“Doing stuff the wrong way for the right reasons”: A related stupid story.

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CarMichael Angelo

my rearend will smell so minty fresh,
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
Birmingham, al
Back in 1996 I was deep into the grudge racing scene at my local track....Not the high dollar stuff you see on TV, it was more like ( in my best redneck voice) A. “ You wanna run that thing?“B. “Against what?” A. ( pointing towards the maroon and pink 1980 notch) “ That Mustang over there“. B. “How much?“ A. “How’s 50 bucks sound?” * Most of the time it got whittled down from there,...usually ended up between 25-50. :banana:

That year, I had just completed my first 460/C4 build. The engine was basically stock, w/ .030 over TRW forged 9.5:1 pistons, and had a set of hand ported cast iron CJ heads, a dual plane Weiand Stealth intake, a CC solid lifter cam ( something like 615/630 w/ 250/260 dur @.050). The engine was carbureted, using a Holley 800 dp. I rounded the whole thing up with the “cherry on top” being two cobbled together, Super power shot nitrous plates that were stacked on top of each other. The end goal being 350 HP on top of whatever the 460 was capable of.
The C4 had a bellhousing that was removable, and found the super rare bellhousing the allowed me to bolt that C4 to my 460. The converter was some “ El Cheapo” 10” advertised at 3500 stall. The internals were modified ( by me) to tolerate the abuse the engine was gonna put it through, and it had a Mad Mike modified B&M valve body. The car had a a shortened 9” rear, w/ 4.56 gears, running home made 30” long ladder bars. It was painted at MAACO, and for the first time in a long time, had something other than a set of Centerline A/D wheels. I spent all of my remaining money on a set of Weld Rodlites ( new for that year)
I thought these things were the sht. They were forged and light as they could be.

I bought 15/4’s for the front, and 15/10’s for the rear. I put some VW 560-15 skinny tire up front,....and a set of M/T 10.5/28.5 drag slicks on back, that I had mounted “tubeless”. And,....despite some of my friends advice to the contrary, did NOT drill and screw those slicks to that pretty new rim.

The car had the standard notch two tone, with the lower portion painted some Cadillac silvery pearl color that came off slightly pink, with a maroon deck....The interior had a pair of seats from something other than the car they came in, and the requisite 6 point roll bar...

There now.....Can you count all of the wrong things I’ve already done for the ( at that time) right reasons?
Just wait,....there’s more to come.

At that time nobody knew dick ( in my circle of friends) about nitrous. You put a plate system on the car, hooked up a bottle, put a button in the car, and when you pushed it you went faster. :burnout:If you wanted to go faster than that, you added a bigger, or an additional nitrous system. :burnout::burnout:
Again, it was the dark ages. There was some mention about retarding the timing a couple of degrees for every 50 hp,..but back in my dumb days, that didn’t make no sense. I hadn’t ever experienced Detonation at that time.
I may have scrubbed off some timing back then, I don’t know how much...I know now that I should’ve probably backed it down about 10 degrees. The car was running a locked distributor with 36 degrees total timing. Since it was locked, the engine had 36 degrees timing at 7000. It also had 36 degrees at idle. I knew just enough to be dangerous, I also didn’t know anything about the effects and benefits of octane. I did know that if you could get away with it, pump premium burned hotter ( and therefore made more power)...I just didn’t pay any attention to the “ if you could getaway with it“ part.

All during the months of the build phase of that car, I had been loud mouthin’ about how bad I was gonna beat my friend's 454 powered Nova. And as a matter of course was gonna “ cut my teeth” by going up against his car right out of the box. When the time came for that race, there had been enough talk amongst the rest of the guys, when I rolled through the gates that night with the car, I had managed to draw a crowd. Since I’d never even ran any test runs, I figured I’d get there first to make sure everything was running right.

