"Hey! Watch this." A skinny man with a three-day grizzle comments to the guy next to him. We are all perched intensely close to the dyno, watching each car take turns making pulls. "You can usually tell how much power a car makes by how fast it spins up," he says as a '68 Chevelle slowly chugs its way up to redline. The big-block Chevy made a respectable 320 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. "See what I mean? Nothin'! Now get a load of this!" Mr. Grizzle says pointing to his 1987 Buick Grand National being loaded up on the chassis dyno. You can tell this isn't your dad's Grand National. For one thing it has massive tubs and it's loud. So loud, in fact, the already deaf dyno crew starts inserting sound deadening earplugs. We can tell we are in for a treat. The car jars the entire audience with an earth shattering, instantaneous, bwap!
And then it was all over, the car had made an astounding 1,600-plus horsepower at the rear tires. Even with a conservative estimate of 20-percent loss from the drivetrain, the small-block pumps out close to 2,000 horsepower at the crank. The man who built this monstrosity of a Grand National is Jim Schmittinger of West Bend, Wisconsin. Jim built the car on a dare. He was told that he couldn't build a drag radial streetcar that ran 7s with a small block on E85. Having owned 42 Turbo Buicks and three GNX's, the platform he'd use to accomplish his goal was an easy decision. And thankfully he found the perfect specimen on an online car website. An all-original, 36,000-mile black Grand National that the previous owner had advertised as having "show paint" turned out to be anything but; however, that is what you get when you purchase a car sight unseen. Jim had to completely repaint the car in the classic gloss black with a bit of pearl to match its heritage. The outside shell was left completely intact minus a Glasstech hood and trunk to fit the GN stock look while shedding weight. All work was completed by Daryl Kuhn of Country Side Auto Body in Horicon, WI.
The interior retains its stock cloth seats, console, and dash while a full array of Autometer gauges keep all the vitals in check. A 25.3 SFI certified rollcage keeps the GN safe up to 6.50-second e.t.'s and was installed by Clocks Off Racing of Racine, Wisconsin. Beyond that, the only obvious intrusion into the interior is the massive Chisled Performance air-to-water intercooler that resides directly behind the passenger headrest. This massive icebox cools 25 psi of boost from the 106mm Precision billet wheel turbo, reigned in by an AMS1000 boost controller. Jim custom built his own set of 2-inch headers that feed the turbo before terminating through a 5-inch exhaust system.
Despite some scorn from fellow GN faithful, a Dart Iron Eagle raised cam small-block Chevy was the chosen bullet this go-round-a necessary evil for accomplishing Jim's goals. Measuring a conservative 406 cubic inches and built by Jim's company Schmittinger Motorsports, a Callies crankshaft commands Oliver connecting rods and Diamond Racing pistons. A Melling oil pump controls the lubrication with help from a custom aluminum oil pan. A custom ground and highly secret camshaft comes courtesy of Mike Moran Motorsports, which rounds out the short-block. The heads are aluminum SB2.2 designed by GM for NASCAR motors that were CNC-ported and flow 422 cfm on the intake and 317 cfm on the exhaust. These high-flowing heads are made to accommodate high-spinning motors, so naturally they come with titanium intake valves measuring 2.150, and since it is an E85 motor Jim gets away with using titanium on the 1.60 exhaust valves as well. The rest of the valvetrain is equally as impressive with Pacaloy springs and Jesel Pro shaft-mount rockers, with staggered ratios (1.85 intake, 1.80 exhaust). A trick 6AN cooler line was run between center cylinders to help cooling under heavy boost.