BLACKTOP BANDITS

Edition 28
Article and Photos by : Etienne Fouche

Drag racing, the cornerstone of any American octane filled breakfast and as American apple pie as well….American apple pie.

What is a Hot Rod? Where did it all start? Straight line racing has its oily roots firmly planted way back in the 1930’s. Soon, traffic light to traffic light duels was the measuring stick of who’s the man, and who gets the girl. Racing in the street became more and more popular and in true American spirit, it became a sport loved as much as Footballers, Cheerleaders and well….American apple Pie.

Simon and Mark Slooten are brothers, brothers in Muscle Arms, brothers with equal amounts of racing fuel coursing through their veins and a true love for big V8’s. It is passion and horsepower that rule their minds and keeps them thirsty for that 9 seconds or less of pure adrenaline. One with a ‘69 Camaro and the other with a ‘71 Challenger. Both mean and fast as hell.
Being a Mopar guy, I was very happy and a bit nervous when Simon told me to get into the driver’s seat which by the way, is the only seat. When the stroked big block monster fired up, the whole body shook, vibrated and resonated from the solid motor mounts and short unrestricted headers. I pulled back on the TCI Shifter and hooked her into the first gear of the full manual valve body two speed transmission. I pressed down very lightly on the go fast pedal and started moving effortlessly, I am convinced that this stroked Chrysler big block has no idea that it is inside a car, it just makes too much power. I took her down the 400 meters with a lot of weariness and even more respect. Getting a feel for the car and giving reality some time to sink in, I could not believe that I was sitting in a 700 Horsepower Mopar dragster and a real E-body Challenger to boot. It just does NOT get any better than this for me. At the end of the quarter mile, I reached the turn around and I turned right into the narrow slipway. Cruising back down to the starting line with a huge smile on my face and adrenaline adding “oh happy days” endorphins. 

Thinking that… “Wow this was very nice of the owner to let me drive his very expensive and dearly loved race car” and expecting that it’s the end of the joyride. A huge surprise was in store for me when I reached the start and Simon gave me the signal to give her some stick. I was like…OK!!! I popped her back into first and gave the gas pedal a bit more of a confident prod and this was the moment that things got absolutely Zoo Monkey Nuts. The engine picked up revolutions like a possessed NASCAR and an apocalyptic roar filled the interior like Mount Vesuvius erupting straight in my face.. I was pushed back into the bucket seat like Starship Enterprise engaging warp speed. I found myself having to constantly correct on the steering because the 14 inch wide rear slicks were going crazy and not hooking the un-prepped track one bit, I hooked second and eased off the gas. About halfway down the line I put my foot down again while in second gear and she just fried the huge Mickey Thomson tyres like we were standing still. In what felt like about half a second, I was at the end of the quarter and I had to slow her down.

Brakes are adequate and the blur of “ hold the hell on” faded and decelerated back to normality with relative ease. Returning back to a smiling Simon and Mark I stopped and pushed the TCI Shifter forward into park. Simon opened the door and after flicking the long line of Jet like toggle switches on the dashboard, he killed the ignition. “Look at the burnout you did” he said. I was amazed to see just how long the marks were; about 60 meters and you could clearly see how the car squirmed around and veered to the left. What an experience, it took me a while to stop shaking but I’m still smiling.

Mark’s Candy Apple red ‘69 Camaro packs the same kind of punch as the Challenger and the build quality on both cars are superb. The man behind these great looking and performing race cars is Mark Slooten himself. He built both these cars and that is no small feat. It took years of working after hours and weekends away from the understanding family. The man is a real magician with his hands and passion is the coal that makes his train roll.
The Camaro body was acquired in 1999 for the measly amount of R1500…imagine that; now forget about it because it will never happen again, what a find! As with too many projects in this country, the car was found in a “sandblasted / left for dead/ lost interest/I watched too much overhaulin and had no idea how much work it is to actually build a car” state. The car was basically a bare shell and most of the parts were missing. Most of the body work was either fabricated or imported from the States. To keep things low weight, the trunk lid, power induction hood, front/ rear bumpers and valances are fibreglass purpose build race items, sourced from Harwood USA.
The main ingredient as far as “Muscle” goes, is the power plant and in the case of the Camaro, it’s a doozy!! A late model one piece rear main seal 454 big block with 4 bolt mains was chosen and bored 60 thou oversize. The sleeves were filled with domed Keith Black forged pistons making 12.5 to 1 compression ratio connected to the Eagle cast stroker crank via Eagle H beam rods. Heads are Ally pieces from Pro Comp, breathing through 2.25 Inlet and 1.90 exhaust stainless stem valves motivated by roller rockers rolling on an Elgin solid flat tappet cam similar to the famous L88 Corvette lift and duration.

