Words and photos by Jok Nicholson.
I have not updated the progress on “Project 10 – The Hard Way” in quite a while and we have had some interesting twists and turns in the project. We have had great support from several manufacturers in our quest to get Project 10 as reliable and as nearly bullet-proof as possible.
We ran 15 races during the Winter Series in Florida and finished it off nicely with a runner-up Saturday and Sunday during the Citrus Nationals at Palm Beach Int’l Raceway. We put it away for a couple months; then I couldn’t stand being so close to an IHRA Pro-Am so we entered the IHRA Pro-Am at Immokalee Regional Raceway in the Hot Rod class. I had not run the Firebird on the .5 Pro-Tree so that issue and the fact I did not have a throttle stop would prove interesting. Had a great time, went a few rounds, and parked it until we got home to Iowa in April.
I was changing the oil and found a big piece of metal stuck to my drain plug. (UH-OH!) After about 20 minutes trying to figure what it was we decided it was the top part of a chain link on the roller timing chain. Thought I might as well do a compression test to see if everything else was good and we found #5 cylinder only had 90 lbs. of compression. The others were all about 165 lbs. So much for never taking the engine out, right? Better safe than sorry.
A little measuring from the instruction sheet that J-W sent, a long metal cutting blades for the Sawzall and some WD-40 to spray on the blade as we cut…BOOM, one 35 year-old trans case cut and ready for the JW Ultra-Bell.
The longer front pump bolts were supplied with the Ultra-Bell. We installed new pump bolt washers and very light coat of silicone on the threads of the bolts as we installed. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN these bolts as the threads in a stock Powerglide case are not that strong. Torque them to the correct spec; if I remember right it is 25 ft/lbs.
Dropped the 415″ small-block off at AEM Race Engines and they found an exhaust seat had moved a few thousandths. They reground the seat and the valve was OK after they touched it up. The Cloyes timing chain was “strange”. It was extremely stiff with very little flexibility. Curt at AEM has seen thousands of race engines but said this was a very rare parts failure. I called my buddies at Comp Cams and we decided a Comp Cams Belt-Drive timing belt was the best solution. Less friction and harmonics (besides they look cool). I had to space the water pump out about a 1/4″ and that was easy to do with a couple water pump spacers I picked up at Performance Bodies, a large stock car parts supplier.
Since I was thinking of some NHRA and IHRA 10.90 racing I need to have a flex-plate shield. The only way to do it was to get a JW Performance Ultra-Bell and while I had the trans out I also decided to get rid of my $59.00 flex-plate and put an SFI-approved JW “Wheel” on it. Cutting the stock trans case was an experiment. I used a Sawzall and with a little grinding it took about an hour to have it cut and ready to install the Ultra-Bell. The instructions were dead-on and with a lot of tape and rags I did not have to take the trans apart. Just take your time to make sure the metal particles do not get into the transmission. Now the “Project-10” is legal.
We got it back together in time for the opening weekend at Cedar Falls Raceway and I was curious how it would run as I was hoping to enter a couple 10.90 Index races this summer. The first few runs were 10.91 and 10.92’s. I had taken the QuickFuel 850 off and put it on the Olds and installed the 1050 Dominator on the Project 10 small block. I thought it might simply be too much carburetor. I bumped the ignition timing up to 37 degrees and the next run was 10.82. WOW, a 1/10th of a second in 3 degrees of timing. I went two more degrees to 39 and the car idled better and simply “felt” better. It showed up on the track, as by the end of the weekend I was dialed 10.72.
We are using Jiffy-Tite #6 transmission cooling lines that have quick-connect fittings. Makes for drip-free removal and installation. The TCI trans shield is on and we now have an NHRA/IHRA legal transmission.
I entered the S/Pro (delay box) class and the Pro (no box) class. Couldn’t drive a lick Saturday but got to the finals in S/Pro and semis in Pro. I am going to make a big change (or at least give this a try) next time and enter the S/Pro class with no delay box. I was very consistent hitting the bottom bulb (.006, .007, .007, .000 (bye run) but tried to be a bit conservative in semis and went .044 — and when you do that against Rob Livingston you are probably done for the day.
I contacted the guys at APEX Machine and put in an order for one of their transbrake switches. It is adjustable in length of travel and you can also change springs to pull the button back quicker or slower. I have written articles about this type of transbrake switch and I was not happy that they are allowed. Does that mean I won’t use them if they are legal? Nope. I want to try it myself and see if they are what they are touted to be.
This is the APEX Machine “Slooow Release” transbrake switch. Top quality all the way and I will let you know what I find for results. I have already attached my mounting bracket in this picture. I used a piece of cardboard to make a template and about 5 minutes later I was attaching it to the dash.
I am starting with the switch mounted off the dash but I have no idea if I am going to like that or not. I have three or four races coming up and will update Project 10 next month after some Super Street racing.
The install is pretty straight-forward and I am just going to have a wire pigtail I can switch between the two buttons. Finding a place for the APEX button took a little thought as the long travel button comes out the bottom of the switch so you have to have clearance. I used what little brain I have left and mounted it on the dash in what I think is a pretty comfortable spot. This weekend will let me do some experimenting and I hope I can just roll into staging in the S/Pro and PRO classes and make no changes to my driving.
Got to “pimp” some of the companies who supported “Project 10”. I want to mention Dennis Ridgeway who worked with me to get a diaper for this ’82-92 Firebird and it had to have Kevlar (heat resistant) side panels as the headers are very close to the block and fitting the diaper was a bit of a project. As a matter of fact, if you are going to install a diaper with the thicker side panels, I found it much easier to fit it over the pan and lower the engine down with diaper installed as there is limited room between the pan and crossmember.
Thanks to the companies that have supported “Project-10 The Hard Way” because without their support it would still be sitting in the shop partially done: Comp Cams, QA1, JW Performance, Mickey Thompson Tires, Competition Products, Dart, RHS, MSD, Hedman Hedders, Strange Engineering, Weld, BTE, Deluxe Auto Body (Tim) for the nice “pull it over” red paint, and QuickFuel for the fuel system support.