During qualifying at a race in the fall of 2014, a connecting rod let go in the nitrous-fed 480 cubic-inch big-block Chevy under the hood of ARP Nitrous Pro Street driver Josh Ritli’s ’69 Camaro.
It destroyed everything it came in contact with on its way out of the engine, and a defeated Ritli was forced to leave the race with a box of broken parts. As luck would have it, however, he found a replacement engine a few months later in the form of a 525 cubic-inch big-block Chevy being sold by someone a few towns away from his home in Newark, Illinois.
“The old engine was built on a standard Bowtie block, and I had started acquiring parts for it when I was in my twenties, so it lasted through seventeen years of racing,” said Ritli, a toolmaker by trade. “It had Dart 320cc heads and a Pro Systems nitrous setup, and we were beating on it pretty hard.”
The replacement engine is built around a Donovan block and features ProFiler 12-degree heads and a ProFiler tunnel ram intake with a spacer Ritli made. Bob Book at Book Racing carefully studied the engine specs before custom-making a carburetor, and an Induction Solutions nitrous system will supply extra kick to the whole package while a Turbo 400 recently upgraded with new gears by Proformance Racing Transmissions and a Neal Chance converter will help put the power to the pavement.
While his previous engine had been set up with a wet sump oiling system, the new engine features a Barnes 5-stage dry sump oiling system, and to accommodate the swap, a bit of reworking was in order.
“There was no room for the car’s front suspension and steering, so I had to redo the whole front clip on the car for the engine,” said Ritli. “I cut forty inches of the nose off and started over. I had to change the front suspension attachment points and mounts, and I moved the fuel cell over two inches.”
Because his new engine has more cubic-inches and because he moved from conventional heads to spread-port heads, Ritli will add weight to his car to bring it from 2860 pounds to 3025 pounds to be in accordance with class rules.
Having taken last year off of racing to focus on the upgrades to his car, Ritli is champing at the bit to be back in the driver’s seat of his not so mellow yellow race car, which has delivered him to a best of 7.60 at 178 mph.
He now has his sights set on running 7.35 or quicker, and he hopes to have the car buttoned up in time for the 15th Annual Quick Fuel Technology NMCA Bluegrass Nationals, featuring the Dave Duell Nostalgia Super Stock Classic, May 12-15, 2016 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky.