When General Motors followed the AMA recommendation to cease involvement in any form of racing in early 1963, they closed the door on this car, an RPO Z-33 Mk II "Mystery Motor" 427 1963 Biscayne. The AMA was an organization made up of all forms of motorized vehicle manufacturers, including trains and tractors. Why they were "anti-racing" has never satisfactorily been explained. GM's abiding sent the majority of its best competitors to the Mopar and Ford camps-most of them permanently
Fast forward to 2003. Enter Roger Sortino and Ed Pogue. Respectively from Nebraska and Oklahoma, these 409 racers were also big fans of the Mk II 427. (It should be noted that the only similarities between the Mk II big-block and the 409 are the resembling bore and stroke. It was more a progenitor of the 1965-later Rat engines.) So much so that Sortino quietly sought and bought any remaining parts and pieces for many years. Pogue was and still is a renowned restorer of 1958-1965 Chevrolets, as well as a noted drag racer with many 1962 409 trophies on his shelf. Many years ago, Pogue totally restored Sortino's 1962 white Bel Air sport coupe with the original 409/4-speed driveline-a car that Sortino raced way back when.
In more recent years, Pogue uncovered a 1963 Mark II Mystery Motor owned by someone from New York, but in storage in Pennsylvania. To make a long story short, in 1990 Pogue invited Lamar Walden, a long-time Chevy racer and engine builder, when he went to view the engine. Walden ultimately bought it for part of his rare engine collection, which he planned to show at all Super Chevy shows (with rumored sponsorship from AC Delco). When that sponsorship evaporated, Sortino bought the engine from Walden, thanks to Pogue.
At the 1988 Super Chevy event in Indianapolis, Pogue was participating in the car show with his magnificent 1959 fuel-injected Impala convertible. Hayden Proffitt, then a recent inductee to Super Chevy magazine's Hall of Fame and the 1962 Indy SS/S champion, was there as a guest of friend Delmer McAfee and his 1962 Hayden Proffitt red 409 Bel Air drag car replica. A long-time fan of Proffitt's, Pogue introduced himself and a friendship soon commenced.
In 2003, Pogue, forever the idea man, told Sortino that he should consider putting his Mystery Motor in a 1963 Chevrolet. Pogue then alluded to a rust-free California Biscayne owned by his car painter in Enid, Oklahoma. You can guess the rest of this story. After taking possession of the super straight Biscayne, Sortino turned it over to Wanda and Bruce McCaffree at Silverauto Restorations in the Seattle area near his home, and this "one of none" Z-33 Proffitt tribute car was born.
Sortino also uncovered what was said to be a "one-of-one" dual four-barrel aluminum intake manifold for a Mark II engine from a guy in Michigan. After reviewing cylinder head flow data, Sortino decided to increase the camshaft's profile in order to take advantage of port flow capability. The legendary Junior Johnson (also a member of Super Chevy's Hall of Fame) was said to have "guesstimated" that a stock four-barrel Mk II 427 was capable of 600 horsepower. Sortino's twin, a 750 cfm AFB version with a little more camshaft, dyno'd in at 660 horsepower.
Z-33 Driveline, Circa 2006Imagine you're in Sortino's shoes. You have a 660 horsepower engine destined for your 1963 Chevrolet. You want to keep things "original," but you know a 1963 Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission, and a beefy Z-11 rearend won't take the gaff of modern day slicks and 660 big-ones. The project would be sunk if original driveline components were used.
After a lot research, a nine-inch differential with 35-spline axles, spool and a 4.10:1 gear ratio, along with a Jerico four-speed transmission was selected. This transmission is a few pounds lighter than a factory four-speed, but utilizes billet steel internals. It can handle upwards of 800 horsepower, and a similar amount of torque.
The 2006 California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield (see Super Chevy, February 2007) is where the Z-33 had its coming-out party. No test and tune runs were made prior to this event (the new, twin adjustable upper rearend control arms and the rearend had to be dialed in here). The AFB carbs were also dumping too much gas into the venturi at high rpm (wrong metering rods and incorrect float level).
Most veteran spectators guessed the Z-33 would run in the 11.90s the first time out at 110 mph-115 mph tops. With Ken "The Kid" Walsh, owner/driver of the 9-second "Mr. 409" '63 Impala at the controls, we stood there and watched the car scoot. The left front wheel came eight inches off the ground on launch. Then the right lane's electronic board flashed 11.00 at 117 mph. The crowd roared with appreciation.
When we saw Walsh afterwards, he said, "I let off at 1000 feet because of a left rear wheel vibration. She's got 10.50 e.t. potential." A few days later, while talking to Sortino, he said his Z-33 Biscayne should run in the low 10s, possibly high-9s.
Stay tuned as the Sortino "Mystery Motor" Biscayne is slated for exhibition runs at most of the Super Chevy Shows in 2007. From what we hear both Proffitt and "The Kid" Walsh should be there.