Words and photos by Jok Nicholson
From the start Project 10 has been about “building a competitive bracket car on a budget” (originally it was “10-seconds for 10 grand”). Don’t confuse that with building a cheap competitive bracket car, OK? I don’t think, in these times of such tight competition, a “cheap bracket car” can be competitive on a regular basis in the S/Pro and PRO brackets. Maybe somewhere, but not where I race, in my opinion.
Project 10 out of the paint shop (buffed it out myself) and ready for the track.
It has been a few months since the last update on our “Project 10” Firebird. We have only been out four or five times this year but so far I am very happy with the results. I would guess that I have the least expensive car in the S/Pro brackets (most of the time) and probably the slowest car in both S/Pro and PRO most of the time. That does not mean it isn’t competitive. I have been in the S/Pro finals once, semis twice so far and got to the finals twice in PRO The car has been extraordinary and the driver (me) has been average on the bottom to slightly above on the top bulb. Still getting a handle on the finish line at only 98 mph in the 1/8th and 122 in the quarter, running against 170+ mph cars is a tad difficult. I am getting better and look forward to next weekend at Brainerd’s two-day bracket race.
The when you spend your money, spend it wisely theme is carried out through the “Project 10” Firebird. Here are the parts we focused on that I knew would create the slow but consistent bracket car I wanted.
You cannot, in my opinion, build a junk yard engine and expect to win against $50,000 cars.
Engine: This was my “parts list” on the 415″ Chevy that so far has 193 runs on it. Only part we changed was a timing chain that had a piece of the link break off (we were lucky and found it on the drain plug magnet before anything happened.
DART SHP block, Competition Products “powdered 6.00″ rods”, Howards flat-top forged pistons, 1/16″ ring package and ARP 2000 rod bolts, main studs and head studs.
Competition Cams .550″ lift flat-tappet cam with lifters that have a EDM hole in face of lifter to offer better lubrication to the camshaft lobes. Comp Cams billet steel rocker arms on a set of un-ported RHS 220 aluminum cylinder heads with a Edelbrock Victor JR intake. On top of that we use either a Quick Fuel 650 (to run in the 11-second zone) or the Quick Fuel 850 if we want to run some S/Street and get the car into the 10.80s.
Dart’s SHP small-block Chevy block. Strength where it should be, and fully prepped at the Dart shop. Under $2,000 and the foundation you need to be reliable.
These are the Competition Products “Dense Powdered rods” lightweight yet as strong as billet steel rods. The Competition Products Howards forged crank was a top quality product at budget racer prices. Thanks CP for making great products at fair prices.
We used a Canton oil pan and Melling oil pump and covered it with a DRE Diaper for the “just in case” moments.
On the exhaust side we opted for a top quality header and not a street header. The Hedman Husler competition headers are made with a “flat collector” to provide extra ground clearance. Remember, if your collector or collector extensions are bolted on or held with springs, both the IHRA and NHRA require a exhaust tether system. We use the Collector-Cable brand.
Transmission and convertor: With about 575 HP I felt a basic race-prepped Powerglide would be fine. I used a stock 1.76 planetary and rebuilt it myself with hardened pins, new thrust washers and needle-bearings. If I do it again I will probably go with a BTE 1.80 straight cut planetary. The transmission was pretty straight forward after that. I put together a 6 clutch high, 4 clutch reverse and used a BTE Pro-Tree trans brake valve body. With some careful measuring and taking your time following the TSR Powerglide manual I ended up with a tough Powerglide that will work for a long time. (*note: buy the aftermarket steel high gear clutch hub.) No need for an aftermarket case with this horsepower so that saves about a $1000.00. I did install a JW Ultra-Bell for both safety and I did not want to modify the firewall for a flexplate shield.
Cut bellhousing: Leftover bellhousing of the stock Powerglide. Pretty easy to trim off. Just DO NOT cut too deep, as per instructions, or you get into the pump mounting surface. I cut a little long and then ground it back to be safe.
Installing the JW Ultra-Bell required a Sawzall to cut the stock bell-housing off and some grinding to make sure it would sit flat against the pump.
QA1 offers replacement front struts with coil-over option. Eliminates the large OEM coil spring and lets you find the right spring rate easily. Tubular front A-arms were a simple bolt-on replacement.
When it came to a convertor I wanted something durable with tech advice that would be spot-on. This is one item I DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE COST OF, it is critical to a consistent car. I chose the BTE 8″ Race-prepped convertor. It was built for this car with the engine power, rear gear and car weight all considered. So far, it has performed flawlessly. Start line RPM of 4200, flashes to about 5600 and shift at 6400. With the 4.10 gear we go through the traps at about 6200 with our 9×28 M/T Pro Bracket Radial tires.
Speaking of the M/T Pro Bracket Radial- Over the 4th of July at Eddyville Raceway Park I made 17 runs on Saturday. Fourteen of those runs had 1.55 60-foot times and eight of them were 1.554! Yes, I would say M/T might be onto something with that tire and I had over 100 runs on them when I got to Eddyville. We use the 9.0 x 28-15 Pro Bracket Radial.
Results are in the outcome of racing for me. Having a good looking race car, a fast car, state of the art or a tricked out race car doesn’t interest me too much anymore. I am there to compete and not spend all day working on the car. It’s about the driving technique, improving your race plan and turning on win lights for me. That is not true for a lot of racers and I totally understand they have different goals. When I feel I am not competitive enough to win, you will have a chance to buy a nice Firebird and I will be at the golf course or floating in my little fishing boat.
The goal of the “Project 10 The Hard Way” has been accomplished in my opinion. We are competing and winning against $60,000 dragsters and tricked-out door cars and yet we can still race in the bottom bulb races with the PRO ET racers.
Over the year or so it took to build the Project 10 I would guess we have about $14,000 to $15,000 in the car. Remember, I did the body work, wiring, roll cage, etc. — something most people can do if they commit to it without spending a lot of money. No fiberglass parts, still has stock bumpers, electric windows, tilt wheel, real glass. No fancy ignition boxes (using the 15 year-old MSD 6AL). Made our own air shifter for about $30. Used Racing Junk for a lot of the small parts like intake manifold, radiator, fan, water pump, etc.
Spending our money wisely paid off (about $6,000 in winnings since last November). I hope it will for you too!