You've seen 'em blasting out of the chute at the rodeo-pure bull violence, wrapped in a cloud of dirt, sweat, adrenaline, and the promise of major pain. Brutal street machines behave much the same way: wicked-scary just to watch. And hypnotic as a train wreck-you can't not watch every second of it. Afterward, you might discuss it on the way home with your friends, then it's back to comfyville and all is forgotten. But what's it like to live with this insanity every day?
We don't care much about the rodeo circuit, but we hear plenty of talk about snot-slingin', daily-driven fast street cars and decided to check into what it's like to live with one.
Perhaps you could call this the runnin' of the bulls. These street sweepers look a little
Recently we heard about a gang of killer street cars in Southern Oregon. They're all early Novas that run 10s and 11s and double as short-squirt commuters and grocery getters. And they all rolled out of the same shop, Allin Specialties, in Medford. Charlie and his brother Tod Allin first got Nova-fied as teens and haven't been the same since. Now they're sharing their secret Nova BBQ recipe with others, like Dana and Chris Plankenhorn, Joel Harris, and Chris Kearney. And now you.
We spent a couple days jangling with this crew, getting to know them and spending some quality time with their street bulls. The first thing we noticed was that these are all true budget-built cars. Yes, Charlie runs his own shop where he builds cars and engines for the fast street car set, but any profit has to go back into the business. Chris Plankenhorn and Joel Harris both work in a tire store, and Chris Kearney is a parts-counter guy. These cars are owner built, from the chassis and drivetrain to the bodywork and paint, so every dollar has to count. Power-to-weight always helps the dollar-to-grin ratio, so that was priority one. And since no budget can afford to be blown, the big picture required a long, hard look before work commenced. The parts combo not only had to work well together, it would have to survive on the cruel streets and sadistic dragstrips, because parts replacement had to be factored in, however painful it may be to look at.
This is obviously an intense group. Their demeanors remind us of bull riders-more the strong, quiet type than the stereotypical street squirrel suffering from testosterone poisoning. While they were all inspired by the early days of the Fastest Street Car shootouts, they're not impressed by trends like Pro Street or Pro Touring-they prefer, as Charlie says, "to present a modest image and let the car's performance speak for itself." In fact, their humility speaks volumes about their hard-earned knowledge of what it takes to put these packages together. Years of trial and error went into finding the balance between a life spent on jackstands and a timeslip you can hang on your wall. Some of that know-how was shared on a hot afternoon in Charlie's shop, during a bull session of what works and what doesn't for a fast street car.
We asked these guys the hard questions and they answered without flinching. The obvious first query was about their definition of a street car. According to Charlie, it's a street car if it has a license plate, period. That was almost unanimous, although there were some comments about "luxury options" like turn signals, windshield wipers, and defrosters. If those are luxury options, all of these cars are full dressers with DOT tires and mufflers, as well as other required stuff like lights and a horn. On the subject of legality, none of these cars has been garnished with tickets for equipment violations, though Joel Harris mentioned being pulled over by curious cops wanting a closer look at his wagon, and Chris Kearney once received a $3,000 reckless driving ticket for doing a burnout in the parking lot where he works (he managed to get that knocked down to a more reasonable charge). Chris Plankenhorn fessed up to a ticket for street racing, with no further comment. In fact, all of these guys are former street racers who now prefer the strip for the safety, legality, and the information gleaned there.
The leader of the pack is Tod and Charlie Allin's primer-red '64 Chevy II. It's run a best
While Rats can make the power, Tod and Charlie, like the rest of the crew, rely on smaller
Traction is always an issue, especially for these Chevy IIs with no tubs and monster rubbe
From 30 feet, Chris Kearney's '66 is just another primered cruiser. But don't let the faca
We talked at length about the surprising difference between seat-of-the-pants tuning and using a timeslip to determine what's really happening with a car. This led to the subject of dynos, where we learned that Tod and Charlie's Chevy II made 528 hp at 7,100 rpm on the motor, and 723 hp at 7,000 rpm on nitrous, proving that running an engine a thousand rpm higher on nitrous is a myth. Other myths dispelled included "Things You Should Never Try on the Street," such as reverse-pattern manual-valvebodied automatic transmissions, high-stall converters, spools, big compression, big cams, and even bigger carburetors. That's a recipe for disaster on the street, right? Not necessarily, especially for a car that doesn't drive long distances.
