I remember the first time someone told me that a feature car I was photographing took them ten years to build and I thought they must have been insane. Ten years is a long time. Too long, in fact. To put ten years into perspective, John F. Kennedy proposed a manned lunar program in 1961, and Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” just eight years later, on July 20, 1969. From nothing to a man on the moon in just over eight years. Need more reference material? Michael Jackson died ten years ago, Circuit City was still a thing, and pirates made a comeback in Somalia. Printed magazines were shipped to your house on a monthly basis. I bet you’re on track now but here’s the thing, ten years ago we started on this crazy project we called SALT – a 200 mph-capable, single-turbo Trans Am WS6, and we’re still trying to get it done! This bad boy was a daily driver until we decided to cut the front end off and “do work,” as the cool kids say.
It wasn’t much of a looker considering this was at one time a $32,000 WS6 that I drove every day. But, it was all straight and had no bodywork, so that was a plus. Sure, it was missing the fenders here but, you don’t need those for turbo fabrication.
Do work we did, and for a couple of great years, we were rocking and rolling on building the WS6 of our dreams. Life was good, magazine printing presses were running at full steam, and SALT was a work in progress with an apparent end in sight. Ten years, I thought, ten years is insane for a build. At this pace, we’ll be done by the end of the year. Bring on 2013! We’re going to make big power and show them how it’s done. What’s next on the list, we joked, smug about our ability to meet print deadlines and make the next race that was just right around the corner. But ask any old man how time – and life – always manages to get away from you somehow. The years rolled by, the late GM High Tech Performance magazine (RIP) was shuttered, the jobs changed, the aftermarket evolved, the economy collapsed, and well, we got a little behind the ball with this one.
But today, with the help of several amazing people – Ron Mowen, especially – we’re back at it. We’ve got an engine built, a turbo system fabricated, a front suspension and cage in place, and we’re just coming back out of the body shop with a fresh paint job. If Ron Mowen’s name rings a bell (and he doesn’t give a $#!% if it doesn’t), it’s because he is the owner of Vengeance Racing in Cumming, Georgia – home of this year’s Super Bowl and the last ten years’ worth of unbelievable LS-based standing-mile monsters that dominate runways across the country. Vengeance and I go way back – too far to get into here – but Ron’s stuck with my type of stupid for a long time, and now, thanks to LSX Magazine, we’re finally going to get to turn hopes and dreams into tire smoke and timeslips. But enough nostalgia and time have gone by, let’s get to the good stuff.
Big power, in 2011, which was the second revival of the project, meant anything north of 1,000 horsepower and we thought it would be cool to do that with small cubes, high-RPM, and a single turbo on lots of boost. The turbo kit is the wildest and most obvious part of the build, which was built to look cool and make as much power as possible while shooting the biggest flames we could muster. A single Turbonetics Y2K 88mm Turbocharger – hey now, we told you this build started ten years ago – serves as the compressor, turning hot air into horsepower potential. A matching Turbonetics wastegate, blow-off valve, and air-to-liquid intercooler were chosen to manage air in various ways; the wastegate controls exhaust gas into the turbine, the blow-off valve manages compressed air heading into and back out of the intake, and the intercooler converts stupid-hot air into ice-cold burnout juice, in technical terms. But the main artwork here – and the reason you need to always select and pay for the best fabricator you can afford – is the turbo kit itself. It’s truly fascinating to watch a master fabricator turn a pile of 90-degree bends into something that works and looks this good, and Vengeance Racing has the best of the best.
Down below, the foundation of the engine build started with a stock LQ9 6.0-liter iron block, which Vengeance Racing had machined to accept a set of ½-inch head studs in an attempt to keep the cylinder heads and the block close enough together to stop our fire-breather from becoming a milkshake machine. The ½-inch studs up top were matched with a set of ARP main studs, Calico bearings, and all new hardware throughout. For the spinning parts, Vengeance selected a gorgeous Lunati Pro-Series crankshaft (3.622-inch stroke), a matching set of 6.125-inch Lunati Pro-Series connecting rods, and a set of double hard anodized 4.030-inch Diamond pistons. Stout would be one way to describe the bottom end.
Airflow and RPM came next thanks to a pair of Trick Flow Specialties 235cc cylinder heads – massaged by Total Engine Airflow, of course – and a crazy camshaft designed by the one-and-only Steve Petty. If you don’t know Steve’s history and his early success in the outlaw turbo world with ProLine (and beyond), this would be a great time to open up a new tab and learn something about one of Drag Radial racing’s early pioneers. Go ahead, and we’ll wait. Back? Cool. So Steve’s awesome but he’s also all about going fast, which meant he dialed up a camshaft that most people might think a bit outrageous for a little 370-inch motor – 256/262 degrees of duration, .759/.759-inches of lift, and a 116 LSA installed on a 112-degree ICL. Steve said it wouldn’t do much until 3800 RPM and we’d want to spin it well over 7,000. A couple of shaft mount rockers later we had ourselves an engine.
Engine plus turbo system equals enormous power – and to prove it we strapped SALT’s iron lung to the dyno to find out just how much boost it could take. Without getting too specific, I’ll say that 30-pounds was too much, 10-pounds was too little, and somewhere in between (it was 21 pounds), the 370-inch fire breather put down 1,206 horsepower and 1034 lb-ft of torque. If you love loud noises, we’d recommend turning up your volume and jumping in on this video to see it in action.
Other than the bullet up front, we’ve still got a lot more work to do in upcoming stories. As we mentioned earlier, we do have paint and bodywork complete (more on that very soon) and a functional suspension (more on that soon, too). Our short-term goals involve getting SALT rolling again with a new standing 1/2 mile ready rear end, a set of wheels and tires, and a pair of seats – what? You don’t think we’re going to at least sit in it and make turbo noises as soon as it hits the ground?! – and then it will be time to turn our attention to the EFI system and making some noise on the chassis dyno. Oh, and safety – safety is a big priority at Vengeance for an excellent reason, and we’re not going to skimp out when it comes to hurling ourselves across a runway at roughly one football field a second. So, you’ll get to see all of that very soon. For now, though, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this build and what we can do to make it even better. If it’s going to take a long time, it better be done right! Hit us up in the comments or send an email, we’d love to hear from you. #10YearChallenge
Everything has come a long way since we started this build, but safety is undoubtedly more important to standing mile racers than it has ever been. Jey Clegg, Vengeance’s insanely talented fabricator, built a cage that looks more like artwork than anything and we know we’ll be safe run after run out on the track.
We’ve got a long way to go if we want to make it to the finish line, but we’re moving now, and we’re not going to let time get in our way again!