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Madame X—Jim Betz’s killer new Cadillac ATS puts the “street” in Edelbrock Xtreme Street

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Madame X—Jim Betz’s killer new Cadillac ATS puts the “street” in Edelbrock Xtreme Street

Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Evan J. Smith and the FSC staff
Jim Betz took the NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street class name seriously. He chose to emphasize the “street” portion of the category’s moniker when building his stunningly beautiful new Cadillac ATS competition car.
Born in Texas but raised in Michigan, Betz grew up under his uncle Llyod “Hoss” Fowler’s wing. Hoss was always swapping engines in his Ford Falcon, and every weekend since Betz was old enough to hold a wrench, he was out in the shop helping. “We would go racing on the weekends and it was always on my bucket list to race,” reminisced Betz, now 62. 
“Other than street racing, there was no racing in my life until more recently,” laughed the man who grew up in a small town with a 3-mile straightaway that he and his friends would regularly run on. Back then, Betz owned a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu with a 396-cubic-inch engine in it, but he never made it out to the track or attended any test ’n tunes.
Instead, Betz focused on growing his trucking company — Hard Drive Express — which currently operates a fleet of 35-plus trucks on behalf of FedEx Ground.
Around 2015, though, Betz’s business was doing well enough for him to pause for a moment and spend a little time doing something he loved — racing. He signed up for the Super Comp licensing course at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and piloted a professional-grade dragster down the track. Betz enjoyed the thrill of going fast so much, in fact, that he returned to Hawley’s two years later and completed the Super Gas door car class.
Betz knew he was finally on the path toward checking off his lifelong bucket list dream of going racing, and he contacted Watson Racing around 2017. “Everyone said I should start in a slower class, but I wanted to go fast… so, I started in [NMCA Holley EFI] Factory Super Cars,” noted Betz, who picked up a flooded Ford Mustang Cobra Jet in Ruby Red, his favorite color, to have rebuilt and reborn as a racecar.
Watson built the CJ for Betz, and his first time in it was during the NMCA race at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, in 2018. “I couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened, I didn’t have time to think or do anything. It was all a blur,” he remembered. Sure, he broke a few parts as he learned to race by maybe staying on the two-step just a little longer than he should have from time to time, but Betz began to hone his skill. “Kim [Mapes, of Watson Racing] told me he isn’t replacing as many parts lately, so maybe I’m starting to get a handle on things.”
After a few years in Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, though, and thanks to some friendly provocation from Joe and Becki Cram, Betz considered the idea of moving to the eighth-mile, heads-up NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street realm instead. Betz pitched the idea to his crew chief, Craig Spuhler, and they decided they needed something different than the usual Camaro or Mustang.
One day, while the men were in Florida, they went out for a drive in Spuhler’s 2016 Cadillac ATS and had a simultaneous epiphany — the ATS would be perfect for Betz’s Xtreme Street entry, especially since it’s built on the same platform as the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. Feeling inspired, Betz hurriedly acquired a 2015 Cadillac ATS of his own to use as a foundation for the race car. In red, of course.
After discussing the idea with Mapes, Betz formally signed off on an agreement with Watson Racing to get started on the new build in early 2022, but there was one stipulation: he wanted it to look as much like a street car as possible. Watson Racing’s team took the request to heart and closely collaborated with Spuhler for the project, and the result is nothing short of a stunning street-car-style showpiece. 
Despite a delay in getting going due to the fact that Mapes was hospitalized with Covid-19 at the beginning of the build, the team worked together to stay in constant contact and collaborate over the phone as much as possible with Mapes directing the work remotely. As a result, Spuhler did much of the initial lightening work to ensure the timeline stayed on track. 
“Kim [Mapes] and I were sending pictures back and forth of where we should cut, what we should get rid of, etc.,” explained Spuhler, who stripped the ATS to a bare shell before beginning the fabrication stage of installing bracketry and other components.
They placed the Cadillac on Watson Racing’s in-house chassis jig so its 6.50-second certified roll cage could be constructed. Mapes used the wealth of knowledge that he’s acquired during a lifetime of chassis building as the guys still wanted Betz’s behemoth to still “drive like a Cadillac” when it was completed.
Next, in went the drivetrain and suspension. The “not an LS” stroked-out 413-cubic-inch Gen 1 conventional small-block Chevy engine was also built in-house by Mapes, and features some of the best parts on the market. A Brodix block was brought into battle as a base and fortified with GRP connecting rods, CP pistons, a Callies crankshaft, and a 55mm Bullet camshaft which actuates a full Jesel valvetrain. A Patterson Fluid Control dry-sump oil system was added to keep the Caddy’s heart happy and healthy.
