Project Epilogue

A long overdue update (four years) which is probably the final one for this project, aside from maybe uploading a bunch of setup info and data on the car for anyone looking to do something similar. In 2016 we won the Nightfire Nationals in Boise again, were runner-up at Saturday Night Nitro at Famoso, and Qualified #1 at the California Hot Rod Reunion with a 6.00. Unfortunately the rods were hanging out of it on the top end and that was that, last run on the fiat. At least we went out with a bang.

We started building this car in 2011 with a simple vision in mind- to build a basic, no frills fuel altered with a classic form but modern performance. There was no 6.00 class when we built it, and match race opportunities were few and far between on the west coast. We just wanted a hot rod, a toy that we could run on nitro a few times a year to see what we could do with it. We deliberately designed it to be a challenge because I wanted to see if I could drive it, and we wanted to see how quick it would go on small tires, with no wing, and high gear only. Having just finished up over a decade running big pump "transformer" style fuel altereds with full-tilt management systems and complexity, the simplicity itself was a challenge- how much could we do with how little?

The whole program exceeded our expectations from the beginning. On the appearance side, Estrus Racing and Dennis Jones knocked it out of the park on the paint and lettering. On the performance side, it ran about two tenths quicker than we expected on the first full run. I did a half way decent job of driving it, and we made a lot of good runs with very minimal carnage. The reception to the car was also exceptional and the fans were great. A lot of them "got" what we were doing and their support was very gratifying.

When the 6.00 thing came along, we jumped on it since it provided a couple more races out here. We did pretty good at it, and it evolved in to the focus of the car. We start thinking more about how to win, and less about what we started out to do. A data recorder goes on the car, eventually a wing, and we start talking about bigger tires, two speeds, etc. It's the classic "mission creep" scenario, where one day you stop and realize that what you are doing is not what you set out to do. Actually, what we realized is that what we set out to do, was done. I know I can drive it, and we know what it is capable of running. Mission accomplished. What next?

We had been discussing building an injected nitro combo for years and finally decided to do it. This was going to be a different project completely and we didn't feel like continuing with the fiat was the right move, so we went back to a 23 T that we had previously used and started gathering parts. Halfway through that project in 2017 we ran out of money to finish it and so on a bit of a whim, we threw together a blown combination from parts laying around to be able to take the car to Boise in August. It was a simple idea- put the biggest power plant in the smallest car, the essential fuel altered. On top of the same basic long block we had been running went a PSI 14-71 and we fed it with blanked off 34 GPM fuel pump. A 3.60 gear went in the back to turn 34.5 Hoosiers, along with a 25% B & J two speed.

With no testing and only a vague idea of what it would run from a similar combo 10 years earlier, we hauled it 17 hours up to Boise. That car was an absolute beast. We couldn't keep the front end down until we removed every gram of counterweight and I put it in high gear at the 60 ft mark. Lifting just after half track we ran a 6.11 and a 6.05 before the event was rained out. It was running 3.70's to the eight just murdering the clutch pack to keep the nose down. With the right wheelie bar and a small front wing to allow the car to stay in first gear without flipping over backwards, I think we could have shocked some people with what was possible. It was tempting to pursue it just to make one final jab at the transformer cars by running that quick, but we had other plans and they don't hand out trophies for trolling. If they did, I would have a room full.

That car was also was my last ride, I didn't renew my license. Similar to the fiat project in general, I felt I did what I wanted to do with it and was ready to move on. We gave the chance to drive it to Shayne Stewart, an Australian who moved here to pursue his drag racing goals and he took full advantage of the opportunity. By the end of 2018 we had finished the injected altered, licensed Shayne, and qualified in Nostalgia A/Fuel for the CHRR with a 6.24. There was some more left in it but the way the rules are structured in A/F meant it was never going to be a real threat. I'm pretty sure it's the quickest injected fuel altered to date, but that's another competition with no trophy (or competitors!). We moved the engine package in to Shayne's dragster, had some early issues and by the end of 2019 won the CHRR with it.

