Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Great 1967 Nova SS


This 1967 Nova SS is still tops

Story Geoff Stunkard

While it is a given that smaller hands in poker do not stand a chance against the likes of a royal flush, having “deuces” in hand will always be special to fans of Chevrolet’s economy supercar.

After all, the Chevy II was quickly “slanged” by hardcore enthusiasts with that winning moniker early on, and most of those same enthusiasts will still tell you that the 1966-’67 Chevy Nova SS is considered be the pinnacle of factory development on one of the company’s longest-running models (1962-1979). When redesigned for 1966, the body lines were crisp and tight, and engine options now included the stout L79 Corvette 327/350hp engine (although only a handful of them were so equipped after 1966, at the very end of the 1967 model year, using the 325-horse version of the engine).

The Chevy II was priced right when new and therefore sold in large numbers, even after its new protégé – the Camaro – arrived on the scene for the ’67 model year. From the stripped down six-cylinder models to the highest-optioned Nova SS examples, the classic design in its two-door configuration has since been used for countless street car projects. The car’s performance heritage dates back to its earliest days, when Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and Dick Harrell were drag racing them in front of cheering crowds. There were others, but the earliest Chevy IIs frankly lacked style. The 1968 and later versions, popular as they are, do not show the simplicity of this second-generation design.

Conservatively modified, Alan and Nancy Gagnon’s 1967 Nova SS stands out in any crowd, now covered with beautiful GMC Fleet Red Centari paint, and careful lines and letters applied by Jimmy Ross of Indiana. While many guys like to begin a project from scratch, Alan, a retired firefighter, admits it was luck that helped land the car into his personal garage back in April 2000. “A friend of mine had owned and restored this car,” the Crossville, Tennessee, resident laughs. “I caught him at a weak moment and he sold it to me!”

That said, part of any reworked car’s ownership is personalization, and Alan has added many touches to make trips of any length more enjoyable. This includes creature comforts like air conditioning, cruise control and a tilt wheel, while driving prowess has been improved with power steering, power ’70 Chevelle disc brakes, a CCP mini-subframe, trim work and more.

Of course, it’s all about power when we are talking about sporty-looking 1960s-era cars, and Alan stuck with a nice and simple ZZ3 crate motor, the GM Performance Parts 350-cid package. While the engine has never been apart and is basically stock with 9.6:1 compression (extras include a 750cfm Holley double-pumper, Hooker headers and Optima battery), it still made 360 horses (the paper rating from GM is 345) on the dyno, which is solid power in a body weighing less than 3,000 pounds.

Since buying it, he and Nancy have put over 35,000 miles on the Nova SS. This included a stint on the Hot Rod Power Tour, 2,700 miles in five days, and 8,000 miles on the TKO conversion. He proudly states it has never been trailer-carried to any event.

That would be a great testimonial for even a marginally-built car, but the Nova SS has won many awards as well, including no less than five first place honors at Chevy VetteFest in Chicago, a four-time Super Chevy winner, first place at Bow Tie Boulevard, the 2009 Nova National Street Class first place, and more. Quite a list for a car that was driven to those events!

Alan is quick to give credit where it is due. Under “Special Mentions” on our technical form, he wrote – “My loving wife, Nancy, for all of her understanding and patience with me.”

Looks like a winner to us, hands down ...

When the Deuces ran wild ...

While the Corvette was the machine of choice for road racing (with a few Corvairs thrown in for good measure), things were unique in 1966. The Chevelle had gathered street fans with the 396 Z16 option of 1965, which became the SS396 in 1966; the Camaro was still on the drawing boards, leaving the Chevy II as an alternative model. Adding the L79 350hp 327 engine made it competitive in drag racing. Indeed, the power-to-weight ratio was good enough that it “conveniently” fit into the A/S class of NHRA Stock Eliminator, which is where Chrysler’s new 426 Street Hemi in stripped-down versions of the Plymouth Belvedere also found a home.

During 1966, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and header designer Jere Stahl, both from Pennsylvania, raged an all-out battle for supremacy at the larger NHRA events for both class and Mr. Stock Eliminator crowns. Jenkins was just a little off as the season wound down, and Stahl ended up with the title that year, but the “Mouse that Roared” became part of the storied of Chevy’s “no, we don’t race” legacy of the 1960s (the factory had ended its formal participation in 1963).

Of course, the Camaro would take its role as the Chevrolet’s performance standard-bearer, though versions of the Chevy II remained visible in the growing ranks of funny cars. Popular drivers like Dick Harrell (through team member Jim Kirby with a roadster design) and Jungle Jim Liberman continued on using the body style. Today, 1966 and 1967 Chevy II models continue to race in NHRA’s Stock and Super Stock classes, as well as bracket cars.

An Original 1969 Nova Interior


Inside An Original 1969 Nova Interior

Story Wayne Scraba

Our low mileage 1969 Nova is a 9,317-mile virgin car, and although it was repainted once in the past, most of it is pretty much as-produced at the factory.

The base black vinyl interior is largely unmolested — and aside from a piece or two — exactly like it left the Willow Run, Michigan, assembly line in the third week of July, 1969. It’s an extremely late build date for the model year, and as a result, we’ve found a few 1970 pieces on the car.

In addition, we didn’t super-detail the interior for this article. We just cleaned up the debris from the trucking company that hauled the car (another topic entirely). The truth is, we wanted to show it like it is. Check it out. We think you’ll find it interesting.

1 This is a standard trim door panel for 1969; 1969 to 1970 door panels are the same. Panels for 1968 models have different window crank locations, and different door lock knob locations. Custom interior door panels have a large band of white running horizontally across the door, along with a chrome mylar strip that stretches across the top.

2A & 2B Door lock knobs and window cranks are the same as virtually every GM passenger car in the late ’60s (aside from high-end models). The window crank handle began life almost clear, but as they age, they yellow, and eventually become gold. Door lock knobs on the other hand are susceptible to cleaners and vinyl conditioners. Some are good at removing the chrome. You can still buy the knobs from Chevrolet (at least at the time of this writing).

3 Here’s a look at the armrest and pad. This is what the original vinyl grain pattern looks like. Often, the pad cracks around the inside edges with use.

