When the job has you busy and stressed out, it's time to take a vacation. Some people take the boat to the river for the weekend, or visit the Caribbean, or go camping to get away from the realities of everyday life. But when you've got 90-weight in your veins like the typical Car Craft reader, your idea of a vacation is going to the races, right? Casey Vantol is a dairyman, meaning he's milking cows 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It's hard work for sure, and dealing with stubborn cows all day, every day, gets old, so a few times a year he has to get away with his buddies, and his race car provides the ticket to freedom.
We met Casey at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where his gang was racing a few cars at the Street Car Super Nationals (SCSN), one of the biggest non-professional, heads-up races in the country. We spotted his gorgeous '64 Chevy Malibu in the staging lanes right before a qualifying pass in the Outlaw 8.5 class, then we watched it run mid-5s in the eighth-mile (that's around high-8s in the quarter) and had to know more about this little sleeper.
Casey is one member of a tight group of guys that includes his brothers Dan and Tom, partner George Raygoza, and a few other helpers. They had two cars racing in Vegas: this Malibu and George's orange '68 Nova, both continuous projects in not only the quest for more speed, but, more importantly, a distraction from their everyday jobs. Consider the cars their equivalent of a vacation time share.
Casey always liked the early Malibu and bought this one 12 or 13 years ago after spotting it in a Southern California paper. The original California car (black plate and all) had a big-block already, but he and George almost immediately ripped into it, making it their own. It became a street racer around northern California's city of Orland, where the gang is from, but the combination saw continuous change, as they built engines and swapped them between the two cars.
They have two engines special enough to have their own names—Backup Betty and Christy—that are normally used in the heads-up racing they do on the West Coast. But in the constant progression of building new combinations to handle more power, they ended up with a lot of spare parts. At one point, Casey realized they had enough parts to build a fairly good but "nothing special" big-block, so they sent the stuff to Automotive Engine Specialties (AES) in Chicago to have them put it all together. That's the one that was in the car when we saw it run in Vegas. Its informal name is Almost Almost—because it makes almost the power of the other two.
Almost Almost is a 505-incher with a stock block, Dart 310 heads, an old Barry Grant–modified Holley carb on a single-plane intake, and an out-of-the-box N.O.S. Fogger setup. Casey calls it "nothing special, just a regular motor." After they pieced it together, they stuck it in the Malibu with a TH400 and went to a Pinks All Out event, where it ran 10.30s on motor alone, and on 28x10.5 slicks. A Hughes Performance 'Glide with a more-or-less streetable converter and 3.55:1 gears keep it simple and sane, and while the stock-style suspension uses some aftermarket parts, it's nothing radical. This is all stuff you could run on the street if you wanted to.
When the West Coast Hot Rod Association (WCHRA) series started the Outlaw 8.5 class, which was going to run at the big SCSN race in Vegas, the guys thought it would be fun, so they switched to the requisite smaller 26x8.5 slicks and went looking for a good time. The smaller tires gave them traction problems on the first three runs in Vegas, but they pulled power out with the progressive nitrous controller to bring the spray in more gradually. The car eventually made two good passes, progressively going faster and winning the first round of eliminations with a 5.57 at 126 mph (Outlaw 8.5 runs eighth-mile, remember) before losing in the second round.
They didn't come away with a trophy, but that wasn't the goal. Relaxation and time away from the hassles of home were the goals. Says Casey, "We just want to go have fun. I don't know if the car can be competitive or not, but we wanted to go do something. This is just a car to have fun with."
What does the future hold for the car? Well, it rarely sees street duty anymore, but they'll take it local car shows every now and then, and the guys are thinking of building a big motor, like a 632, to step it up a little more. For now, though, it's a great mind escape.