Grandma Goes 10.59 All-Motor in Shakedown Runs

After more than a year of construction, Project Grandma was finally ready for her shakedown runs! We’ve been dying to share the whole story with you and now here is the scoop. With the car strapped down on the trailer, we made the trip up to Fontana, CA for the 2009 LA Invasion Car Show and Drag Racing. The quarter mile track at the California Speedway would be the place to put down a few gentle shakedown runs.

Being that the car had only been completed just days before, we obviously felt that it would be better to shake the car down for a few passes before really putting the nitrous to her. We didn’t change to much on the car even though we weren’t running the giggle gas. We left the 3.89 nitrous gear in the Currie rear end and the nitrous plate under the throttle body. We did pull out the nitrous spark plugs and replace them with a good set of NA plugs though.

The Edelbrock/Musi 555 was put on the Dynojet before we left and made 521 hp at the rear wheels with the TCI nitrous converter and Glide. It was somewhat rich at 12.3:1 but we didn’t really feel the need to optimize the tune yet. We were more concerned with getting a good baseline and making sure the chassis was sorted out.

The Plan: Not as Planned

We pulled into the pit, set up our pit area, and unloaded the car. Before starting anything – with a brand new car – it’s critical that you do a “once over” one more time to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

We noticed right away a major problem. We had just had the car aligned the day before, but the right front wheel was cocked at an angle that looked to our eyes to be at least 3-4 degrees of camber with the car loaded at ride height. The wrong direction! We were like – ‘What the Hell’. Somehow the alignment shop we took the car too had totally messed it up.

We had no alignment tools, and no shims. So the decision was made – ‘trust thy eyeball’ and go get some alignment shims. We made a quick run to the local parts shack but came up empty handed with nothing but body shims. Oh well, that would have to do. We jacked some of them in there, did our best eyeball test, and finished the rest of the checklist. We just hoped the alignment would be GOOD enough.


Nothing a screwdriver and some body shims can’t fix. TAKE THAT ALIGNMENT SHOP.


The wanna-be dream team (Mike, James & Tom) scratching their heads: would our eyeball alignment result in glory or tragedy?

Prep Time is Go TIme

The plan we came up with was we would make three passes on the car. The first pass would be just pass the 60 foot mark to see how the car launched, the second would be an eighth mile run to see how it came up to speed and the third would be a full pass.

We checked everything twice and were ready to strap ourselves into the car and make the first hit. James Lawrence is the owner of Grandma and he got the driving duties. “It was my first time in a 9-second or 8-second capable car in over 5 years,” explained James, “and I had the nervous butterflies going. Not only did we have a fresh car, but the only race car that I had been driving was our dirt track car that makes all of 350 horsepower.”



Grandma in the lanes for her first hit.

James getting ready for the first 60-foot shake down pass. Grandma has a 25.5 chassis and we had all of the safety gear you need to make sure your brain is safe in the case of a roll over.

The First Run

We had been having a problem with the brakes not holding up when the line lock was engaged, so that was rolling around in our minds as we entered the water box. Got the Mickey Thompson drag radials nice and sloshy, engaged the line lock after pumping the brakes, and we let that 555 fly as we did a nasty burnout.

Burnout: CHECK

Now it was time to let her fly. The Musi/Edelbrock crate engine was sounding really strong through the Flowmaster exhaust and Lemon’s headers, and we knew we had about 525 rear wheel horsepower. The plan was to go full throttle for about 60 feet and see how straight she went.

We set the two-step at 4,000 RPM, pulled into the tree, and put her on the chip. What a sweet sound. As adrenaline pumped through James veins he clicked the trans-brake and Grandma sailed skyward, tripping a 1.49 60-foot just as he let off. The car drifted to the right slightly but James said the pass felt great.

Full Throttle, All Out

With some minor sway-bar adjustments, it was time to do the half track run. However, the funny thing was, once the car left the starting line, James never lifted. He said the car felt great at half track so he just decided to keep his foot into it. We were rewarded with a 1.50 60-foot, and a 10.63 at 127 mph. The next pass things improved slightly with a 10.59 at 127.5 mph.

Not bad for a little old Grandma on a shakedown weekend with no tuning, nitrous gears and converter, and a Glide setup for nitrous. That little Edelbrock Pump gas, street engine runs mid 10’s in a 3,400 lb G-Body. Throw 4.30 or 4.56 gears in it with a loose converter and a 3-speed transmission, and that Edelbrock/Musi 555 is probably a 10.20 or faster combo. WITH A WARRANTY. ON 91 OCTANE!

Bad ass.

In all it was great to get this car out on the track, and we wish we could take all the credit for this car, but really it couldn’t have been done without the help of our sponsors, and our builder.

Thanks to everyone involved in the project!

Edelbrock — 555ci Crate Engine, Nitrous, and Fuel Pumps
Russell — Hoses & Fittings
Pat Musi — Engine Assembly & Dyno Testing
• Mike Ryan of Ryan Fabrication — Chassis & Fabrication
Chassis Engineering — Roll Cage, Wheel Tubs & Wheelie Bars
TCI — Transmission, Transmission Cooler Converter, Shifter, Roll Stop and Flexplate
• Bob & Teresa Lapp —
Spaghetti Menders Wiring
Auto Meter — Gauges
FAST — Air/Fuel Ratio Meter
MSD — Ignition System & Starter
Currie — F9 Rear End
Billet Specialties — Wheels
Mickey Thompson — Drag Radials
Aerospace — Front and Rear Brakes
Aeromotive — Fuel Filters
XS Power — Batteries
Powermaster — Charging System
TRZ — Suspension
QA1 — Shocks & Struts
Simpson — Parachute & Belts
Grant — Removable Steering Wheel
Fluidyne — Radiator
Flowmaster — Mufflers & Exhaust
Lemon’s Headers — Headers
SCE — Gaskets
Strange — 3-inch chromoly driveshaft
ARP — Bolts & Fasteners
Royal Purple — Oil and lubricants

We still have LOTS more planned for this car, check back for more from Project Grandma!

For now, check out some more photos from the track day with Grandma in the Photo Gallery Here.

About the author

Tom Bobolts

Tom started working for Power Automedia in early 2008 at the young age of 20. Starting off as an intern spinning wrenches in the PowerTV garage, Tom cut his teeth helping us build the very project cars we feature. Since moving inside the office, most of his time is spent writing and shooting installs - but he still finds time to get out in the shop. Outside of work, Tom enjoys a variety of different motorsports from Street Bikes, Muscle Cars and just about anything that demands high amounts of horsepower.
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