4 The stock driver’s side foot well looks like this. We’ve made no major attempt at cleaning, so please look past that. The plastic piece under the steering column is often damaged. Here’s a look at how it was installed (over the floor covering). You’ll note how poorly the floor covering fits over the dimmer switch too. It’s not torn and it has never been removed. It just fit this way.

5 This car is a radio delete, no A/C model. It has few options, and as a result, the instrument cluster is bare bones. If you look closely, you’ll see that the screws that hold it all together are dark gray in color, perhaps phosphate- or oxide-plated.

6A & 6B While the steering wheel itself isn’t cracked, the shroud shows a common problem shared with base Chevy steering wheels from 1969-’70. You can see where the cover (shroud) has split on either side of the horn button. Fortunately, reproductions are available today. It’s interesting to note that biggest wear on the steering wheel is in the area of the horn buttons. We suspect this was a sign of the times for the original owner.

7 Inside the glove box the pattern of gray phosphate plating of fasteners and parts continues (check out the catch). You’ll note this car doesn’t have a glove box lamp (open hole top left of the door opening). Note the pair of door bumpers on either end of the opening. Meanwhile, it’s pretty obvious the ashtray was used. Surprisingly, the cigarette lighter showed little if any use. Ashtray “receivers” can be restored or you can source reproductions.

8 The seat adjustment knob is a chrome-plated plastic affair (even on base cars such as this). They often break, but reproductions are readily available. Ditto with door sill plates. Note the original riveted “Body By Fisher” name plate. Some reproductions have the rivets. Some don’t.

9 The correct rubber floor mats for these cars are difficult to find. Reproductions are available, but often, they don’t fit well. Originals seem like they were “poured” over the floor pan. There are two different part numbers for the front floor covering – one for floor shift manual transmission cars and one for column shift cars. The only difference we can determine is the hole cut in the floor for the shifter.

10 Kick panels are molded plastic. Note the Phillips head screws for the vent are of the trim variety (with a raised washer) and they’re bright plated. Under the dash, the glove box door fasteners are again, gray in color.

11 Seating accommodations in a base Nova made a Road Runner look opulent. This is the base vinyl 731 code trim interior. It was the entry level arrangement regularly selected by frugal buyers or racers.

12 Seat back locks were government mandated. Here, they used a chrome release latch on either side of the seat. You can see that the underside of the seat was covered in a canvas like cloth. Note that the seat mechanics (hinges, latches, etc.) were simply painted gray.

13 Headrests were normally stowed down. In this photo, you can see the hardware used for the head rest release. It’s all chrome, with bright Phillips head fasteners. By the way, there’s considerable interchange with other Chevy and GM products here (ditto with the seat back locks).

14 In 1969, there was an absolute maze of seat belt hardware found in passenger cars of all sorts. This bench seat Nova has a seating capacity of six. In the rear, there are lap belts for three passengers.

15 As a result, there are three lap belts in the front along with shoulder harness assemblies (mounted on the roof pillar) for outboard front seat passengers. The roof retainers are brushed silver with bright Phillips head fasteners.

16 Meanwhile, the large anchor bolts are gold cadmium plated. Bottom line cars such as this have black plastic buckle covers with a GM “Mark of Excellence” foil badge in the center.

17The outboard front seat belts were equipped with retractors enclosed in a black plastic sleeve. The sleeve also covered the anchor bolt.

18 GM used this stainless steel backed day-night mirror in a number of applications. In some cars (for example, Camaros of the same era), the trim piece covering the mirror had provisions to stow the ends of the sunvisors. As you can see, Chevy didn’t include them with the low-end Nova.

19 On the outboard side of the sunvisor, the trim piece was chrome plated and held in place with four bright Phillips screw fasteners. Like the mirror, these pieces saw use in other GM applications.

20 The factory package shelf was similar to those used in any number of vintage Chevys. It’s basically cardboard with a lightly (foam) padded edge against the seat. Trim screws for the back molding are bright plated.

21 The headliner in this car is non-perforated and up close, proves to be basket-weave material (there are several different headliner material types available in the reproduction market). Note the extremely basic dome lamp. It’s not even plated! By the way, only the driver side door has a switch to activate the dome lamp.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

1971 440 Six Barrel 'Cuda, Unrestored

Details, Details ...

We document an unrestored, 25,000-mile ’71 ’Cuda 440 Six-Barrel for restoration and vehicle inspection reference.

Story Barry Kluczyk

There’s a lot of information – and misinformation – to be found when researching the factory-correct equipment and assembly details of your favorite Mopar muscle car.

Unfortunately, the ubiquity of the Internet perpetuates the bad information with repetition – making it all the more difficult to separate fact from myth.

When it comes to determining the truth, it’s hard to beat factory-original, and that’s exactly what we found recently at Carman Custom, a Saginaw, Michigan-area restoration shop that specializes in Mopar muscle. The shop is owned by former NHL hockey goalie Ed Belfour. He has a penchant for Pentastar cars. The 1971 ’Cudas happen to be a particular favorite of his.

During the shop’s restoration of Belfour’s own ’71 440 Six-Barrel/four-speed convertible (one of five built), the shop’s staff used another of his cars as a reference. It’s a ’71 440 Six-Barrel car, too, but a coupe. It’s a 25,000-original-mile example that Belfour purchased from the original owner. Both the coupe and convertible were built in December 1970 – in fact, they were built only a day apart! We decoded the fender tags of each and found the coupe was built on Dec. 17, 1970 and the convertible was built the next day, Dec. 18, 1970.

During our recent visit, Carman Custom’s manager, Jeff Friesen, was kind enough to pull the cover back on the coupe for us to inspect. We spent time shooting under the hood and in the trunk to capture the details we think most enthusiasts would appreciate – the little things that cause head scratching during restoration or, more importantly, when inspecting a candidate vehicle for possible purchase. It’s the little things that count the most and we’ve highlighted a dozen of them here.

1 According to Carman Custom’s Jeff Friesen, restoration judges at the highest level of evaluation look for the correct, factory-installed bolts and fasteners. On E-bodies, that means many underhood bolts – but not all – should have the “G” symbol on the head, as seen in this photo. The symbol denotes the original supplier, so scour those spare parts piles and parts cars to find the right bolts.

