Tipping the scales at about 4,200 pounds, Dale Basemann's '96 Impala SS isn't exactly svelte. Some of that weight, such as the roll cage that spans the interior, is necessary because those "10 SEC SS" Ohio license plates are truthful. We witnessed the car yank the front wheels and pull itself down the track in 10.12 seconds at 134 mph.
How, you ask? Two words: lotsa' boost.
The basic combination is a 383-cid small-block and a single, intercooled turbocharger, but it was a combination that wasn't all that reliable until Basemann was introduced to Dan White at White Racing. Although the elements were in place, the engine "didn't run quite right," according to White.
Even in its less-than-optimal state of tune, the car was running 10.50s at 130 mph. But Basemann was looking for more, and White knew he could find it: "The two most limiting factors were the computer and the ignition system," explained White. "They just couldn't handle the car's performance parameters."
White, who has gained a reputation for computer wizardry and developed his own "plug and play" wiring harness interface system, ditched the Impala's stock computer and replaced it with a stand-alone FAST speed-density system and all-new wiring. As for the car's stock OptiSpark ignition, Basemann says at least two rotors "disintegrated" on runs down the strip.
Besides the need for a more reliable, stronger ignition, White wanted something that was easier to package, too. After considering a custom coil-over-plug setup, he settled on Cadillac's Northstar engine distributorless system.
Ignition and computer issues weren't the car's only woes, so while at White Racing, the 383 was freshened. The engine is still the Impala's original small-block, while the cylinder heads on those 10.50 runs were just ported stockers. At White Racing, the heads were replaced with Air Flow Research aluminum LT4 racing heads that boast huge 220cc intake runners, 2.08/1.60 valves, and 76cc combustion chambers. Fuel delivery is courtesy of a high-capacity Weldon pump, which feeds a set of 83-lb-hr injectors.
The bottom end of the 383 includes a forged Callies steel crank and splayed main caps. JE aluminum pistons deliver a turbo-friendly 9.0:1 compression ratio. The turbo system comes from Limit Engineering and includes a 76-series compressor and an intercooler.
To provide adequate airflow, Smith Brothers Racing fabricated some large underhood tubing. The exhaust primary pipes measure 1.75 inches in diameter, which collect into cavernous 3-inch tubes that feed the turbocharger. The turbo is mounted in front of the engine, and the stainless tubing flows forward to meet it.
Interestingly, all that airflow pushes into the Impala's unmodified 48mm throttle body. On the dyno, the turbocharged engine combo blew at 16 psi and made 831 hp (at the flywheel). There's just a single, bullet-style muffler for the exhaust system, and the car is remarkably quiet for packing more than 800 horses.
There have been some teething pains as the new AFR heads aren't a good match for the camshaft. This has kept the turbo's compressor speed lower than anticipated. There were some initial oxygen sensor troubles, too.
Although White Racing didn't design the headers, they corrected the problem, and the engine is running strongly. That strength is channeled through a Coan Engineering-built Turbo 400 and Coan's own 8-inch converter. The Turbo 400 features a reversed shift pattern, trans brake, and a ratchet-style shifter. It sends torque via a 3.5-inch Coleman driveshaft out to a Ford 8.8 rearend filled with tallish 3.27 gears.
There's not much space on city streets to really wind-out this Impala's potential, but it's still a streetable car. It was driven to and from our photo location without any problems. It's relatively quiet, and save for the roll cage and rear slicks, there's no strong indicator that this B-Body is capable of 10-second sorties. In fact, the interior still has the stock dash, stereo, and instruments. Well, okay, front seats were replaced with Jegster high-backs, and the six-point roll cage tubes make the rear seat all but unusable.
The same goes for the dash, which has only been upgraded with a complement of Auto Meter instruments. Basemann even left the center console in place. In the trunk, however, the battery has found a new home, as has a custom fuel cell. A firewall between the trunk and rear seat was constructed for safety, and the heater/air conditioning innards and excess wiring from the dash were removed to save weight.
To help the Impala hook on its 10.5-inch ET slicks, the suspension has been equipped with Metco control arms, a Panhard bar, and Moroso drag shocks, but White says coilovers, an antiroll bar, and adjustable shocks would allow better launches. White tells us the new gears are on their way, and a cam more properly matched to the high-flow AFR heads will soon be ground, too. Once those details are worked out, it'll be time for Dale Basemann to get new, "9 SEC SS" license plates.