Any steady reader of CHP knows the name Saiki. That would be dad, Gordon, and son, Mike, heavies in the West Coast Hot Rod Association and PSCA for these many years. Gordon spent his greening years in the aircraft industry, retiring as a senior QA manager at Boeing. He and Mike collaborate in Motivational LLC, their fabrication and engine-building shop in Gardena, California.
They raced this car in Limited Street for years with a nitrous small-block and Mike drove it to two championships. "The 28x11.5 ET Street tire used in the class was just too small and the car was getting too fast to drive [9.11 best e.t.]," Gordon opined. The plan was to knock back on the speed and build it to run in a 10-second class "for fun". Let's see how long that notion actually lasted.
"I decided to build a big-block from the spare parts lying around and clone it to visually appear as a stock 427, with factory ignition shield and air cleaner," Gordon says. Then the smoke began to rise. Things got weirder. Gordon had a whim. "I built the engine around a rare early stock 396 dual-plane intake manifold [casting number 3866963, date stamped 12/12/64]. The goal was to make 700 hp with reliability."
Gordon took the engine to Westech Performance for the proof. Dyno king Steve Brulè asked what was the power goal. He said 700 wasn't possible with the antiquated intake system and a 4150 carb. "On the warm-up pull it made over 700 at 6,200. I was happy and wanted to go home," Gordon laughs. Then it got even weirder. "We upped the carb jets and cranked it up to 7,300 and wow, 831 hp!"
The first time out at a neighborhood test and tune, the car ran 9.65 on the motor on 275 Drag Radials. Gordon didn't think the car would be competitive in the new Outlaw 8.5 class, so he added a variable. The tune-up was a single-stage nitrous that delivers 200 hp. The skeptics did not relent: "It won't run with the dual-plane intake."
With Mike at the wheel, they won that race on his ability to cut lights and his experience driving on small tires. "At that point, this engine was the easiest starting, cleanest running motor I have ever built," Gordon says. Then, a small disaster. An improperly torqued beltdrive during assembly retarded the camshaft 10 degrees. Valves clashed with piston domes. The No. 3 exhaust valve broke, obliterating the piston dome and shoved the valve into the port. Jimmy Lee and Dr. J came to the rescue and welded the casting tight.
Then the onslaught: at the 2011 Super Street Car Nationals in Las Vegas, he made one run in Outlaw 8.5, but before the next round, battery trouble put him by the side. He didn't race again until 2012, a season fraught with devastating, straight-up wheelstands … but the pictures were great. The new M/T ET Street Radial Pro tires provided more stick over the old 275s and that, combined with a tighter torque converter, put daylight under all four wheels. Gordon continued, tightened the shocks, but hitting the nitrous out of the hole wasn't possible—"you have to shift to Second gear while the wheels are still in the air."
After some more performance-robbing incidents, Gordon and Mike ran Bakersfield on September 8, 2012, and made the first nitrous-assisted quarter-mile pass. It ran a fine 8.83 at 157 mph, despite a slipping converter (more than 10 percent, when it should be around 5), which caused the engine to go to 8,600 rpm 150 feet before the traps. For 2013, another converter should pull this puppy over 160. "I love it when the fans and racers come to my pit to see the car and their expressions when they see an engine that looks bone stock. Everything on it works and it will likely be put back on the street with a Corvette 427 motor sitting in a corner of the garage."
Gordon always relies on his instincts.
The sweet smell of stealth. You can't see the Dart engine block that provides the foundation, but it has a 4.56-inch bore and 4.125-inch stroke to yield a displacement of 538 ci. Team C in Bellflower, California, the father and son's preferred machinists, did the requisite measuring, boring, and grinding. Gordon took it from there, settling the Scat lightweight arm with KMJ I-Beam Pro Connecting Rods and domed JE pistons encircled by 1/16, 1/16, and 3/16 rings. The COMP solid roller projects a 0.800-inch lift across the board and durations of 281/292 degrees at 0.050 inch. A Jesel timing gear seals the front of the block. Dr. J's Performance did a full port job on the Canfield castings into which Gordon poured titanium valves. He captured them with titanium retainers and Isky valvesprings. The T&D shaft rockers are bumped by cigarillo-sized Manton 3/8-inch-diameter pushrods. That storied dual-plane intake manifold is topped with a Holley 4150 as massaged by the good Dr. Gordon secured the bottom end with a Milodon pan and Melling oil pump with standard pressure and fluid volume. Spark is controlled by an MSD Digital 7. To blow minds a little further, Gordon employed a Stahl custom side-mount exhaust paired with 3.5-inch collectors and Burns mufflers. For that side-pocket .45, look no further than the Induction Solutions single-plate 200 shot. The Westech pump revealed 646 lb-ft of torque at 6,100 rpm and 831 hp at 7,300 rpm. Backstory: Gordon surmised that the expensive Mallory metal-infused crank had a 4.00-inch stroke. It didn't. The JE pistons were for a 522ci maximum. During assembly, he was floored when the pistons breached the deck by 0.125 inch. Gordon fixed this with the correct JE slugs and custom 0.125-inch-thick Cometic gaskets. Then he accommodated the intake manifold with spacers of the appropriate thickness. Steve Sharp built the Turbo 400 transmission (sans transbrake) with manual reverse valvebody and an Art Carr 4,500-stall speed converter. Ancillaries include a B&M fluid cooler and shifter. The 25/8-inch-diameter mild steel prop shaft ends at the Tom's Differentials (Ponderay, Idaho) Corvette IRS fitted with 12-bolt gears (4.11:1), Positraction, 31/2-inch-diameter half-shafts fitted with Spicer U-joints, and triple-braced trailing arms.
Motivational LLC seized the chassis with a mild steel rollcage certified to 8.50 for the obvious safety and rigidity it affords. Aside from the shortened Tom's seven-leaf transverse spring, the chassis is bolt-on ready with Moroso coils and QA1 adjustable dampers in front and Koni tubes in back. Spindles and steering are stock. The car weighs 3,250 pounds.
Wheels & Brakes
Those polished Weld Racing Magnum 2.0 hoops really set the red off. At the leading edge, a 3.5-inch width borders 27.5x4.5 M/T ET front rubber. At the rear, the new M/T ET Street Radial Pro 275/60 on 8-inch-wide wheels featuring bead locks. Energy dissipation is the responsibility of the 11.75- and 11.44-inch-diameter Wilwood discs and four-piston calipers. A parachute is the fail-safe.
Gordon's favorite Siggy's Auto Body in good ol' Compton slicked it out, puckered the rear wheelwells to accept the rubber with decorum, affixed the L88-type hood, and applied the Corvette Red. All the original equipment, such as the mechanism for the retractable headlights, remains intact.
Gordon's cramped quarters are deemed slightly more so within the stringers of the rollcage. The seats are Kirkey but only one is equipped with an RCI seatbelt and safety harness (note padding so Gordon doesn't bang his noggin on stringer). Motivational installed a Painless eight-circuit wiring harness and then proceeded with the full complement of Auto Meter gauges. The tiller is a Corvette Duntov.