2 There seems to be little consistency on most repainted E-bodies we encounter regarding the finish of the hood latch and support bracket. As our reference car shows, the latch bracket and its bolts are body color, while the latch mechanism and release mechanism are natural. The release spring is natural, too.

3 During assembly, the front fenders were attached to the front end of the chassis with a layer of sealer. When the fenders were cinched down with their bolts, a small amount of the sealer squeezed out along the inside edge of the fender. As our demonstration car shows, the excess sealer was never scraped off; in fact, it went through the paint shop. So, your restored car is fine with a bit of excess, body-color sealer.

4 The windshield washer reservoir was an off-white color when new, but its plastic material yellowed and hardened over time. This original, yellowed bottle shows how it looks nearly 40 years after it was installed. A couple of different reproduction versions are available, but Carman’s Jeff Friesen says one is too bright, while another’s off-white/slightly yellowed finish is more correct. And be very careful when handling an original bottle; it is likely very brittle and it’s easy to crack or push a finger through the material.

5 One of the more interesting, yet easily overlooked details of our unrestored E-body is the thin layer of black paint that’s located more or less behind the headlamp areas on the front of the radiator core support. It appears the paint was a quick, “fogged-in” job used to darken areas of the sheetmetal that might otherwise be seen through the grille. Don’t forget it when having your car re-painted – and look for it on a supposedly original-paint car.

6 With so many repainted cars to examine at car shows, auctions, etc., it’s easy to understand the uncertainty surrounding the correct finish for the hood hinges and their bolts. Our unrestored, original-paint example shows it clear and unambiguously: body-color hinges and bolts. The same goes for the trunk hinges and bolts.

7 A 1971 detail the crew at Carman Custom found out about the hard way was the correct finish for the wheel trim rings. During the judging of a rare, ’71 440 Six-Barrel/four-speed convertible they restored, they were marked down for its bright-polished trim rings. The rings should have had a natural/brushed finish, as our reference car shows.

8 What you’re looking at here is the original spare tire inflator bottle from our unrestored model. Reproductions are available, but they tend to have a shinier finish. Also note the “35670” marking on the bottom of the bottle. It is the date code for the bottle and decodes as the 356th day of 1970 – or December 22. It can be an important way of verifying a claim of “all original” equipment. In this case, the date code is in line with the car’s “12/70” door tag information and “C17” fender tag code that indicates a Dec. 17, 1970 build date. Presumably, the spare tire and inflator were installed after the car went down the assembly line. Note, too, the correct blue color of the bracket that holds the bottle on the spare tire, as well as the yellow cap on the bottle.

9 Seen here is a 1971-specific vent tube that is part of the emissions system. It is found on at least 340-, 383- and 440-powered ’71 E-bodies. Along with the specific hard line and hose, there’s also a unique breather that connects with the hose. It may be a small detail, but it’s an important one.

10 As far as we can tell, all of the 1971 trunk lids have access holes cut into the bottom to support the installation of a rear wing – regardless of whether the car actually received the option. This example wasn’t ordered with the wing, but the factory sprayed black paint into the access holes, causing overspray and runs around the edges. While an interesting production footnote of its day, such a detail would hardly be acceptable in today’s production.

11 It is believed this heater hose is original to our reference car. And while reproduction hoses are offered with the Pentastar symbol and numbering, a few don’t seem to have the correct font (type style) for the numerals or grooves in the rubber (seen at the bottom of the example here). If you’re shooting for a factory-correct resto, make sure the replacement hoses have the correct numeral style and grooves.

12 The sticker with the “45” on it is located on the power brake booster, but we don’t know what it references in regard to the car or brake system. In fact, we can’t recall seeing a car in recent memory – restored or unrestored – that had the same sticker. At any rate, it was on our reference model. If you know its purpose or reference designation, please e-mail us and we’ll let all our readers in on the secret.

Sidebar (photos 14, 15 and 16 with this sidebar)

What’s in a Name(plate)

If there’s one certainty in the world of Mopar restorations, it’s that little is certain. Take the example of the 1971 taillight panel nameplates seen here. In the one photo, there’s no ’Cuda badge above the “By Plymouth” badge, as there should be. The car in question is the same, un-restored, 25,000-mile example used to illustrate the main part of the story. The original owner says the car was missing the adhesive ’Cuda badge the day he took delivery.

The other photos show the correct Barracuda and ’Cuda badges, but there’s a catch: Both are affixed to original ’71 Hemi cars. If the standard convention was followed, cars with 440 and Hemi engines all should have come with ’Cuda badges, but it appears at least one slipped through with the wrong nameplate.

Given the car in photo A received no nameplate whatsoever suggests assembly line mistakes were relatively common – and it reminds us to never say never when it comes to documenting the history of Mopar’s muscle cars.

Sidebar (photo 17 with this sidebar)

Going for Gold in Bright Blue Metallic

The ’71 ’Cuda depicted in our main story also served as the primary reference during the restoration of owner Ed Belfour’s other car: a one-of-five ’71 ’Cuda 440 Six-Barrel/four-speed convertible (12 more Six-Barrel convertibles were built with the automatic transmission). He bought the car around 1990 and waited more than 15 years to restore it, but when he did (through his own Carman Custom resto shop), his goal was gold certification in the O.E. class at the Mopar Nationals. He received it with an absolutely stunning car.

Using as many NOS parts as possible, including trunk pan, front fenders, fender gills, mufflers and even NOS tires, the car is a shining example of one of the rarest Mopar muscle car models. Curiously, it was originally ordered with leather seats, but no console; and exterior is as plain as plain can be – no rear wing, billboard stripe or Shaker hood.

It’s simply a clean, mean Mopar machine.

Sidebar (photo 18 with this sidebar)

Back to Basics: Fender Tag Decoding

The fender tag is one of the essential identifiers of Mopar muscle cars. Its alphanumeric codes detail the vehicle’s original equipment and options. There are several printed and Internet sources that help decode the tags; we used the online decoder at

If you’ve never decoded a tag before, the information starts at the lower left corner, not the upper left. So, decoding begins with the “E87” code on the tag in the accompanying photo. It’s the fender tag for the 25,000-mile coupe used in our main story.