The big valves are matched perfectly with the World Products single plane intake that feeds air from the 1150 CFM Holley Dominator Carburettor force fed by a Holley Blue electrical fuel pump. An MSD 6-AL Box and MSD 8.5mm Spiro Pro Plug wires brings spark to the air/110 octane Avgas mixture. This powerhouse makes itself heard through a 2 inch primary header system dumping into 5 inch “weedburner tips”. All this engine needs is a lot of black gold to stay lubricated under race conditions and 7 quart oil pan keeps Arabian stock levels high. This power potion boils down to 805 Horsepower including the 180 Horsepower shot of Nitrous. The power turns to movement and mayhem by a 2 speed GM Powerglide transmission, running a TCI Input shaft, manual valve body and TSR Transbrake. A heavy duty 3500rpm stall torque converter is a Coan 10 inch with anti balloon plate to keep things intact during NOS runs. Rear end is the traditional 9 inch choice but beefed up with rear brace, narrowed with 33 spline pro race axles from Strange. The centre section is also from Strange. Finally all of this potential ballistic speed is put into practice with the help of a Ladder bar set up with coil overs. The Candy Apple beauty has done a 9.5 second run down the black top crossing the line at 233KPH. Yes this is a “9 second car”. Both of them are.
The perfectly flat and beautifully sprayed body rolls on a set of Weld Pro Star wheels, 4 inch wide in the front and OMG 14 Inch behemoths’ at the back are 34 / 14 / 15 Mickey Thompsons, things are kept inline or just about by Moroso 24 / 4 / 15’s up front.

Simons 71 Challenger was donated by Wolfgang in 2008. The E-body Mopar packs a heavy punch via a 440RB Block bored 40 oversize including line honed and decks skimmed. A 440 Source crank was chosen and hooked up to steel I beam rods motivated by SRP flattop pistons. Heads are 440 source pieces as well but ported extensively by Mark himself. The bump stick handling the valve action is a Comp cams solid #23-362. Valve springs are Compcams beeghive. Because the block was decked, thick copper head gaskets were used which gives this motor very good quench. Compression ratio of 11.8 to 1, ideal for liberal amounts of NOS. Heads hook up to a Mopar M1 single plane with a Holley HP 850CFM on top modified to flow around 900cfm. Heads expel the spent gas with a mighty roar through 2 inch primaries and through the short 5 inch collectors. Motor makes 700hp with 150hp nitrous engaged and is on its second rear end to prove it. The Chally also runs an MSD Ignition set up with MSD 6-AL box and 8.5mm MSD plug wires. The motor is fed with water by a beautifully machined CSR electrical water pump. An interesting choice for transmission was to opt for a Powerglide 2 speed rather than a 727 Torque Flite 3 speed, but trust me its more than enough. At the back a 9 inch diff with a 4 to 1 ration and frying the tyres with stout Strange 33 Spline side shafts. The stunning purple body pops even more with its Centreline Revs, 4 inches in the front and 14 inches in the back. A modified set of Mercedes Benz rotors and callipers slow things down.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Mark directly because it’s always good to hear things straight from the horse’s, or is that Horsepower’s mouth?
“All work on both cars was done after hours by myself and Simon would come help on Saturdays and some nights. All work on these cars was done in house by us including: roll cage, diff narrowing, electrical wiring, bodywork and paint, engine building, ally tubing work and panels, etc. I would also like to thank Dalmein for pitching in to help and special thanks must go to Wolfgang for all his input over the years, without whom these cars would not have been a success! Others that needs a mention is First Road emergency for allowing me to build the cars in their shop, Dale from Us-connection for the parts, Jaques from Graphics Fanatics, Rolling Thunder Classic Cars for the Candy Apple red spray job and everyone else that helped along the way! Building these cars was a lot of fun and we made lots of friends along the way, drank a lot of beer, and grew closer as a family!

Mickeythompson4x4
Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels
Mickey Thompson Tires Africa
Dalmein
MSD Performance
Holley
Simon Slooten
Mark Slooten