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When Drag Racing Was King

Car Craft’s 60th Anniversary

By , Photography by CC archives

Super Modified Technology
"The small-blocks were easier to work on," Voegelin says, and remain his favorites. He still has two complete small-blocks—a 292 and a 287. He also has two big-blocks that piqued our interest when he began delving into the details. Because Super Modified rules mandated stock cylinder heads, these factory ports represented the restriction to increased horsepower. If ports were restricted, the easiest way to make more power per cubic inch was to use big-block heads and shrink the displacement. A good way to enhance port flow is with a big bore, which mandates an even shorter stroke. This sent Voegelin on a quest for ultra-rare Can Am short stroke forged big-block crankshafts, and he eventually excavated two! Their first combination was a 4.280-inch bore 454 block with a CanAm 3.43-inch stroke crank. "By running 394 inches, the heads effectively became bigger," Voegelin recalls. He topped the short-block with a pair of rectangle-port heads. "Those iron heads weighed a ton!"

"We built 'em like small-blocks," he remembers. "We turned the big-block rod journals down to 2.00-inch small-journal small-block sizes and used small-block rods. We did everything we could to reduce the friction." Voegelin says he relied heavily on custom machine work from Pro Stock racers David Reher, Buddy Morrison, and Lee Shepherd. "We had to run titanium valves to keep the weight down, and we broke one engine after experimenting with a cut-down retainer that didn't work." All of this was in attempt to spin these baby Rat motors as high as 9,500 rpm.

But even with a 394ci Rat, at 8.5 lb/ci, this meant the car weighed 3,350 pounds. "They gave you a 150-pound weight break if you used a Powerglide, so we killed a lot of converters. Marv Ripes at A-1 Automatics was helping us and he says he learned a ton from all those broken converters because we were hitting 'em pretty hard and folding over the fins." Of course, all of this was within a class that was supposed to be for the little guy on a budget.

"My favorite engine combination," Voegelin says, "was the 292ci engine we ran in 1976. It was a very basic motor—a $15 junkyard crank and a $25 junkyard block." Mark Heffington's Cam Dynamics delivered the mechanical roller cam that spec'd out at 282 degrees at 0.050 on the intake side with 0.650 lift. "It had cut-down TRW pistons and Reher-Morrison would gas port them and machine a new 0.043 ring groove near the top of the piston." He used the original top ring for the second ring, leaving the original second groove empty. "We spent a lot of time massaging the top of the piston," Voegelin says. Such was the technical way of things in the do-it-yourself '70s.

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