We've got your weapons of mass destruction right here, buddy. The thing is, it's not fueled by enriched uranium and you can't find it in Iraq, so it's highly unlikely to be named to the Axis of Evil any time soon. Damn. Fortunately, the WMD in question here will further fan the flames of the raging horsepower arms race. The specimen at hand is waging biological warfare on all gasoline engines in existence one tank of biodiesel at a time. Stuffed, quite literally, with a 6.6L Duramax V-8, Mike Racke's '70 Chevelle has the goods to bury Rats, Hemis, and 460s 6 feet under, and kicks out enough torque to pull them back out.
To understand why anyone would commit to such an unorthodox engine swap requires nothing more than glancing at the stats. At 950 hp and 1,700 lb-ft of torque, Mike has more than tripled the output of a stock LLY Duramax, which is rated at 310 hp and 605 lb-ft from the factory. The Chevelle even knocks down 32 mpg. Despite such staggering figures, the engine combo is surprisingly simple. Other than a set of Carrillo steel rods, the short-block is completely stock. The only other major modifications are a set of CNC-ported factory 32-valve heads, upgraded twin turbos cranked to 30 psi, and a bigger solid-roller cam. Once he hooks up the nitrous, Mike hopes to pump those numbers up to 1,200 hp and 1,900 lb-ft. This begs the question: How much can these suckers take before they go kaput? "I've built tons of small- and big-block Chevys in my day, but I've never seen anything like this Duramax. The thing is built like a tank," he explains. "It's a deep-skirt block with huge cross-bolted main caps and reinforcement webbing everywhere. There are six studs surrounding each cylinder, cast aluminum covers on the front and back of the block, huge lifter bores, and a gear-driven water pump and timing set I'm not sure what the limit is, but there are people putting 1,500 hp through these blocks."
Granted, the Duramax is one beastly hunk of iron, its virtues were only one of several factors that inspired Mike to build this project. "My first car was a '70 Chevelle, which I still own, so I've always been partial to them. I've built so many different Chevelles over the years that I started getting bored doing the same thing over and over again," he explains. During the brainstorming stage, Mike read some books that piqued his interest in biodiesel. He found the notion of burning cheap, domestically produced fuel with enormous power potential that happened to be environmentally friendly inescapably appealing. All the while, one of his buddies who worked at a GMC dealership couldn't stop raving about the power potential of the Duramax. Ultimately, what sealed the deal was a ride in a Duramax-powered Hummer H1. "I was at Pacific Performance Engineering one day when my friend Joe took me for a ride in his Hummer that he just finished swapping a Duramax into. This huge 8,000-pound truck pulled just as hard as my 10-second big-block Chevelle wagon. I couldn't believe it, and decided right then and there to put one of these motors into my next car."
The project started out as a beat up rolling chassis. Mike stripped the car, fixed up some dings, and replaced a rusty quarter-panel before mocking the motor into place. Wanting to maintain a low-key external appearance, Mike decided to fit everything under the stock hood, which proved to be an enormous undertaking. "A stock Duramax has a single turbo mounted right on top of the motor, along with a bunch of other junk hanging off of it that I had to remove for clearance. To make space for the drive accessories, radiator, intercooler, A/C condenser, and turbo piping, the motor had to be moved back 8 inches from the stock location," Mike recollects. "Another issue was the stock location of the A/C compressor and alternator, which I had to reposition lower in the engine bay by making custom brackets and pulleys. The Duramax uses injection pumps driven off the crank to pressurize the fuel rails, plus I had to add a second pump in order to meet the increased fuel demands of this setup. Taking an ugly truck motor and cleaning it up to make it look like something that belongs in a muscle car is a huge challenge."
How the custom twin-turbo setup came to be is a story in itself. "While Fast Eddie's was doing the chassis work on my car, I rebuilt the motor at home and started porting the heads. I took one of them to a local Chevelle gathering to show to one of my friends," Mike recollects. "As he was looking at it, a man walked up and asked what kind of car this crazy-looking head was for. I told him it was going into my '70 Chevelle, but after five minutes of guessing he couldn't figure it out. When he found out it was for a Duramax, he was stunned and handed me his card. It turns out I was talking to Darryl Bassani of Bassani exhaust, and he offered to make the entire exhaust system for the car and put it in his booth at SEMA. Mind you, he had never even seen my car."
Almost lost in all the diesel hoopla is the cutting-edge technology infused into the chassis and suspension. After installing the motor, Mike realized that the stock frame wasn't adequate for the power loads it would endure. Consequently, he ordered up an Art Morrison front clip, complete with C5 Corvette aluminum suspension components. Fast Eddie's (Orange, California) handled the install, and in order to stand a chance of putting the power down, a 9-inch rearend was narrowed and anchored into place with a custom four-link. Big tubs accommodate gargantuan 22-inch-wide Mickey Thompsons, which still aren't enough to harness all those rampant pound-feet despite the tall 3.25:1 ring-and-pinion set.