Without a doubt, the backbone of any Street Shaker build has to come from the formula used to create it. While some car owners might want to design a good-looking Saturday night special with a nasty cam and a wicked rake to cruise the local streets, others won’t be satisfied till they achieve far more with their ride. Those are the builders who inject copious amounts of horsepower and engineering into the mix with the direct intentions of putting their cars to the ultimate test at the dragstrip.

For Dave Dennis of York, Pennsylvania, growing up in a family that was active in drag racing provided plenty of influence to lead him down the right path. Seeing his dad regularly campaigned a hopped-up ’58 Corvette at the York US 30 Dragway in York, Pennsylvania, as well as cruising the local streets in a radical ’65 Nova SS provided plenty of fuel to keep the youngster concentrating on high-horsepower V-8s. For his first car at age 17, Dave brought home a ’66 Nova in need of plenty of attention and looked to his dad for guidance. Wanting to be a hands-on owner, Dave asked the questions and then went to it until the ’66 hit the streets with a 377-inch small-block Chevy mill linked to a four-speed trans. As the years passed, he held onto the Nova while still attending car shows and various drag racing events.

In 1989, his dad came across a Model A coupe with a nasty chop and channel sitting on a rolling chassis. The car was extremely rough but had potential so a deal was made and he hauled it home. For the next 11 years he continued to buy parts to assemble the car, but for some reason the project stalled and remained dormant in the family garage. One day Dave and good friend Jeff Martin paused to examine the coupe and determine just what it would take to bring it to life. Between them, the pair had a pile of weathered old parts that would enable them to complete the car. Dave made a deal with his dad and purchased the project from him in 2000 with the intention of completing it so they could hit the local dragstrip together. As Dave tells it, the car made its first pass down the quarter-mile with a 14.20 e.t., which he felt was terrible. The pair proceeded to make affordable changes, noting every upgrade, till the coupe ran a somewhat respectable 12.80 e.t. By continuing to dial the car in, he learned huge amounts from fine-tuning it, but still wanted more. A decision was made to do a complete teardown and start from scratch to bring the car to a whole new level from both a performance and visual standpoint. Working with his NHRA rulebook, Dave followed the outline of what it would take to bring the coupe to the next level and have it certified for 8.50 e.t.

Starting with the spine, Dave stripped it to bare bones and commenced by first extending it by 6 inches in front to give the car a longer and leaner look. The 2x4 boxed steel ’rails were then Z’d 6 inches fore and aft to get the car closer to the ground while custom crossmembers were also laid in place. Out back an Undercover 9-inch chromoly sheetmetal rear packed with 3.89:1 gears and Strange Engineering axles was suspended in place with Competition Engineering ladder bars while Koni double-adjustable coilover shocks soak up the bumps. Up front a Super Bell aluminum 4-inch dropped axle is anchored in place by a matching four-link combined with a transverse leaf spring, Panhard bar, tube shocks, and ’40 Ford spindles. To make sure there is plenty of stopping power, fluid is pushed through a Strange Engineering master via stainless steel lines to Strange four-piston calipers and 11-1/4-inch discs out back and Strange single-piston calipers with 10-1/2-inch Wilwood discs up front. Completing the chassis are a pair of 15x12 E-T Fueler wheels capped with Mickey Thompson street radials out back with 18x3-1/2-inch Radir 12-spokes up front, capped with Avon motorcycle rubber.

The thunder within every Street Shaker resides between the framerails and to bring it all to life Dave worked with Andy Jensen of Jensen’s Engine Technologies in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, to inject a serious amount of horsepower into the equation. Jensen’s assembled a fire-breathing 410ci small-block packed with all the right stuff, including a Callies lightweight crank, Oliver H-beam rods, JE 11.3:1 slugs, COMP Cams custom ground cam, and topped it off with a pair of Brodix 18-degree aluminum heads. Fuel gets dumped through a Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator perched atop a Brodix intake while the fire gets lit by a Vertex mag and spent gases dump through a set of owner-fabbed headers. A GM Powerglide massaged by Ron Edwards of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, features an ATI converter and B&M internals while an Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft pushes everything rearward.

With the bottom end of the build complete, Dave shifted his attention to the rollcage, being one of the more difficult portions of the build to tend to. He worked with Gene Knaub of Dover, Pennsylvania, to incorporate a certified 8.50 e.t., 10-point chromoly cage into the tiny interior, which was a true exercise in engineering since the car would see both street and strip use. With that completed, he moved onto the body. Since the car already had a perfect 6-inch chop and 5-inch channel by the prior owner, he focused on reworking the rear wheel openings as well as adding a flat firewall, and suicide doors. With all of the fabrication complete, he then massaged the vintage steel to perfection and delivered it to East Coast Muscle Cars in Craley, Pennsylvania, to lay down a lustrous coating of PPG custom-mixed vibrant blue pearl vibe. Inside Auto Meter gauges help monitor the vitals while a B&M shifter moves the gears and a Billet Specialties steering wheel sets the course. To add just enough comfort, Sholley’s Trim Shop in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, laid out plenty of buff ultraleather to cover a pair of reworked Kirkey aluminum seats, custom door panels, and console. With an estimated 650 hp on pump gas and weighing in at 1,980 pounds, Dave hopes to have the coupe dialed for the low 9s in the quarter-mile, and to us that’s deep into Street Shaker territory!

Tech Tips

Comp Performance Group

COMP Cams

How can I figure out what my lift will be with a new rocker ratio?

First, divide your current total valve lift by your current rocker ratio. This will give you your lobe lift. Next, take the lobe lift and multiply it by the new rocker ratio. This is your new total valve lift.

FAST

Keep ECUs away from “noise”

The weatherproof ECU that contains the electronics that control the EZ-EFI needs to be mounted at least 2 feet from ignition boxes, coils, distributors, or other ignition components. These and other electrically “noisy” components can interfere with the ECU and cause problems.

Inglese

Correct timing

With an Inglese EZ-EFI system, you can move timing around, just like with a carbureted setup, to find where your engine is “happiest.” However, an Inglese XFI 2.0 system requires that you find (and tune) the engine with a more precise timing landscape that accommodates the best engine performance, as well as driver satisfaction. This will vary depending upon gearing, engine size, altitude, engine compression, and so on, but taking the time get your timing right will make a big difference in performance.

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