R26 EN2

M88 N41 N42 N85 N96

G11 J25 J45 M21 M25 M31

V1W U A62 B51 C16 C55

GB5 SRX9 000 C17 046069

E87 D32 BS23 V1B 253247

E87 – Engine: 440 six-barrel high-performance engine

D32 – Transmission: A-727 TorqueFlite automatic

BS23 – partial VIN info, indicating: (B) Barracuda; (S) Special; and (23) two-door hardtop

V1B – partial VIN info, indicating: (V) 440 six-barrel engine; (1) 1971 model year and (B) Hamtramck, Michigan, assembly plant

253247 – partial VIN info, indicating build sequence number

GB5 – Paint code: Bright Blue Metallic

SRX9 – Interior trim, including (S) Sport; (R) Leather/vinyl bucket seats; and (X9) black color

000 – Upper door frame: full door panel

C17 – Assembly date: Dec. 17, 1970

046069 – Vehicle order number

V1W – Roof type or color: White full vinyl top

U – Built for United States order

A62 – Rallye instrument cluster

B51 – Power brakes

C16 – Console with bucket seats

C55 – Bucket seats

G11 – Tinted glass, all

J25 – Three-speed variable wipers

J45 – Hood pins

M21 – Roof drip rail moldings

M25 – Wide sill molding

M31 – Belt and hood molding

M88 – Quarter panel tape treatment

N41 – Dual exhaust without tips

N42 – Chrome dual exhaust tips

N85 – Tachometer

N96 – Fresh air hood (Shaker)

R26 – AM radio with cassette

EN2 – End of codes/assembly line 2

Timing Your Engine

Timing is Everything

A timing light is a timing light. Right?

Well, not quite.

Story Earl Duty

In our world of older vehicles equipped with distributors that are timing adjustable, most folks look at setting the ignition timing as a quick and simple movement of the distributor in order to achieve the best performance and/or fuel mileage.

And sure, many of us have at some point and time picked up a basic timing light, checked the ignition timing, adjusted it if necessary, then put the light away. End of story. But, could there be more to it than that? Absolutely, with the proper timing light there’s a lot more to the story. We’re going to demonstrate how to use a timing light that can test degrees of advance in not only the mechanical side of the distributor, but also the vacuum advance that’s connected to the distributor. This is also a great way to test for a defective vacuum advance.

Is it rocket science? Of course not, and, after learning how to use a timing light that has mechanical and vacuum advance testing capabilities, that old timing light of yours will seem grossly antiquated. For this project we will also need a quality shop manual that shows distributor specifications, such as mechanical and vacuum advance in degrees.

In the majority of cases, ignition timing is checked and adjusted after a basic tune-up (or it definitely should be), which would include new ignition points and making sure they are properly adjusted to specs. If ignition points are out of adjustment, ignition timing can’t be set properly. First priority is to make sure the ignition points are in perfect working order and set to factory specifications. If you have electronic ignition, air gap adjustments are, in most cases, not necessary.

For many years in my own shop, I have used Actron electrical testing equipment with great success. The timing light is the Actron “Advance Timing Light” CP7528, designed to not only check base timing, but also test mechanical advance, and vacuum advance (showing actual degrees of advance). It can be purchased at most auto parts stores all across U.S., Canada and Mexico, for somewhere between $50 to $100. Prices will vary depending on what part of the world you’re located.


OK, the ignition points (if used) are spot on, engine is running at normal temperature (at idle), transmission is in neutral (or park), and the emergency brake is set, with the drive wheels blocked. Always use caution, wear safety goggles and avoid any and all moving engine parts.

Now connect the inductive pick-up clip attached to the timing light to the number one spark plug wire. Now connect the red alligator clip to the positive (+) post on the battery and the black alligator clip to the negative (-) post on the battery (for 12-volt negative ground systems). Instructions are supplied when connecting to a 6-volt system and a positive ground system, so follow the instructions to the letter. With the on/off button energized, the Xenon strobe light should now be flashing to the pulse of number one cylinder’s firing sequence. If not, check the connections.

By pointing the flashing strobe light at the timing plate located near the crankshaft pulley (Caution:beware of moving engine parts), the mark on the crankshaft pulley should now become visible at least somewhere on, or near the attached plate. Our subject vehicle is a 1966 Corvette with a 327ci, 350hp engine with both centrifugal and vacuum advance capabilities. This required disconnecting and plugging the vacuum advance line for checking “base” timing. Base timing is the first test performed on any distributor-equipped vehicle. Mechanical and vacuum advance systems will be tested after the base timing is set to specs.

There are two types of vacuum supply systems used for vacuum advance units. Any vacuum line that is connected to a direct vacuum source, or below the carburetor throttle plate/plates, is referred to as manifold vacuum, meaning it gets a constant, direct source of vacuum. Any vacuum source that is connected above the carburetor throttle plate(s) is called ported, or off-idle, meaning the engine must be at cruising speeds or at slow acceleration to achieve a source of vacuum.

A generic test to find out which vacuum supply you have would be: after disconnecting the vacuum line from the distributor, put your finger over the open hole in the line with the engine at an idle. If there’s vacuum, it’s manifold; if not, it’s ported. Either way, you’ll need to plug the opening.

In our case, the timing was retarded by approximately two degrees and one good indicator of why the vehicle was sluggish on acceleration. By loosening the hold down bolt on the distributor and moving it counter-clockwise, we set the timing to factory specs (in this case, 10 degrees at an engine idle of 650 to 750 rpm). Now, the base timing has now been set and the vacuum line we previously disconnected is still disconnected, and plugged off. The shop manual called for a mechanical advance factory reading of 15 degress with the engine rpm held at 1,500.

We pointed the light at the timing plate (the mark on the balancer was now above our original base setting, which is normal) and we then turned the rear knob clockwise until the mark on the harmonic balancer moved back to “0” on the timing plate. The reading on the dial was 15 degrees. This showed that the mechanical advance was working as designed. Next, the engine was returned to idle, the dial on the back of the timing light was reset to “0,” and the vacuum line re-connected to the vacuum advance unit. At this time by re-checking the timing setting, there should have been an automatic increase in the timing adjustment (which would mean the advance unit was in working order). There was no timing increase. Remember, it was a direct manifold vacuum source, so this was an easy way to find out that our vacuum advance was defective, and another cause for hesitation on acceleration.

After replacing the unit we continued our timing inspection/adjustments by re-starting the engine, and bringing the rpm up to 1,500. We then turned the knob on the rear of the timing light (again clockwise) until the mark on the harmonic balancer aligned with the “0” on the timing plate. The numbers on the timing light dial read 29 degrees showing a total advance for mechanical and vacuum combined. Our distributor was now refreshed with new points and condenser, plus a new vacuum advance, which made a world of difference in not only overall performance, but the fuel mileage also increased dramatically. And, at over three bucks a gallon, that’s a good thing.

In the days of leaded fuel, ignition timing could be off by any given number of degrees, and the engine still gave reasonably good performance. Today, due to the unleaded fuels and the ethanol mix, ignition timing is critical for best performance and fuel economy, especially for an older vehicle that was not designed to use today’s gasoline.

Can the timing be adjusted on most modern day vehicles? In the majority of cases ignition timing is computer controlled and non-adjustable.

8 Second 1973 Duster

Dare To Be Different Duster

The Tale of a True Mopar Man

Story Dave Verna & Mike Ziccardi

When we stumbled upon this car, we thought it was just your regular 12-second Duster. Small tires, stock looking and a parachute? That has to be for show – right?

Wrong! This ’73 Duster was tuning for an upcoming index race. The graphics immediately catch your eye, but the presence of an eight-second small block does not tip its hand until you watch it hold the front wheels in the air for at least the first 60 feet.

Mike Ziccardi is your typical Mopar man. He brought his entire family to the track, and it was definitely a family affair. These kids have no choice but to follow in Dad’s footsteps, and are they lucky!

Most Mopar guys are not typically followers since having a Mopar in general makes you a leader. “I am a Mopar enthusiast by birthright,” he said. “I was raised idolizing my father’s 1968 GTX 440 race car. Mopar was in my blood from the get-go. Back then, it was Rapid Transit or Direct Connection by the time I was born in 1974.

“I got my first Duster in my senior year of high school. My uncle had one for me in Pennsylvania, and all I had to do was drive two states away and pick it up. After many attempts of trying to turn it into a race car and a lot of blown engines, that car would eventually make it out of my life. I ran across an advertisement at a local speed shop for a 1973 340 Duster. I went and looked at the car and decided this original 340 Duster needed to be mine. I was 18, broke and working at my family’s sign company. I asked my boss, back then my dad (now my wife Theresa and four children Nico, Vincent, Christina Marie and Dominic), for an advance of pay for the next four weeks so I could buy my new Duster. He agreed after some groveling.

“The car was brown with a white interior. Within the first year of owning it, I had the car painted purple, installed a roll bar, put some X heads on it, and a little nitrous. Needless to say, the nitrous got the best of the engine after a short while. A couple of rebuilt engines later, I had my first P600 Procharger hanging off the side of a 340 Mopar. At the time, this was pretty much unheard of. You only saw Mustangs or Chevys with Prochargers on them. No brackets existing to do anything else.

“Eventually, I got the car to go into the high 10s on that combination. After that engine let go, I contacted S&D Concept Engineering (SDCE) in West Warwick, Rhode Island. I contracted with them to build my next small block with a D1 Procharger with a blow-through carburetor. We eventually got this combination into the high nine-second range. At this point, the car had to go out to Tony Giresi Race Cars, in Deer Park, New York, for a full NHRA cage, parachute and a downforce wing. I needed to obtain my NHRA competition license as well, which I did. After a few seasons of dragstrip and mild street use, we needed to retire the old 340 engine that was currently in the car. Once again, I contacted SDCE. This time, we opted to build a fuel-injected small block with a F2 Procharger head unit and air-to-air intercooler. This combination was good for 1,050hp at the crank on a moderate tune, not spinning the engine over 7,000 rpm.

“So far, this combination has yielded a best of 8.90 with a 153 mph top speed. We are still working on the car setup and are confident we will be able to get 8.50s out of it. I don’t know when it will end. When it does, I’ll have more time to restore my father’s 41,000-original-mile 1968 GTX, which started it all. It just recently made it back into my family’s hands. I also need to take care of the numbers-matching, triple black, 89,000-mile 1969 Road Runner for my seven-year-old son Nico or the 1973 Barracuda slotted for my four-year-old son Vincent.”


Engine: 383 cid, Mopar R3 small block standard 59 degree cam. Custom reverse cooling system.

Pistons: SDCE/Diamond conical dish pistons

Rods: Eagle H beam

Crankshaft: Mopar

Camshaft: Comp Cam SDCE blower spec. 610 .620 lift Solid Roller

Heads: Brodix B1BA standard port 20 degree stage 4 SDCE blower port with Cometic gaskets

Compression Ratio: 8.8

Intake Manifold: Custom sheetmetal


Ignition: MSD cam and crank trigger

Total Timing: 26 degrees

Exhaust: Kooks headers, SDCE custom-fabbed four-inch exhaust with “X” and SpinTech mufflers

Power Adder: SDCE blower System part number 875-1000 (12-rib supercharger system with ATI Procharger F2 head unit).

Boost: 19 psi

Transmission: 727 Torqueflight, Grinner Transbrake, reverse manual valve body, tranny blanket

Converter / Clutch: SDCE blower spec

CPT (the original Art Carr), nine-inch converter

Shifter: Cheetah

rear type / gear ratio: 8¾-inch with a 3.55 gearset in a spool with Moser axles

Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers

Rims front/rear: Weld Magnum Pros

15 x 3½, Weld Magnum Pros 15 x 10

Tires Front/Rear: Mickey Thompson skinnies and Mickey Thompson 30 x 10.5w

Suspension Front: Lakewood 90/10,

all else Mother Mopar

Suspension Rear: Caltrac bars, Caltrac mono leaf springs, QA1 double adjustables, leaf springs relocated inboard three inches

Chassis Mods: Full roll cage certified to NHRA 8.50 specs, Mini-tubbed

Interior Mods: Racing buckets, no back seat, rest of original interior there including all door panels, carpet, dashboard, and headliner.

