LSX Build of the Month: Barry Cook’s 8-Second Chevy Blazer

After some changes in his personal life, Barry Cook, an AV engineer from Clarksville, Tennessee was ready to slow things down a bit. Those changes had forced the sale of his prized drag bike, but a stroke of good fortune would keep the proceeds in Cook’s possession. So with that cash burning a hole in his pocket, he started looking for a new project.

Over the course of five years, what started as a basic mode of transportation, with a nice audio system in it, has transformed into a 1,400-horsepower, street-driven truck that’s capable of epic wheelies. “It’s a little different than most of the other stuff you see at the track going fast,” Cook points out.

“Believe it or not, a Blazer just happened to be what I found when I started looking around on Craigslist,” Cook explains. “A while back I was just looking for something cheap to play with – a daily driver to kind of tinker around with – and ran across it. I’ve always liked the S10 Blazer body style, and I knew that parts were plentiful for it and pretty cheap. When I first started the project, it was supposed to be a cheap little toy.”

But like so many of our favorite builds, Cook’s ambitions grew well beyond his initial plan. Today, this truck boasts about 1,400 rear-wheel horsepower and runs deep into 8-second territory in the quarter-mile, often carrying the front wheels for a good portion of the pass. In this month’s LSX build feature, we’ll look at how Cook’s Blazer went from a mild-mannered cruiser to the wheel-standing drag monster is it today – a beast which he still continues to drive on the street regularly.

The Slow March To Insanity

“Other than wheels and a lowered suspension, it was bone stock when I bought it,” Cook says. “I was just going to throw a paint job on it and stereo in it and basically call it done. So I put a big system in it – I’ve always done car audio competitions and stuff like that.”

Cook took deliver of the Blazer as you see it here, with nothing other than aftermarket wheels and some minor suspension work separating it from a bone-stock example. At first, that was perfectly fine by Cook, who really just wanted a basic cruiser with a good audio system. But the influence of power-hungry buddies with ground-pounding V8 projects would cause Cook to change direction with his project.

Cook thought he was done with the truck, but some exposure to the best kind of bad influence would derail his simple plan. “I had it like that for about a month, and then I went to a cruise-in with some buddies of mine,” he recalls. “They were all in big Pro Street cars with big-blocks. We got ready to leave and they all started up their cars – BAWOP-BAWOP-BAWOP-BAWOP. I started up my little V6 and I was like, “Man, this sucks!”

Clearly the factory Vortech 4.3-liter mill under hood wasn’t going to cut it anymore. “All of my buddies were into doing LS swap projects, so I went back to the house and called my friend and said, “Give me a list – just tell me what I need to put an LS in this thing.”

Once he decided to drop a V8 in the truck, Cook bought a basic commuter car to drive while the project was ongoing, and with the support of gearheads familiar with the procedure, got his mission underway. But Cook’s ambitions remained relatively reasonable – for a time, anyway.

Cook says that the Blazer has gotten progressively crazier each year, as he's had a habit of tearing the truck down and rebuilding it before each race season. But he also points out that the scaling up of the project has happened progressively rather than in big jumps, and up until last year, the truck still had a 5.3-liter motor with a stock bottom end, which was pulled from a Silverado at his local junkyard.

“The other nice thing I knew about S10s was that it’s actually pretty easy to do this swap,” he says. “There’s a ton of conversion kits out there for it, so getting one to drop in really isn’t a lot of work. It mostly comes down to just motor mounts and headers.” Cook started off with a stock 5.3-liter mill and a 4L60 gearbox pulled from a Silverado, but that iteration didn’t last long either.

“This will be the fifth turbo setup I’ve built for it,” he says of the current build he’s working on. “I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s a disease – I can’t leave things alone.”

The Blazer’s days as a leisurely cruiser are long gone, as evidenced by the Kirkey race seats, ratchet shifter and ten-point roll cage, the latter of which is essential for the eight-second quarter-mile passes the truck made throughout 2016. “It is still a full interior with a custom wrapped dash and custom center console that myself and one of my friends made,” Cook points out.

Cook says it took roughly six months to tear the truck down, paint it, swap in the new drivetrain and get it all back together. “2014 was the first year we brought it to LS Fest,” he says. “At that point, it was just a naturally aspirated 5.3 swap – nothing special really. I decided I wanted to win Best Truck at the event the next year, so immediately after LS Fest we pulled all the suspension out of it and bagged it, so it was bagged for a while. Then right before LS Fest the next year I decided I wanted to put a turbo on it.”

That decision would start Cook down a decidedly different path with the build. “My buddy who helped me with the swap has a ’71 Camaro with a twin-turbo 5.3-liter in it,” he tells us. “He’s a bad influence – he kept posting videos on Facebook of him doing big, smoky burnouts with his turbos whistling. One day I told him I wanted to turbo the Blazer, and he said, “No, don’t do it. It’s horrible. It’s really addicting.” I told him I didn’t even care if it was fast – I just wanted to hear the turbo whistle.”

