They say nitrous is an engine builders' best friend, and after breaking two pistons on our LT1 Formula's budget 355 on its very first nitrous pass-I couldn't agree more. It is unfortunate that nitrous has such a negative stigma in the community as the result of these types of mishaps, but clearly the fault is not in the nitrous or the maker of the system. It is in the yahoos that purchase and use it. I include myself in the latter bunch, as we attempted to dial back the timing unsuccessfully-a few gallons of VP109 certainly didn't fix the problem. As much as we journalists and editors make it appear that we are above such petty mistakes, occasionally we do in fact screw up. In the process I learned two very important things: I hate OBD I PCMs and plan to get rid of this archaic technology as soon as possible, and even a load-bearing dyno is a poor simulation for the track or street.
Out of a bad situation, though, comes good. Knowing our end goal of 11-second times, which were less than two-tenths away on motor, another stock rebuild would have been sufficient. But I didn't want to take any chances this time, and a forged rotating assembly was in order. Being that a 383 required no more duckets than a 355, that seemed the natural choice for displacement while still at a reasonable price. The extra cubic-inches would also give us the chance of breaking into the 11s on motor with the right weather, using the same heads and cam. Additionally, the cubes would also make the current 226/230 duration roller from Comp even more docile, further enhancing its driveability, and give us the extra torque to make up for the highway-friendly 3.42 rear gears. So in the end, we hoped to have a faster, more reliable and streetable combination than the previous 355 that exceeds our initial goal of an 11-second daily driver. All thanks to the help of Golen Engine Service, one of the most reputable LT1 builders in the country.
While we were waiting for Golen to freshen our Dart heads, machine a new block, and assemble the 383 with the previous Comp Cams valvetrain, we decided it was time we tidied up the new motor's home. If you have been following our LT1 Formula build, then you know that way back in the May '08 issue it received a slick House of Kolor Emerald Green Pearl paintjob from Classic Restoration Enterprises. Unfortunately the stock LT1 was still in place at that time, so it didn't afford the real estate necessary to paint the engine bay. However, after pulling the 355 in the GMHTP shop (with the help of Pete "Jack Knife" Epple), the bay was vacant and ready for some fresh paint. The folks at North Deland Autobody did such a great job on our STi Killer project, they were the natural choice for an afternoon of toxic-fumed fun. With a fresh motor and freshly painted engine bay, the Formula was shaping up to be one fast and clean ride.