Words: Tommy Parry
There aren’t many sights finer than a pristine Chevelle, especially one that’s modified for drag racing. The clean lines and generous proportions give the car a sense of authority without being ungainly, and when a massively powerful motor propels that sizable car down the drag strip, it’s a match made in heaven. In the case of Chad’s Chevelle, it not only had a big motor, but one that was force-fed by an equally large turbocharger.
While the gorgeous blue exterior draws the eye from a mile away, it’s the turbocharged motor which steals the spotlight. The 355 SBC, fitted with Vic Jr. heads, is pumped full of air via a Borg-Warner S400 75mm turbocharger, fitted with a 96mm turbine wheel and a 1.32 AR. This combination, used in conjunction with a 5” downpipe and a NOS Cheater kit, allows for full boost at 4,000 rpm, all while still retaining a strong top end. It’s an ideal setup for the street.
A set of SS Autochrome stainless, 2.5” crossover headers give the motor a wonderful roar. As one can imagine, making a big turbocharger work with a CSU 750 E85 blow-thru carburetor isn’t the easiest of things to do.
Though the engine bay was spacious, getting the downpipe to curl elegantly around the motor was no mean feat. Nor was patching up some of the leaks in the headers and the hotside of the turbocharger with Ultra Copper RTV. Chad plumbed the twin Turbonetics 90mm wastegates to keep the power in check and added all the pretty blue and red fittings to make the 355 look like a bonafide racing motor.
After a few tests and a scary lean-out situation, Chad leaned out the carburetor and threw on a manual boost controller, ran 12 pounds of boost consistently and then tried a few different jet sizes. After seeing 11.6 on the wideband at WOT, he turned the boost up three more pounds and proceeded to shred tires down the backroads. However, a bit too much duration meant the motor coughed its last, and he had to scavenge up another block.
But not another 355 - an aluminum, 5.3-liter L33 this time. The motor was far from stock though: Ported LS6 heads, Brian Tooley double valve springs with titanium retainers and a Vic Jr. intake helped it breathe a bit. He said bye to the massive single turbo and bolted on a set of Borg-Warner 57mm turbos for better spool and more predictable power delivery.
Running the downpipes and all the oil return lines was not easy, to say the least, and squeezing the build in between other builds and work made the process even more challenging. Fueled on by Coors Light, Chad burned the candle at both ends, rigged up a radiator, an Eliminator pump, a Big Dog regulator and a TH350 transmission and fired the MSD up.
Unfortunately, the L33 was not long for this world. After throwing the #8 rod out of the side of the block, Chad grabbed an iron block 5.3 from the local junkyard, transferred over the cam, springs, head gaskets and studs, bolted on the snails and turned them up to 20 pounds, and went racing.
Driving all that thrust to the rear wheels required a decent suspension setup and some sticky tires. With Viking Double Adjustable rear shocks and a set of Mickey Thompson ET street radials in a 275-section, he had enough traction to propel the 3,700-pound tank. When he got his time slip back, it read “9.69@143 mph.” That should’ve made the multiple motor builds worthwhile.