A year or so ago, a chap with a Pro Street car wandered into my garage looking to buy some used pieces I had advertised for sale. Even before looking at the parts, he immediately went over and began to take a peek at my under-construction Firebird. As most of you know, at the time I was knee-deep in late-model Stocker stuff. The conversation immediately turned toward performance, "What class will it run?" he asked.
"D/Stock Automatic," I said.
"I'll need high 10.80s to be competitive with the big dogs under ugly conditions," I answered.
Dead silence from my guest, then this outburst: "My car is an early Camaro with a pro-built 468-cubic-inch big-block, a reworked Turbo 400, 14-inch-wide slicks, and a narrowed 9-inch Ford rear end. The car has a fiberglass hood, fiberglass bumpers, and a fiberglass deck lid. It runs low 12s."
You could tell the mental comparisons were being made: Big, bad rat motor versus almost stock mouse; super-strong TH-400 against a spindly TH-350 or a metric Turbo hydro; monster 14-inch tires versus puny 9-inch slicks; super-strong 9-inch Ford against a pedestrian 12-bolt; plenty of fiberglass versus stock sheetmetal; unlimited modifications against a rule book 200-plus pages long. At that point I knew this guy either figured I was cheating or lying, or both.
But I was telling the truth. Today's Stockers haul. From the outside, it looks like the Rubick's Cube of performance- going fast with "minimal" modifications. But it isn't. The major factor in this scenario isn't the parts, it's the philosophy of going fast. It isn't how much you spend or how many trick parts you have, it's the way you spend your money and how the modifications are made.
When it comes to spending money, you might be surprised to find a Stocker can have some incredibly low-dollar parts mixed with hardware so expensive you might think it's better suited to a Pro Stock operation. Selecting the right mix is critical. Because of this, we're going to share the Stocker hypothesis with you. And we're absolutely positive dozens of bracket racers can gain plenty by thinking about these very same fundamental principles.
But before we begin, we should point out that there are quick Stockers out there and there are some slugs. Some cars are definitely built better than others, and the better-built cars are the ones we'll concentrate on. When it comes to the quick cars, the biggest secret in construction is to take absolutely nothing for granted. In the case of a Stocker, we most definitely look at each and every piece, then think about how we can make it better, all within the letter of the rules.
You also have to remember that in many cases, it's often easier to spend money on stuff that looks good instead of pieces that make the car go fast. If you really look around, you'll find some extremely quick Stockers have pretty basic, low-dollar paint jobs and employ other mundane appearance tactics. This is often by design. The racer has intentionally spent his resources and concentrated his or her efforts on hardware, which provides results, not looks.
One other big secret is to consume information in small bites. If you look at the entire car from bumper to bumper, the thoughts of subtly wringing out performance can be overwhelming. On the other hand, if you view the car as a package of separate "systems," then all of the information and modifications are far easier to swallow. Now, some of these specific "systems" are interrelated, but the relationship will fall into place, even if you take each step at a time.
In order, here's how we break down a Stocker.