The F.A.S.T. series is more than just drag racing in outwardly unmodified automobiles. It’s actually a revolution in purity. The formulas at work not only produce cars that are stunningly fast and efficient, but a racing venue that allows all of its participants an even shot at coming home a winner.
Here’s how it works: After a thorough going-over in tech, everybody makes their qualifying laps, and a Quick Eight ladder is formed. In normal drag racing, anybody who doesn’t make the cut at this point gets to go sit and watch from the stands. In F.A.S.T. racing, the remainder of the field is paired up for 2 out of 3 match races. BRILLIANT!
This unique all-run formula is a product of the series’ earliest roots. Way back in the mid-80’s, there was a monthly rag called Car Review. It started out as a fairly weak, poorly targeted magazine rack filler, but soon found a niche within the then-exploding muscle car revival movement, and became the bible for followers of this particular cult.
The muscle car match race madness era began when the mag compiled a list of the 50 fastest production cars of all time, with a Buick of all things, sitting at number one.
As the HEMI Mopar guys had fits, the Buick and Brand X contingent were giddy like little schoolgirls. There was only one way to find out who truly was the baddest of the bad. Take an original example of each and battle for supremacy at the strip. It was to be a 2 out of 3 match up between a 70 Buick GS and a ’69 HEMI Road Runner.
The outcome? The big Buick served the mighty Elephant-powered Bird a handful of its own feathers. Game over, right? Wrong! As it turned out, the Buick was actually a full-on Stock Eliminator car hiding under a factory paint job and quiet exhaust. Shazam! Rather than settle the score, it only fed the fire. The debate raged, and the initial groundwork was set for a rules structure that would create parity between cars that were obviously going to be tweaked far beyond what could ever be considered production line stock, but still be stock.
After all, racers are a creative, sneaky lot. Might as well give them all the latitude they’re gonna take anyway, right? But keep it all framed under a simple catch-all: it’s gotta look stock. Not only does it have to look stock on the outside, but it’s gotta look stock on the inside and the underside too. Everything under the hood must appear “as produced,” it’s gotta roll on stock-sized rubber and just to add a unique measure of difficulty, it has to sound stock. In a nutshell, this is what F.A.S.T. racing is all about.
The result of all this is a pair of cars today that have legitimately ripped off sub 10-second ET’s. while appearing to all the world like they just rolled off the block at Barret Jackson. Dave Dudek, the guy most consider the father of F.A.S.T. racing, and who has dominated the upper ranks of the series for a couple of years now, blitzed the clocks with his ’69 HEMI Road Runner to the tune of 9.98 seconds at an insane 138 mph. His march through the 10-second zone this past year had him as odds-on favorite to turn the first single digit trick first, that is, if it could be done at all.
But as luck would have it, Dave was not the first into the 9’s. That honor fell just one round before when Lane Carey jammed his amazing, wheel standing ’71 Mustang CJ428 through the beams with a surreal 9.84 at a buck-thirty-nine! Carey’s car is just 11mph short of being required to carry a parachute as per NHRA rules and it runs on bias ply G7015’s!
This isn’t just hard core drag racing at its finest, this is an absolute paradigm shift! How many hundreds – if not thousands – of race cars out there can’t turn those numbers despite having things like 14×32’s, tube chassis and wheelie bars and with no limitations whatsoever on how they look and sound like. When these two cars silently tripped into the single digits, the entire universe of door slammer drag racing was forever altered. Like it or not, the term race car, and the trappings that define such an animal no longer have the same meaning.
So those are the two big dogs as of the here and now, the leaders of the pack. But, what about the pack itself?
As we pointed out before, one of the unique features of the F.A.S.T. series is its 2 of 3 match race format. Since the bulk of the cars in F.A.S.T. actually represent the “common” muscle car, and as such are limited to things like smallish single four barrel carbs and very pedestrian inline wedge cylinder heads, the pack is about a second and a half off the pace of the mega motor über cars but this is MATCH racing, and so as long as you’ve got two cars on the grounds that are within a tenth or two of each other, let the games begin!
So what is the typical FAST car, and what makes it tick? Virginia resident Harry Chargois Jr. was good enough to give us a guided tour of his F.A.S.T. contender, a ’69 383-powered Dodge Super Bee.
If you want to talk middle of the road muscle cars, you’re talking a 383 B-Body. Back in the day, as many people bought these intermediate-sized budget bombers to commute as they did to race. These were truly happy machines, and they were everywhere.
Harry got the bug to race F.A.S.T. back in 2004 and the car you see here was an eBay score intended just for that purpose.
