One look at the spec chart reveals that Doug invested in the very best engine equipment. From the Dart Big M cylinder case to the Callies rotating assembly to the Dart heads, it's all first class. He is of the mind that if you do it right, then you only have to do it once. With its shrinking 9.5:1 compression ratio, he could peddle this thing on Mexican gas and still be detonation free. The motor makes 700 hp, but more importantly, it seethes with grunt, more than 600 lb-ft available at 3,000 rpm. Doug just crowds the loud pedal a bit and goes, regardless of where the shifter is pointed. That custom-built-by-Johnson's stick snakes up from the T56, its shape reminiscent of the Inland shifter attached to '60s GM fourspeeds. It was wholly necessary to clear a bench seat. Doug considers the Line- Loc critical. He has the occasional yen to create a spectacle when people least expect one.

Those subtle details? Alan and Doug put their heads together on all of them. None is more subdued than those surrounding the 540. What stealthy relief: black-out reigns. Begin with the Vintage Air Front Runner accessory drive, low down and compact. Unless you looked closely, you'll probably miss it completely. Those custom-built rocker covers fall right into place, too, for their "invisible" paint and the period Chevrolet script that appeared only on early smallblocks. That goes for the custom air cleaner as well. The ambience is one of, "Well, I am a big-block, but I don't look the least bit dangerous...or do I?"

In the sea of street machines out there, it is always encouraging to see one that hasn't forsaken the manual transmission. While a straight Muncie or BorgWarner four-gear is good, it isn't very friendly to fuel consumption, the engine, or the driver's comfort. Call us impetuous, but we are of a mind that an overdriven top gear is mandatory now, especially in light of premium pee that's shooting for four bucks a gallon. A T56 behind a stout big-block is a brilliant thing, like a warm thought that you take out and savor on a cold, rainy day. The Rockland Gear six-gear we know. Doug favors them because of their bulletproof constitution, protected by larger input and output shafts, modified Viper components, hardened steel shifting forks, and triple-cone synchronizers. This is not Doug's primary interest with the 210, though. Suffice it to say that he is cognizant of the thoroughly destructive force that its big-block represents and prefers the control and immediacy of a clutch.

There's more to it. Doug took some remedial action on the intake system. With the Dominator and open plenum intake combo, he was experiencing about 10 mpg, even with the deep overdrive. He's much happier with the Holley 950 and the dual-plane Edelbrock on the engine now. Throttle response on the low end is measurably improved and fuel consumption has jumped to about 14 mpg.

A quick eyeball on the inside reveals little to excite. Redone stock, right down to that flabby bench seat ("I could use a little more lateral support," razzed Doug). There are no thick-web harnesses. Instead, Doug chose modern three-point seatbelts anchored to the B-pillar. Spend a few more moments and you pick up the tachometer sitting sidesaddle beneath that bus-big steering wheel. Then you pin the one-off Classic Instruments instrument cluster with the basic meters surrounding that freakin' 200-mph speedo. Doug used up a bunch of it on the Power Tour while "pacing" a buddy's Camaro between 105 and 130 mph for, oh, about 30 miles. Certainly, it has the horsepower to ring up a 200, but Doug thinks that the Chevy's cinderblock silhouette and gearing would limit it to about 180 mph.

Alan and his crew know Doug well from other times and other cars they've fabricated for him. While he was there with the 210 last year, they ribbed him and started a pool to see how long it would take before he blew it apart and did the mambo on it. He swears he never will.

Doug Cooper • Syosset, NY
Vehicle weight w/driver: 3,850 pounds
Type: GM displacing 540 cubic inches
  (4.500 bore x 4.25 stroke)
Block: Dart Big M low-deck
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Oiling: custom Milodon 6-quart oil pan
  and oiling system
Rotating assembly: 4.250-inch stroke Callies crank,
6.305-inch Callies rods,
Mahle forged pistons, Speed-Pro rings
Cylinder heads: Dart 352cc Pro 1 aluminum,
  CNC-milled valve pockets
Camshaft: COMP hydraulic roller,
  236/246 degrees duration @ .050-inch,
  .641-inch lift, Cloyes Tru-Roller timing gear
Valvetrain: 2.30-/1.88-inch valves,
1.7:1 COMP Pro Magnum roller rocker arms,
3/8-inch pushrods, COMP valve springs
Induction: Edelbrock Performer dual-plane
intake manifold, Holley 950-cfm carburetor
prepped by Book Racing Enterprises,
phenolic spacer, Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop (JHRS)
custom air cleaner housing, K&N element
Power adder: none
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor,
  6AL box, 38 degrees total timing
Exhaust: JHRS coated custom headers,
2 1/4-inch primary pipes, 3 1/2-inch collectors,
3 1/2-inch coated exhaust system,
Flowmaster mufflers
Fasteners: ARP
Built by: Shafiroff Racing Engines
Transmission: Rockland Gear Tremec 6-speed,
  McLeod Twin Disc, JHRS custom shifter
Driveshaft: chromemoly steel
  by The Driveshaft Shop
Rear Axle: Morrison/Currie 9-inch narrowed
  to 52 inches, Strange third member,
  locker differential, 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion
Front suspension: Art Morrison tubular upper
  and lower control arms, Hyperco coils over Bilstein
  shock absorbers, Morrison/Addco antisway bar
Rear suspension: 4-link with Hyperco coils
  over Bilstein shock absorbers,
  Morrison/Addco antisway bar
Brakes: Wilwood 14-inch discs,
6-piston calipers, front;
Wilwood 13.5-inch rotors,
6-piston calipers, rear
Wheels: American TorqThrust II
  18x9, front; 20x12, rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
  245/40ZR18, front;
  335/30ZR20, rear