The first pass was on the engine only...the car went 7.15 In the 1/8th. ( or 11.15 if you’re fluent in 1/4 mile speak) The next pass was gonna be on one stage of my two plate system...
6.56. ( That, my friends is a low 10 in the 1/4)
Now, it was time to pull out all of the stops,...go to full kill, and grab that second kit at the 1/2 gear change. On the third pass, I leave, get through 1st gear, and push that second button. And just as soon as I do, something blows out of the engine, and I foul the track with antifreeze. Antifreeze gets under the rear tires, and I almost loose control of the car.
But I save it...I drive the thing back to the pit area, the engine is really hot.

I jack the thing up, and find that it has somehow blown a freeze plug out of one of the sides. It’s accessible, and I can replace it. Since it’s too hot to work on, I have a friend drive me back into town, and I buy a rubber expando freeze plug, and rush back to the track. When I get back to the car, there is a crowd gathered around it again. I quickly put that plug back in the engine, fill the engine with water this time, and get it running again.

Just in time for My adversary with the Nova to roll through the gate.

When it’s time for the race, I line up on the right lane ( the same lane I had fouled an hour earlier) My friend is having one of his better driving friends drive his car for him...all of my loud mouthin’ had intimidated him to the point of him being too nervous to drive the thing, and he was worried about making a mistake..Darnell Ford was driving a Chevrolet in the left lane.
We left on a pro tree, and I left him there like he was sleeping. ( This was gonna be the mother of all ass beatings)
But,...........As luck would have it,.........and despite the fact that I had been warned by the drag racing gods that something was bad wrong in my combo,.......I grabbed that second kit.

BLOOOOM! Water blasts out from under the engine. Gets immediately under the rear tires, and the car gets sideways. Once sideways, the tire loses its bead, and goes immediately flat and forced the car into a hard left turn. Since I was out in front of him, Darnell is able to veer right as I crossed in front of him on a direct path for the wall*.

* Lassiter Mountain raceway doesn’t have guard rails. This ancient track has been in Birmingham since the dawn of drag racing, with the two lanes graded into the bottom of a small canyon. Spectators watch the cars from above to about the 330’ mark where the canyon depth l
rises out to maybe a small berm, eventually ending at ground level by the time you get to the time card shack

I fight to get the car turned so that I won’t T-bone that wall, at who knows how fast I was going, and manage to get it brought around enough to where I hit the wall at about a 45 degree angle. Video of the wreck afterwards, shows that the car still hit hard enough to completely leave the ground...It was a really hard hit. I land/stop at a complete right angle to the starting line. I’m looking out my window at the group of my friends now running towards me to see if I’m hurt. I get my helmet off and remain there, as I can’t get the drivers door opened. When the first guy gets there and asks if I’m alright, I tell him that I am. ” Is the car all fcked up.” I ask,....He half laughs, and says “ Ohh yeah,...the car’s done”:potroast:


Every body afterwards blamed the expandable freeze plug for the second loss of coolant. The aftermath revealed that a second pressed in freeze plug had blown, the expand-o plug was still in place. The car was trashed, the wheels were bent and both rear slicks had lost their bead and had been cut by the rims.

Trying to learn from this, I manage to stumble upon Alan Moody. ( of Holman & Moody fame). I learn, that I had too much timing, too much nitrous, and not enough octane to do what I was trying to do.
I had managed to lift the head, (held on by 9/16” head bolts torqued to 140 ft lbs). Pressurized the water jacket with compression gasses, and as a result, blew the freeze plugs out of the engine.

I was actually looking for a replacement body, and Alan moody had a 300.00 Fairmont Futura body that I wanted. It was by pure coincidence that he was who he was, Was in Atlanta, had a son who was big into fox body racing, and that the Fairmont was a potential future project car that just wasn’t in the cards at the time for either of them. It also was a nice side effect that they were owners of Nitrous Works, and could speak with authority about the perils of that power adder. ( or any power adder for that matter).

