A stock '68 Ram Air Q-jet breathes through a K&N filter and takes fuel from a stock GM fuel pump. The carb features .074 jets, .042 primary metering rods, and .030 "cc" secondary rods, and feeds the mixture to a stock cast-iron '68 intake manifold. Tony told us that, "The secondary opening rate of the carburetor is also very important for quick 60-foot times. Spring tension on this carb is light to medium. The vacuum pull off controls the opening rate. This can take as long as 2 seconds to fully open in a stock application. By using a set of wire drills, you can open up the orifice in the pull off to make the door open more quickly. Begin with .016-.018. If you go too far, the engine will hesitate or bog. The pull off on the Firebird opens the door in a 1/2 second. Every car is different so it will be a trial and error exercise."
A Pertronix electronic conversion has been preformed on the stock distributor to eliminate the points and the curve has been modified to get the timing all in by a quick 1,400 rpm. Total timing is 38 degrees and 110-octane fuel is always in the tank. The spark, provided by a 40,000-volt Pertronix coil, reaches AC R43S plugs via reproduction wires with correct date codes. Ushering out the combustion remains with mellow tones is initiated by a set of factory long branch manifolds. These works of art dump into a 2 1/2-inch system featuring a Dr. Gas X-pipe, a pair of Straightline Performance mufflers and 2 1/2-inch tail pipes.
According to Tony, the remainder of the driveline is very straightforward. A Turbo 400 with a TransGo shift kit takes direction from a stock GM 1800 stall converter and a set of 4.11 gears resides in a heavy-duty posi unit that was bolted into the stock 10-bolt housing.
Suspension Set Up
Goodman went through the suspension with an eye toward e.t.'s. The front stabilizer bar frame brackets have been shimmed an 1/8-inch down to allow the bar to move more easily. A set of adjustable shocks set to 90/10 aid in weight transfer as does another old trick that you don't hear about too often. According to Tony, "the stock upper control arm bushings ride a on serrated portion of the stock cross-shaft, which makes the controls arms more resistant to moving. I took apart the suspension and smoothed the serrated areas. Then I reinstalled the control arms with light grease on the bushings so the arms can move much more freely. This set up helps weight transfer a lot." You may be surprised to learn that all of the wheel alignment settings are stock BUT the toe is set with the frontend raised 3-inches to simulate the Bird's stance as it goes down the track.
In the rear we find some more incognito trickery. Though the stock rear multi-leaf springs remain, the shocks look stock but are actually adjustable units to aid in weight transfer. They have settings for 50/50 jounce/rebound, 70/30 and 90/10. Current setting is 50/50. Tony remarked, "In the future I will test multi-leaf springs that are modified to extend the second and third leaves forward to stiffen the front portion of the spring and act like a traction bar. This will make the chassis plant the tires and it will require a different shock setting. More like a 70/30. This setup will make the car push the tire into the pavement."
At the Track
What is all of this attention to detail worth in the real world? Believe it or not 12.31 at 110.8 mph on Rally II wheels with F70-14 bias-ply redlines weighing 3,560 with a 1/2 tank of gas and driver. How you say? Let's ask Tony. "It all starts with a good smoky burnout that is confined to within a few car lengths of the starting line. I stage at 1,300 rpm and when the last yellow lights, the pedal is pushed with a smooth, progressively quickening motion. Smoothness is the key with track conditions dictating the quickness. With good track conditions my foot is to the floor in about one car length. The best 60-foot time to date is 1.85, I shift at 5,800 rpm and go through the traps at 6,000 rpm."
Goodman also related that the reproduction redlines are actually a help rather than a hindrance when compared to modern tires because the rubber compound is much softer and the tread pattern is much tighter, thereby placing more rubber on the pavement. Tony runs a surprising 42 psi all around. Testing has shown that at the normal 30 pounds, the tires still cup, which means there are dark rubber marks on the pavement only at the edges but not in the middle. The 42 pounds provide a full-tread set of black marks on the pavement.
Tony thinks that there is still more performance to be had, "The car has been to three races since it was finished and has gotten quicker each time so with some tuning I feel that 12-teens at 112 mph is definitely within reach." Not bad for a restored '68 Bird that's easily mistaken for a trailer queen.