By Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMCA and courtesy of Rob Cox
In his 1999 Firebird and his 1963 Nova, Rob Cox has been consistently competitive in Limited Drag Radial at Milan Dragway in Michigan for the past several years.
He has wheeled to wins, and a record-setting 4.23, in his Firebird, but ready for another hot rod to run in another category, he a few years ago purchased a 2007 GTO-bodied Pro Mod from Elite Motorsports that he tested a few times before taking to Jerry Bickel Race Cars for a few modifications inside of the cockpit.
But when a fire at the shop claimed the car, Bickel began building Cox a 2017 Camaro-bodied Pro Mod to replace it.
“I asked Jerry what would be the most aerodynamic body style I could get, and he said the 2017 Camaro,” said Cox. “And then, we had it set up so that I could run it with slicks in Pro Mod and with drag radials in Radial vs. The World.”
When it was time, Cox put in his new car the 526 cubic-inch big-block Chevy with 5-inch bore space built by Elite Motorsports which had been in the 2007 GTO. It was topped with GT heads and a Hogan’s intake, and he fronted it with twin Garrett 94mm turbos and backed it with a Liberty’s 5-speed with a Neal Chance converter and Bruno torque converter drive.
Cox relied on fellow Pro Mod driver Steve Summers to run all of the wires in the car, and then, debuted the beautiful build at a test session at Milan Dragway last year before diving into NMCA VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod, also last year. He made four of the six events on the series’ annual tour, and achieved an admirable fifteenth-place finish in points despite missing two events and being in the process of shaking down a new, high horsepower car.
“For basically the whole year, we had trouble getting our lock-up converter to lock-up,” said Cox, who capped off his first season in his new car by racing in Radial vs. The World at the No Mercy event last fall.
After freshening his engine over winter, Cox, who has had Jason Lee and Patrick Barnhill of PTP Racing and Kenny Lutz tackle his tune-up with a Haltech engine management system, loaded up, left his home in Michigan and landed at the 18th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. He trapped a 3.90 to qualify in the eleventh spot in VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod, and after some adjustments to the four-link under his car, he picked up to 3.77, a personal best in the car, to get past the first round of eliminations against Adam Flamholc and his Corvette.
He was ready at the hit and had a better reaction time than Andrew Handras in the second round of eliminations, but he was off-pace with a 4.80 on the other end of the track.
“We did well, but we still didn’t have the stator in our Neal Chance converter quite right,” said Cox. “The more power we would try to give the combination, the more the converter would slip. Neal Chance has great converters, and we just need to get ours to be a little tighter.”
Ready to give it another go, Cox plans to hit a test session before he heads to the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by HPJ Performance, May 28-31, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, where he has his sights set on 3.60s.
“We’re still learning what the car wants, and it won’t be easy, but we’ll figure it out,” said Cox, whose crew includes Randy Fell and Logan Cloum. “The car feels great, and we’re getting faster and faster with each round.”