There's a strain and a bit of impatience in Lonnie Patrick's voice. He's young, but has a lot on his shoulders it would seem. Owns and runs a business, spends time with his family, and drag races for money all in the same minute and a half. His monstrous Malibu isn't a hobby. He doesn't get a warm buzz from it. He doesn't cruise drive-ins with it. He doesn't cop an attitude from it. He flat puts it down the quarter-mile to make money. Eleven-year-old Lailani likes to watch her dad race too.
The Malibu isn't a Lonnie lifestyle. It is his life. With that much riding on it, he doesn't have time for trivial crap. Our phone conversation was interrupted two or three times while he took care of customers, and I'd try him back when the coast was clear. With each succeeding call, he got more familiar, looser, even laughed softly a few times. It was as if he suddenly realized we were on his side.
Honorable editor Henry De Los Santos often races along with Lonnie and has witnessed his motivation firsthand. "We were at Vegas with Artis Houston's car (CHP, Jan. '06) and Lonnie's. The same pit crew works both cars. Mike Nelson doing the nitrous, Mark Washington wrenching, Chuck Butler Jr. along with his daughter Cyndi 'Rugrat' and Lonnie's nephew Li'l Lonnie doing everything else. Then there's Robert Merren and Eugene Modlin, who put in the long hours and give added moral support. Lonnie's tranny blew. Nobody had a spare. There was nothing for him to borrow so he made a six-hour round-trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, in order to borrow a fresh tranny! After the 300-plus-mile commute, he replaced it at the track and made eliminations later that day. I probably would have waited until the next race, but not Lonnie. The guy's strong, dude."
One night Lonnie was racing in Compton, down at 125th and Mansfield. Cars parked so close on the side they weren't more than a few feet from ones running 130. Anybody got out of line and it would have gotten wet real quick. "It was just too risky," Lonnie says. "Here I had a daughter to look after and I was out doing that. I just got old, I guess. I started racing legal at PSCA events just for the fun of it. That street-race money was hard to give up, though, so I don't race strictly for fun anymore. Sure, it's about hangin' out with your friends, but you can't deny the money at the end of it."
By day, Lonnie and his business partner run C&O Automotive in Hawthorne, California. Performance transmissions are what he builds, including the one in the Malibu. C&O used to be C&O Hydro, a business he bought from the original owner, Gene Ciambella, who raced and sponsored local cars back in the day. Lonnie builds mean, high-end race motors too. We're pretty sure he doesn't run around lighting things with flaming C-notes, so there must be a tacit budget somewhere. Indeed, the motor cost a bundle and has the most thought and hours in it, but Lonnie built it with time and he knew preparation for the rest of the car would be minimal.
"The best thing about it is the Chassisworks antisway bar," instructs Lonnie. "They're coming out with a revised one that mounts under the axlehousing instead of way above it. It's like grabbing somebody by the waist instead of the shoulders. Which way do you have more control? I try to balance the weight out so the car hits hard out of the hole. The mph has always been good. But if I could, I'd run Drag Radials, not the ET Streets."
You watch this car on the line, nose down, sheetmetal tense against the slicks. The tree blinks, Lonnie brings the Rs up on the converter and lets fly. The slicks bulge. The 'Bu's snout rises but sets back down in the second or so it takes to clear the first 60 feet. Lonnie's hopelessly gone in the staccato of the 525.
We're showing you the money. Lonnie lit things off big-time with a Dart Big M cylinder case bored to 4.600 inches and machined everywhere it needed to be by QMP Motorsports (Chatsworth, California). The rotating assembly is top shelf and includes a Lunati crankshaft (3.95-inch stroke), 15.0:1 Arias pistons, Hellfire rings, and Bill Miller's connecting rods. Oiling is handled by a Billet Fabrication aluminum sump, pump, and pick-up. The Pure Power oil-filter system can be cleaned and reused indefinitely.
Naturally, the Comp cam is a monster-0.820 inch lift on the intakes, 0.758 inch lift on the exhausts, and 285/304 degrees duration at 0.050 inch. Lonnie tied it to the crank with a Jesel beltdrive. Since this is a nitrous bullet, it must routinely stand in the face of insane cylinder pressure, so that fat cam wouldn't work right without PSI valvesprings with an open pressure of more than 1,200 pounds. Chet Herbert pushrods poke a 1.65:1 Jesel shaft rocker system, which acts on 2.300/1.880 Del West valves. Lonnie took the biggest, baddest cylinder heads AFR offers-CNC-ported 357 Magnums-ones that sport 415-cfm intake runners (at 0.700 lift) and 121cc combustion chambers. CFO Enterprises out of Palmdale, California, dug the intake tunnels even deeper (Lonnie: "They put up one of the best porting jobs money can buy.")
An Edelbrock/Rehear-Morrison intake manifold, port-matched to the heads, hosts a 1,160-cfm Pro Systems Holley. An MSD Digital-7 ignition puts out a fat, vibrant spark in the face of the nitrous (total timing is 40 degrees). Lemons headers are stepped with 211/44-to-231/48-inch primaries that terminate in 5-inch collector mufflers. The sawed-off pump lying in the trunk is an NOS Fogger system.
C&O Automotive's own Lonnie Patrick anointed the Powerglide with a 1.80:1 Low gear, a 10-inch Continental converter with a 4,200 stall speed, and a B&M shifter and cooler. Torque whips through a PSI aluminum driveshaft to a 9-inch axle spinning a spool, Tom's axles, and a 3.89:1 gearset.
That ogre of a motor works beautifully in a nearly stock chassis that Lonnie and Chuck Butler firmed up good with a Chris Alston 10-point rollcage. They fit the 9-inch housing with a spool to keep everything even (no moving parts, nothing to wear out). QA1 double-adjustable shock absorbers check the Moroso drag-race coils. Launch quality is ensured by the Chassisworks antisway bar. Up front, little more than Moroso springs and QA1 double-adjustables get the nose up quickly and settle it back down just as timely.
Spartan accommodations are all racer Lonnie needs. Other than the Mike Nelson wiring system, the Grant steering wheel, the JAZ race buckets, the Crow Enterprizes five-point harness, and the raft of Stewart-Warner gauges, the 'Bu's interior is as stock as it gets.
The Malibu is a drag-race car so it only needs as much brake as will fit inside a 15-inch wheel. A parachute takes care of the really heavy stuff. The stock spindles are fitted with Lamb Components discs, while the 9-inch wears Wilwood's finest. Rims and tires are drag-race generic: Weld Alumastar and Mickey Thompson 26.0/4.5-15 ET Fronts on 15x3.5 rims and ET Streets on 15x10 hoops squish down hard when Lonnie stomps the C&O 'Glide.
How It Runs
On the motor, this bad boy rings up 815 lb-ft of torque at 7,300 rpm and 975 hp at 8,525 rpm at the flywheel. And on the 500 shot, Lonnie whomps the clocks with a whopping 8.15 seconds at 174.81 mph.
Lonnie describes the bodywork as "basic," and coming out of the Los Angeles environment we have no doubt that it was. Estrada's Body Shop in nearby Gardena put on the DuPont blue and clear. Kelly's Pinstriping applied the kinky graphics.