Shayne has the altered now and it will be back at some point. The fiat body is still out there too, reborn as the "Good News" fiat by the Hertzig and Hall crew. Ron Capps drove it at the 2019 March Meet and I got to help out with that, which was fun. For Mike and I, that's the end of the altered road. Aside from helping other people, I can't see going back to it at any point as there just isn't anything left to mine out of that shaft. Mike has been playing with them off and on since the mid 60's and I have been doing the same since 2001. It's been a great experience with many memories and lessons learned, and we hope some of you enjoyed following along. Trying to get to the top of the heap in A/Fuel should keep us busy for a while and completes a circle for both of us, having started our racing and driving adventures in injected fuel dragsters.

Thanks for all the support over the years, see you at the track.





Ok, I've been neglecting the site for a bit, but it's time for an update after a busy year. We raced at 5 events in 2015 and made 16 runs, but lets just review some highlights for the year:


This year we got to line up against iconic cars like High Heaven, Nanook, Rat Trap, and Pure Hell. Pure Hell in particular has always been a favorite of mine- watching them race in nostalgia top fuel back in the mid 90's was one of the coolest things I ever saw. I've always wanted to be in the lane next to that car and we finally got the chance. A match up with Nanook at Rocky Mountain Raceways stands out as well, continuing a long tradition of fuel altered racing between the two families.


We got to take home the cash from the first AA/FA race in a decade at Firebird Raceway. Mike raced at this track several times back in the early 70's and we spent some good times there more recently with the big pump transformer car. Not many cars showed up, but we got to race two-time March Meet champ Dan Hix for the wally and came out on top of it.


We made the list for a 12 car invite only classic AA/FA field at the California Hot Rod Reunion, where we layed down an 1100 ft shut-off 6.01 to qualify #1 and then went on to take home the trophy. This was likely a once in a lifetime gathering of legendary classic cars, we were honored to be part of it.


Not exactly bracket car consistency, but we have an AA/FA that always goes down the track. Our average ET for the entire year was 6.21, ranging from 6.01 to 6.37 at corrected altitudes from 800 to 8000 ft. For a short car on 12" tires with absolutely no wings or aero devices, that isn't too bad. A crew member actually overheard someone suggesting we are using traction control, which is laughable but quite a compliment. It's a 5 second capable car on a good track, but I can tell you that it's a handful when we turn the wick up. This isn't the easy way to do it, but for us and for all of you who stop by our pits and tell us how much you enjoy the car- it's the right way to do it.




A starting line video compilation from this year:

September 2014

We figured we could use some testing before the end of the year, so we headed up to a pre-reunion test session at Famoso to make a couple of runs. First pass on 85% was a pretty straight 6.23, clicked off a bit early with cylinders going out.

For the second run we put 90% in it and took it back up. This time it started to spin pretty hard at about the 330 mark and took some driving before putting more holes out on top. I clicked it off somewhere around 1100 feet and managed 6.16 at 218 mph.

Everything looked good, ground straps still on the plugs. With a new set of tires and a high speed leanout, we should be in great shape for the 6.00 index in March.

A video of the two runs. If you notice the guy with the camera, that is Les Mayhew of "NitroAmerica" on YouTube.
For an example of what he does, click this link for one of his videos of us from Saturday Night Nitro in June.

And a pic from the top end. This is know as "downloading the driver"

March Meet 2014

For 2014, Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield decided to run an open AA/FA eliminator class at the March Meet. The rules were simple- altered body, 125" maximum wheelbase, appropriate safety rules, and a 6.00 index. This formula would allow the wide variety of different combinations out there to put on a good show and compete on a more or less even field. Once we heard the details we knew that we were definitely in and started getting the car ready.

Going in to the race we didn't have much in the way of expectations. We had only made three passes in 2013 and one of them was with the fuel shut off half way open. Mainly we appreciated the chance to run at the March Meet and wanted to support the new class while trying to get more runs in on a good track. We figured we could at least get three runs out of the deal, one test and two qualifiers. In the end we got six runs, going all the way to the final where we lost to Dan Hix 6.21 to 6.11. We were dropping cylinders all weekend but still managed to improve with each run and ended up close to where we started with this thing.

