The car easily turned 10.60 e.t.'s, while also serving as his daily transportation. It also earned him "best car" at the high school. How cool is that!
While the car was neat, Buddy had much loftier aspirations of wanting to redo it so he could run in the 7's while still being streetable. Thus, a four-year build ensued with his dad to resurrect the car with a vengeance.
The first task would be to design an IHRA-certified chassis suitable to the high level of abuse the car would see at e.t.'s down to 7.50. The duo ordered up an Alston Racing Products Pro Gas chassis kit. To get the body ready for the transformation to the new chassis, the floor was removed and additional access areas trimmed. The pair then began assembly of the Alston 'rails while fabricating custom crossmembers. When completed, the body was lowered onto the frame and the supplied 1 5⁄8-inch rollcage bars were test-fit into place as the car was being updated to include a more stout Funny Car-style 'cage. The rear was stuffed with 4.11:1 gears and the ensemble then suspended in place by custom-mounted Moroso double-adjustable ladder bars, Trac locator bar, and QA1 adjustable coilover shocks. To give the car razor-sharp handling, a combination of Mustang II-styled upper and lower control arms were deftly matched with Alston early Pinto-styled spindles, QA1 adjustable coilover shocks, and Flaming River manual rack-and-pinion steering.
It's bitchin to go wicked fast, but to stop on a dime Buddy went with Wilwood Dynalite four-piston calipers and 11-inch rotors up front and 12-inch rotors out back. To help plant the power a set of Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels (15x3 front and 15x15 rear) are capped with Mickey Thompson Sportsman skins up front while massive Hoosier drag slicks get the job done out back.
'Shine she may, but run she must!' - Henry Buser
With the chassis dynamics set in place, it was time to focus on a mill that would propel the second-gen with a vengeance. For that deed Buddy went to Jimmy Bowen of Jim Bowen Racing Engines in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. They decided on a '69 427 big-block as a base and then build it to a mighty 499 cubic inches. Bowen got started with a 4.320-inch bore and 4.250-inch stroke, as well as balancing and blueprinting. He filled the block with a Callies crank linked to Carrillo H-beam rods capped with JE 9.2:1 pistons. A custom-ground Lunati cam sets the thump, while the block is topped by a pair of Canfield aluminum square-port heads supported by Crower pushrods and Lunati roller lifters. An Indy blower intake with port nozzles welcomes a Littlefield 10-71 supercharger wearing an Enderle blown alcohol injection bird catcher flowed and tuned by KJ Crawford of Santa Rosa, California. An Enderle model 110 belt-driven fuel pump moves the alky while an MSD 7AL3 ignition lights the fire. Owner-fabbed 2 ¼-inch headers dump the gases through homespun 4 ½-inch mufflers. To move the hefty 1,450 horsepower rearward, Jerry Harris at Doctor Speed Racing Transmission of Baltimore, Maryland, custom-tweaked a Reid's/Hughes Performance Superglide case and internals to suit the application. An A-1 Driveshaft (Baltimore, Maryland) completes the driveline.
A Harwood 4-inch cowl-induction hood was added along with custom mounting for the drag 'chute. To make sure the bodywork was spot-on, Dink from Pasadena, Maryland, blocked it to perfection. The painting chores were handed over to Darren Weyant at Sudden Impact Collision Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Darren topped off his gun with PPG Deltron Mango Tango and sprayed the mile-deep vibe. Seth Bowman wet-sanded and buffed the body till it looked like glass.
The interior exudes a business-only demeanor. A pair of Kirkey Econo-Drag aluminum seats were covered with black vinyl and R.J.S. Racing Equipment five-point harnesses secure the passengers. The dash, floors, and trans tunnel were custom fabricated by Buddy and Henry with all TIG welding handled by Sean Scott. Roger Edwards handled the wiring, with vitals monitored by Auto Meter Ultra-Lite dials. A Hurst pistol-grip Quarter Stick pulls gears, and a Grant steering wheel plots the course.
This is one second-gen that matches its ferocity with attention to detail making it not only a terror on the tarmac, but also one that could hold its own at any car show. Thanks to a wicked stance it's easy to see the influence from Jungle Jim's famous second-gen Camaro Funny Car.
With alky in its tank, Buddy aspires to turn e.t.'s in the high 7s.
To us, that's just downright bitchin!