Coil Racing Engines (CRE) in nearby McHenry, Illinois, proceeded with a ’72 454 cylinder block and upped displacement to 496 ci via an 0.060-inch overbore and 0.250-inch greater stroke. CRE cemented the bottom end with an Eagle crank and connecting rods and thermal-coated 10.25:1 Mahle pistons surrounded by Perfect Circle rings. The oiling system is predicated on a Milodon sump, pump, and pickup. ARP fasteners are stationed throughout. The camshaft is an Erson (no specs offered) but cohabits with COMP pushrods. For the top end, the Dart heads were gasket-matched and their bowls blended and anointed with TRW valves, COMP springs, rocker arms, guides, and pushrods. Induction begins with the Accel Pro Ram intake manifold and throttle body and the system is animated by a Big Stuff controller as configured by ASSC in Lake Villa, Illinois. Zap zaps from an MSD ignition system. Spent stuff is extracted by 13/4-inch primary-pipe Hedman headers and sucked through a 3-inch system and those chortling Flowmasters. As installed in the Chevelle, this engine proofed 610 hp at 6,200 rpm and 525 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm, guaranteeing great low-speed throttle response and an exhilarating top end honk. And with all this world-beating at hand, efficiency is not out of the realm, either. The Turbo 400 transmission pushes through a Stage Right Transmission Boss Hog converter set with a 2,500-stall speed. Its capabilities are extended via a Gear Vendors overdrive offering a 0.82:1 final. A transmission cooler is situated within the Be Cool radiator core. Grunt ropes down a VRN Welding & Fabrication 3-inch diameter chrome-moly driveshaft to a 12-bolt that’s been treated with a 3.73:1 gears and a spool. On the Power Tour sojourns, Mark netted a solid 15 mpg. Not bad for a fat motor and 3,750-pound curb weight.
Clean, crisp, dusky Rocket Booster wheels are a fine complement in sizes 18x8 and 18x9.5, featuring 245/45 and 295/45 Firestone rollers. The binders—Mark really has no regard for anything more than front disc brakes—are 13-inch Wilwoods. He sourced the rear brakes from Speedway Motors. Its circle track kit makes putting 11x2.25-inch Ford drums on the 12-bolt axle ends an easy proposition.
That Marina Blue ensemble looks pretty much the same as it did in 1988 when it was laid down. Mark put SS gauges in the dash, along with a factory blinker tach (turn signal arrow in the same bezel). Controls for the Vintage Air system (using the original plate and slide levers) and AM/FM/CD and iPod system are close at hand, and Mark puts his hands on the stock Comfort-Grip steering wheel. Rather than mess up the floor, he retained the original column shifter. “The motor makes so much torque you can do a burnout in Third gear if necessary.” And that’s exactly what shooter Robert McGaffin saw through his viewfinder.
More Marina Blue (GM code FF) persuasion here, a still-shiny hangover from California, circa 1988. The body is pristine. The hood has a 2-inch cowl and was finished and repainted by the Performance crew.
Time-honored changes with basic equipment are all that Mark needed to prepare the chassis for his kind of ripping and tearing. There’s no hydro-formed anything anywhere on the ’rails, only rudimentary bolt-on components. Mark fixed the front suspension with Global West control arms, QA1 coilovers, and Hotchkis 13/8-inch antisway bar. In the back, a brace of QA1 shocks, Edelbrock upper and lower links, a 1-inch diameter Hotchkis sway bar, and that icon of ’60s drag racing, an airbag inside the right rear spring.