In 1965, two testosterone-pumped North Jersey wannabes tried to race a Hilborn-spritzed '55 Chevy in D/Gas and all of a sudden, we were off the street and stuck to some serious business. We had a great car but didn't know what to do with it and subsequently got mired in physics and maintenance about which we knew nil.
In NHRA Division 1, Modified Eliminator was spilling over with hot oil, hot heads, and hot dog antics. If you didn't have your business together and screwed down tight, you'd be wearing a grief hat forever. One of the "teams" we faced was Horace and Paul Reinford out of southeastern Pennsylvania. Next to our sleek '55 (that we named The Mule), their yellow '37 Chevy they'd dubbed The Moose looked like a wheelbarrow. Outward appearance (stealth) notwithstanding, it was killer and ran like the proverbial rapid ape. At the track we were reluctant to even make eye contact for fear they had seen right through us and our monumental ineptitude. Of all the cars (Dave Hale's D/Gasser was another) we might have faced, thoughts of The Moose still ravage my brain 45 years hence.
Editor Nick sent me a tech sheet this week. When I saw the name Joe Reinford and the Pennsylvania locale, just for a second or two the Fear came sluicing back. Reinford. Moose. Could it be? Strangely believe it, the 36-year-old Joe is Horace's son. Joe and his brother Horace, Jr. more or less built this '83 third-gen the way it would have been before Pro Touring or any other such dizzy label. It's built the way the owners wanted it; not the popular dictates. It doesn't mimic a trend or emulate anything other than what it is: a stealthy, straight, smooth driver with enough hair to wrinkle the treads and smoke out the gophers. It doesn't have: killer suspension, big brakes, preposterous rolling stock or 1,000 horsepower. Probably sounds a lot like your car, doesn't it?
The back story is a familiar song: it was only going to be this…and then…it seemed to take on a life of its own and turned into that. Well, Joe had seen his future project squatting in someone's front yard every day on his way to work. It was black with the orange-red stripe, a scheme that Joe liked and didn't change.
While he was pedaling his new mistress around, he heard the timing gear making noise. He and his dad decided to remove the motor, just to freshen it a bit. Once that happened, the car seemed to open up and yearn for a complete makeover. Isn't that the way it happens? Sure. With the engine out, that big hole in the front of the car seemed to invite further transgression.
"Well, that turned into a restoration project," clucked Joe. He gutted the passenger compartment, clearing animal nests from behind the dash and collecting broken bits of interior, but thankfully no human remains. He cleaned and painted the floors and laid down new carpet. He continued upgrading the interior with nearly new door panels and seats from one of his other Camaros. Instead of the usual audio system at the head of the console, he saved that spot for something truly useful instead: a control panel. To retain the stock console, he made a custom mount and cover over the Hurst Quarter Stick, and to heighten awareness, he brought in a Cyberdyne instrument cluster and an Auto Meter Pro Comp boost gauge. That Auto Meter Pro Shift Light right in front of his kisser tells him when to change up the transmission.
The pair would extract the nominal 305 and supplant it with a righteous 331-incher '67 327 cylinder case plus a 0.030-inch overbore. H&G Associates in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, cooked the block, balanced the rotating assembly, and machined where needed. The connecting rods and crankshaft are original equipment and in expectation of something "bigger," they used TRW forgings with a scant 8.1:1 compression ratio. Likewise, timing for the COMP Magnum is mild: 0.501-inch lift, 292 degrees on both valves and it went in the block with a COMP roller timing gear. A Mr. Gasket cover seals the installation and is preceded by a Weiand Team G water pump (circulating coolant from the Griffin aluminum core). Oil collects in a stock 5-quart pan and is circulated by the stock pump (with welded pickup).
Induction is spicy: vintage camel double-hump cylinder heads (1.94/1.51 valves) accommodate a Weiand 144 supercharger that's limited to 6 psi of positive manifold pressure. The fuel route is commanded by a Holley mechanical pump, and a Grant Silver Claw that processes 750 cfm. The pacemaker is venerable MSD 6AL box and Blaster coil. On the dirty side, Joe used Edelbrock headers (pollution tubes removed) and had them treated by Jet-Hot. One of his regrets is that he didn't set up the exhaust system beyond the single-outlet factory tract, which would have required revamping the floor to fit a true dual exhaust. In lieu, he installed a 3.5-inch Flowmaster system. Horace, Jr. assembled the motor and estimates output at 400-425 horsepower at 5,500 rpm.
There were issues with the original five-speed, so Joe opted for a slush replacement, a 350 Turbo built by local Rod Stalnecker (who ran a '40 Willys back in the day under the formidable S&S Speed banner). Rod fortified it with a manual valvebody and a 3,000-stall ATI converter. The prop shaft is stock but rebuilt and at the terminus, the 10-bolt axle was beefed with an Auburn limited-slip differential.
Chassis work can be summed up in one word: none. Joe thought it prudent to increase torsional resistance and bending stiffness with weld-in subframe connectors but went no further. The suspension system and brakes are stock. Although the images give the impression of a lowered chassis, this is an optical illusion fostered by the '88 Camaro front and rear clips and ground effects that are wider than the '83 cladding. For the wheel and tire combination, Joe could not help but revert to Pennsylvania Gasser roots. Weld Pro Star rims, 15x6 and 15x8, carry M/T 26x7.50 Sportsman and 26x10.5 ET Street, respectively. Horace Reinford, Jr. engineered the envelope, doing the smoothing and straightening, fitting and aligning the Glasstek cowl hood and applying the four-deep DuPont ChromaPremier Black.
The upshot of this modern-day take (on back in the day) has been a pleasant occupation for Joe and Horace. And with the humility characteristic of the region, Joe said, "The greatest moment was when I won a Top Ten award at the Super Chevy meeting at Maple Grove. Well, that and when I ran in the 11's!" And somewhere, he could almost hear The Moose's bellow echoing off the hillsides.
It's built the way the owners wanted it; not the popular dictates.