Chris Kephart is no stranger to adversity or to good-natured heckling from his racing peers. We suspect that Chris hasn’t ever been a pack runner and that he’d rather maintain his civility and individuality regardless of the consequences. He’s a risk taker, something sorely missing from our modern world and blurred by issues and pabulum. So how could we not ask the question, the reason for this altogether unconventional pearl?
Chris: “Why this car? How many land yachts do you see going 200 mph?” The most popular Left Coast racing factions are WCHR and PSCA. Chris runs Outlaw 10.5 in both houses. His barge was the first Vortech-equipped vehicle to surpass 200 mph in the quarter-mile.
This car was bought in Iowa by a friend. Actually, the guy bought five ’62 Chevys in all manner of body configuration and running condition. Chris’ beauty was easy to distinguish from the others. It was skeletal—a shell, a roof, and a few extraneous pieces held it upright.
“I like doing things that people say cannot be done,” Chris says. “I build my own chassis, do my own fabrication, and am a slave to paint and body. I’m using a power-adder that has not been thoroughly proven yet and surround it all in a flying brick. It’s the world’s quickest and fastest Vortech-blown drag racer [7.03 at 202.83]. That’s why I built this car.”
We like it because cars that are as obtuse and angular as the 3,200-pound Imp aren’t supposed to beat the air that fast. We like it because Chris did the deeds in his garage and driveway. Although some might find it a tad naughty, Chris did all body modifications and applied the paint in his driveway under that warm California sun. These rituals have been practiced since the first souped-up engine belched hot exhaust. Hot rodding began in the driveway right next to the house, a method proven and recounted about a billion times since the era began.
Chris finished the Impala in 2007. It was a two-year birthing process. If we didn’t know better, we’d say that the forces of gravity are evident. The Imp rides down low, seemingly sucked to the tarmac. The Impala’s chassis exhibits no monkey motion. In the rush and the cacophony of the exercise, Chris smiles easily, thinking of nothing save for his next blast in the big, bad strawberry. The Imp holds no secrets.
Editor Henry: “No joke. His Impala is amazing to watch. I also love that he built the entire car at home, literally.” Chris’ bad-boy B-body runs in a field predominated by sheetmetal and silhouettes of much later model cars. This simple fact establishes Chris as a real four-jumps-ahead-of-you racer. This pressurized rosy red Imp is something that will not soon shrivel from memory.
Chris Kephart built his tube frame to 25.2 specifications. He fabbed a four-link rear suspension using bits from Applied Racing Technology’s (ART) considerable collection. He selected an ART FAB9 chromoly housing replete with 3.70:1 gears, 40-spline axles, and a spool to turn them. Wheel movement is controlled by AFCO double-adjustable coilover dampers mounted advantageously in a near-vertical posture. Alston supplied the frontend components. Chris inserted Santhuff coilovers between the minimal, lightweight tubular control arms. A rack-and-pinion steering system directs Alston drag race spindles, and the webbing of the rollcage forms an all-inclusive safety net that would do a Funny Car proud. Chris tried to remove all unnecessary fat and included the use of Lexan, carbon fiber, and fiberglass renditions to hit his 3,200-pound target. Chris is a testa dura, a hard head, still at a sizable weight disadvantage (2,800 legal) but he’d rather buck the odds in something that no one else has than run in the pack.
All business but with some incongruous side bits: a bright, happy-face instrument cluster, more tubing than a refinery, and a steering wheel that quick-disconnects and falls right in your lap. The main ingredients here are aluminum and carbon fiber. Chris uses a Kirkey bucket as upholstered by him. He’s held piano-wire tight by a Crow five-point harness. We find another protective agent in the DJ Safety (Los Angeles) fire suppression unit. A glance at the Auto Meter dials tells him what’s up on the other side of the firewall. Before Chris packed in the VFN fiberglass dashboard, he wove the new Painless wiring harness throughout. Air conditioning? “I wish.”
Hawaii Racing in Simi Valley is a sponsor, a contributor to the operation. Hawaii does the engine assembly and the freshening operations as needed. Prior to that, Chris had trundled the pieces to QMP Racing in Chatsworth, California. Brad Lagman performed the requisite stage-setting machining rituals. The goal was 509 ci via a 4.500-inch bore and 4.00-inch stroke. The “kit” included a Keith Black Olds aluminum cylinder block that was stocked with a Lunati crankshaft, Ross pistons and rings, and Bill Miller’s aluminum connecting rods. The companion 18-degree cylinder heads are Dart 383 oval-port with complete CNC ministrations, port roof raised 0.300 inch, 2.350-inch intake, and 1.840-inch exhaust valves. With its current 102cc combustion chamber configuration, the static compression ratio is 9.5:1. Lubrication is affected by a Jeff Johnston aluminum oil pan and a Moroso billet oil pump/pickup. The cam emerged from Steve Morris at New Era in Rochester, New York. Since the stick is experimental its specifications are hush-hush. The Darts provide a home for the PSI valvesprings, Manton pushrods, and Jesel 1.7:1 ratio shaft rocker system, and receive a Dart single-plane intake manifold engineered to complement the cylinder heads. To set the stage for the Vortech V-28 123(mm) compressor housing, Chris fabbed a sheetmetal elbow with intake air plumbing referenced to the rear of the engine. The tubes running along the right side of the engine complete the intercooler (built by Deeds Performance in Chatsworth) system, the preponderance of which rides shotgun next to Chris. Chris inserted an Accufab 105mm throttle body (1,550 cfm) between the charge air and the intake elbow. The experimental Vortech usually produces a whopping 42 psi of positive manifold pressure. Engine electronics and fuel delivery are governed by a FAST controller programmed at nanosecond intervals for immediate and seamless changes in timing, boost, and fuel. Cylinder toxicity is extracted by 23/8- to 21/2-inch stepped primaries terminating in 9-inch-long Dynatech collectors and 5-inch Vibrant race “mufflers”. As such, the 509 is capable of more than 2,000 hp. Successfully transferring mountainous torque into straight and linear motion falls to the ever-popular Mike’s Transmission Monster Glide, which maintains a 5,200 stall speed Hughes converter and leads to a Mark Williams chromoly prop shaft. Transmission fluid circulates through a remotely mounted Chiseled Performance cooler. This drastically reduces fluid temp by subjecting the cooler with ice water from the air-to-water intercooler system. The junction forms at an ART FAB9 sheetmetal axlehousing prepped with big shafts, a spool, and a 3.70:1 gear set.
“I’m concerned that the brakes alone won’t bring the car down quickly enough at most venues, so that Stroud parachute helps big time,” Chris says. For the record, his Red Sled maintains Wilwood drag race discs, a fierce combination that pairs 11-inch rotors with two-piston calipers on both ends of the car. The rubber up front is minimal: M/T ET Drag 15x3.5 with 28x4.5 skinnies. The 15-inch-wide M/T ET Drag bead lock rims secure the big (33x10.5) back balonies.
As mentioned, a lot of the Imp’s wide body has been replaced with nonferrous materials. The most obvious is that deck spoiler, decklid, hood, fenders, bumpers, and doorskins. Dig the sewer pipe–sized hole in the grille that connects to the mouth of the mammoth supercharger? Dig the 6-inch cowl hood? Dig the vibe? Which way should you run? Chris did all the body modification at his Simi Valley home. He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed some more. Then it was time for the torch, actually a PPG ’62 Roman Red and clear basecoat, dutifully applied by that one-man orchestra named Chris. CHP