Mapes also selected a set of unique Shaut Racing RS 3 sprint car-style cylinder heads and Wilson Manifolds throttle body, then modified an 18-degree Edelbrock intake manifold to accept a direct-port nitrous oxide system from SpeedTech. Adding roughly 600 horsepower, the spray is controlled by a BigStuff Ben 4 powertrain management system acquired through Ben Davidow.
Sticking with the high-end theme for the luxury ride, they treated the Cadillac to a top-of-the-line two-speed Turbo 400 gearbox from M&M Transmission along with a matching M&M shifter and billet aluminum, bolt-together 9-inch torque converter from Neal Chance.
“We converted the car from its factory independent rear suspension to use a four-link, and the rear-end housing we built here at Watson Racing,” noted Mapes, who incorporated many top-shelf parts and pieces from Mark Williams Enterprises into the rear as well. The ATS’s A-arms, front K-member, and mounting hardware was all manufactured by Watson, too. “It’s got Lamb Components carbon brakes on the front and rear, Lamb shocks on the back, and the front uses Lamb spindle-style struts.”
Rolling on a set of Weld wheels, the Caddy was gifted a set of tried-and-true Mickey Thompson radial rubber to help it hook hard and look good while doing so.
Throughout the build, Mapes took care to keep all of the factory sheet metal, carpet, dash, door panels, and more intact as much as possible. “His experience in this sport allowed him to design a car that’s incredibly easy to work on with excellent serviceability,” shared Spuhler, grateful to have received a car with exceptional accessibility.
Although the fenders are still permanently attached due to the Cadillac retaining its stock strut towers, the entire front end of the Cadillac was constructed with an internal framework so that its nose can be quickly removed in one piece. The hood itself uses the factory hood release, although the cable and lever have been relocated from their stock locations, with no hood pins or other visual deterrents. 
“The hoop that holds all of the front components — including the fuel cell, fuel dump, dry sump, oil filter, and more – has just three bolts on each side and two plugs. You just take off the fuel lines and oil lines and everything comes off as one complete assembly,” Spuhler further detailed regarding the module-style build. “You can put your knees right up on the front of the engine, and it only takes three minutes to get there.”
Similarly, the transmission tunnel was fabricated as a split unit with left- and right-side pieces so it’s easily removable as well; according to the team, they can have the transmission out in less than ten minutes.
Inside, the Caddy looks surprisingly stock, save for the flawless roll cage and rear seat delete due to being mini-tubbed and covered in carbon, and also incorporates some neat tricks to facilitate serviceability.
Tom Frayer from High Voltage Automotive wired the Cadillac, and installed a SpeedWire switch panel and relay module. The factory navigation screen and radio were removed and replaced with BS3’s latest display screen, giving the cockpit a modern appearance.
The Cadillac’s dash, however, was intentionally split in the center so that the driver and passenger sides can each be removed easily and independently without having to fight one entire piece, giving the team direct access to the electronic components hidden within.
The stock door panels still have functioning door handles and even stock speaker grills, although the sound system itself is long gone. Even the (non-functional) trunk release button was kept to maintain the OEM original look. “It even has a stock headliner,” boasted Betz proudly.
Upon completion, Betz’s ATS was christened “Madame X” as a respectful nod to Cadillac’s 1931 Madame X. The original, a V16-equipped rival to the Lincolns and Duesenbergs of the era, was touted as being Cadillac’s most luxurious and technologically-advanced offering at the time.
Betz’s beautiful Cadillac made its first public appearance at the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem Presented by Holbrook Racing Engines season opener in Orlando, Florida, in March of 2023, but it wasn’t with its owner behind the wheel.
“Kim [Mapes] has been doing this all his life, so it made the most sense to have him in the car for the first few shakedown runs,” noted Betz, who generously wanted to give Mapes the opportunity to have some on-track fun after having not driven for more than a decade and loved seeing his friend’s ear-to-ear smile at the top end. “I also knew he would be able to provide better feedback about the car than I could, too. The sad thing is, he looked better in my race suit than I do!”
Mapes had a blast, of course, and was beyond pleased with how his creation performed on its inaugural outing. “There was a minor issue with the front brakes so I’m glad I was the one behind the wheel, and we got that squared away. Otherwise, it drove perfectly and felt great. It was really nice to drive again,” he shared.
With Betz fielding his Factory Super Cars entry for the weekend, the men made a few easy runs with the Cadillac before calling the weekend a success and putting it back on the trailer for the next race at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina in mid-April.
There, Betz finally hopped in and was shocked to discover how incredibly quiet the car was from the driver’s compartment — especially when he had the ATS up on the two-step at the starting line. “At first, I thought maybe I messed up because it’s so quiet that we could practically have a conversation,” chided the jovial racer. The peaceful acoustics are a direct result of the side-exit exhaust manifolds which push noise away from the car instead of underneath it like with a conventional-style header.
