Staff Vehicles Showcase - My 1998 Formula: Project Dragula *More pics added 12.8*
Pro Stock John
12-07-2006, 01:22 PM
[Editor's note: I will be revising this thread to add more detail and hopefully a bunch more pictures, so check back once in a while!]
My 1998 Formula was purchased by me in 2000 from Schaumburg Honda with approximately 25,000 miles on the odometer. Prior to 2000 I had owned a 1998 Camaro SS with the T56 transmission. I knew in 1999 that I wanted to have a drag race oriented car, so I looked for a simple hardtop car that had low miles and had an automatic transmission. My friend Bob Currey knew I was looking for a low mile Formula, and alerted me to an all red hardtop Formula sitting over at Schaumburg. A week later I owned a bone stock 1998 Formula with 2.73 gears.
After a month or so of driving the car, I put the car under the knife. With the great help of friends, installed the following in the car:
GTP LS1 heads
GTP 236/236//116 cam
Mac headers + ORP
Mufflex 4" Catback with Flowmaster muffler
Ed Wright tuning
Off we go! I still had 2.73 gears and the stock converter, so when I first hit it on the highway, the car had crazy top end and I race a 96 Mystic Cobra to 150mph and put a ton of car lengths on him.
At the track the car went 12.9@112 leaving real soft. I subsequently installed a Moser 9" with 3.70 gears, and a Vigilante 3600 stall that was more like a 4400 stall. Car went low 12's but the car still didn't have great umph down low. I got frustrated and put an NX wet kit on the car. I never got a time slip on the car, since I was mainly spraying the car on the street and at the Real Street Drag events held at Great Lakes Dragaway. But on a 150 shot the car was keeping with a low 11 second LT1.
One nite after hanging out all nite in Schaumburg, I was driving home in I90 at 3:00AM. After going through a toll plaza, I sprayed the car and ran it to 140mph... Got there pretty quick. Unfortunately the engine was knocking after that. I pulled over on the shoulder and to my dismay, the oil pressure was rolling up and down like my stomach. I gingerly drove the remaining mile to my house keeping the rpms below 2000.
Pro Stock John
12-07-2006, 01:48 PM
After spinning a bearing with my stock 98 engine, I looked around for someone to redo my shortblock. I was referred to Westech Auto, located in Silver Lake, Wisconsin. After a meeting, I decided to trailer the car up there, and have them fix the car. I ended up commisioning a stock cube 347ci that would have around 11:1 compression.
That engine was:
JE Flat top pistons
GTP LS1 heads (same as before)
Comp Cam custom grind 222/224//113
My new cam grind was smaller and inspired by Patrick Guerra's custom P1 cam. I felt that my GTP cam was too big and that with that LSA the car was a dog at lower rpms. I changed my cam spec after talking to GeorgeC who had had the same camshaft and who had also made a switch.
After a lengthy stay, the car was finished. I dynoed 350rwhp unlocked, and 375rwhp locked at the MFBA Street Stuff Dyno GTG. Car shortly thereafter went 11.8's, and ultimately a best of 11.6@115mph. At was around this time that I drove to the GMHTP 2000 Bristol Shootout and ran the car there. I went 12.4 at 5500 DA and the car got a picture in GMHTP magazine. I actually drove the car to Bristol Tennessee and back.
Car was running great and I should have let it alone at that point. Westech pushed me to run more camshaft, one that they had been thinking about. I agreed to install the "Lumberjack" cam and had nothing but problems. Car used coolant within a day of picking it up. After bringing it back up, I saw that some of the valves had hit the pistons so we flycut the pistons. I'd have to dig into my old notes, but that cam was like a 24_/24_//111 that was installed straight up. Right off the bat I noticed that the power was all top end again, and that I was going to need a 4800 stall to make the cam perform. After several other head gasket problems, the engine commited suicide by having the timing chain break while I was on the highway.
