Drag Racer - - Contents - Text and Photos by Rod Short

Strength­en­ing the Ties

That Bind

There’s an old joke: If God didn’t like drag rac­ing, then the Bi­ble wouldn’t say we should fol­low the straight and nar­row. We’re not cer­tain that’s nec­es­sar­ily true, but it sure hasn’t pre­vented the Robin­son fam­ily team from find­ing suc­cess with two IHRA di­vi­sional cham­pi­onships along the way.

“After ag­ing out of ju­nior drag­sters, I needed a car, and my dad had this 1955 Chevy that had been sit­ting since be­fore I was born,” Matt Robin­son told us about the car’s back­ground. “He traded for it when he was 16 and drove it on the street un­til he went into the army. In 1975, he and my mom were mar­ried and drove away from the church in the same car. A year later, he de­cided to make the ’55 into his dream race car, and he raced it un­til 1984.

“Dad gave me the car when I turned 16, and we both worked to tear it down com­pletely and up­date it,” Matt con­tin­ued. “I raced it at Farm­ing­ton Drag­way while I was study­ing me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at North Carolina State and ac­tu­ally won a bracket race just a few months after de­but­ing the car.”

Matt and his fa­ther, Steve, re­lied on their hot-rod­ding skills to put to­gether the 468-ci en­gine. Start­ing with a

1970 tall deck truck block, they used a GM forged crank with Eagle steel rods and Veno­lia 13:1 pis­tons with a 9-quart Milodon oil pan. The de­sir­able fac­tory GM 6272990 iron cylin­der heads with rectangular ports, 119cc open com­bus­tion cham­bers and 2.19/1.88 in­take/ex­haust valves were bolted down with ARP hard­ware and then topped by a Weiand Team G sin­gle-plane alu­minum in­take. A Crane flat tap­pet 134771 cam with 1.7 ra­tio rocker arms or­ches­trates the val­ve­train, while fuel delivery is han­dled by a sin­gle Hol­ley 1,050cfm carb fed by an Aeromotive elec­tric pump. Matt’s fa­ther, Steve, fab­ri­cated both the cus­tom cowlin­duc­tion-fed air cleaner and the stepped Jet-Hot-coated head­ers to fin­ish the job. Be­hind the en­gine is a Pow­er­glide with a Hughes 5800 stall con­verter and an ATI trans­brake.

Steve had al­ready re­placed the stock frame with one from a 1957 Chevy sta­tion wagon, which was a one-piece ex­truded Cal­i­for­nia unit that was lighter and stronger than the orig­i­nal 1955 ver­sion. The car uses the orig­i­nal up­per A-arms, while Jim Meyer Rac­ing Prod­ucts pro­vided the lower tubu­lar con­trol arms along with a rack-and-pin­ion kit. Mod­i­fied six-cylin­der Nova springs, dou­ble-ad­justable QA1 shocks and Wil­wood disc brakes with 10-inch ro­tors were added to com­plete the front end.

S&W Race Cars sup­plied a rear back-half kit that Matt and Steve set up with Strange dou­blead­justable shocks and Wil­wood brakes. The Ford 9-inch rear houses 4.56 gears with a spool and Strange 35-spline axles. Hole Shot wheels were mounted on the front with Weld Pro Stars out back that mount 32.0x14-15 Goodyear Eagle D-1984 slicks.

Joe Shuller painted the car in Vic­tory Red basecoat/clearcoat. Darryl Slaugh­ter and Matt did the body­work, while VFN Fiber­glass pro­vided the front end. Sam Pres­nell did the painted trim and graph­ics. Steve did the cus­tom steel and alu­minum in­te­rior and all of the orig­i­nal glass was re­placed with Lexan.

“After a few years, we de­cided to try IHRA Hot Rod, which is a headsup 7.00 in­dex class on the eighth-mile,” Matt said. “I was able to win the IHRA Divi­sion 9

cham­pi­onship in 2010, and then again the fol­low­ing year. In 2012, we had an­other win and a run­nerup fin­ish in Divi­sion 9.

“That win­ter, we added a Com­putech DataMaxx data-log­ger with an LCD dash dis­play,” Matt con­tin­ued. “It has been in­valu­able in chas­ing down is­sues. We were just get­ting things sorted out this year when the en­gine blew, and I flipped the car dur­ing the Pres­i­dent’s Cup at Mary­land In­ter­na­tional Race­way. I thank God that I wasn’t hurt, and we were left with a race car that we could fix. I will never drive an­other race car with­out a di­a­per. Now we have the op­por­tu­nity to re­build, mod­ify and im­prove so we have an even bet­ter race car than be­fore.”

While Matt and his fa­ther have tasted both suc­cess and ad­ver­sity with their car, the story of this racer tells of a fam­ily his­tory that re­ally couldn’t be re­placed by any­thing else. Matt in­tends to com­plete a sem­i­nary de­gree, and Steve con­tin­ues to build hot rods near Asheville, North Carolina. For both, there’s lit­tle doubt that there are still many good chap­ters yet to be writ­ten.

/ LEFT . The nicely de­tailed alu­minum in­te­rior was ham­mered out by Matt’s dad. The Pow­er­glide trans fea­tures Hughes and ATI com­po­nents. A Com­putech DataMaxx data-log­ger with an LCD dash dis­play mon­i­tors ve­hi­cle func­tions. /BE­LOW . The 1970 tall deck...

/ ABOVE . The un­der­pin­nings are unique, in­clud­ing a 1957 Chevy sta­tion wagon chas­sis, Jim Meyer Rac­ing com­po­nents, mod­i­fied six-cylin­der Chevy Nova springs, QA1 shocks and Wil­wood brakes.

/ RIGHT . Matt (right) and his dad, Steve, are re­spon­si­ble for quite a bit of the Chevy’s very cleanly con­structed build, in­clud­ing the en­gine.

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