:ohoh:I learn at the power level I was attempting, a second fuel system with a high octane enrichment fuel was required. I could run premium gas, but once the nitrous was activated, 100 octane minimum race gas needed to be flowing through those plates. I needed to buy one of the commonly available timing retard boxes to allow me to keep the engine at 36 degrees for burnouts and staging, but would immediately retard as soon as it saw 12v from the nitrous activation. He advises a “short fill“ block filler, to add structural integrity to the bottom end, and that I strap the freeze plugs in with 1/8” straps, held on with bolts tapped into the block ( or welded on). He wants me to use a different intake manifold that wouldn’t have the distribution issues that a dual plane intake manifold has.

He wants me to learn how to read a spark plug.

I do all of that...The spark plug reading part would have to wait till I get the car back in service.

6 weeks later, I have a new car ready for the track. It’s not painted, ( and it needs it).When I was at Lassiter the last time, I had a pretty decent looking drag car. Now I‘m rocking a faded silver, hagged out, cobbled together chassis, with aluminum space saver mini spare front runners, and running a set of incorrectly back spaced Weld drag lites turned shiny side in to correct that on the back. I’m running a used set of Goodyear 10.0/28.0 drag slicks.
But,..there tubes in those slicks, and the rims are drilled and screwed. There’s the same 460, sporting a short fill, with a second fuel system, and a MSD three stage timing retard box, and a Weiand x-cellerater single plane intake manifold.

The car runs the same as the Mustang did on the motor, between a 7.10-7.15. The first stage of nitrous runs the same 6.50’s, and ( Even though I was butt clenched the first time I did it)........The second stage brought the car down to 6.30. ( I’m in the high 9’s now)

It ran that way for the remainder of the season, and I raced that thing every single Saturday night against anybody that would run me. I probably put 40-50 passes on the engine and ran countless bottles of nitrous through the engine. That engine failed when it was suggested that I leave on both kits.....All 350hp on the green light.

Sounded like a good idea at the time.:cautious:

It was good for one pass though. The car ran 6.19, but came back running weird. I planned to back that up, but after Letting it cool and checking the oil and water revealed I had water in the oil, and oil in my water... I was through for that night .I thought I had blown a head gasket. ( Fortunately this time, the antifreeze had stayed in the engine.)

I quickly learned that I had split a cylinder. Even though I could have probably sleeved that to save it, all 8 pistons were galled from the skirt clearance that had tightened too much as a result of the short fill ( Another lesson learned). The engine was the cheapest I’d ever built, ( 800.00 in the short block, including machine work) went the fastest ( up to that time) I’d ever gone. That car eventually got a 500 c.i engine that went 5.95 and got sold off. I followed that car up with two Japanese body/ Ford engined mixed breed ( Both Conquest/Starion bodies), and one 86 Mustang Drag radial car before finally throwing in the towel on drag racing for good.:coff:
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Damn son....I thought your story was some misbegotten fun at my expense! Sounds like at about the same time, my brother and I were doing similar things, albeit without nitrous. I had daily driven my 83 Regal for about 18 months with a 455 and TH400 in it when it got stolen July 3 night. When it was finally recovered, they had stolen the wheels, the flat bed had drug off the drain fitting we had welded on the 9 inch housing we had fabbed up and the numbnuts who stole it, destroyed the dash for a back then $60 K-Mart stereo. They also **** up the lock on the truck trying to pry it open then just pried the rear seat backs out to get the $20 K-Mart 6x9's. They didn't get the $150 3.5" speakers I put in the dash! HAHA. And they stole my blue anodized Moroso air cleaner.

We decided to make it a drag race car. We gutted it and it was a dog. Decided that winter to back half it, tub it, put in a 10 point roll cage tied to the front frame rails. Started the next year with a tricked out 850 Qjet. It ran 7.50's. We also had a Holley marine 830 and it wouldn't match the Q'Jet. We got a TA Performance single plane and finally a 1050 Dominator would run better than that Qjet. We did all the fab work on the car with a 220v Lincoln stick welder. The only thing that ever broke was the ladder bar crossmember. We narrowed it and for some reason (way too many Bud Ice Lights at the time) I can't remember we sectioned it on both sides. I made a pass at the local 1/8'th mile and noticed when I hit the brakes it had rear steering. Get back to the trailer and you can push the car 6 inches from side to side in the back. So we just made sleeves and welded in over where it was sectioned and a friend has that car today and as far as I know it's never broken again and it's run 1000's of low 10 to low 11 second passes. The most amazing thing is how drunk we would get working on that car and it was string straight. If you staged straight, you could take your hands off the wheel and just shift.

