They say once you race heads-up, it's over. Forget about the days of mild small-blocks and radial T/A tires; gone are your thrills from simple burnouts or hanging around at car shows. As soon as this intoxicating adrenal bug bites, you do everything to re-create the feeling you get when piloting a mechanical monster down the quarter-mile. Your street car may become a race car, or you may buy something else to cut up for competition, others try to drive as a hired gun, but one thing's for sure: This drag racing thing is not something you can just quit. And most racers will tell you, it usually gets worse.
Erik Carlstedt recently took the step into the heads-up class racing with his 1970 Camaro and would say he has the drag racing virus bad. We feel it's safe to say that a large portion of our readers have made wide-open throttle passes down a dragstrip in their muscle car, and for those who haven't, we highly recommend it. The adrenalin rush you get even before the lights drop is sometimes all it takes before you find yourself scouring the performance parts catalogs for components to make your beauty go faster and faster. Now imagine the adrenal dose you'd get racing heads-up in front of millions of viewers; that rush must be out of this world. Erik knows what if feels like to have that many eyes on his car, as he was able to overcome his rival in front of the viewers of the Won and Done television show last April and since, he has been competing with the NMCA in the Outlaw 8.5 class (although the Camaro is wearing 28x10.5 M/T slicks in this spread), which consists of some of the quickest cars on the smallest tires.
So far, Erik's run a best of mid 5s in the eighth-mile (8.79 in the quarter) in competition with a 1.43 60-foot time, but like an adrenaline-addled fiend, he and his engine builder, Mark Rapp, are constantly striving to get his nitrous huffing racer toward the top of the pack. 'The tire's definitely tricky,' Erik says, about the NMCA-mandated 8.5-inch slick he uses in competition. 'We use an Edelbrock nitrous controller to dial in the launch and so far we like it. It's really easy to overpower the tire though, but you'd be surprised what that little Hoosier slick can do,' Erik says. The tire he's referring to is Hoosier Tire's 26x8.5 C11 Outlaw slick, which has been as quick as mid 4 seconds in the eighth-mile and some crazy dudes have even run this tire at over 170 mph in the quarter.
Erik's car is an example of an entry-level heads-up car he built mostly himself, proving that you don't need a high-dollar operation to race heads-up; and judging by his numbers so far, we'd say this homebuilt hero is on the right track.
Horsepower comes from a Rapp Racing 427ci small-block that has been fitted with a Scat crankshaft and connecting rods and domed RaceTec pistons that smash about 13.8:1 compression. The heads are 18-degree GM castings that have been severely worked over by Darin Morgan Cylinder Heads to flow tremendous numbers on both the intake and exhaust side. Topping the combination is an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold that the nitrous gurus at Nitrous Supply fitted with a pair of direct-port systems that are set to spray at different rates depending on what Erik inputs into the Edelbrock controller. Jesel roller rockers articulate Manley valves, while Manton pushrods move on COMP Cams' Elite roller lifters. The camshaft is a secret custom nitrous grind spec'd by Rapp Racing, but you can tell by the gnarly idle that it's a large one. A single 4150 Holley carburetor that flows 950 cfm tops the combo, while custom headers and exhaust from Hooker route the burnt fuel through 3.5-inch exhaust pipes. The engine alone makes close to 650 hp, so now imagine what it could do with two guns firing liquid power directly to its burn zone.
Neck-snapping shifts come from a TH400 that's been fitted with all the tough race internals from Hughes, including the nitrous-ready 9-inch converter that flashes up to 4,400 rpm if needed. A B&M Pro Bandit shifter connects the pilot to the car, while an Inland Empire driveshaft connects the three-speed auto to a 12-bolt rearend. The gear ratio chosen was 3.73:1, while the standard differential and axles were removed to make way for a full spool and 35-spline pieces from Strange Engineering.
The bare-bones interior only has the racing necessities: A VFN fiberglass dash, Auto Meter tach and gauges, some lightweight plastic seats from Summit, Crow five-point harnesses, a full nitrous bottle from NOS, and at his fingertips: the Edelbrock progressive nitrous controller Erik uses to manage how much power his car throws down. A mild steel rollcage is also a component of the interior, good for up to 8.50 times in the quarter-mile.
The hood on the second gen comes from VFN Fiberglass in Addison, Illinois, while the silver metallic paint is a simple one-stage coat from 1-Day Paint in Orange, California. And the stripes? They were sprayed out of a can....Hey, it's a race car. Other features include an aluminum front and rear spoiler from Fast Eddie's Speed Shop in Orange, California. The spoilers are totally functional and aid in keeping this small-tire terror planted at high speeds.
Wheels & Tires
In the photos you see on these pages, Erik's Camaro is wearing 28x10.5 Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks, but when in competition, Hoosier's 26x8.5 slicks are used. The wheels are classic Centerline Telestar's that measure 15x10 in the rear and 15x4.5 up front. The Mickey Thompson drag skinnies in the front measure 3.5-inch wide, for less rolling resistance and weight.
Brakes & Suspension
Bringing the silver bullet to a halt is Strange Engineering's lightweight drag race disc brakes at all four corners and the suspension is also set up exclusively for drag racing. Strange double-adjustable shocks are in the rear, single-adjustable shocks sit up front, and instead of ladder bars or a four-link, Erik went with the venerable CalTracs in the rear from Calvert Racing Suspension. These bolt-on traction bars are coupled with Calvert's Split-Mono leaf springs.