Also on the list of parts that had to be custom made or adapted were valve covers. To fill the need, Don simply ordered an assortment of valve cover gaskets from the local parts store and tried them one by one in different orientations until something close was found. After many test-fittings, it was determined that FE Ford valve covers, mounted backwards, required only the relocation of two holes to make them fit the application. A set was located at a local swap meet, the Ford logo machined off, and the engine was one step closer to completion.

Topping off the engine is a Mopar Performance M-1 manifold with a DaVinci modified Holley carburetor rated at 1,000 cfm. Earlier testing with a 1,000-cfm vacuum-secondary Holley delivered inconsistent results, and a 950-cfm Holley double-pumper was substituted. The double-pumper could not match the vacuum-secondary's elapsed times, but consistently delivered 5 mph more in top end. The DaVinci-modified Holley seems to deliver the best of both. A heavy-duty Barry Grant fuel pump delivers the fuel from a custom baffled stock gas tank via a half-inch braided stainless steel line.

The job of exhausting the spent gases falls to a set of vintage Direct Connection 171/48-inch headers originally made for the W-2 heads. In order to work with the W-8's, adapter plates had to be fashioned. Rounding out the powertrain is a high-stall converter by Dynamic Converters, a Pro-Trans Torqueflite featuring lightweight aluminum internals, and a 5:13 Dana 60 rearend with 1011/42-inch-wide Hoosier radial slicks. Altogether, the combination weighs 3,585 pounds with Mike at the wheel.

As stated earlier, pioneering a totally new engine combination virtually guarantees some surprises. The wheelstanding starts and 8,000-rpm shifts are pretty much as predicted. What was not expected was the torque from the small-block would be sufficient to break the 1011/42-inch tires loose in high gear. At first, Mike thought that something was coming loose in the rearend, because simple logic said there's no way a small-block-any small-block-could do that. But when Don Hackenberg carefully scrutinized the next few runs, it became obvious the tires were indeed breaking loose, even across the finish line. This tendency toward rear-steering is disconcerting, not to mention dangerous.

So, although the original premise was to keep the car limited to a 1011/42-inch slick, it's obvious that a mini-tubbed rearend treatment and a bigger tire was an absolute must to keep the car going straight. In addition, the camshaft would be retarded somewhat from its present 104-degree setting, since it turns out the bottom end really didn't need the help after all.

Even with the intermittent traction problems, the new combination has produced 1.36-second 60 ft. times and a best quarter-mile e.t. of 10.26 at 131.86 mph. This was at a 2,200 feet elevation with windblown sand on the track surface.

Recently, the potent Belvedere ran a 6.24-second eighth-mile with a trap speed of 111 mph, which, if you're familiar with eighth-mile times, is really hauling for a small-block in a heavy car.

Just as it sits, its 8,000-rpm shift points and unexpected wheelstands make it a real crowd-pleaser; a testament to the ingenuity and high-quality effort that Mike and Don have put into their home-built masterpiece. Though their thinking-outside-the-box engine choice resulted in some difficulties along the way, the result is a refreshing change from the normal big-block approach to horsepower. As poet Robert Frost once put it, "I took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

Crower Cams
San Diego
DaVinci Carburetor
Conroe Tx 77303
GRP Connecting Rods
Calico Coatings
Don Hackenberg Racing Engines
CP Pistons