Pro Stock John
12-07-2006, 02:02 PM
I now had a engine that needed some work and I had to make a decision. My friend Brad Keilwitz in the meantime had a 1999 30th TransAm, and he surprised us all by debuting a 382ci stroker that he had done. His car went from running 11.8's with heads and cam to running lower 11's. We had a local rivalry so it seemed to make sense to me to trailer my car up to Agostino Racing and have them build me a 422ci ironblock. :)
This motor featured:
4.060 bore iron block
4.125 offset ground Lunati Crank
ARE stage II LS1 heads
Lunati 242/242//114 camshaft
Typical of ARE combos from that time, the car sounded wicked and was one of the meanest cars I had ever heard.
I was friends with Chris Endres, and in the fall of 2001 we put on the NFRA F-Body Shootout at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. On 28x9x15 ET Drags, with too much converter, the car went email@example.com with a 1.63 60', at 3680 raceweight.
Later that fall I was able to whittle the ET down to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 1.53 60', 422ci, with 26x11.5x15 ET Streets at US41, 12/9/01, 3650 raceweight
When 2002 rolled around, I made some small changes and had the car running 11.02@123mph. I was desparate to crack the 10's. I had dynoed the car the prior year, and it had dynoed 475rwhp locked. When I went to dyno the car at FLP in 2002, I had a new problem. The ignition would cut out while the car was at WOT. After some time passed, it was clear that there was something amiss. I had Speed Inc. tear it down, and we discovered that the reluctor wheel on the camshaft was loose. I parked the car for a while and decided to think about what I wanted to do.
Nine Ball vs. Pro Stock John @ NFRA:
, 422ci, with 28x9x15 ET Drags at BG, 11/15/01, 3680 raceweight
Pro Stock John
12-07-2006, 02:21 PM
I remember sitting at home thinking about my combo, and I remember thinking that even if I fixed the car, it would probably run mid to high 10's on motor.
With very little knowledge of how forced induction worked, I decided to build a stock cube 348ci with low compression and have a friend of mine (Chris Sikora) build a custom supercharger kit for me. It was also at this point that I decided to ditch the 4L60E and go with a turbo 400 transmission. While my FLP 4L60E had performed flawlessly, I decided not to chance things since I wanted to run 9's.
This transformation took quite a while. Between parting out my stroker, and selling off other parts that I would not need, I went about two years in this phase.
The blower combo looked like this:
6.0 heads by Diamond Racing
236/246//114 FMS/ Cam Motion camshaft
Kooks 1.875>2.000 step headers
Custom 3" dual exhaust with x-pipe
Yank 4500 converter
Moser 9", 3.50 gears
Siemens 83 lb injectors
Weldon 2025 fuel pump
CAS sheetmetal gas tank
This combo was loud and was nothing like the all motor combos I had had before. The learning curve was steep, and I ended 2004 with a ignoble 10.3@136. I added a custom strut brace to the combination, since the combo was seeing 18 to 21 psi, and went racing again in 2005. The only other change I made was that I ditched the super loud Weldon pump for a pair of Bosch 420's. My first pass with this combo was 9.8@141. I could see that things were coming around. Learning how to better launch the car, and messing with shift points, I was able to run a best of 9.40@143mph on a 1.35 short time. The best mph I ran was 144mph. I also hit 5.9 in the 1/8th with 116mph. I was stoked.
But by now, the turbo world had not only caught up to my custom blower setup, it had passed me by! Guys like the Matt Harlan, Mike Brown, Steve Turley, and Jim Moran had trailblazed with fast and reliable turbo combinations. Seeing Mike Brown run 9's with an Incon kit whetted my appetite, but seeing Dan Marks wheel Speed Inc's shop car to some 8.9 passes hooked me for good. I had to go turbo.
Once again I had the car torn down to undergo a turbo makeover.
Pro Stock John
12-07-2006, 02:35 PM
Once again I found myself drinking a cup of coffee in my kitchen thinking about what sort of turbo combination I wanted. I was always blown away by the simplicity and outstanding performance of the Ohio Boys' 97 Firebird. As viewers would recall, this was a older body style 4th gen that they had converted into a LSx based race car. This car cranked off 8's left and right, and duked it out with Steven Faraday's Texas based 98 Camaro.
