When it came time to pick a camshaft, Mike admits the Buick has a weak spot they have to work around. "The cam journal size restricts you to what you can do on everything. You can't put much of a lift on the camshaft." He entrusted the gurus at Comp Cams to grind the stick with as aggressive a lobe as possible. Trying to get even more lift to make the heads work their best, he used high-ratio rocker arms to make up the difference. "We have probably the only set of 1.75 rockers in existence for a 455 Buick, and T&D made those especially for me. They even took out the 7/16-inch adjusters and put in 5/16-inch adjusters to get the adjuster close enough to the shaft. Then we had to go in there and mill the heads out toward the shaft, where the pushrod hole is, to get clearance. Even with that, 0.650 is really pushing it on lift on these things." As for spring pressure, they had it cranked up pretty good at 180 pounds on the seat, and 400 open. He says they could have even stood a little more, as he heard a little valve float just as the engine was cresting 6,500 rpm on the dyno.

Above the deck, Mike needed a cylinder head that would fulfill the high torque needs of the engine, and still flow enough air to make big horsepower. Coincidentally, the early Nailhead Buicks with their small valves and tall runners provided lots of velocity in the ports that when combined with their long duration camshafts, made the original "torque" engine. Later designs evolved into large-port, large-valve heads as used on the legendary Stage 1 GS and their big brothers, the Stage 2 heads--perfect for making lots of horses in big-inch engines like Phillips' bad boy. Unfortunately, the supply of good Stage 2 heads for maximum effort engines is about dried up, so he would have to go a different route. Mike Tomaszewski, founder of TA Performance, saw this need for a replacement casting that would meet or exceed the performance of the quickly disappearing Stage 2 heads, and began casting his own several years ago. The raised-runner TA heads now offer the peak of performance in the Buick world. By raising the intake runner 0.400 inch, Mike Phillips claims the flow numbers aren't that much greater, but it gives the fuel a straighter shot at feeding the chamber. This raised design posed a small problem, as the EMC rules dictated the use of a standard-type intake manifold that wouldn't normally fit the heads. Using his gray matter, Mike saw the solution. He milled the block 0.130 inch, milled the heads 0.040 inch, used a thin Felpro head gasket, and with a little bit of slotting on the bolt holes, was able to use the TA Performance standard port intake. From there, he was able to calculate the piston dish volume they needed to meet a pump-gas-friendly 10.5:1 compression ratio. He said: "Now we have what I consider the best intake on the best heads."

They had tried installing a small "turtle" in the intake to remove some of the plenum volume, but in testing, it didn't seem to pick up any power, so they took it out to get the volume back. Stacked on top of the intake was a Jomar 1-inch dual-taper spacer that Mike fell in love with. "I've tested a lot of that stuff. For a Dominator, I've probably got six or seven different spacers to test with, and that dual-taper spacer from Jomar in a 1-inch configuration is the best thing we've ever tried."

For the carb, a Barry Grant King Demon with the 995-cfm sleeves was used. "I've got one carburetor that I've used since 2003 in the contests, and I've got sleeves everywhere from 995 to 1150. I started with the 1050 sleeves on this 464, and I actually made more power with the 995 stuff." The Demon carb managed to meter out the Shell V-Power 91-octane pump gas evenly, and responded well to changes on the dyno. The Automotive Machine Buick used an MSD Pro Billet distributor hooked to a 7AL2 box firing the Champion plugs. The 7AL2 provides more than enough juice to power the engine, and is commonly found on 1,000-plus horsepower dragsters, so there were no issues with misfiring. The final pieces were a set of 1 7/8 chassis headers to push the exhaust through the Borla mufflers.

Once Mike had the engine hooked up to the pump, he fired it up and the crowd of EMC competitors knew they were in for something good. I was fortunate enough to be right there when that 640-plus foot pounds shook the building as it bent the dyno needle. Hopefully, David Dunbar Buick felt the heavens shake just a little when Mike Phillips' engine roared. It is a tragedy that poor old Dave never was able to enjoy the successes of the company he gave his name and heart to, but his dreams and spirit of innovation were alive and well when Mike's Buick took its place as one of the most power-pump-gas engines in the country.