Let's face it, nobody in the world of sports cars takes us hot rodders seriously. Hot rods are cute. Hot rods are stylish and trendy and may work in quarter-mile squirts, but when real handling comes into play, the classic American hot rod is doomed to back-marker status among purists and their Vettes, Porsches, Ferraris, and the like.

That never made any sense, in that American hot rodder ingenuity has created terrific sports cars. After all, the Cobras, Scarabs, Chaparrals, Cheetahs, Kurtis-Kraft 500Ss, Devins, Saleens, Panozs, etc., are essentially slick-bodied hot rods capable of running with the best of the imports. Great hot rodders like Ted Halibrand (mag wheels, disc brakes) Stu Hilborn (fuel injection), Phil Remington (Shelby's chief engineer), and dozens more who have contributed to American race car engineering grew up on the dry lakes, dragstrips, and streets of California.

Based on that heritage, I was convinced that a true American hot rod/sporty car could be created out of all-American bits and pieces. After all, I am the fortunate owner of the famed Eliminator (created by hot rodder Duffy Livingstone in the '50s that competed effectively against Europe's best--see this issue's Milestones). Based on Duffy's success, a plan was laid down to create a second generation Eliminator with modern American components--a crossover machine that theoretically could run with the fastest and most potent two-seaters in the world.

The car would have to be reliable and capable of normal highway use. We wanted great acceleration in the 3- to 4-second range from 0-60 and quarter-mile times rivaling the legendary time of 14 seconds believed to have been recorded by the 427 Cobra. Power, handling, and braking were elemental goals.

Choosing an engine/gearbox combination was the first order of business. The Chevrolet small-block was an obvious choice, but somehow that seemed old hat; a proven quantity that somehow demanded more innovation on our part. The solution lay with DaimlerChrysler's Mopar Performance Viper crate motor and six-speed gearbox. An expensive option to be sure, but with 465 reliable horsepower and a strong tranny ready for bolt-in, the issue was solved.

The guys at Total Cost Involved Engineering were quick to respond, extending their '34 Ford chassis by 6 inches to accommodate the slightly longer Viper engine (about 2 inches more than a small-block) and the longer tailshaft of the six-speed. Wescott's Auto Restyling produced a '34 roadster body with a 5-inch channel to give us a lower center of gravity for maximum handling. An ididit rack-and-pinion steering and a Currie 9-inch centersection with a four-link coilover rear suspension and a Panhard rod were added to other standard-issue hot rod pieces to complete the running gear. Front brakes were 13 1/2-inch vented Baer discs. The rears were similar 13-inch vented Baer units.

The wheel choices were 18-inch Halibrand mags mounting Michelin Pilot radials (225/40ZR18 front and 275/35ZR18 rear) for maximum handling.

The assembly and fabrication job was turned over to Barry Brown's Riter Restoration and Motorsports in East Rochester, New York. Barry and his expert crew, consisting of cousins Jim and Bob Jeffers, had years of experience restoring all manner of classics and sports cars, but had never tackled a hot rod from the ground up. It was a challenge they met with eagerness and consummate skill.

The mission involved linking the old Eliminator with the new. The original radiator shell that had been created by Indy car fabricator Emil Diedt in 1950 was duplicated. Greg Rieggel of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, molded a new carbon-fiber version along with a light, carbon fiber composite hood and fenders. The interior was finished using B&B Cobra 427 replica seats, a SO-CAL Speed Shop four-spoke steering wheel, B&M shifter, Mopar instruments, and Moss Motors Brooklands fold-down windscreens (for that sporty car flavor).

Brown and Co. installed a 20-gallon custom gas tank behind the cockpit with a Cobra-replica filler cap. Eliminator Enterprises partner Sam Turner fabricated the grille while driving lights and Lucas-style tri-bar headlights were mounted on the frame horns.

When the car was complete, it weighed in at 2,720 pounds (wet) with almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution front to back. This was a critical factor if we were to gain the cornering and braking power in the design plan.

The Eliminator Special was then hauled to state-of-the-art Corsa Performance works in Berea, Ohio, where owner Jim Browning and his expert crew fitted a special exhaust system based on their reputation for creating Viper and Corvette exhaust and muffler systems. Not only did their setup produce excellent power, but the sound levels were both appealing and reasonable in the eyes of the law.

Chassis dyno tests at Kennedy Automotive in Niagara Falls, New York, indicated a need for more cooling. Brown cured the problem by installing a 3-inch core aluminum radiator from AFCO and artfully carving out room for two side airscoops adapted from new Mini Cooper-S hood intakes.

Initial performance tests were undertaken in the fall of 2002 at the DaimlerChrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, using Car and Driver electronic test gear. With Technical Editor Larry Webster doing the driving, 38-degree temperatures and a stiff westerly breeze hindered the affair. Cold pavement and understeer limited our skidpad performance to 0.91g; although the 0-60 time was a solid 3.5 seconds and 0-100-0 came in 13.4 seconds. The ugly crosswind limited the quarter-mile to 11.9 seconds at 115 mph. Webster could only estimate top speed in the 170 mph range, the speed being limited by the car's rather blunt bodywork.

Work on the suspension and engine tuning went on through the winter of 2002-03. The paint job was also altered from a pure Viper red to a combination red and Diablo silver.

With the car licensed and insured for road use, both the old and new Eliminators were hauled to California in August 2003. The original car was entered at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance while STREET RODDER Photo Editor Eric Geisert executed a shot of the new car on the infield of the Monterey Historic Vintage races.

Back in Michigan at the Chelsea Proving Grounds the following month, Webster took another shot at the performance numbers based on Brown's suspension and engine modifications. With the weather a pleasant 75 degrees and a stickier set of Toyo Proxes RA1 radials mounted, the Eliminator Special produced better numbers on the skidpad. The final tally was 0.98g. Not the magical 1g we'd been seeking, but close enough. Acceleration was even better with 60 coming in 3.3 seconds and 100 mph in 8.4 seconds. Zero to 130 mph was recorded at 16.1 seconds, although the quarter-mile remained a disappointing 11.9 at 118 mph. Tests of 70-0 braking came at an impressive 165 feet.

Webster and Brown agree that at least another 1/2 second and perhaps another 8 miles an hour will be obtainable once the power gremlin is found and exorcized.

Plans to build more Eliminator Specials are in the works, with stiffer chassis and lighter, stiffer steel bodies. We are already proud to have one of the fastest street rods in the business, but there is more to come. Trust us, we'll be back.

Brock Yates & Sam Turner
East Rochester, New York
Eliminator Special
Frame'34 Ford from Total Cost Involved
Rearend / RatioCurrie 9" / 3.90:1
Front suspensionTotal Cost Involved IFS coilover
Rear suspensionAdjustable coilover shocks, four-link locators w/ Panhard rod
BrakesBaer 13 1/2" vented discs front, 13" rear
Master cylinderTilton
Steering boxDodge Omini power
Front wheel make, sizeHalibrand, 18 x 8
Rear wheel make, size Halibrand, 18 x 10
Front tire, make, sizeToyo Proxes, RA1, 225/40ZR18
Rear tire, make, sizeToyo Proxes, RA1, 275/35ZR18
Gas tank20-gal., custom
Year and make'97 Viper V-10
RadiatorAFCO 3" aluminum
Exhaust mufflerCorsa Performance
Year and make'97 Viper six-speed
Body style materialWescott's '34 roadster fiberglass
HoodRiggeal's carbon fiber
GrilleTurner original
WindshieldWescott's fold-down with Moss Motor Brooklands screens
PaintPPG base/clear coat
HeadlightsMoss Tri-bar front
Taillights'32 Ford rear
Dashboard'34 Ford modified
GaugesMopar Performance
Steering wheelSO-CAL Speed Shop four-spoke
Steering columnididit
SeatsB&B Cobra
UpholstererFitz's Stitches, Fairport, NY