As a man moves on in years, he discovers that what was vital to him in the old days just isn't so important in the new days. Humans can overcome just about anything except the thrill of matting the throttle and dumping the clutch on a hot motor. Torque is that powerful, bone-marrow deep minion. Torque is palpable. Torque is the cure for the blues.
In the day, Jack was a drag racer, a willing slave to that strip of burnished asphalt. His street cars included an L79 (327/350) '66 Nova and '67 Olds 4-4-2, and, as of late, an early ZO6 Corvette. Now 60, Jack fervently recreates a moment from his boyhood with the rendition of the first car he owned after high school (1966). Of course, his reborn familiar has easily twice the power as the old 327. Its chassis is completely updated, as are all the primary systems, and all is arranged Pro Touring-like. Even after all these years, the one thing Jack couldn't do without was an engine with balls. Didn't care so much about the rest of project, but he had to have that motor ring. Here's how it all began.
"I was a true motorhead, loving everything from muscle cars to boats, trucks, anything with a motor. I was making $1.50 an hour at my father's hardwood lumber company. The Chevy store in Ravenna, Ohio, had a dark-blue L79 on the floor. I made my deal, which was a loan for $49.50 a month that my father cosigned."
So Jack was in business...but not for long. Somebody clipped the Nova and stripped it naked somewhere near Cleveland. He was devastated. In an attempt to salve his psychic wound, Jack fell on a '67 4-4-2. "It was a great car," Jack says, "but not like the Nova." He sold the Olds in 1968 and did the Vietnam-era turnaround: some years in the military, followed by college. He graduated in 1974 and married his sweety, Jo Ann, in 1977. His life changed right about then, but it had nothing to do with his marital state.
Jack York, the guy who lived across the street, was a car nut too. What luck! Another kindred spirit in the neighborhood. The pair began talking. The pair began scheming. For 25 years they travelled around the eastern U.S. and went as far west as Kansas to lay down rubber and make some cash.
"We had a very successful career. Four NHRA Division 3 championships, 14 division event wins, one national event title, one runner-up, and three Top 10 finishes in world points. This gave me my fix for going fast and playing with cars."
When the two Jacks stopped the dragstrip slaughter in '03, Slagle bought a ZO6. It was visceral enough, but didn't satisfy his jones. "The car was a great ride, but not an old muscle car. In 2004 I wandered off to the Goodguys event in Columbus, looking for a '66 Nova. There were some great ones there, but some I thought were a little on the high side. Now that I've restored one, I know they were fairly priced. A red one caught my eye. I drove it home. That winter I decided to make it better than the original."
And he did. The Nova was infused with modern suspension, steering, brakes, wheels and tires, transmission, and a 454-inch small-block from Zimmerman Brothers Motor Sports in Greensburg, Indiana. "So now my dream is 90 percent complete and I am cruisin'...with my mind back in the '60s." Jack Slagle ain't got dem blues, no.
Thanks for not trying to jam a big-block down this little guy's throat, Jack. In the interest of proper front/rear weight bias, the 454 little-block makes for pure sleeper bait. Working with the Zimmerman Brothers, Jack planned a topnotch motor, like he was still going drag racing. The Zimms went through the machine work wish list and applied it to a Dart Iron Eagle cylinder block. Oiling emanates from a Billet Fabrications 7-quart pan and companion pump. Because he was destined for the street, Jack wanted no vagaries when it came to pedestrian gas; therefore, the compression ratio of the dished JE forgings (fitted with Speed-Pro ring packs) was set at 9.2:1. They swing on Eagle rods zinging off a Lunati 4.25-inch stroker crank. Comp Cams figured heavily. All the valvetrain items (camshaft, hydraulic rollers, 5/16-inch pushrods, guides, retainers, and locks) as well as the 2.08/1.60 valves are from the poets on Democrat Road. The top end is composed of Edelbrock Performer RPM heads that the Zimms ported and port-matched to the Super Victor intake manifold. Chris Alston headers with 2-inch primary pipes dump into a cross-pipe followed by a 3-inch, full-length exhaust system. Spark jumps from an MSD Digital 6 box, and timing is set at 35 degrees. Under that K&N air hat: a 950-cfm Holley HP carb. Without extra help, the engine made 578 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm and 585 hp at 5,600 rpm. A beautifully flat torque curve makes this motor a sweetheart in traffic and around the car parks. At a time not far off, that seemingly weak compression ratio will make a sturdy target for the inevitable ProCharger...and several hundred more horsepower. An equally muscular Tremec TKO 600 five-speed (2.87 Low, 0.64:1 overdrive) handles the abundant torque via a Centerforce DFX 11-inch clutch and steel flywheel. The grunt migrates swiftly down an Inland Empire Driveline aluminum prop shaft to the narrowed and reinforced 12-bolt housing. Jack managed the rest of the combination with Richmond 4.10:1 gears, an Eaton differential, and Strange 33-spline axleshafts. When the motor is enjoying its blower high life, Jack intends a beefed 700-R4 to handle the grunt.
Those ol' drag race guys aren't much for duded-up interiors. The stock ensemble does nicely, so long as it's clutter-free and sharp as a blade. To that end, Jason Foltz over in Thornville, Ohio, reupholstered the stock seats in GM Restoration vinyl, laid in a new dash pad, stocked up on Auto Meter instruments, and stuck a Grant Classic Nostalgia Series tiller wheel on the steering post. HVAC is your basic bow-though-no air conditioning. Aural gratification comes strictly from the 454, not that crazy one-speaker radio.
Though Jack's in bed with old iron, he knows it wouldn't brake or handle worth a crap. If he did nothing else, he would change out the antiquity for some modern chassis power, some muscle to enact active avoidance at the very least. PK Racecars in Pataskala, Ohio, applied a complete Chris Alston subframe and front suspension, including spindles, upper and lower control arms, rack steering, antisway bars, and VariShock coil overs. PK suspended the 12-bolt with more Chassisworks items. A four-link kit with an antisway bar locates the 12-bolt, and wheel movement is staunched by VariShocks with 130-lb/in springs. In this application, an antisway bar is last but certainly not least.
To be sure, the car Jack found at Goodguys was a solid candidate for resurrection, but there were enough wrinkles in the front fenders, hood, and deck lid to precipitate a change-out. Brad Schmitt at Hebron Auto Body (Hebron, Ohio) installed the new GM fenders and Goodmark tin, then bent to them. He stripped the car, sanded and blocked it, reassembled the collection, and painted it with Sikkens basecoat/clearcoat over the show-quality Torch Red.
Wheels & Brakes
While you could have the world's slickest piece, if the wheels are not sympathetic to the overall scheme and the stance isn't edgy, cohesiveness flies right out the window. Jack wins here. He wrapped Billet Specialties 17x7 and 18x9 SLC62 hoops with P205/40ZR17 BFG g-Force Sports and P295/35ZR18 BFG Drag Radials. The modern braking system consists of 13- and 12.19-inch Wilwoods with six- and four-piston calipers, respectively.