The guys all talked about using common sense with these components: slow down for corners with a spool (two of the cars have suffered premature axle-bearing wear), spike the 91-octane pump gas with some race gas if you're going to be torturing it, keep an eye on the trans temp gauge, wire an arming switch into the transbrake circuit to guard against an accidental engagement of the brake, feather the volume pedal on those big pipes when a cop approaches, and don't build a car like this if you're not athletic enough to climb in and out of a rollcage ("get used to it!"). Routine maintenance includes more frequent spark plug and lubricant changes than on the average beater, and since it's so much fun to play with these cars, they probably get tuned a lot more too.
The engine in Chris' beast isn't pretty, but then it doesn't need to be when all he wants
All the cars start right up, run cool, and stop with authority. When pushed a little about what they'd do differently, the guys coughed up a few token offerings such as, "Maybe some carpeting" (Chris Kearney), "More tire and more motor" (from Charlie), "A legal 'cage so I can get back to the strip" (by Joel Harris, whose 11.50 got him kicked off the track), and "Cal Tracs!" (from Chris and Dana Plankenhorn, whose tan '63 wins the Maximum Yuks for Minimum Bucks award with its cast crank, stock rods, and factory heads).
Sure, it's not all tire smoke and giggles in Bullsburg-running race stuff down Main Street tears up race parts, but street stuff on the track often breaks. Two of these cars have spit tranny parts onto the street, and the aforementioned axle bearings loom ominous. There's also the cops. And insurance. And stuff still happens out there on the street.
These cars were never meant to be freeway flyers, but we see them all over town, while other would-be street heros hide in their garages. And we've seen 'em light up the scoreboards at the strip, and they have the e.t. slips to prove the numbers. Big cams bleed off cylinder pressure, forgiving the evils of low-quality pump gas and high compression (although these guys all run race fuel at the track). Parts breakage happens, but it happens to your stock '74 Caprice four-door too. Yes, rollcages, spools, and manual valvebodies aren't always convenient, but the cowboys riding these bulls write 'em off as tools of the trade all in the name of whatever it takes to put that passion on the street. And if you want to tell Charlie and the boys that what they're doing just won't work, go ahead-they'll stuff their timeslips back into their pockets, grin, and stampede right over you.
The interior in Joel's wagon is probably the most civilized of the Medford runners, which
Who would expect an innocuous four-door Chevy II wagon to spin a healthy 355 to the tune o
All these stout small-blocks also employ solid-roller cams, big valves, and big springs to
Owners: Tod and Charlie Allin
Engine: 357ci small-block Chevy with GM LT-1 crank, Eagle 6-inch H-beam rods, SRP forged flattop pistons, 10.9:1 compression
Heads: Dart II, cast iron, fully ported by Lindvig Machine, 2.055/1.60-inch stainless valves, Pacaloy springs, Crower Enduro stainless rockers
Induction: Bow Tie manifold, 750-cfm Barry Grant Silver Claw carb, 250hp NOS Cheater plate
Cam: Custom-ground solid roller by Cam Motion for nitrous, 259/269 duration at 0.050, 0.723/0.688-inch lift with a 112-degree lobe separation, installed 4 degrees advanced at 108
Exhaust: Hooker Super Competition fenderwell headers with 1 3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors, 3 1/2-inch mandrel-bent exhaust with Flowmaster Top Ten Shootout mufflers
Trans: Manual valvebody TH350, 9-inch Continental 4,800-stall converter
Rearend: 9-inch Ford, Dutchman axles, 4.11 gears, Strange spool
Front suspension: Stock springs, 90/10 drag shocks
