For decades, the Hot August Nights car show has been one of the premier automotive events in North America. An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 hot rods, street rods, restored rides, restomods, pro touring, and drag cars descend upon the town of Reno, Nevada every year. Although horrendous Wednesday rain put the brakes on some of the events this year (like the famous Nugget drags) there were still quite a few owners who braved the weather for the giant casino car shows.
What surprised us about the event was the diversity of powertrains and transmissions within the various vehicles we saw. We saw the entire range of Chevy engines covered (the V8s anyways) from traditional small-blocks, to LS engines, to big-blocks. Transmissions were also quite varied, with aftermarket manuals being represented, as well as a variety of automatics.
David Ralph’s 1955 Chevy features a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter LS3 developing 525 horsepower. Behind that is a 4L75-E transmission. This was one of the most well-executed Tri-Fives of the event. It also had one of the best stories to go with it. David has owned the car for decades, and it has gone through a number of transformations throughout the years and has heaps of sentimental value. “I drove my girlfriend to our high school in a ‘55,” notes David.
For a number of years, the ‘55 was a standout as an all-original creampuff, that is, until a very minor accident occurred. “A couple of taillights were damaged at a car show by someone unloading a trailer, and the only ones we could come up with in a few hours time had little Chevy Bowties on them,” Dave says. “They immediately kicked us out of the all-original section. It was then I decided to build the car I really wanted.”
The first iteration of David’s ‘55 reads like a ’90s textbook show car. The factory powertrain was replaced with a fairly stout 383 small-block and a 700R4 transmission to give it some extra power and overdrive. David drove his hot rod for years until, in the 2000s, he decided it was time for another update.
The powertrain is an upgrade in every way, with a 525-horsepower Chevrolet Performance LS3 engine backed by a 4L75-E transmission. The rest of the vehicle received a complete overhaul as well. Such niceties as a Vintage Air system, Aerospace Components four-wheel disc brake system, and the custom interior were added. The chassis and powertrain were built by Outlaw Garage, and the ’55 was dressed in House of Kolor paint.
While a far cry from the ’55 that started out with Bowtie taillights, we can’t argue with the beautiful Chevy that is the end result!
Brian Mackwood brought his 1967 Camaro to wow the crowd. Under the hood is a supercharged 6.2-liter LSA building 650 tire-melting horsepower. Gear changes are accomplished via a 6L90-E transmission. We have a feeling that Brian might be a little more motivated than many of us, as it only took him two-and-a-half years to build his wild ‘67 Camaro. Like many who are building new/old cars, he went with the LS engine for the ease of maintenance and power-building capabilities. The engine was removed from a Cadillac CTS-V.
The factory Caddy engine is stock-ish for now, but Brian did install some Bosch injectors for when he cranks up the boost. The bottom-end of the engine is also built for a bit more oomph, as a cam from Texas Speed livens things up in the valvetrain. The powerplant is mated to a 6L90-E six-speed transmission, which is more than capable of handling the power.
When looking at the rest of the Camaro, there’s virtually nothing that has been untouched. The rear of the Chevy was tubbed and fitted with a four-link from Chris Alston Chassisworks, which is mated to a bulletproof 9-inch rearend. Wilwood brakes are found on all four corners, with 18×9-inch wheels up front, and 20×10-inch rears out back. Such attention grabbers as the supercharger whine (obviously), the Dakota Digital dash and blue LEDs throughout, and finally, the Black Widow exhaust make the car stand out in a crowd.
A Super Super Sport
It may surprise you (and it did us a little too) that the most powerful vehicle we have featured here is not a boosted LS, but rather, a traditional, supercharged small-block. Mike Schadee’s 1970 Chevelle is a real pavement buckler with 900 horsepower and a 4L80-E transmission.
“You can do everything with a traditional small-block that you can with an LS,” says Mike. “It’s converted to EFI, has a great ignition system, and you can build ‘em however strong you want, well past 1,000 horsepower.” For now, Mike is satisfied at “only” 900 ponies, thanks to 16 psi of boost from an F-1A ProCharger.
The engine has been built to make reliable power with a host of aftermarket parts. Starting with a Dart block that is stuffed with a Callies crankshaft, rods from Oliver, and Diamond pistons. A .610-inch-lift hydraulic roller cam bumps valves in the Trick Flow heads that were ported by Wes King. Jesel rockers and Morel lifters round out the long block. The upper-end of the engine is all-new and fuel injected. Mike runs 121 lb-hr fuel injectors in case he ever wants to make the switch to E85 and more boost. Power is sent through a 4L80-E automatic transmission that was built by California-based transmission expert, Mike Morgan.
Moving on to the chassis, Mike’s Chevelle is more oriented to handle the twisties than most rides. Both the front and rear suspension are completely redone, with Viking shocks and Hellwig sway bars. The front received Global West A-arms and ball joints. The rearend has also been able to manage its survival thanks to a set of 3.73 gears and an Eaton posi. A set of Wilwood binders bring it all to a quick halt when needed.
We asked Mike if he had any plans to drag race his Chevelle any time soon with all that power, and he says “I’ve had drag cars, but this is way more fun.” He does plan to get together with his tuner soon and go to E85, which should result in about 1,200 horsepower on a maxed-out blower.
Big Power ’55
Robert and Lisa Haas’ 1955 Chevy is a true beast with a 750-horsepower 496-inch big-block backed by a TREMEC T56 transmission. When we first saw Robert and Lisa Haas’ Chevy, we thought it a “clean stocker”, other than maybe the wheels and tires, but that all changed as we got a closer look. The first thing we noticed was that it wasn’t LS powered, or filled with a small-block. When we looked inside and saw three pedals on the floor, we knew we needed to take a closer look.
Nicknamed the “Barn Find Bel-Air,” the ‘55 was originally purchased by Lisa’s Uncle, Jerry Fuki, and was a daily driver until the 1980s when a rebuild was started. The body was covered with the factory Coral over a Shadow Gray and is still on the car today. Unfortunately, the restoration was stalled as life got in the way, and the car sat until Jerry’s passing in 2015. It was then that Robert and Lisa got ahold of the car. In 2020 it was completely disassembled and rebuilt to its current modified state. All the suspension, brakes, and powertrain were replaced or modified with the help of their friends and co-workers.
The engine was the first thing to be upgraded, and what an upgrade it is. The big-block was built by Midway Machine in Salinas, California, and features a Mark V block, SCAT steel crankshaft, a Comp Cams stick, and Edelbrock heads that are CNC matched to an Air-Gap intake supporting the Holley XP carburetor. After the car was assembled, it was dynoed at 555 rear wheel horsepower (get it, Tri-Five). Backing the monster mill is a Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.70 gears, and an Eaton posi.
The brakes are from Wilwood and are combined with a manual master cylinder. The interior has been upgraded by Ciadella Interiors of Tempe, Arizona, and MultiMedia Garage in Salinas, California installed an American Autowire full harness. The glass was updated by Tommy’s Glass Service and new power windows were installed from Nu-Relic Inc.
The end result of Robert and Linda’s build is definitely something they can be proud of completing. With all that power on tap and a manual transmission, we’re willing to bet it’s a blast to drive too.
While Hot August Nights 2022 may not have been the most spectacular year in regard to weather, quality rides still showed up in force. In fact, we can honestly say that in the case of these four rides, it was still a great weekend.