Letter of the Month
I found your editorial concerning safety in drag racing (Shop Talk, May '08) really thought-provoking. My dad and I have both worked as "Tech" at our local eighth-mile dragstrip (Outer Banks Speedway) and we have both seen a lot of "ghetto fab" butchery come through the gates. We've not only turned away (and thoroughly upset) some racers because of their lack of safety equipment, but we have also been a part of saving lives, if you will. We've seen more crashes on the big end due to drivers not pulling the chute(s) more times than I can count. NHRA mandates parachutes on cars running faster than 125 mph in the eighth-mile and 150 mph in the quarter-mile; it should be common sense for these drivers to want to be safe, even if they aren't racing at a sanctioned dragstrip.
Referring to your editorial, is it possible that some of these Quick 8/Outlaw class drivers do not know how to repack the chutes after they are deployed? Some drivers, even those in slower-e.t. cars, also seem to think that once they pass the finish line and are on the brakes, it is OK to go ahead and start taking their helmet off. In my opinion and experience, top-end braking should be a major concern for any driver in any car. We've seen guys running in the 5s (eighth-mile) wearing shorts and flip-flops, but at least they have the fire jacket on, right? Not so.
Drag racing is the coolest motorsport in the world to me, and with the cars getting so much faster, it's hard to understand why some drivers want to spend every penny on that new speed part rather than upgrading their 5-year-old helmet or harnesses. I'd hate to sound like a prude or anything, but it scares me to see people and all of their hard work come to an abrupt end. I would like to see a CHP issue with more than just the basic long wheel studs/driveshaft loop safety tech. I understand that accidents are going to happen, but let's be more prepared for the accident, rather than getting down the track a thousandth of a second faster without the appropriate safety equipment and knowledge of how to use it. Thanks for your time and thoughts of racer safety.
A while back, you were asking readers about "crossbreeding" Chevy engines into other vehicles (Shop Talk, Mar. '08). I'd like to tell you about my project.
My name is Jason Snyder and I live near Shelby, Ohio. I pull with the Central Ohio Tractor Pullers Association in their Small Block Hot Rod class. Engines are limited to 410 cid and must use cast-iron heads and a single 750-cfm carb with an 8,000 rpm limit. I have one in a 3010 John Deere. I'll send some pics when I get some uploaded, but until then you can see some action at coatpa.com.
You guys really should send your FNG to Ohio around mid-July for a week and I'll show him how we use these engines here. All over the state, probably three nights a week, you could go pulling, anything from our single-engine tractors to triple-engine modifieds (572ci alcohol-injected blown Chevys, Hemis, Allison aircraft V-12s, and turbines).
That's a little short notice for us, but we'll check out the schedule and if we can fit it, we would love to check it out for ourselves!
I just started reading your magazine as an information source for an S-10 I'm building. I'll send pics when she's done. I saw the e-mail titled "Speed Zone" in your June '08 issue. I'm a retired police officer and get a kick out of people's stories about attempting to outrun the cops.
I've been a hot-rodder most of my life, so I was a natural choice to be assigned to pursuit detail. In the late '70s I was assigned a 440 Plymouth pursuit car. It was a dream come true: getting paid to drive fast on public streets! I'd been chased a few times so I took pride in never letting one get away.
One night about 2 a.m. I'm sitting in a parking lot adjacent to the expressway when an SS396 Chevelle pulls up to the light, sees me, gives me the finger, and burns out heading for the highway. The chase is on and after a few minutes my speedo is past 130 mph and I'm not gaining on him! I really want to catch this guy to preserve my record so I didn't put it over as a pursuit because it would get called off. Traffic is light at this time of night and we're passing it like it's backing up.
After about 50 miles my gas gauge is bouncing off empty and I'm approaching the last gas before Niagara Falls, which is another 50 miles. So I get off to get gas. I had to pay for it out of my own pocket rather than explain how I burned it without a radio call.