Obviously it would have been nice to win, but we did better than we expected and Hix is a good guy who kicked everyone's ass with a brand new car. In the final analysis, by Sunday evening we had made 6 passes without ever taking the heads off the car or even changing the clutch pack while coming within .07 of winning. In other words, a pretty good weekend. We think the format was great, fans seemed to appreciate it, and we are looking forward to doing it againt next year.

For a good compilation of AA/FA March Meet photos check out fuel-altereds-at-bakersfield-march-meet , but here a few:

1000ft mark, front wheels in the air, lots of right rudder, and #8 cylinder out. Gene Lucas Photo:

A couple shots from the pits-

July 2013

As a bit of a last minute decision, we decided to take advantage of the 2nd Saturday Night Nitro event at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield to do some more testing with our new Super-Mag+. We put a bunch more lead in the magneto and upped the nitro percentage with decent results, running an early shut off 6.37 at 203mph. We still have some work to do to get back to where we were with the MSD 44 but we are getting there. Everyone had a good time and people seemed to be digging the car, so it was a good outing.
Starting line video of the run:

Another view:

June 2013

Took the car up to Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City to make a couple of runs. This was the first run with the points magneto and first for this car at altitude. We put 10% more overdrive on the blower and headed up to take a shot at it.

First run was a single. The car left lazy but was moving OK before putting a couple cylinders out past half track. I got out of it and it still managed a 6.98.

Second run was against Randy Bradford. We opened the main jet up to take out another 3 GPM of fuel and headed up again. This time it went out 330 ft, got a bit loose on the transition between the concrete and asphalt, and dropped at least one cylinder on each side again. I pedaled it once to see if it would clean up (and straighten up) but no dice- shut it off and watched Randy come flying by right before the lights.

Basically we learned that we were way over center on fuel volume for the combo and were depending on the MSD 44 to burn it. I think if we had been closer to where we should have been on fuel to start with, the change wouldn't have much such a difference. Next time out we turn the wick way up and to try and get some heat back in this thing. Priority one at this point is to get some decent fire in the pipes.

We had a good time, learned some things we needed to learn, and put on a decent show for the fans. All in all a good weekend at a great facility.
Starting line video of the two runs:

In-Car video of the second run:

In the pits:

On the line with two of the three people you can most blame for my addiction to nitromethane, Mike Sullivan and Al Hawkins. Al ran the "Magnificent 7" AA/Fuel Altered with Leroy Chadderton and more recently an A/Fuel Dragster I drove. If we could have gotten Mike's long time racing partner Steve Haight in this picture it would have been complete.

Dec 2012

We have removed the 44 amp magneto from the car, because:

A. It was hideous hanging out the side of the car.

B. We don't want to hear anybody whining about it.

C. It puts us in line with some "guidelines" that are out there for classic Fuel Altereds.

Spud Miller at Fuel Injection Enterprises treated us well and we quickly received a Super-Mag + from him. Because this is the undisputed king of the points magnetos with a full 10 amps of primary current, we don't expect much of a change to the tuneup. An unexpected benefit to the change over was the loss of another 20 lbs.

Oct 2012

We made our second outing with the car on Tuesday to work on licensing and getting an idea of where were with the tune up. We made three trips to the line:

First run- second run on the car and it is a full pass, 6.17 at 223 mph. I clicked it off a touch early and was shocked to hear the ET. We had a metal shaving block one of the nozzles in the #4 cylinder and it pinched a ringland. Everything else looked good as new.

Second run- put a new piston in it and headed back to the line. We made a burnout and the idle wouldn't come back down below 3500, so I backed it up and shut it off.

Third run- idle wouldn't come back down again, but I got it most of the way by pulling back with my foot and staged the car. Ran a 6.16 at 232.

6.20 was where we eventually wanted to end up, but we didn't expect to jump right in to it. The engine looks good, car drove well, all in all a very good day. Thanks to Kris Krabill, Bucky Austin, and Will Martin for help with the license.

Sep 2012

Took the car out for the first time. We headed up to Bakersfield for the third "Saturday Night Nitro" show to see where we were with the car and work on my license upgrade. We had lots of "new car blues" episodes with a minor oil leak and some steering issues.

Eventually we actually got the car to the line and made a short squirt. The motor was dead fat and the car left fairly lazy (1.13 60ft) before getting real loose real quick. We learned quite a bit and have some good directions to go in for our next outing.

