When one sets out to construct a drag car, the first big decision is what to build. Now, we've all dreamed about a Chevelle, Camaro, or Nova. Well, not Valarie Houmard of San Dimas, California. She took her dream in a different direction and has no regrets. Her race car has a bed, but not the kind you sleep in.
Valarie and her husband, Kevin, own Sander's Automotive, a general repair shop in San Dimas. They acquired this 1984 El Camino Conquista in 1993. It was bone stock, totally original and unmolested with a 305 under the hood. When it was purchased, there were no plans for this vehicle except to use it as a parts runner for the business-until Valarie's interests shifted.
Good friend and transmission builder Leo Glasbrenner (a well-known NHRA Stock racer) invited Valarie and Kevin to Los Angeles County Raceway to see a race. Valarie was hooked. She started to race her 14-second 1994 Caprice. After several events, Kevin realized she was serious about the sport, so they set out to find a new, more dedicated ride. After looking, they came up with nothing they really liked until ... hey wait ... what about the El Camino? A little work was performed and a mild 12.50-second ride was born. Soon, that wouldn't be enough.
At the end of the 2004 Summit Racing series season, the car was totally stripped and sent to Dave Beckley Race Cars in Ontario, California. It was there where many late nights were spent by Kevin and Dave installing the rollcage and four-link rear setup. Dave also did a great job on the tin work in the bed in order to house the 31x13-inch Mickey Thompsons wrapped around 15x12-inch Weld wheels.
Four weeks later, the El Camino arrived at R&R Auto Body in Irwindale, California, to get the door locks, fuel door and molding holes filled. The PPG brown-and-tan paint was applied next. While being sprayed, all of the chrome trim and bumpers were being re-done at Sihilling Metal Polishing of Santa Ana, California. Leopard striping was later applied by Larry Fader of San Dimas. A number of miscellaneous parts were obtained through the El Camino Store in Goleta, California.
The powerplant is a 355ci engine built by Johnson's Machine Shop in Monrovia, California. It consists of a four-bolt main 350 block stuffed with JE pistons connected to a Lunati crankshaft via Manley H-beam rods. The bumpstick is of the Comp Cams custom variety. It actuates the valves of the AFR 227 CNC-ported aluminum heads via Comp Cams solid roller lifters.
Topping off this monster is a PC Performance Carburetors-modified Holley 750 with a GM Bow Tie intake, which has been port-matched to the heads. Fuel is fed through a Barry Grant BG400 fuel pump. When and if needed, there is an Edelbrock plate-type nitrous system installed for a little extra juice. The Hooker headers were treated to Jet Hot coating-no mufflers here!
The engine is backed by a Glasbrenner-modified Powerglide and an A-1 torque converter. Gearshifts are made through a B&M Pro Stick shifter. The rear is a narrowed Strange 9-inch stuffed with 35 spline axles, 5.33 gears, and a spool. The rear is nestled into a Chris Alston four-link setup dampened by Koni double adjustable coilover shocks. The rearend sits approximately 8 inches lower than the stock height.
The front suspension contains stock control arms with Belltech drop spindles and Koni adjustable shocks. The Moroso trick springs help transfer weight as the Weld 15 x 3.5 wheels wrapped with Mickey Thompson 26-inch tires reach for the sky. The front end sits nearly 6 inches lower than stock. Stopping duties are handled by Aerospace four-wheel disc brakes.
The interior was customized by Ron "The Stitcher" and Ryan Mangus of Fontana, California. The race seats are Jaz aluminum covered in tweed. Door panels are one-off custom tan, brown, and leopard. Carpet is brown wool and the center console is custom (by her husband, Kevin). All gauges are Auto Meter.
Valarie has become one hell of a driver, according to her husband. She has recorded times in the 10.50-range on motor. She also won her first Wally this past summer and is very optimistic for the 2007 season. So, if you pull up to the tree and see this El Camino next to you, you better have your game on. Because, as Valarie puts it: "It's not just a boy's game."