According to Phoenix, this converter has a flash speed of up to 3,200 rpm, but drives like a much tighter converter. The idea is that we wouldn't even notice we had a high-stall converter until we nailed the throttle. It sounded perfect for us, but would it deliver the goods? We threw it in the trans, and hit the road for some road testing before our date with the chassis dyno. Ducato had warned us that if it was too tight, our relatively big-cammed small-block might want to stall at idle when placed into gear, but we had no problem keeping the 408 lit. That was a good sign. Next, we did some around-town driving, trying to see if the revs would still flash way up while pulling away from the light modestly. We quickly discovered that unless provoked, our new converter was very well mannered in traffic, a bonus considering our obnoxiously loud side-exit exhaust. Next, we accelerated hard on the highway on-ramp, pushing the engine toward redline and digging deep into the converter's meat. Even with Nitto Drag Radials, the posi rearend broke loose with ease, proving that the bigger converter still had the torque multiplication we'd need for dragstrip duty. On the freeway, with the converter locked up in Fourth, the high-strung small-block settled back into a deep freight train rumble. So far, the larger 258mm converter had performed as advertised.

Back on Westech's Superflow chassis dyno, we elected to do an unaltered baseline test, realizing that should there be a dramatic difference, we'd probably need to reconfigure some of the jetting to the carb. On the very first pull, the dyno registered 434.9 hp (5,900 rpm) for a gain of 69.3 hp. The bigger converter was clearly showing more efficiency, so Westech's Ernie Mena began a tuning loop using the facility's wide-band O2 monitoring equipment. With the converter's flash point occurring another 500 rpm lower, the engine was now demanding more fuel earlier, and after a few changes to the primary and secondary jetting (pulling fuel out of the secondaries and adding it to the primaries), and upping the size of the squirters, the Laguna's small-block pushed the pony count north to 441.9 hp (5,900 rpm) with 431.3 lb-ft of torque (4,800 rpm). The increase in output over the smaller, less-efficient converter was 76 hp and 23 lb-ft of torque. We were stunned.

That's a lot of increase, but it remains to be seen if that translates into real performance at the dragstrip. It's really important to note that a chassis dyno is not the best tool for evaluating converter performance, simply because it treats all cars as if they weighed the same. (The dyno's inertial roller drum acts as a proxy for the mass of the car, and is usually much less.) We do not want to convey the idea that a larger converter is always going to be better. It may be for some cars, but it really is an individual thing. In our case, our initial chassis dyno numbers were so far off from our engine dyno numbers, that most likely any tightening would've shown an improvement at the wheels, and that's why we did it before hitting the track. Another point we want to make is that our Laguna is on the extremely heavy side at 3,900 pounds (and that's a conservative estimate). At race weight with driver, it's looking more like 4,100 pounds. Our looser, 245mm converter would be right at home in something like our 3,660-pound '68 Chevelle. Said another way, the same converter when put into two different cars with two different engines will behave in completely different ways.

We hope to get out to the dragstrip soon to see what the real result is. We think a realistic goal would be to go 12s with drag radials, and eventually low 12s with slicks. Once we fix a few things, we'll hit the track.