Safety Mods: Five-point harness, Stroud parachute, custom downforce rear wing, roll cage, window net

Paint: Plum Crazy body color with flat black hood, wing and bumpers.

Graphics: Custom full color Mopar American Flag graphics (and all other stickers!) by

Sign-A-Rama of Huntington, New York

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Building A C3 Corvette To Handle Power

Alan’s ’Vette

Alan’s ’Vette

An enthusiast’s journey at making a shark his own

Story Jim Moore Images Alan Rothman

We’ve all heard it said that we really don’t own our Corvettes and muscle cars and that we’re actually just the caretakers until they are passed on to the next wide-eyed and excited enthusiast.

But while we’re obligated to respect the history of the past, we really owe it to ourselves to make a few memories and create a little excitement of our own.

People handle this in different ways. Some seek to preserve the very essence of how it came to them, which means they are often relegated to spending more time in admiration of their prize than driving it. After all, driving induces wear and it’s only original once. Others come to us as projects, victims of the exuberance of their prior owners who either lacked the taste, talent, dollars, time, patience or restraint to keep their new toy intact. When this happens, you can either try to restore it back to its original glory, or maybe add a few custom touches of your own with more power, comforts or better handling. But when they come to you in pretty nice condition, you’re torn between making it perfect or going a little crazy with it.

Alan Rothman found himself right in the middle of this latter predicament when he brought this ’71 Brands Hatch Green 350/270 coupe home. But let’s back up a few years. In the fall of 1971, Stephen Kimzey, a young NASA physiologist in Houston, went shopping with his wife Ann to replace her ’66 Impala. With his sights set on a Corvette just like all of his astronaut buddies were driving, a deal was struck for this ‘71 at the Chevrolet dealership of long-time family friend, A.J. Foyt. It had all the options they wanted without the add-on fluff that would drive the price out of reach for the young couple.

For the next 17 years, the Corvette served commuter duty for whoever got to the garage with the keys first. In the ’80s it strutted in parades and along Seawall Blvd. at Galveston Beach as well as being a regular feature at daughter Stephanie’s high school parking lot. But when she left for college, it was decided to not take the “old car” away from home for reliability reasons and it was left parked most of the time. In 1979 Stephen passed away at the early age of 39, and by 1988 Ann decided it was finally time to part company with the family ’Vette.

After slipping through a couple of owners, in stepped Alan. There had been a nice repaint along the way and the old 350 still ran well. With the purchase came all the original paperwork including the “Corvette Owner’s Card” issued to Stephen, as well as complete service records for every item that was ever touched over the years. But right here’s where you have to understand that Alan is no stranger to speed. He’s had a nitroused 10-second Trans Am and rides a street-legal turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa bullet to 8.68 seconds at 168 mph times in the quarter mile (as well as 225.906 mph wide open at the Texas Mile on mild boost settings).

With the Corvette though, he really liked the way it looked and didn’t want to mess up what the General had provided. But, it just had to get a whole lot faster than the 15.10 e.t.s shown during its one and only track outing! The first plan was to build a big-inch small block with all the good parts to make it survive huge horsepower. After shopping various engine builders, sticker shock, similar to what the Kimzeys must have encountered, smacked him hard when he realized it was going to cost more than twice the car’s original 1971 purchase price to build it!

A new direction was forged when he discovered a well-respected builder in Colorado who was putting together some of the most cost-effective stroker big blocks on the planet. Going through the available combinations, Alan worked closely with Mark Jones at Vortec Pro Engines to create a pump gas 496 with proven horsepower that could handle air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, an automatic transmission and, oh yeah, a promise that it would run 10 second e.t.s using 3.08 rear gears and no power adders!

Now everyone claims their engine was tested on a dyno, right? The truth is that the dyno is a tuning/testing tool and the numbers don’t mean anything unless they translate to real in-the-car performance. Mark Jones has been developing his combos for years and has no qualms about putting them to anyone’s test. More than once he’s been called out concerning the seemingly high correction factors that are necessary when testing at Colorado Springs’ 6,200-foot altitude. But Mark stays in close contact with Harold Bettes (who you may recall from SuperFlow dyno fame) who actually came to verify the calibration of the dyno before Alan’s engine was tested and to witness the pulls!

After doing his homework on Mark’s abilities, Alan was confident that the corrected 662hp/675 lbs-ft torque numbers produced by his engine in Colorado were real. But his buddies back near sea level in Houston saw a golden opportunity to have some fun and answer the whole correction factor question one way or the other. A pool of money was assembled to finance another test session and when the new 496 arrived, it went straight from the crate to a SuperFlow 902 dyno (Mark uses a 901) housed at the Owens Racing Engines shop. The group had consistently seen the numbers from this dyno measure up on the track over the years and knew that if Alan’s new toy could make the grade here, there would be nothing left to do than make it hook up and go down the track! To duplicate the tests exactly as in Colorado, EVERYTHING was verified from the ignition timing to the valve cover breathers and even down to the exact amount of oil in the pan! Guess what? After riding 1,000 miles, dropping over 6,000 feet in altitude and being tested on a completely different dyno, this low-budget monster cranked out 657 horsepower and 662 lbs-ft. So much for correction factor issues!

Now it was all back in Alan’s hands as he went to work making the small block to big block conversion (saving all the original parts, of course) by using GM bracketry to maintain his stock P/S, but at the same time updating some items. Alan installed a Vintage Air A/C system that blows 38-degree air even in hot and muggy Houston. A complete three-inch stainless crosspipe exhaust was built by Rick’s Lonestar Muffler and attached to a set of Jet-Hot coated Hooker 17/8-inch headers. The original TH400 trans was freshened by Mike at Michael’s All Transmission and a tight 10-inch converter was added to keep the street manners nice while still providing a decent launch. The governor has been tuned to provide full throttle automatic upshifts at 6,000 rpm.

