In the formative years of NHRA's Stock and Super Stock, some of the most feared and respected proponents hailed from the North Carolina countryside, tobacco farmer Bobby Warren chief among them. Bobby and his ilk easily played on the hayseed hick persona, making it tough for the tech boys and even tougher for their competition. They not only stretched the rules, they decimated the rules, and made it look deceptively easy. They were instrumental in creating what Car Craft editor Terry Cook termed the "southern mystique" (circa 1970).
Open cars were an anomaly. It was all doorslammer stuff, perhaps an allusion to the Grand National heritage and the whiskey runners from which they evolved. Stock sheetmetal was the only venue. And it all looked stocker than stock. They used what they had, no frills, no money spent that wasn't warranted or didn't make the car one iota quicker or faster. They built their racers to the last degree, disappearing through loopholes, and anxious to apply their interpretation of the rules. It was subterfuge of grand design. Look stock. Act stock. Lull the other guy. Then catch him sleeping and shock him to death with a car that functioned exactly right.
Ted Carter and I are the same age, war babies both, and are a tad bit younger than the southern mystique boys, but we both adhere to the same credo: look stock...and carry a ball bearing sac in your back pocket and brass knucks in your waistband.
Look at his Chevelle. Save for that lumpy hood and a sketchy rollcage outline, his car looks like a Saturday night special in Anytown, USA. Shiny paint. Chrome trim on the wheel openings. Sucker written all over it. Check the old dude behind the wheel. Check those rumpled slicks. Whaaa? Check your attitude before it's too late, fool.
Though it appears freshly minted, Carter built this car about 16 years ago, progressing from frame to body and paint. He set the chassis up for drag racing, North Carolina style. This equivocates to mostly stock parts combined with just the right accentuation and strengthening he'd need, and not a drop more. His money went right into making that big-block roar instead.
"I have always liked cars, and Chevys in particular," drawled Carter, smooth as taffy. "Musclecar Street Car drag racing became popular in the late '80s and early '90s and I always wanted a car to drive on the road and to do a little drag racing at the track." The Chevelle appealed. He'd husbanded six of them before taking the SS he has now, and had done penance with a couple of '62 409s.
"The Chevelles were my kind of car. Big enough for four people to ride comfortably and yet not too big. It handles pretty good, too."
As is his ken, Carter approached this Chevelle most pragmatically. It was as much a matter of budget as it was the ethic in his part of the country. You rebuild or reconstruct what you already have and then get what you absolutely need. You do all that you can and reluctantly farm the rest out to those able to do it better than you. "I spent many nights, weekends, and holidays in the garage working, cleaning, scraping, and reconditioning parts." He also spent a lot of time with the phone stuck to his head, searching out the right pieces and bargains, so a lot of the stuff on his Chevelle might not be exactly new.
As for chassis prep, the southern mystique hangs on like grim death. Trace the core of the traction system to the latest tire compounds. Carter thought the GM stuff hanging off the frame was pretty darn good to begin with, but he took it about one step further and made his own "no hop" bars. He stuck neoprene bushings in the ends of the trailing arms, bolted in adjustable shocks, and puffed air bags in the stock coil springs to tailor bite to the condition of the tarmac. Simple and effective.
Carter got a 12-bolt axle out of a '67 Chevelle, rebuilt it with 4.10 gears, and instead of a differential he stuck it with a spool. No moving parts. Simple and effective. The front suspension is just as rudimentary: stock everything except for the shocks, which are adjustable for maximum lift an instant before the tires hit. The rolling stock is drag-race iconic: Weld Alumastars front and rear hugged by M/T 28-inchers and backed by 29.5 x 10.5 slicks. With him inside, the Chevelle squats 3,775 lbs on the scales.
Currently, Carter's prime motive is the NMCA Nostalgia Musclecar class. He took runner-up at a Darlington race and won a nostalgia contest at Rockingham. Though his car rarely rips the air on roads around Ellerbe, his SS has been known to attract eclectic crowds at Super Chevy events. After Sandy Green (Ellerbe) and Power House Speed Shop (Rockingham) machined and balanced the guts of his big-block, he made something out of them in his garage. Basic stuff here: Holley carburetor, MSD ignition, and Hooker Super Comps framing the 114-octane motor in a less than pristine engine bay. Pretty never won a race, son. Reliability and consistency do. To insure repeatable performance, Carter spent a buck or two on a standard-ratio Turbo 400 and fronted it with a 4,500-rpm stall speed converter and a Trans Cool heat exchanger. The driveshaft is stock.
The Chevelle's good looks are part of Carter's extended plan. "The body was in good shape so it didn't need much except a little bodywork on the quarters." Crawson Body Shop (Rockingham) applied the Cherry Red and finished it off with black 396 SS stripes. Carter spiffed the original seats with repro covers, hung a Stewart-Warner oil pressure and a VDO water temp gauge, and squeezed a big AutoMeter rev counter between steering column and dash pad. He bolstered the torsional integrity of the chassis and conformed to rules with a class-required six-point rollcage and to provide attachment points for the RCI five-point harness.
One day, this racing stuff will still look good but it won't really matter to Ted Carter. "The car is an original 396 SS ... when I decide to quit racing I will put the four-speed back in it and drive it on the street all the time." With the windows rolled down, the AM radio bleating like it was 1969 all over again, and the southern mystique be damned, Carter will have realized the best of both worlds and he did it without signing his life away. Ted Carter has his validation.
By The NumbersTed Carter * Ellerbe, NC'69 Chevy Chevelle SS396 * Total cost to build: $13,000Best quarter-mile ET: 10.68/126.01
|Type: ||454 big-block bored 0.060" to 468 ci |
| ||(4.31 bore x 4.00 stroke) |
|Block: ||Chevrolet |
|Compression Ratio: ||13.0:1 |
|Oiling: ||Stock with Moroso 8-quart oil pan |
|Rotating Assembly: ||Lunati 4340 forged crank, |
| ||Chevy forged rods, Ross Racing pistons |
|Cylinder Heads: ||'70 Chevy oval port, ported |
| ||and polished by Sandy Green |
|Camshaft: ||Lunati solid roller (254/262 @ 0.050, 0.675" lift) |
|Valvetrain: ||Manley valves (2.25/1.88), Lunati rockers & pushrods |
|Induction: ||Holley intake, Holley 850-cfm carburetor |
|Built By: ||Ted Carter |
|Transmission: ||GM Turbo 400, 8" ATI torque converter, |
| ||Cheetah SCS shifter |
|Rear Axle: ||GM 12-bolt rear end, 4.10 gears, spool |
|Front Suspension: ||Stock coil springs, Competition Engineering adjustable shocks |
|Rear Suspension: ||Stock coil springs, Air Lift bags, |
| ||Monroe adjustable shocks |
|Brakes: ||Stock discs, front; stock drums, rear |
|WHEEL & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||Weld Racing 15x6 Alumastar, front; Weld Racing 15x8, rear |
|Tires: ||M/T ET Front 28x4.5-15, front; M/T ET Drag 29.5/10.5-15, rear |