The only bright spot was later that month when we got our mileage results in, my Plymouth got the best mileage of the fleet (due to my unrecorded fill up)! I expect the Chevelle driver tells his version of this story and it's probably one of the few truthful ones.
Langton, Ontario, Canada
These are my favorite types of stories. Of course, I'm not advocating this type of behavior at all, but given the fact it happened in the past and no one go injured-it made for a great read. Thanks!
What Is It?
Referring to the June '08 issue, I wanted to comment on the full-page spread on Don Richardson's Sedan Delivery. Since I had a '39 Chevy, I'd say you goofed on your years; this one looks like it's closer to a '37 to me!B. Volk
I'm amazed at the number of responses we received on Don's ride. Truth be told, we were wrong, but it's actually a '38.
Well, look at that, we actually got some love from you folks. Thanks to those few that sent in letters, but don't start slippin'. Keep on putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and let us know what you think. Drop us an e-mail at email@example.com.
John NelsonIt's springtime in Southern California, which means it's already as hot as summertime, brush fire season has started, and CHP production schedules are tighter than ever. (Did you notice the "On the Cover" blurb where we said that it took about 21/2 weeks to get our three engine builds done?) So that means it's time for a little free association in this column as opposed to a coherent, thought-out screed. Enjoy...I hope.
I was thinking about project cars the other day. They're cool. You find a foundation to start with, then start building upon it to create your own automotive vision. Except when you don't, meaning you spend all your time and energy working on other things. More often than not, especially if classic cars are your business in addition to your hobby, the other things you're working on are other people's projects. Or other stories; that's probably just me. Hope that a project will finally come together, however, springs eternal.
Speaking of other stories, it's really nice to be in a position to ignore all our frequent advice about picking reasonable compression ratios and street-friendly, torque-inducing camshafts and go out on a limb. I wish I could impart to you just how nasty this month's 355 creation sounds. Idle, schmidle-this thing wants to rev. I could have and should have shot some video for the Web site, but I was too busy thanking the Almighty that I'd actually made it to the dyno while alternately cackling, "Huh huh, that's cool." (FYI, I do this in the voices of both Beavis and Butthead.) Next time we run it, I'll get you some sound. Of the engine, not of me channeling my favorite cartoon characters.
At this point in history, it's almost impossible to ramble without mentioning the pain at the pump we're all suffering. There was some brief discussion about whether or not our edgy 355 is a pump-gas motor, especially since we chose to run it on high test. As usual, Westech's Steve Brul had the answer: "Sure it is. You can get 100-octane at the pump over in Norco-if you don't mind paying eight bucks a gallon." Hey, we only pay half that for regular gas! Things are looking up already!
Karl Kellog, a Southern California native, has been attending car shows since he was a wee boy. Now, all grown up, he's carried that passion to what he drives every day. At one such event he spotted a '93 Z28 for sale and the first thing he did was swap out the old filter for a K&N one. He also added headers and electric exhaust cutouts. This summer he plans aluminum ported and polished heads with a new intake manifold. He's also got a custom-cut LT1 cam in the works. Hopefully he can keep up with his dad's Nova.
At its most basic, it takes air, fuel, and fire to run an internal combustion engine, and since we're all looking for maximum performance from our powerplants, we'd say it's a good idea to know as much as possible about the creation of the air/fuel mixture and what it takes to ignite the mix. The latter part of the process-lightin' the fires-is the subject of How to Build High-Performance Ignition Systems by Todd Ryden.
Right off the bat, we have to admit that we paid attention to this book in no small part because Ryden works for MSD Ignition and is one of our go-to guys when we have an ignition question. And while this Car Tech offering falls under the S-A Design moniker, denoting it as a how-to book, it's also full of theory. Looking to cover all the bases, Ryden takes great pains to explain the workings of ignition systems in their various iterations before moving onto the do-it-yourself basics of creating an appropriate setup for any given vehicle.