Rear suspension: Factory leaf springs, Cal Tracs bars, 50/50 drag shocks
Brakes: Ford drum, rear; '70 Nova front disc conversion
Wheels and tires: 15x3 1/2 Weld Pro Star, front; 15x7, rear; P135/70R15 Klebers, front; M/T 26x10.5 ET Street gumballs, rear
Paint: Flat red by owners
Cost to build: $15,000
Performance: 10.19/133 mph on nitrous, 11.22/123 mph on motor
'65 Nova Wagon
Owner: Joel Harris
Engine: 355ci small-block Chevy with GM LT-1 crank, 5.7-inch pink rods, TRW forged flattop pistons, 10.5:1 compression
Heads: Pro Action, cast iron, cleaned-up bowls, port-matched with 2.055/1.60 stainless steel valves, Crane Gold Race rockers, and stud girdles
Induction: Bow Tie manifold with Holley 750, 250hp NOS Cheater plate
Cam: Cam Motion solid roller, 256 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.620-inch lift
Exhaust: Hooker Super Competition fenderwell headers with 1 3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors, 3-inch mandrel-bent exhaust, X-pipe, Borla XR-1 mufflers
Trans: Manual valvebody TH350, 10-inch Continental 4,100-stall converter
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with 3.70 gears, Strange spool, mystery aftermarket axlesFront suspension: Stock
Rear suspension: Stock w/leafs clamped together
Brakes: Factory drums (Fords on rear)
Wheels and tires: 15x3 1/2 Weld Drag Lites, front; 15x7, rear; P145/60R14, front; BFGoodrich P135/60R15 Drag Radials, rear
Paint: Factory black
Cost to build: $12,000
Performance: 11.70 @ 119 on nitrous; 12.19 @ 110 on motor
Owners: Dana and Chris Plankenhorn
Engine: 377ci small-block Chevy with stock 350 cast crank, stock 5.7-inch rods, TRW flat top pistons, 11.1:1 compression
Heads: Phase IV Bow Tie, cast iron, fully ported, 2.08/1.60 stainless valves, Crane Gold Race rockers, and Crower stud girdles
Induction: Bow Tie manifold with Dominator flange welded on, 1050 Dominator, no nitrous
Cam: Comp Cams solid roller, 260/266 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.600-inch lift, 106-degree lobe centerline
Exhaust: Hooker Super Competition fenderwell headers with 1 3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors, 3 1/2-inch exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
Trans: Manual-valvebody TH350, 10-inch Continental 4,200-stall converter
Rearend: 9-inch Ford, Strange spool, 4.11 gears, Dutchman axles
Front suspension: Stock six-cylinder springs, 90/10 drag shocks
Rear suspension: Stock, clamped leaves
Brakes: Stock drums (Ford on rear)
Wheels and tires: 15x3 1/2 Weld Drag Lites, front; 15x7, rear; BFGoodrich P145/50R15 Drag Radials, front; P255/50R15, rear
Paint: Flat tan by owners
Cost to build: $11,000
Performance: 11.31 @ 121
Owner: Chris Kearney
Engine: 357ci small-block Chevy with GM LT-1 crank, Eagle H-beam 6-inch rods, TRW forged flattop pistons with 10.4:1 compression
Heads: Dart II, cast iron, fully ported with 2.055/1.60 stainless steel valves, Crower Enduro rockers, JoMar stud girdles
Induction: Bow Tie manifold, 750 Holley, 250hp NOS Cheater plate
Cam: Cam Motion solid roller, 266/273 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.700-inch lift
Exhaust: Hooker Super Competition fenderwell headers with 1 3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors, 3-inch exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
Trans: Manual valvebody TH350, 9-inch Continental 4,900-stall converter
Rearend: 9-inch Ford with Strange spool, 4.10 gears, Dutchman axles
Front suspension: Stock with 2-inch lowering springs, 90/10 shocks
Rear suspension: Stock with Cal Tracs bars, stock shocks
Brakes: Front discs from '72 Chevelle (required minor machining on spindles); Ford drums, rear
Wheels and tires: 15x3 1/2 Weld Drag Lites, front; 15x7, rear; 135/50R15 BFGoodrich Drag Radials, front; 275/50R15, rear
Paint: Buff tan by owner
Cost to build: $16,000
Performance: 10.84 @ 127.00 @ 119 on nitrous; 11.44 @ 119.42 on motor