Initial shakedown cruises revealed that while the stock cooling system was adequate, it left precious little margin for long highway cruises with the A/C operating. This put Alan on a long series of tests of various fan and radiator combinations to create super cooling while keeping power losses to a minimum. The final version is a Lincoln Mark VIII electric fan pulling through a DeWitts Direct Fit aluminum radiator.

Once everything was operating perfectly, Alan again hit the dyno, but this time he was looking for rear wheel horsepower to see what he really had at the end of the independent rear suspension differential. This would prove to be interesting, given the parasitic drag that a fully-loaded Corvette with an automatic transmission creates. The tests involved various fans, carb spacers, air filters, etc. and offered sobering insight into reality while knocking out another few myths. For instance, when the period correct and ultra-cool L-88 screen assembly was added to the top of the L-88 filter base, 7 hp disappeared! With no air filter assembly at all, simply shutting the hood created enough turbulence to knock off another 30 hp. A viscous-type mechanical fan made 15 more of them go hide. And on and on it went. The end results on the Dynojet were 424.4 hp in pure off the street trim and 460.2 hp in “race mode” with the mechanical fan removed, the hood cracked open, a one-inch carb spacer and just the L-88 filter base in place left to shove the 3,730 pound (with driver) cruiser down the quarter mile.

Next stop: Houston Raceway Park on test-and-tune night. Right off the highway with the original 3.08 rear gears driving M/T 255/60R15 drag radials on a full set of original eight-inch Rally wheels, Alan dropped a few jaws when the scoreboard lit up with a 10.99 at 123.88 mph pass! How’s that for a sleeper? The Vortec Pro 496 had lived up to its most important promise — a 10 second timeslip — and earned Alan an invitation to go home due to no roll bar! With that milestone accomplished, Alan knew there were only a few more nights at the dragstrip before he would end up riding home on a flatbed with a pile of broken Corvette IRS parts. Built for handling with the engines and tires of the day, the stock 10-bolt IRS was now being pushed to its limits.

In stepped Mike Dyer with one of his killer Super 10 rear axle packages that shoves the reliability bar way up. Mike begins with a hand-selected housing and posi case that he spends hours machining, detailing and polishing to accept heavy-duty spider gears and a larger cross shaft from a 12-bolt differential. He then eliminates the OEM’s internal Positraction clutch spring arrangement by adding the shims necessary to tune the assembly to his specs as well as adding massive steel billet main caps. The rear was completed with a set of Tom’s Differentials 30-spline inner axles that drive three-inch by .095-inch wall half-shafts attached to Tom’s 31-spline outer stub axles. During the rebuild, Alan worked his calculator hard to determine that a move to 3.36 gears would help acceleration a little and still be highway friendly.

With the newfound confidence that the stronger pieces brought, Alan hit the track again to produce a 10.77 at 126.08 mph right off the street. Later, on a chilly 41 degree February night, a test was made with some skinnier and lighter front tires along with a few other minor tricks. The cool air was great for the top end charge, but a new weather-induced carb stumble and a trans that decided to begin shifting slightly weird hurt things a bit. Still, the time slip read a new best 10.70 at 127.99 pass! Since the no rollbar discussion is pretty common, Alan’s test-and-tune nights are usually limited to a few 1/8-mile passes and then one Banzai hero run. The usual 1/8-mile timeslip reads real close to its best 6.75 at 103.88 with a 1.53 60-foot time. As you can imagine, it takes a while to really dial in a car at the track that way. But with a lot of planning and research, Alan has proven that you can assemble it right the first time and hit pretty close to your target right from the start. Mark and Alan believe there is a 10.50 at 130 mph still to be had with further tuning.

We can easily imagine the gleam that an earthbound rocketship like this would bring to a young NASA employee, and maybe, just maybe, some of Stephen’s DNA still lingers within the fiberglass and steel of Alan’s Corvette. Who knows? But certainly Alan has found the perfect balance of paying homage to the past while creating a legion of prospective new owners each time they see him lift the wheels off the line and then casually flip on the A/C to make the long drive home.

When the time comes for Alan to pass this legacy on, there will no doubt be plenty of folks ready to step up for their chance to live the Corvette dream. But I bet this one won’t be left to garage duty and parking lot shine-’em-up detail. This Corvette has been bringing smiles to faces ever since each member of the Kimzey family took their first drive, and it wouldn’t be right to let that feeling ever end. Alan sure hasn't!

1969 Fairlane Cobra

Raven Cobra

Mixing a racing heritage with period-correct enhancements

Story Al Rogers

Larry and Lynn Slevin had one rule: maintain the simple sleeper look of a 1969 Fairlane while resurrecting the mystique of a Cobra.

Larry was raised in a small Indiana town, and his father was a salesperson at a local Ford dealership for 40 years, so he had a Ford background. As a teen, Larry hung around the dealership. One day, they put him to work cleaning cars. He learned how to detail used cars and his affection for the Ford Motor Company nameplate started to bloom.

Larry’s first car was a 1965 Fairlane with a 289 2V engine, one the dealership had taken in as trade. He added a four-barrel carburetor setup with chrome engine dress-up kit and thought it was the greatest car of all time. It ignited a lifelong Fairlane passion, which would become evident many years later.

Larry and Lynn first met Jim Plimpton at the 2006 Woodward Dream Cruise. During a casual conversation there, Larry and Lynn learned Plimpton had this car for sale at his business, Authentic Automotive, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It had been sitting for 25 years and needed a complete restoration, having spent its entire life residing in the upper Midwest where snow, road salt and rust are the enemy. One look at the car was all it took. Larry states, “It spoke to me.” They agreed to purchase the two-door hardtop in April 2007.

The original owner had ordered this Raven Black 1969 Fairlane Cobra with the sole purpose of transforming it into a drag racer for competition at the local strip. This explains the 18,931 miles on the odometer. When not making strikes at the dragstrip, the Snake was stowed.

The 1969 Cobra was produced at the Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri. It was delivered to Swendson Ford in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 4, 1968.

The car arrived at the Slevins’ doorstep as a rolling shell in the spring of 2007. The new owners brought in close friend Kevin Sharp to assist with the transformation. During the next four months, a team of three assembled the car for that year’s Woodward Dream Cruise. They proceeded to tweak and make it as factory correct as possible, including installing the original-style emission system and additional authentic parts.