Ultimately, Betz qualified 14th in Edelbrock Xtreme Street at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport when he cracked the 5-second zone with a 4.982 at 140.80 mph hit. Although he didn’t get an elimination round win that weekend, he had a great time and is more than ready to get the car down into the 4.50-second zone where it belongs.
“I won’t say I wasn’t nervous about getting in there, but I think I took to it like a duck to water,” said Betz, whose skills and ability to adapt were validated by Mapes. “The staging procedure was totally different than the Factory Super Car, but the car drove like a dream!”
For Betz, the thrill of speed and the adrenaline rush is something he never gets tired of it. “After a while with the Cobra Jet, it was to the point where I didn’t feel like everything was happening in a hurry and I was able to slow my thoughts during a run. Now, with the Cadillac, that same sensation of going fast is there again,” he proclaimed. “The eighth mile came up so quickly, I didn’t even realize it!”
Thanks to Mapes’s tuning, each run has progressed the ATS further and further ahead. “We came into this year with a plan, and, by sticking with it, we’re making huge advancements and learning more about what the car wants,” added Spuhler.
Prior planning prevents poor performance and, together, Betz, Spuhler, Mapes, and the entire Watson Racing team have put together a finished product truly worth of the winner’s circle as either a drag car or as a show car. A true head-turner with Cadillac-worthy aesthetics, the ATS drives straight and smooth, “like a dream,” while still respecting its roots by being quiet and comfortable. 
Planning ahead, as is Betz’s nature, he fully intends to continue campaigning both his Ford Performance Cobra Jet as well as his “Madame X” 2015 Cadillac ATS in NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars and NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street, respectively, throughout the foreseeable future. The ATS was built to be versatile, though, so as to allow its owner the flexibility of running in other classes and series, such as in Ultra Street at various radial tire events.
After having waited a lifetime to make good on his childhood promise to himself of one day going racing and following in his Uncle Hoss’s footsteps, Betz has found his second family with the massive Watson Racing group.
Betz’s own Drive Hard Racing team, which is tuned, managed, and maintained by Mapes and Spuhler, even includes a second NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars Cobra Jet ride driven by Chuck Watson Jr. to a championship title in 2022, gave him a strong sense of purpose and has allowed him to expand his experience in multiple categories.
“We all hang out and run racecars and have lunch and dinner together every day when we’re at the track. Sometimes we kick back a few at night together, and then we race each other the next day — that’s not the kind of thing you get with a lot of other sports,” shared Betz, who is beyond grateful to have found an amazing group of likeminded friends with which he can share, and celebrate, his passion.
The Details
Owner: Jim Betz
Driver: Jim Betz
Hometown: South Rockwood, Michigan
Occupation: Private Business Owner
Class: Xtreme Street/Ultra Street
Crew Chief: Craig Spuhler 
Car Year/Make/Model: 2015 Cadillac ATS
Engine: Chevrolet 
Engine builder: Kim Mapes 
Displacement: 413 cubic inches
Block: Brodix
Bore: n/a
Stroke: n/a
Crank: Callies
Rods: GRP
Pistons: CP
Heads: Shaut
Valvetrain: Jesel
Cam type: Bullet custom
Carburetor or EFI system: Big Stuff 3
Power-adder: Nitrous Oxide
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C25
Headers and exhaust: Custom Watson Racing
Transmission: TH400 automatic
Transmission Builder: M&M
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: M&M Shifter, Neil Chance Converters 
Rearend: Watson Racing/Mark Williams 
Body and/or chassis builder: Watson Racing/Kim Mapes
Suspension (Front): Lamb Components 
Suspension (Rear): Lamb Components 
Brakes (Front): Lamb Components CF
Brakes (Rear): Lamb Components CF
Wheels (front): Weld Racing
Wheels (Rear):  Weld Racing
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson
Aftermarket body modifications: All modifications done by Watson Racing 
Safety equipment: 
Vehicle weight: 
Quickest ET: TBD
Best 60-foot: TBD
Fastest mph: TBD
Sponsors: Watson Racing, Kim Mapes, Craig Haltinner, John Kominski, Kimmie Mapes, Terry Bensi, Neil Chance, Big Stuff 3, M&M Transmissions, Mark Williams 
Shaut Racing Heads, Lamb Components, SpeedTech, Speed Wire, High Voltage, Boogie Man Custom Creations, Weld Racing Wheels, Mickey Thompson, CP/Carillo, Jesel Valvetrain, and Bullet Camshafts

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