If flattery was coin of the realm, Gordon and Mike Saiki would likely be stinking rich. They have a staunch following that pursues them for their objectivity, experience, rapt attention to detail, and unorthodox methods. In other words, they have a knack. They have an innate sense of what should not work yet they make it work anyway, even if it's just to prove that it can be done in a way not considered usual. They've kicked out the box so many times it looks like a bag and when there's a storm smoldering on the horizon, they have their favorite consorts and they have special go-to guys with whom they stick to as close as skin does to muscle. In other words, they are bona fide hot rodders—and pioneers—a group that is unfortunately becoming smaller with each generation.
Gardena, California, is the tacit epicenter and includes the Saiki's own Motivational Engineering and Dr. J's Performance (a bit east in Anaheim). Motivational responds with the chassis, suspension, powertrain, and all phases of fabrication. Dr. J's forte is airflow, induction, and its Air Wolf cylinder heads. The Saikis are West Coast Hot Rod Association (WCHRA) stalwarts and multi-time victors on a variety of tire sizes and engine displacement. The one weird thing about all their builds is that they look much more like street cars than balls-out racers, as aptly illustrated by the third component in this triumvirate, Siggy's Auto Body in Compton, California.
All the while, Gardena local Robert White watched, listened, and waited for the inevitable. He plunged...and then went in all the way. "It started out going to be a street car until some people started talking trash," he offered. "One thing led to another. After going to the track numerous times to watch Mike Saiki race I decided I wanted a car like his."
It was just that simple, that and the not-so-simple funding that Robert sluiced into the project over its two-year gestation. On page one, he found this 1967 as a roller, a race car that didn't get done. The car was fairly solid but the work that had already been done wasn't so much, and it definitely wouldn't meet WCHRA spec. Remember that virtually all of Motivational's produce is predicated on stock-type suspension, not a four-link setup or any other type of articulation, thus retaining yet another primary facet of a street-driven automobile. One of their best qualities is knowing how to get very small tires to hook like glue.
The motivational factor is a sussed-out 427-inch small-block, not some variant of the cherished LS clan. All the parts are top drawer; the heads are aluminum from Mena, Arkansas, the block a sturdy aftermarket piece out of Troy, Michigan. There's a dyno test video on Dr. J's website of this engine. Yip, yip, yip, it howls, it puts goose bumps on your arms, and it confirms just how aggressive that this "obsolete" good ol' boy design still is in very certain terms.
Robert took delivery of the finished racer in April 2012 and has been throttling it "whenever the track is open" ever since. Nobody's talking trash anymore.
Engine & Drivetrain
Motivational founded the fat small-block on a Dart Little M cylinder case, an Eagle 4340 crankshaft and set the dimensions at 4.185 x 3.875. The rotating assembly features Eagle H-beams fixed with custom CP pistons and ring packs and a snappy 14.5:1 compression ratio. Mike fitted the short-block with a custom-ground Bullet camshaft (282/290 degrees at 0.050-inch; 0.840/0.825-inch lift) and established it with a Jesel beltdrive assembly and an ATI damper. He closed the bottom end with a Moroso pan. A GZ vacuum pump is there to equalize crankcase pressure. Meanwhile, over in Anaheim, Dr. J's was porting the 23-degree Brodix castings on the CNC machine and converting them into Air Wolf 245's. Once they were back at the ranch, Dr. J's installed REV 2.15/1.60 titanium valves (and retainers) with PSI springs and Manton pushrods and sealed the deal with a Jesel shaft system and offset rockers. Dr. J's had already tweaked the Edelbrock Super Victor and readied one of their Colossus 4150 carburetors to put on top of it. Underneath the fuel mixer, a nitrous plate equipped with an AN-4 line from Steve Johnson's Induction Solutions (Brooksville, Florida). To fire that heady mixture faithfully in the exaggerated cylinder pressure, Mike included an MSD Digital 7 box and set the timing at 34 degrees. Sucking away the remains of combustion are Lemons 2-to-21/8 steps feeding into 3.5-inch collectors, Burns mufflers, and an identically sized stainless system that Gordon built. In the all-important dyno exercise, the small-block passed 613 lb-ft at 6,100 rpm and 798 hp at 7,400 rpm. Though you might expect to see a 'Glide here, in fact, the automatic is a transbrake-equipped Turbo 400 fitted with a 9-inch Continental converter and a 4,500-stall speed. Grunt ropes down a Cook's Machine Works prop shaft and socks it to a 9-inch carrying a spool and 3.89:1 gears.
Chassis & Suspension
Motivational's Jimmy Lee welded in a fine foundation with a chrome-moly rollcage to stabilize the chassis and ensure that the suspension would be fluid and uninterrupted in motion. In the back, there's little choice but to retain factory-style leaf springs, but for many long years now John Calvert has been a savior. Split Mono-Leafs springs, QA1 double-adjustable shocks, and CalTracs bars comprise the total—simple, effective, and cost-effective. At the nose, a manual steering box points the stock spindles while TRZ tubular control arms sandwich Moroso coils and QA1 shocks. Mike installed the components and tuned the setup. During its last outing, the Camaro set a new record, running 5.37 at 131 mph in the eighth-mile with a 1.26 short-time.
To eliminate a crucial variable, Motivational rewired the car. The basically stock trim is augmented only by the things a race car needs. A slew of Auto Meter gauges set in the Covan's dash insert seems to shout from the otherwise somber backdrop. Once wrapped in the RJS Racing Equipment safety harness and with butt firmly planted in the Kirkey aluminum bucket, it's a matter of working the Grant GT steering wheel and flicking the ratchet while the mind howls with delight.
Wheels & Brakes
We're suckers for five-spoke hoops like these Holeshot 15x3.5 and 15x10s. The skinnies are fixed with ET 27.5x4.5s and the big 10s support bulbous 275/60 M/T ET Street Drag Radials. The four-piston Wilwood drag racing brake assemblies (11.75 and 11.44-inch) are about the largest ones that would fit beneath them.
The rudiments included replacing the quarter-panels, carving out mini-tubs, and a new floor for the trunk. While you're at it, why not get some new front fenders as well? Motivational banished the original bonnet and put a 4-inch lightweight cowl in its stead. All the tinted glass is new, as well as the grille, lights, and body moldings. Then Siggy's reared back and applied the PPG Sunburst Orange.