Drag racing is fun. Lots of fun. Especially if you can do it on the cheap and have grudge matches against your friends. That is what this weekend was all about for me. I spent Friday putting in a new set of 4.11:1 gears in the GS (my 1971 Buick GS convertible), which was finished around 2 am, and then headed to the track 80-miles away the next day. I have not had the car on the track since it has been completed (400hp motor, fresh everything, complete build, took 4 years) and I was excited to get it going. The first run of the day was kind of lame, but I had literally just driven 80 miles and ran through the lanes and made a pass. 15.11. Ouch. All that hard work and a 15.11? Ugh. I was a little miffed.
I spent the rest of the day chasing low 14s, even though i had been hoping for 13s. Things like this are to be expected, even though we never really expect them. I made a few adjustments along the way- aired down the tires, less air means better contact patch for the rubber. That got me down to the 14s with a 14.88. My 60-foot times sucked. They sucked all night actually. The main problem there is lousy traction. Street tires are unpredictable, sometimes they work ok, sometimes they don’t, though they usually don’t work too well.
After getting into the 14s, I made some shifting adjustments. Before I was shifting at 5500 rpm. This time I went for 5800. That worked out well as I managed a 14.60 ET at 91 miles per hour. We were getting closer to the 13s.
I made another pass, but short shifted the 1-2 shift at 4500 for some reason. That was not good, my ET slowed to 15.08. Had to
let it cool down and there was a big wait for a burnout contest and some Pro Mod qualifying runs for competition the next day. During this time, we made a couple of changes. Mainly, we added some timing to the engine. Before we were at 32 degrees total timing, so we took it up to 38 degrees. The car seemed to respond well, no dieseling or hard starting. We did have to tweak the idle though.
The last runs came as the sun went down. We had a mess up in the burnout box, I was not allowed a burnout, though I had rolled through the water box. This made my tires wet AND they were cold, so when I launched, I just sat there, smoking tires. I drove right back to the staging lanes.
This run would be the last of the evening. After a nice solid burnout (the tires really seemed to like the extra heat and got nice and sticky), I staged and cut the best reaction light of the day, a .546 (half a second, a .5 is considered perfect). My 60-foot times were not great at 2.26, but overall the run went well. I spun the motor to 6200 rpm for the 1-2 shift and felt it start to ease up around 5800 for the 2-3 shift. Running through the traps at 94.6 MPH, I had made 14.41 run. Pretty good for the first day out and only minor tweaks. The problem came as I was driving back on the return road. I smelled antifreeze and looked out to seem steam start pouring out of the engine. I had already been nervous about making a 6200 shift, and thought I blew something serious. All I did was throw the water pump belt around 6000 RPM and it overheated. That was probably part of the nose-over at 5800. This would have likely been a 14.3 or even 14.2 run if it hadn’t overheated.
I pulled to the pits as quickly as I could and let it cool. I rolled the belt back on, filled it up with water and aired up the tires and drove it home with the engine staying dead-on 160 degrees. No overheating or other hiccups.
In all, I spent about $100 including gas, food and the entry fee of $20 to make 12 passes and
learn a little more about my car. While not insanely fast, it looks great and runs pretty dang good for a heavy full-street trim muscle car sitting on 20s. Next trip out will likely be on slicks or drag radials. I know there is a 13-second run in there on street tires if I can find the traction.