We warmed up for this exercise by watching turbo-car frolics on YouTube. The scenes are somehow magnified by those couple of seconds before boost rolls on and the tires light up insane. There’s nothing … and then the smoke grenades go off all at once. Instead of running out of steam, turbo lungs keep pulling like a maniac as the rubber becomes hopelessly unraveled. It’s a sight and an experience not to be forgotten.
Certainly, turbochargers have been applied to internal combustion engines for decades but only with the advent of sophisticated, programmable electronics has this preternatural power become so manageable, predictable, and awe-inspiring in a race car. In the street car racing world, they are now quite prevalent.
Canoga Park, California’s Ryan Jones runs this ’65 Deuce at PSCA, WCHRA, and NMCA/NMRA races and though he’s only been at it a couple of years in current configuration, he and his blood-red familiar have accrued a string of enviable accomplishments. Ryan: “I won the first event I ever entered in Wild Street/Drag Radial at the PSCA World Finals in November 2010. I won the first NMCA race on the West Coast, again in Wild Street. In the West Coast Hot Rod event, I won in the X275 Drag Radial class. I have also scored multiple runners-up in PSCA and WCHRA.”
A shoebox devotee since his first ’64 in 1993, the 34-year-old experimented with a 383 and Turbo 350 and along with some other upgrades, and his daily driver was regularly peeling off 12.20s. In 2000, he and his Nova became victims of circumstance. The throttle stuck. He freaked, whacked the brakes, and put the car on its head, stopping a few short feet from blowing a great, big hole through somebody’s house.
True, the Nova’s so-so body and suspension were totaled, but to Ryan this foible represented opportunity to begin anew and to upgrade. He bought his new shell from a friend for $500, swapped the motor, rearend, and all usable suspension and interior parts, and was back in the rubber-burning business a few months later.
“Over the years,” Ryan says, “the engine upgrades, gear, and converter changes got the car going 10.60s on pump gas and on all-motor. For a few years, I was street racing every night. It was a sleeper, and I was driving it all over Southern California to do that. Then I wanted to start racing in the 9.60 bracket class, so I stepped up the motor again with better cylinder heads and 14:1 compression. It went 9.60s for five years straight with a best time of 9.57 at 139 and was still on the motor. By this time, I could make pass with my eyes closed so I decided to take it to the next level. But what was the best combo out there?”
Ryan saw that all the twin-turbo fuel injection cars were running fast and consistently and that was all he needed. To make the turbo conversion copasetic, he changed the compression ratio, cam timing, and applied the snails. He was amazed when the combo produced nearly 1,000 hp more than the normal aspiration setup.
“With the turbo combo and at a race weight of 3,540 pounds, I’ve been 7.76 at 182. The car weighs only 3,030 with me in it, so I had to add more than 500 pounds of lead and ballast throughout to make weight. One day I’ll take it all out and see what she runs. I never thought a basic 23-degree 406 would go deep into the 7s as it has. Every couple of weeks I take it for a spin. I love driving this car!”