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1971 Chevy Impala - Fat Rat

Phil Silardi Uses A Wide-Body Approach To 9-Second E.T.S

By Barry Kluczyk

Silardi and Cunningham also bent a funny car-style cage. The interior was re-done with an emphasis on competition. Aluminum covers the floors and comprises the dash, which is chock-full of Auto Meter gauges. The big Monster tach is mounted to the A-pillar rollcage tube. But it's not all business inside; tasteful black vinyl and carpeting was placed throughout.

"We have always wanted a clean-looking car," Silardi says. "It's the only '71 Impala you'll see in the staging lanes, so we want it to look good."

Indeed, it does. Still wearing a black vinyl roof, the remainder of the car was sprayed by Pat Ballard with a '94 GMC silver basecoat/ clearcoat from PPG. To trim the heavy Chevy's curb weight, Bob Miotke made fiberglass versions of the trunk lid and front bumper along with the custom cowl hood. With Silardi behind the wheel, the car tips the scales at better than 3,400 pounds.

Obviously, a lot of grunt is necessary to launch this brick. During our photo session, the motivation of the moment was a 1970-vintage big-block that displaced 477ci. Silardi and Rich Moon assembled the engine, which includes a 4-inch stroker, cross-drilled and nitrided steel crank. Forged TRW pistons give the engine a 14.6:1 compression ratio.

Between the crank and pistons, a Crane solid roller cam bumps against custom pushrods and Crane roller rockers. The rockers actuate a set of 2.3-inch Manley valves within a pair of Dart 320 aluminum heads. Ross Smith handled the porting chores on the square-port castings, which are topped by a Dart single-plane intake manifold, which has been ported, too.

A single Holley Dominator mixes air and fuel for the engine, while an MSD 7 AL-3 and billet distributor send out the sparks. All the Impala has for an exhaust system is a set of Gary Cook-built custom headers whose tubes meet in Flowmaster 4.5-inch collectors.

Silardi directs the power of the big-block with a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter that sits atop a prepped Turbo 400. It features an ATI 5,500-stall converter that helps channel power back to the sturdy 4.86-geared 9-inch rear axle.

We mentioned this was the car's combination during our photo shoot, because Silardi and crew will have likely installed a 540-cube, tunnel-rammed Rat in the Impala's ample engine compartment by the time you read this.

"That should get us in the eights," Silardi says. "Still without nitrous."

We'll be back at Martin to see if Silardi and his "Fat Rat" racing crew can do it. Regardless, the performance of this Impala proves that sometimes size really doesn't matter.

By Barry Kluczyk
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