The engine is backed up by a TorqueFlite built by A&A Transmission, which is coupled to the crank through a Dynamic 6,500-stall 8-inch converter. A narrowed Dana 60 resides under the rear end, stuffed full of 4.56 gears and Mark Williams axles. To help get the power from the chassis to the ground, the leaf springs are replaced by a four-link from Art Morrison, Afco shocks, and M/T 31x10.5x15 drag slicks. Up front, the change was made to an A-arm front suspension with coilover Afco shocks, Competition Engineering rack-and-pinion steering, and the Hemi is now held in place via motor plates. Steve, Greg Bentley, and Monte Smith did most of the chassis work themselves. Wilwood front disc brakes and a Stroud parachute ensure that Sheila comes to a safe stop at the end of a run.
The interior is race car basic, with vinyl-covered aluminum seats, a 12-point rollcage, Simpson belts, and VDO gauges. Once the new fiberglass hood (built for supercharger clearance) and front bumper were in place, Crown Auto Body Centre covered the car with a deep sheen of Sikkens black paint.
We shot the photos before qualifying at the first K.O.S. event at Mopars at the Rock in late April, but the new combination had already clocked a best of 8.60 at 161 mph. With a few more laps, this Hemi tornado should be ready to do some serious damage to the rest of the K.O.S. field.
Fire On The Mountain
It was late Saturday afternoon, and the K.O.S. competitors were making their final passes at Rockingham Dragway attempting to qualify for Sunday's final eliminations. Attrition had already eliminated several entries. Broken driveshafts, destroyed engines, and other maladies had sidelined several of the dozen cars on hand, and the pits looked like something out of a nitro race with pieces lying on the pit asphalt and cars under heavy repair. Sheila Bowman was one of the two final cars in the last round when disaster struck.
"The car had gotten hot on the burnout, and we ended up waiting before we were able to stage," said Steve later.
The 'Cuda had already gone approximately 1,000 feet down the track when something let go.
"I could feel it freewheeling; the engine was still revving and the car was moving, but it wasn't right," Sheila stated afterward. "Then the parachute came out, but I hadn't pulled it, and I started smelling smoke inside the car. I knew something was really wrong."
Something inside the transmission had come apart, and as the car hit the traps, hot transmission fluid spilled over onto the red-hot headers. The 'Cuda erupted into a ball of fire. Flames could been seen coming out from under it and around both sides. With the 'chute now deployed, the conflagration somehow miraculously dimmed down to a minor black smoke show. Sheila kept a tight grip on the steering wheel and brought it to a rapid stop at the first turnoff. Though the car does not have an automatic fire system, an extinguisher was inside the car, and after getting out of the cage and window net, she retained her composure and quickly sprayed out what licks of flames were still erupting on charred surfaces. By this point, other K.O.S. racers who were already on the scene arrived, and the fire was put out completely. Nonetheless, it could have been a more serious situation had the fire continued to burn unabated on the racetrack.
The damage was substantial, but not so much to require the car to be retired. The Bowmans plan to rebuild the car but will look at some changes they'll make to be sure it remains as safe as possible. Drag racing by nature is an evolutionary process, and as cars go faster and make more horsepower, safety needs must be addressed as well. Hopefully, this incident and crashes such as the one Bill May suffered last fall are not a harbinger of things to come as the K.O.S. pilots pursue the elusive seven-second barrier.-Geoff Stunkard