Of all the classes in NHRA drag racing today, none offers the history or diversity that Stock Eliminator does. A look back shows names like Jess Tyree, Arlen Vanke, Arnie Beswick and more scattered throughout its history, running Pontiacs that were, and later weren't, backed by the factory. The present shows everything from 4-cylinder econoboxes to vintage musclecars to pickups trucks of all makes and models making history in this Eliminator today.
Dave Ribeiro of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is making some memories of his own with this 1978 Formula Firebird that's representative of a flood of Pontiac racers who are becoming prevalent in this type of drag racing. Like many drivers, Dave switched from a vintage race car to something more modern, as seen with this Pontiac, and found the results to be surprising!
"I ran Super Stock for 20 years," Ribeiro recalled. "I had a '55 Chevy that I won half a dozen points races with. When I had the '55 Chevy, everybody would come up to it and say, "Oh, I remember when I had a car like that!" When I got into the Pontiac, I didn't think too much of it, but it's amazing because this car really gets noticed by a different generation. Instead of people like me who used to have a '55, this car appeals to people who are now in their 30s and 40s."
Becoming successful in Stock Eliminator requires a lot more than often meets the eye. The rulebook is very specific about what can and cannot be done. Only certain vehicles and engine combinations are eligible to run
based on the weight per NHRA-factored horsepower rating, which is used to break the Eliminator down into different classes. Body alterations are taboo, as are a wide variety of engine and suspension modifications. Stock frame or subframes are required with only 9-inch-wide slicks being allowed.
With the rulebook and weight breaks being such important factors in winning, choosing the right combination of car and engine is a critical decision before you get on the race track, which is a big reason why Pontiacs are seen more and more. Ribeiro feels that the biggest advantage of running the 400-inch engine is because of where the horsepower factor falls.
Rider Automotive of Camp Hill, Pa., built this engine with a slight overbore and a .0015-inch stroker cast-iron crank to produce 412 cubic inches. Steel Pontiac rods hold low-compression, 8:1 Venolia aluminum pistons, which are wrapped with a set of Sealed Power rings. While the rulebook calls for the lubrication system to remain stock, Ribeiro uses a TCI oil cooler, four quarts of Pennzoil and a shot of Slick 50 to keep things running.
Cast-iron Pontiac heads with 2.11/1.66 valves breathe through the efforts of a Competition Cams valvetrain that features dual-coil springs rated at 120 lbs., chrome-moly 5/16-inch pushrods and a cam with 274° duration and .364 inch of valve lift with 1.5-ratio stock rocker arms. Ribeiro reports that the cam is really nothing more than a street grind, and when the car is running, it really doesn't even sound like a race car at all.
Air and fuel enter the combustion chambers through a Rochester 800-cfm Q-Jet and a stock intake. The atomized fuel charge is sparked to life with an ACCEL plug and ignition system, with a Moroso electric water pump and stock cooling system handling the heat from combustion. The spent gases are then scavenged from the exhaust ports through a pair of 13/4-inch Hooker headers.
Along with horsepower, getting the chassis and suspension to work is a critical ingredient to success as well. Ribeiro uses Moroso springs, Competition Engineering 90/10 shocks on the front, 50/50-ratio units on the rear and modified Lakewood slapper bars for better weight transfer off the starting line. Subframe connectors are used to improve the car's rigidity, which is further enhanced by the 6-point chrome-moly roll cage.