Tuesday, 26 February 2013 13:28

Jim's Blog - Hunting for Time in a Drag Car

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Everybody has a goal when it comes to their collector cars. I’ve decided that the goal for my ’66 Caprice street/strip car is getting it into the 11s in the quarter mile. 

I've talked about this before. When is the hunt for more speed going one step too far? But I’ve decided that I should be able to speed the car up without taking away any of its drivability. And I should be able to do it without spending a lot of money.

As it sits right now, the car is pretty close to the goal. Its current configuration consists of a 10.5:1 468-ci roller motor with aluminum heads and a steel crank, a TH400 transmission with a 2,500-rpm stall converter, and a 12-bolt rear with an Eaton posi and 3.73 gears. On 275-series BFG drag radials, it has run a best of 12.30 at 110 mph. Close, but not close enough.

Back in 2001, when I was racing every weekend, a  12-second car was considered pretty fast at my track. Especially a big car like mine. 4,000 lbs is a lot of weight to pick up and throw down the quarter mile. I used to love racing the then-new Z06 Corvettes that would show up, as they presented a pretty even match at the time, and when I’d win, it would always raise eyebrows in the crowd. “That Corvette got beat by what?

In the years since, I've stopped racing as often, I haven't changed the car at all. It’s dead reliable – so much so that I can park it in my garage for six months, fuel it up, run to the track, and make a 12.30 pass at 110 mph. It’ll do it every time. 

But the world has changed. ETs are lower than ever now thanks to better aftermarket technology – 10- and 11-second cars are really common – and most stock performance cars can run circles around my mid-12 second time slips. Even my daily driver SRT8 Charger can keep up, which takes a lot of fun out of driving the car I built to go fast. And that right there was the key in my decision - I built this car to go fast, so it's time to get it back on track.

So for the last six months, I’ve been hunting time in my car. I’ve been looking for any small changes I can make that’ll eliminate a few tenths or hundredths of a second on the track. And for the last two months, I’ve had the car up on blocks in my garage with the rear suspension torn apart. I’m boxing the rear control arms with steel plate to eliminate flex and have installed polyurethane bushings from Energy Suspension in place of the original rubber bushings. The goal? Better weight transfer and lower 60-foot times. It sounds simple enough, but it’s been made more complex by only having time to work on it after 8 pm (when my one-year-old daughter goes to bed), and in a two-car garage with no hoist, poor lighting, and no air tools (too loud!).

Next on the list is a wideband O2 sensor to make sure the carb’s jetting is right. I may also change the exhaust, install a higher-volume fuel pump and a fuel pressure regulator, and I’ll probably eliminate the front sway bar when I go to the track.

Will it run 11s when I take it to the strip this summer? My hope is that outsmarting the problem and applying time and effort in the right places will pay off. We’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

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Jim Pickering

Jim Pickering is the Editor of American Car Collector magazine and has been the Managing Editor of Sports Car Market magazine since 2006. As proficient with Snap-On tools as he is with a keyboard, Jim began his career as a professional mechanic while still in college at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing. He can often be found at Portland International Raceway at the Late-Night Drags, behind the wheel of his 12-second big-block powered 1966 Chevrolet Caprice. He is also currently restoring a 1972 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne Super longbed in his spare time.