Under the hood, there’s a 428-4V non-Ram Air engine with 4.30 Traction-Lok axle ratio and four-speed close ratio manual transmission. This combination resembles the “Drag Pack” that Ford Motor Company offered a few months after the featured Fairlane was produced. The Ford factory hoodscoop option was not ordered.

Interior features include a full broadcloth vinyl bench seat, radio delete and tinted glass. The most striking option is the factory-installed full black vinyl top. The Raven Black paint, black cloth interior and black vinyl top is one of 86 trim combinations produced for the 1969 Ford Torino Cobra model year build. Larry Slevin added a set of period-correct Goodyear bias-ply white-lettered tires to give the Cobra a sporty look.

The austere interior, full vinyl top, steel wheels and poverty center caps makes this black snake a real sleeper. The total package is alluring, menacing and stellar when viewed for the first time.

As a result of their planning, determination and patience, the Slevins have an award-winning 1969 Fairlane Cobra in their stable. After earning the prestigious gold medallion at the 2010 Fairlane Club Nationals, the Cobra was invited to the 2010 Concours d’Elegance of Americas at Meadow Brook as part of a select muscle car group. In the fall of 2010, in stiff competition, a silver award was earned at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, Illinois.

With Larry Slevin behind the wheel, the Raven Cobra is scheduled to take a trip down memory lane one-quarter mile at a time during the 2011 Pure Stock Drag Racing Nationals in Stanton, Michigan. Larry states, “Time to prove this Cobra’s more than a pretty face while cutting it loose at the staging lane.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

67 Fastback Plymouth Barracuda


Stepping Up To the Power Plate

Story Roger C. Johnson

When the second generation fastback Barracuda hit the streets in 1967, Car & Driver decreed it the best looking car out of Detroit that year.

Even though it was essentially still a Plymouth Valiant under the skin, the new sheetmetal was so smooth it looked like it was poured on. The notchback coupe incorporated a design so fluid, it even made the Mustang version look boxy and abrupt in comparison. Many Mopar aficionados still consider the notchback Barracuda one of the purest two-door body designs to ever come out of Highland Park.

To support that theory, fast-forward 44 years and feast your eyes on the car before you. It represents the complete transformation of a slippery looking design, down on power, to a vivid fireball of a machine with horsepower to burn. This Barracuda is the imaginative product of Georgia resident John Wintersgill and two of his Mopar buddies (Mitch Stewart and Nick Leory) who looked at this car as a blank canvas.

This Barracuda had been languishing in a garage for 15 years when John found it. It was covered by pieces of lumber, paint cans and ladders. It never knew the meaning of the word rust, but its interior and paint have seen better days. The resurrection of this car took over eight years, happened piece by piece and was done on a family man’s budget. That means John and his Mopar buddies donated countless hours and effort to the cause.

The original mission statement was to build a highly satisfying street machine, so the design parameters were wide open. Since Mopar folks think of Hemis or Max Wedges whenever they see the color orange, what better exterior hue can you think of for this car? When set off with black accents, the finished (or nearly finished) effect is striking.

It was actually Nick who came up with the idea for the AAR stripes on this ’67 even though it was a 1970-only option. It seems he had a rear quarter panel from a AAR ’Cuda hanging on a wall in his garage and thought it would be cool to replicate the look on John’s ’67. To sell John on the idea, Nick actually used his fingers to draw the stripes in the accumulated dust on the ’67 at the very beginning of this project. John concluded if it looked that good depicted in dust, it would be fantastic in reality.

The Barracuda’s original engine was a 273 two-barrel generating a mere 180 horsepower. Now, energy comes from a balanced and blueprinted Mopar Performance 360 A-block. Local Mopar engine guru Gerald Wright actually assembled the 408cid stroker. The A-block displayed 441 horses at 6,100 rpm. By 5,000 rpm, it was making 429 lbs-ft of torque.

The original low-performance 904 automatic transmission was pulled out and replaced with a trusty 833 four-speed and Mopar clutch assembly. One of the key design elements of this car was then attached – a pistol grip Hurst-based shifter. Continuing with the upgrades, John snatched out the original 7¼-inch rearend and replaced it with a more power friendly 8¾-inch rear utilizing a factory Sure-Grip with 3.23 gears. A 3.91 gear set will replace it soon. A classic pinion snubber keeps that rear end in proper alignment with the street.

John tried to think of everything during this build. He crafted a set of subframe connectors and tied everything together with an eight-point roll cage. It took John and his two Mopar accomplices 12 hours to build and install the cage.

Underneath, John rebuilt the suspension, added heavy-duty torsion bars up front and Super Stock rear springs. Mopar Mitch handled the creation of the mini-tubs and also tweaked the rear fender wells for the more traction friendly Mickey Thompson tires.

The Barracuda’s interior is a work in progress, although some very nice progress has been made already. The seats were completely redone. Mike Rivera made them look just like original equipment units. The new material also eliminated the foul smell that had accumulated during the car’s years as a small animal shelter. It includes a 140mph speedometer and a separate dial that houses four smaller gauges measuring fuel quantity, coolant temperature, volts and oil pressure. An Auto Meter tach keeps John accurately informed all the way up the rpm scale.

Throughout the course of the ’67-’69 Plymouth Barracuda production run, Chrysler offered the Hi-Po 273, the 340, the 383, the 440, and the race Hemi. In case you weren’t there at the time, everyone on the streets knew there was always a possibility a Barracuda could give Chevy and Ford lovers a serious case of indigestion. But if you think that’s just history and you’re off the hook now, think again. The roar you hear is coming from John’s Barracuda, and it’s fishing for dinner.

Mod List

• Engine: Mopar Performance 360 A-block (408 ci)

• Pistons: 11:1 Mopar Performance

• Crank: Cast iron Mopar Performance

• Rods: Mopar Performance

• Cam: COMP solid lifter .555-inch lift

• Roller rockers: Harland Sharp 1.5

• Intake manifold: Single plane Holley Dominator

• Carb: Holley 870cfm vacuum secondary

• Brakes (front): Master Power vented discs

• Brakes (rear): Stainless Steel Brakes vented discs