Here in Northern California we have beautiful Infineon Raceway, which many of you have seen on TV while watching either the NASCAR road race or the NHRA Autolite Nationals. However, for us local drag racers who need our monthly fix of speed and competition, we get the short end of the stick; the Road Course gets most of the dates, and the Russell Racing School has its road-racing instruction here. That said, we'll take the track just about anytime they'll let us have it. The drawback is that it gets rather cold around here in January and February, which leads me to this month's title.
I race my Super Gas Don Davis roadster in the Summit ET series in Super Pro. When I bracket race the car, I run it wide open with no throttle stop and it runs 8.90s at 148 mph. With the track being somewhat traction-limited from of the cold, it helps me get down the tarmac without driving 1,400 feet in the quarter-mile! Well, last weekend we had our second points meet, and on my first time run the temperature was a brisk 43 degrees. By mid-afternoon we had a high of 58 degrees. Needless to say, if you get out of the groove at all, you're driving the car. By the time we got through six rounds and I was in the final, it had once again gotten colder, and what little sun we had went behind the main grandstand. Unfortunately, at about the 330-foot mark it started spinning the tires and I missed my dial by about 0.02 second, handing me the loss. Ex-Super Gas World Champion Dan DiVita is our chief starter for these races and gets to watch all of us try to get down the track. After the final he said to me that the back of my car was too stiff. Well, I've adjusted my shocks over the years based on the power output of my engines and the track conditions. However, I've never run the car that much at full power. When the car is on the throttle stop and competiting in Super Gas class, I run the compression on the shocks as loose as possible. If I run them any looser, it'll actually draw the suspension up into the car when I close the throttle on the stop and spin the tires slightly, making it inconsistent. Well, running the car at full power I never see this transition. I'm sure I can soften it up a few more clicks. Just slight changes like this can take you from the winner's circle and make you a first round duck. Watch the little details!
Q My father and I are restoring a '65 Nova. We have a Heidt's Mustang II frontend with disk brakes and drop spindles, and a Moser rearend with 3.73:1 gears, and we haven't decided whether to use a TH400 or a 700-R4 trans. My father is stuck in the old school and wants to build a 396. I told him we should build, at minimum, a 427 or a 496. I cannot find any good combinations on 396s and he would like to get over 500 streetable horsepower.
A Jon, sometimes you should really listen to your father. There are years there you have yet to cover. Maybe he wants a 396 for other reasons than just old school-maybe he wants to limit the power of your first project.
Getting to your question, yes, it would be much easier to reach your 500hp bogy with the larger-displacement engine. Also, good 396 cores are becoming harder to find, and it will cost you the same money to build the 396 as it would be to build, let's say, a 454. For that reason alone, you should build the 454. You will be working the 396 much harder to build 500 hp. On a 496, you are just asking for 1 hp per cubic inch. With the 396, you will need 1.26 hp per cube. That is quite easy to reach with a small-block; however, with the weight of a big-block's rotating assembly and the port size of the cylinder heads, it can be rather tricky reaching that power with good street manners. You'll need a camshaft that comes in around 240 degrees duration at 0.050 tappet lift, rectangle-port heads (preferably aluminum), and a single-plane intake that will let the engine make good power in the 6,500-6,800 rpm range. The torque will suffer with the package, but you should make your horsepower.