A Wheelstanding Grocery Getter

Even at the point at which Cook decided to add boost to the equation, he started off with a relatively mild setup. “I ordered all the stuff off of eBay – a $250 GT45 turbo and a bunch of “eBay” parts – and we fabbed up the first turbo kit for it. The first time that thing spooled, it was all over with for me – it was worse than crack!”

After taking a 5.3-liter junkyard motor with a stock bottom end to its limit – which turned out to be 1,100 rear-wheel horsepower – Cook finally swapped out that mill for a 370ci LS-based mill from Mike Lough Race Engines. Though this year found Cook chasing a lot of bugs that kept the Blazer off the radar for much of the race season, he says next year should see a big jump in the truck’s e.t.s, provided he can keep the front wheels on the ground.

“In stock form, the level of abuse these LS motors can take is amazing,” he adds. “My last setup in the truck was a stock bottom end 5.3 with twin Borg Warner S366 turbos that went 5.38 at 130 mph in the eighth at 3,600 pounds and made right at 1,100 wheel horsepower. That engine lasted about four years, and through three different turbo setups.”

These days, Cook’s combination is a bit more robust. This year’s build consists of a Mike Lough Race Engines 370-cube LS with a Callies forged crank, Weisco pistons, Molnar rods, Lil John’s Motorsports custom camshaft, Johnson short-travel lifters, BTR springs, SPS Haymaker cylinder heads, Fuel Injector Development 200-pound injectors, and a Holley Hi-Ram intake with a 417 Motorsports intercooler.

Cook was hoping to get into the 7-second range this year, but a brush with far too much boost had other plans. “We got the motor built and put on the dyno – it made killer power,” he says. “I took it out a couple weeks later and was having a boost issue. I re-plumbed the waste gates and ended up plumbing the waste gates backwards, which pinned them shut. It made about 60 pounds of boost, and that cracked a cylinder head in half.” Not long after sorting that mess out, a loss of oil pressure would take out an engine bearing, so much of this year has been spent working out the kinks.

That potent powerplant is hooked to a Jake’s Performance TH400 gearbox with an R&R converter and a Fab9 rear end from Boars Nest Fabrication with Strange axles and a Nitro-Gear center section. The turbo setup was built in Cook’s garage and sports a pair of VS Racing billet 78/75 turbochargers on 34 PSI of boost. Engine management comes from a MS3 Pro engine ECU, while the tuning was done by Cook’s friend Scott Clark.

“I didn’t get too many passes out of the truck this year due to an overboost issue, which broke the 799 heads that were on the truck earlier in the season,” he says. “But with those ported 799 heads, we did manage to set the dyno record at ShorTuning at 1,270 horsepower, which came out to about 1,400 wheel horsepower corrected to brand x numbers.”

Though Cook has yet to see the potential of the current build, the truck has already posted some impressive e.t.’s in previous iterations. “When we went twin turbo last year with the S366 turbos we did 8.58 at 158 mph at LS Fest,” he explains. “Then last winter, I decided to go all out and do a forged motor and bigger turbos. This year was a bit rough, but the new setup is coming together now.”

Despite the craziness of the Blazer in its current state, Cook says he still drives it on the street on a regular basis, weather providing. “I think the coolest thing about the truck is that most of it has been built by myself and my friends in my two-car garage, and it is still a street truck with power windows and full interior,” he explains. “Every winter, it gets torn down and I upgrade with everything that I can to try and go faster next year.”

One distinctive feature of Cook’s build that stood out to us is the exhaust setup, which dumps out just behind the front bumper. “It comes straight out of the turbos and through the fender,” he explains. “It’s just always been the easy way out rather than trying to figure out how to get a four-inch exhaust all the way to the back. The turbo quiets it down enough to drive it on the street.” But Cook may be forced to bite the bullet and run a more conventional system next season. “I never really cared before, but in the street classes I want to run the truck in next year require that you run an exhaust past the firewall.”

So what’s next? “I’m finally at the point now where I really want to start playing in some class racing,” Cook tells us.

“This year we’re putting a Callies Dragonslayer crankshaft in it, but the engine combination is going to stay mostly the same otherwise. I’ve got some new ball bearing 80mm turbos coming from VS Racing, and I’m rewiring the whole truck, but I think that’s about it. We didn’t get to play hardly at all this year because of the overboost issue and the cracked cylinder head. Then we got it back together right before LS Fest, took it out on the highway for a pull and lost oil pressure.”

It’s safe to say that Cook is looking at next year as a do-over of the tumultuous season he had this year. That said, it should be faster than the times he posted at the 2016 LS Fest – a lot faster.

“Next year the goal is to drive it to Bowling Green, run a 7-second quarter mile pass, and then drive it back home,” he says. “We’ll have the power to do it, it’s just a matter of whether or not we can make it down the track without standing on the bumper.”

About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
Read My Articles

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