Unless you already know ignition system operation by heart, the first chapter bears reading as an intro-or refresher course-on how the entire system works. Ryden then devotes chapters to the component parts, spending two on ignition controls. Wonder just what a 6-Series box is? Here you go. And do you need to step to a 7-Series unit? Guidance is provided. The author then gets back to basics by dissecting the secondary side, those oft-overlooked coils, wires, and plugs.
Two chapters on distributors follow that are equally thorough, covering everything from old-school breaker point distributors to dialing in centrifugal advance in a performance unit. RPM and timing controls are covered, as are programmable setups and distributorless systems. Then, ever-conscious of the basics, Ryden discusses charging and wiring before finishing up with a useful "Definitions and Diagrams" section.
Suffice it to say that How to Build High-Performance Ignition Systems is a must-read for anyone looking to understand and get the most out of their performance vehicle's ignition system. For more info or to pick up a copy, call 800.551.4754 or visit cartechbooks.com. -JN
Sean HaggaiSo, I've had this thought rolling around in my head for a while now. And considering I'm in the process of building this El Camino (still nameless), I think that we have a perfect opportunity to touch on something new for the magazine and for our musclecar niche in general. As of now, it's pretty much dominated by the early rear-drive import scene. It's almost like racing, but points and status are accumulated through the amount of smoke you produce and how much angle is created with the car while sliding through the cones at a breakneck pace. If you haven't already guessed it, I'm talking about drifting. Month after month, open track drift days are occurring across the country and it's gaining in popularity. Think of dancing on asphalt but with cars.
I've grown up on both sides of the automotive scene, with most of my friends driving imports. Plus, being as young as I am, I've had some experience with people who are involved with the drifting scene. I've attended events and even helped build a street-driven drift car with a friend. I don't know, maybe I just don't want to see the import scene getting ahead of our musclecar one. I would hate to see the import market dominate ours and take it over. I feel we need to find new ways to stay in the game. Our market should be able to adapt to trends and I feel it's key to our survival. Besides, who doesn't like smoky sideways action...especially in a big-body musclecar?
If anything, it would be a lot of fun to just have some sort of excuse to burnout and let the cars loose. And, with the recent purchase of editor H's '73 project Camaro, how cool would it be to see the Elco and Camaro out there shredding some tires and busting sideways for a change? It's all about having fun with our cars. We build these things to run and run hard. Cruises are cool, but we all want to see some hardcore action. Hopefully I've got the wheels turning and maybe gotten you to think about something new for our market. It seems like a lot of fun, and it might even turn some heads. I don't know about you, but I'd feel all right driving through the driver-side window for a change.
Let me know what you guys think. (Editor's note: You're on your own on this one, buddy.)
Power To The Wheels DVD
Feel like you missed all the fun from Dynomax's Power to the Wheels competition? If you couldn't make any of the events, Dynomax has put the whole '07 competition on DVD for your viewing pleasure. This DVD includes the biggest moments of the year with in-depth interviews of the top 10 qualifiers. For more on this event and to purchase this DVD, check out dynomax.com.
In April's Garage section we ran a question from the Web, asking if anyone has actually seen a four-cylinder '68-70 Nova. The answer, at least for this writer, was and still is no. But we've now officially seen a four-banger-powered '62 Chevy II. Barry and Cathy Dooley of Bellflower, California, rolled their immaculate Deuce out to the recent Super Chevy Show at the California Speedway-this after he rolled it out of a Kansas wheat field some four years ago and restored it to dealer showroom new. It's easy to forget the 153ci L4, given how nicely a small- or big-block fits in a Nova's engine bay. In fact, this engine was one of only two engine choices available in '62-63 Deuces, the 194ci L6 being the other. The advent of V-8 power in '64 models transformed the marque from econobox to musclecar, and signaled the gradual demise of the "Super Thrift" four in the era of cheap gas and burning rubber. Even so, the L4 was available through the '70 model year, and approximately 17,000 were installed in various Novas, according to novaresource.com. It's something you don't see every day, and we'll stay on the lookout for that even more unusual bird, a 153-powered second-gen Nova. After all, we can all use a little Super Thrift these days. -JN