Some pictures and a video below. has a good write up on the event, including a picture of the car.

Aug 2012

Estrus guys are nailing every detail- some of them Mike didn't even remember were there. Lettering done by Dennis Jones- Jones Custom Lettering & Pin Striping, Whittier, CA.

Aug 2012

Lettering in progress. We had every confidence that the Estrus guys would do a good job, but the result is quickly exceeding our expectations!

Aug 2012

Paint going on, looking good...

Aug 2012

The body is off being painted by the guys at Estrus Racing, who make Mike proud with their version of his "red white and blue" Fiat. At this point the altered is 99% complete, ready to start.

Jun 2012

The car is getting close. Most of the last few months have spent getting the engine and clutch set up complete. Body is in primer at this point.

Mar 2012

Spent alot of early 2012 working on a new trailer and finishing up small details. Chris Owen from Owen Engineering in Riverside built our fuel tank, as well as doing all the various welding on the car. This was quite a challenge- trying to get enough fuel (13+ gallons) under the body and in front of the fuel pump was not easy. The car is 115", but the engine is 64" out, making it very nearly true to the original 25% setback rule. This leaves very little room in front of the engine. Chris and his dad Mike Owen are top notch fabricators and good friends.

The old GMC 6-71 went to Greg Wright at WrightWay blower service. It came back anodized, stripped, and ready to run. The fiat is starting to look like a race car.

Dec 2011

The nose is finally done. As I said, Mike can figure anything out eventually. The nose is longer than the original, but one thing stays the same- this car is coming together in Mike's garage, exactly like he did it in 1966.

The "go-around" is visible in the body here also, nearly complete. The GMC blower being used for mock up has actually been in Mike's possession for 40 years, but he never ran it. The plan is to get it upgraded and use it.

Nov 2011

Here we start to tackle the nose. Neither of us are exactly good at fiberglass work, but Mike can figure anything out eventually. Here you can see the gap to be filled, and a pretty good idea of how Mike started to approach the problem. After working on this for most of Nov, it was tempting to leave the nose off! Trying to fill in the gap without exagerating the length and at the same time maintaining the distinctive "stance" that the original car had is not easy.

Oct 2011

The front end is getting sorted out here. Dropped axle and torsion bar are similar to the original, though a few inches narrower. Rear section of the body is where we want it, but not yet mounted. We have it on the ground to get a sense of how annoying the extra length will be. It isn't as bad as we thought, but the length does show. This is another compromise to the original appearance, but is just a reality that is hard to avoid for a car expected to run well in to the 6's on todays tracks. Safety, common sense, and not wanting to move the engine back any further trumps historical accuracy here.

Another decision made at this point is how to deal with the extra length in the body- stretch the main body and the nose some, or the nose more. We made the decision to put the stretch only in the nose and maintain the original window profile.

Sep 2011

10.5 top loader in place. Doing the cutouts for the wheels. We will be mocking up the car with a different set of wheels and tires, but the goal at this point is to use the Hoosier Nostalgia TF spec tire. Our plan is to more or less follow the NTF pattern as far as the engine, clutch, and drivetrain. We could easily run a 34.5 style FC tire, but don't expect to make the same level of power as a Nostalgia FC- this is intended to be a 6 second car. In our experience, more tire than power makes for a difficult driving experience. The profile of the Hoosier is also very similar to the tires being run on the original car in the 1968-69 time frame.

Sep 2011

Doing some initial fitting of the body. This body is rough to say the least, but very close to the original in overall appearance. The plan is to keep it in two sections as the original was, with a removable nose. The basics of the powerplant are in place for mock up. The orginal car had a 392, but two reasons drove the decision to go with the 426. The first is that we already had most of the parts. The second is that there are just more parts available at better cost than 392 stuff. This will the first of many compromises to the original configuraiton of the car, but we feel a necessary one. hey- its still a HEMI!

Aug 2011

Construction begins! Starting point is a 125" Plueger FC chassis. First steps in the master plan are to remove the A arms, add a dropped axle, shorten the car to 115", and replace the 12" Strange Differential with a 10.5 top loader. Lots of work ahead.