As per F.A.S.T. rules, the external body and interior are exactly as produced. The sole modification to the unibody are a pair of old school Mopar Performance frame connectors that fit the “3-Foot Rule” that being, if you can’t see the addition to the chassis from three feet away, it’s good to go. F.A.S.T. rules would have allowed Harry to add Torque Boxes à la the HEMI and convertible models, but so far their added stiffening effect has not been called for.
In fact, this 11-second machine is surprisingly…well, boring.
“Harry, what have you done to this thing to optimize it for the class?”
“Not much really…”
“Any acid dipping?”
“Any trick ballast or weight jacking?”
“Have you raised the motor or moved it rearward at all?”
“Played around with the leaf spring mounts? Shortened any of that up?”
“Nope. It’s pretty much all the way it was built. We did take the heater box out to make it heater delete.”
OK, so there’s nothing to look at other than a pretty red paint job and some show car detailing, or in other words, if there’s anything worth talking about concerning the rolling chassis, Harry’s not talking about it. But then again, we didn’t expect he would.
He did open up about the motor, though. After all, it’s no secret that in this series, engines are absolutely not what they seem to be and in this case, the 383 making those menacing noises under that factory Air-Grabber is actually a 400 block (the largest factory bore of all of Mopar’s big blocks) spinning a 4.25-inch stroker arm for a whopping grand total of 512 cubic inches and some serious geometry given that it’s all stuffed in a low deck package.
Harry credits Porter Racing Heads for machining and balancing the 12.5-to-1 short block, as well as all the grinding done to what has to be the most massaged pair of 906 castings on the planet. As per F.A.ST. rules, the heads are required to be OEM-correct castings for the year and model of the car, but what you do to them is between you and your carbides.
“So, what about the cam, Harry?”
“It’s a big roller.”
“Real big as in?”
“Real big, as in we had to modify the baffles inside the stock valve covers for the rockers to clear, but that’s all I can say about that.”
Harry was pretty forthcoming with the intake manifold though, another item that has to have the correct casting number for the application. What he did was take an Edelbrock DP4B aluminum intake, and copy exactly the plenum contour and volume into the factory Mopar item. The runners were also massaged and textured for optimum velocity given the size and relatively low operating range of the engine.
Harry told us all about the intake manifold and the gaskets used to space the carburetor to the the maximum allowable amount, but divulged nothing about the carb itself, which looks for all the world to be a common, unmolested Carter 625cfm AVS. If we had to guess – and it’s only a guess, we’d say it probably flows a good 200cfm more than that.
F.A.S.T. rules call for correct casting numbered-cast iron exhaust manifolds to be used, as well as a full-length factory-style exhaust system. On the surface, this would seem to be a real bottleneck given the kind of performance expected of these things.
You’ve got to remember though, the factories put a lot of thought into their exhausts back in the day. The manifolds on these big block Mopars were beautiful up-swept, free flowing, large diameter affairs, that at low RPM would out-grunt all but the most exactingly-tuned headers. The ones on Harry’s ‘Bee have been slightly ground on to even-out any surface irregularities. No crazy extrude honing here.
F.A.S.T. rules also call for tires the same size and construction of those available when new (with an allowance to go one size up). The 383 Super Bee came from the factory rolling on F7014’s, so given the allowed up-sizing, Harry runs G70’s on the car’s stock-sized Magnum 500’s. He claims that no special prep work is done to these tires, only that they begin to really come alive once the tread-wear bars begin to show.
The tires are really the focal point of this entire class; the great handicap and the great equalizer. They can’t be shocked or see any abrupt application of torque anywhere in the first couple of hundred feet. Harry is currently using an ATI Treemaster torque converter, but feels that something a bit tighter would allow him to drive it out with a little more gusto.
Out back, a 3.91 gear (spinning a stock Sure Grip unit inside of a factory 8.75 rear) is about all the rubber can handle. Planting the skins is left to a pair of disguised adjustable shocks and an old school pinion snubber. As for the car’s dynamics, Harry tells us it will dig in and bite hard while the weight is in active transfer, but about ten feet out, maintaining grip becomes real tricky. Making one of these cars work is really a driver’s game, one of the few left in drag racing today.
With a half tank of 110 octane race gas and Harry at the wheel, the ‘Bee squishes the scale to the tune of 3,665 pounds. In it’s current state, the car has been consistent and has run a best of 11.75 at 117.98 mph. This is approximately 3 full seconds and nearly 20mph faster than it would have run from the factory, but based on some of the changes Harry plans to employ during the off season and some of the areas that have yet to be exploited on this particular car, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it knocking on the 10-second door next year.
~ Thomas Jefferson