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Drag Week's Sleeper '53 Chevy: Capone

PJ Nadeau Aug 22, 2017
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While being stricken with the car virus, weird things can happen to the racers of Gear Vendors HOT ROD Drag Week, powered by Dodge.You start looking in odd places, Craigslist becomes a frequently visited site, and social media feeds turn from friends and family to cars and companies. The hunt for the next project, the next good deal, and any horsepower secret you can find never stops.

Scott Brown was infected as a teenager but has never found the cure, nor even looked for it. As a master ASE technician and hot rodder, he has built several cars in the past, including a '32 Ford Roadster. Fiveyears ago Scott found his current project, a 1953 Chevrolet BelAir, in a storage unit in Texas. The car was in pieces and had been sitting for 15 years.

Once he got the car home he started to plan the build. Scott wanted the 1953 Bel Air to be different than most, but not wanting a traditional small block, he spent some time researching possible engine combinations and eventually landed on the tried-and-true 5.3 LM7 engine with a 4L60E from a 2002 Chevrolet truck. Prepping the engine with the usual boost tweaks (LS9 gaskets, Z06 cam, and head studs) he added an eBay 72mm turbo to the mix. On the car's first outing it ran a quickest of 12.20.

Wanting to go faster Scott knew that safety was paramount, so he started to upgrade the chassis of the car. The front suspension received a kit from Scott's Hot Rods in California that has tubular control arms, Ride Techadjustable coilovers, and a front-steer manual rack-and-pinion. Out back there is a Ford 9-inch rearend built by Quick Performance that's been fitted with 3.50 gears and a Detroit locker. Wilwood brakes bring the Bel Air to a halt and an eight-pointroll bar keeps Scott safe inside the car. With NHRA safety requirements handled Scott pushed the 5.3 and managed a best of 10.98 at 125mph after a lot of testing.

When Drag Week 2014 finally arrived, Scott was ready for his first hell week -- but that was put to the test while trying to take the No. #1 qualifier spot in Street Machine Eliminator on the 4th day (he was going for the number). The car laid over at the hit, just before shifting into second gear; Scott shut the car down and coasted through the beams.

In the pits, he found that cylinder sevenwas melted, and not wanting to ride a tow truck home, he went to the tower and had Brian Lohnes make a PA call looking for a 5.3 piston and rod. He was able to find the piston and started the tear down around 1:30pm, and had the car fired-up and onto the next track by 6pm. He finished in tenth place for SME that year.

After 2014, Scott tore the engine down only to find it was toast. He then sourced a 6.0L LQ4 and upgraded to a Precision Turbo 76/75 with Holley EFI. He was ready for 2015 and when he arrived his car ran a flawless 10.70 best for the week. Scott had to not only drive the 1,000-plus miles during Drag Week, he also drove the car 900 miles to get home to Austin, Texas.

For 2016, Capone now had a beefier 4l80E with a transbrake. In testing beforethe event, the car had been running high-nine passes. The car worked flawlessly through the hell week and that year he only needed to add a quart of oil. Scott was one of the dedicated Drag Weekers who managed to help get Jeff Oppenheim's El Camino running again-- easily one of the greatest moments in Drag Weeker history and a real testament to the dedication of the people who do the event and the bonds that it builds.

Scott did all of this with some help from his friends, Greg Hurlbutt, Austin Stiver, Jeff Oppenheim, Scott Klepinger at theMuscle Car Factory, Jon Henson atDB Rods, the guys at Anything Automotive (Jason Doisher, John Dodson, Franklin Garvin) and James Karger of LStuner.com.

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