It is appropriate that Jesse Nelson lives in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, because there is a mountain-motored lump of iron under the hood of his Chevelle that makes excellent use of that ferrous metal when it comes to stoking the fires of horsepower. The car itself is somewhat unremarkable in that with the hood closed, it looks much like any other '70 Chevelle that has fallen under the spell of a crafty car builder. In fact, Jesse says that's exactly the kind of car he was looking to build. "I wanted a fast, streetable car that looked pretty stock."
Let's cut to the chase, shall we? After all, the stock body panels and Harwood hood are not why we're here. At this year's Car Craft Nationals, the chassis dyno guys backed the Chevelle up on the rollers, strapped it down, and spun this silver seducer up to 1,105 rear-wheel horsepower at a sedate 6,300 rpm. And the crowd went wild. Andy Warhol was the one who said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." If that's true, then Jesse's quarter-hour started when the dyno wheels quit spinning. Anyone within earshot wanted to see what was under the hood of this unassuming Chevelle-us included.
So for the benefit of those of you who weren't there, it was electric. The run was also necessary to qualify for the DynoMax Performance Exhaust Dyno Challenge. You would think that 1,100-plus horsepower would be enough to put Jesse and the Chevelle at the top of the list-but no. There's a small-block, single-hair-dryer, Chevy-powered Rambler that is top dog. What's truly surprising is that this is Jesse's first attempt at any kind of abnormal aspiration. He bought the short-block from New York's Rat-motor king Scott Shafiroff, bolted on a set of AFR heads, and then found the room for a pair of turbochargers. When we asked Jesse how he picked the turbos, he said with classic midwestern understatement, "I just talked to Brian at B&G Custom Turbo and went with their recommendation for the Master Power turbos. I guess they worked pretty well."
A DynoMax Challenge rule says that these street cars have to make power on pump gas. With E85 such a big part of Minnesota's homegrown agrarian economy, it was a simple decision to choose E85 as his go-to fuel. "I just stopped off at the local pump right before coming here today," Jesse says. That corn-based liquid sports a solid 105 octane and also does a killer job of cooling the heated air that exits the turbochargers. Just to be safe, Jesse added a Snow water/methanol-injection system that pumps in a measured amount of water and wood-derived alcohol, not only to reduce the inlet air temperature, but also to knock the peak off of any detonation that might try to rear its ugly head. "The rules say you can't have methanol injection, so I just turned the whole thing off for that run."
"We didn't really push it," Jesse said when we asked about the tune-up. "We ran 19 psi. I'd like to see 24 or 25 psi, but we haven't had a chance to test it. There isn't a chassis dyno within 200 miles of where I live, so we've just been testing it out on the street!" The Rambler that has the top spot recently appeared in Hot Rod magazine. So the battle lines have been drawn and you know which car we're pulling for come November and the DynoMax final for the $25,000 top prize. Jesse will be the one with the iron fist.
Who: Jesse Nelson
What: '70 Chevy Chevelle
Where: Mountain Iron, Minnesota, where Jesse can probably lay claim to half the town's total horsepower.