So truck manifolds made my list. After perusing the rules for several local area races, I decided to run a stock cube engine with a big single turbo. I selected a Precision GT47.88. After lengthy conversations with Jim Moran of Speed Inc., and Kurt Urban of W2W, my combination ended up as follows:
AllPro heads, unported
Comp 234/234//114 camshaft
NW 90mm Intake
96 lb injectors
HKS II Wastegate
Tial 50mm BOV
Griffin A2A Frontmount intercooler
Truck exhaust manifolds
Truck coils + MSD truck wires
Stock water pump
T400 refreshed via Speed Inc.
TCT 4500 converter
Moser 9", 3.50 gear
MT 8 ply Sportsmans/ MT 28W's
Current power level: 867RWHP
The project had some hiccups. The first dyno figures were lower than expected, approximately 779rwhp with 26psi! While concerned with the numbers, I was anxious to make some passes with the car and see what it would do. So, in October of 2006, I finally got the car out with the turbo. Hit Great Lakes Dragaway with the car. I pulled the car off the trailer, aired down the tires, plugged in the laptop and hit the staging lanes. Having never messed with the car with the turbo, I hoped I could magically have my first pass be a 8 second pass. Denied. I staged badly and the car lugged it's way to a 11.4@120mph. Ugh. I had the dang gas pedal floored, why was the car such a pooch. The track was so crowded that I only got one pass in so I left 2 hours later with one crappy pass on the car.
About two weeks later... at GLD again. This time I'm at the Real Street Drags event, the one I had first raced at in 2000. My how time flies. But this time, I had launched the car by the garage a few times to get a feel for the car, so I had a bit more seat time. I saw 10psi by 3500 on the street off the transbrake so I was hopeful to run a lot better. So I stage, run the car, and it runs 11.6@121. Ugh. To top it off, it's making some valve train noise. Once parked, with some friends urging me on, I pulled off the valve covers to discover a pushrod sitting next to the #5 intake rocker. With help and some good natured ribbing from Dan Marks and Jim Moran of Speed Inc., we pull the rocker off, put the pushrod back under it, and button it up. I then went around to the side of the car, reached in, and bumped the ignition. It fires up. Dang it's still missing. Racing is over.
I brought it over to Speed Inc. Jim Moran, Larry Hamilton and I decide to change the valve springs and rockers after Speed Inc. has done a leakdown. The leakdown tests out fine. My Y/T rockers and Rev springs are removed, and they install stock rockers and some ETP valve springs. Starts right up, and the valve trains sounds better....
And the numbers come in stronger. From 779rwhp @ 26psi, the car now makes 867rwh @ 25psi. Much better.
With the end of the year fast approaching, I head out to Byron to make some passes...
Whew, back in the 9's at least.
I subsequently talked to some of the turbo big dogs, and Matt Harlan and Kevin Polchan both told me that I needed to sit on the 2step longer to really build boost. I guess that explains the 1.5 short times and the sensation of the car bogging off the line... I was launching with no boost.
It's now a few short weeks before 2007 roars in. Dragula sits under a car cover waiting for next year's racing season. With no planned changes other than adding a parachute setup, she sits waiting for a chance to run stronger numbers and finally bust out an 8 second pass.
Would I do it again? Heck yeah! Keep your fingers crossed for an 8 second pass in 2007!
Pro Stock John
09-05-2007, 01:44 PM
I have not posted an update on this car for a very long time. I have two boys below the age of two, and they have sucked up a lot of my hobby time. But I've had a friend of mine Neil Becker do some work on the car for me this summer:
-Installed Aerospace drag brakes in front, and Strange drag brakes in the rear.
-Installed new switch panel
-Changed out 4" Dynomax bullet muffler for Splitflow 4" muffler
-Installed Wolfe parachute mount and Stroud Parachute
-Wrapped parts of turbo kit with heat wrap
I also mounted up some 325-50-15 Mickey Thompson drag radials, which fit right up since I had already been running 28W's on the car.
I also installed a PTC, 16 blade, turbo application, torque converter. This is the same converter that folks like Brian Macy run.
I hope to make some hits very very soon, and post up some new numbers... Wish me luck guys!