We learned a lot of stuff the hard way. Like running slicks tubeless, they go flat after a week or two. A guy we raced against said, break the bead and squirt Dawn in there and rub it all around the inside of the tire. They would hold air for months after that!

The truly craziest stuff we did was the last 2 years we went to the Buick GS Nationals in Bowling Green. The 2nd to last year, we put the engine in and cranked it on Sunday and left for BG Monday morning after it was in pieces all winter. The last year we went, we put the short block in the car in Memphis and built the engine IN THE CAR Monday night in BG with a crowd of our beer drinking buddies to watch. I think we adjusted the valves twice that week and it ran the fastest it ever ran. The last night I ever drove that car it was running low 6's on a Flying Toilet with methanol. The first 2 time trials were spot on. The 3rd one it lost about a tenth, but the 60's was good, so we didn't really worry about. The first round it dropped another .15 but I treed the guy so bad we won easy. We then realized something was wrong. So we dropped .2 off the dial for the 2nd round. It dropped .25 and we won. We dropped down .35 and won again. I think I made it 5 or 6 rounds but the last pass the car said F this...it was obvious something was wrong. But no obvious signs.

We took the engine apart and the intake valve seats had receded into the head and lost seal. So much for the (90s money) $2000 set of TA aluminum heads.

My brother was just here helping me fill the block. It's weird to work on an engine and drink COFFEE now. :thinking: Maybe we should have been drinking less beer and more coffee in 1994. NAW....I wouldn't have met my first wife and mother of my awesome son.

I know how you feel about bracket racing, but we had so much fun back in those days. There were only 3 times out of the 1000's of passes we made that the car had to be pushed on the trailer. When the ladder bar xmember broke, and twice with the stupid a$$ POS J&W Ultraglide. Turned out the shift selector arm in the case was too short. It would come out of the shuttle valve in the valve body and instantly toast the clutches. I sat on the trailer with the governor of the generator jammed wide open so my brother could MIG a blob of weld on the end of the arm and then file it down. Back in 97 or so...had to go the press box at Beech Bend to borrow the phone and call and cuss out J&W who FedEx'd us 2 complete rebuild kits for out troubles.

We ran for years on a TH 400 with a $200 NAPA master rebuild kit and a $99 DAACO converter. Actually we never should have gone to a glide. We needed the 1st gear of the 400 to get that 3600lb pig out of the hole.
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Shhh. My mom used to tell stories about things that I should know about (many many times). I would ask, what year was this. She would say 1961 or 1966 and I would say, well, I was born in 1969, so I'm pretty sure I don't remember what you're talking about. She would laugh and keep on telling her story. Man, I miss that woman!
Shhh. My mom used to tell stories about things that I should know about (many many times). I would ask, what year was this. She would say 1961 or 1966 and I would say, well, I was born in 1969, so I'm pretty sure I don't remember what you're talking about. She would laugh and keep on telling her story. Man, I miss that woman!

thought I did, I just couldn’t find it in the 2 billion posts I’ve made since then.
We have a terrible tendency to ALWAYS shoot for the wheels up money... guess how that usually ends up.

if you thought "****" your are the winner!!

well we have gotten better at it over the years, we now keep an extra oil pan on hand if the rear tires leave the ground on launch.... if you are not "in the know" when that happens the wheel stand is over, there is no chance to carry it out and set them down easily as all the forward momentum is gone.
smash goes the oil pan.

funny enough the last time that happened " at the lights out event" we still managed to finish the run and win.
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