Modern medicine has been able to cure many diseases, but it’s never been able to conquer an addiction to racing. When the racing bug infects a person and takes root, it never goes away — it may be dormant for a few years, but the track is always calling. The bug bit Bill Schurr hard at a young age and has led to the construction of a 4,200 pound Jeep-based racing machine that laughs in the face of convention.
For Schurr, being around cars and racing is something that started in his youth and blossomed into a career, as he now operates Paramount Performance. Schurr’s racing addiction got a heavyweight shot in the arm early on. “My drag racing career started off in the early 70’s when my fraternity brother, Charles Lingenfelter, introduced me to his older brother John, who at that time ran the flow bench at International Harvester plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana where we all lived at the time. He suggested I purchase a 1966 Chevy Nova which would be slowly built — due to my cash flow — for NHRA Super Stock racing,” he explains.
Fate would step in for Schurr and help accelerate his build due to the untimely loss of Lingenfelter’s Super Stocker Nova Wagon to a traffic accident. According to Schurr, not much was left after the accident. “All that could be salvaged was the motor and new top secret Steve Griner transbrake Powerglide. John called and made me an offer I couldn’t turn down. He sold the brand new engine and tricked-up Powerglide for a great deal.”
Like any rational racer, Schurr purchased the proven driveline parts for the agreed-upon price and promptly bolted them into his Nova. “I installed the engine and Powerglide and went racing in Super Stock I/Automatic. My 1966 Nova was extremely competitive until I sold it in the late 70’s to move to Cleveland and work for Mercedes as a Senior Engineer.”
After selling the Nova, Schurr took a pretty lengthy break from racing.
“From the late 70’s until 2007 I didn’t do any racing, however once it’s in your blood, it’s there forever. I purchased a 2007 SRT8 Grand Cherokee and immediately got the bug back.”
To say Schurr got the bug back is an understatement, because what he did with this Jeep is nothing short of amazing.
Schurr purchased his Jeep in January of 2007 right off the showroom floor and took it to the track to see what it could do. In stock trim it was tremendously quick for a 4,000-pound SUV, running deep into the 13-second zone. Like any person who’s eaten up with racing, the stock nature wouldn’t last long. After just three months, Schurr decided it was time for a big power upgrade.
Out went the stock powerplant, and in went a new 426 cubic inch stroker motor. The new Mopar mill lived for about a year until epic engine failure occurred and took the motor down. “The Jeep decided to inhale a valve running down the highway at a pretty decent rate of speed and as most realize, there’s not much to save when a motor swallows a valve at high rpm. So, a fresh motor was ordered — this one built with more goodies than the previous motor,” explains Schurr about the engine’s demise.
The newly built-to-the-max stroker motor quenched Schurr’s need for speed quite well until another titan in the performance world came a knocking with an eerily notorious proposal.
“John Hennessey and Dave Golder made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on a twin turbo setup that would bolt up to his factory shorty headers.” And just like that, Schurr’s Jeep jumped into the boosted world in a big way. The downside for Schurr was that another low compression 426-inch modern Hemi would need to be installed to maximize the new potential for this combination.
In 2009, with the new engine installed and the twins producing boost, the Jeep made 980 horsepower to the wheels and was the most powerful SRT8 Jeep in the world. From there, Schurr decided it was time to turn up the wick on his ride and see what it would do, but he soon found the limits of the new 426 Hemi. The solution to this new horsepower inspired-problem was to contact Chris Seidle of Seidle Racing Engines to build something that could swallow all the boost and power Schurr wanted to throw at it.
“The engine problems stopped but the tickets on the street — deserted highways of course — mounted up,” he says, and that’s when things got a bit more serious for Schurr’s Jeep.
At the time, Schurr’s SRT8 Jeep still saw lots of daily driving duty and was even driven to the track. “After putting the Jeep on the back bumper, I decided to get a trailer and haul it to the track,” he tells us. Don’t let the truck and trailer fool you; this boosted beast is still 100-percent street legal and still has power windows and power sunroof, along with a working factory engine controller.
To get that bumper-dragging level of power, the Seidle Racing Engines 420-inch, 2007 Chrysler Hemi is packing some serious heat. The 4.125-inch bore and 4.050-inch stroke engine is outfitted with a Scat crankshaft, Lunati connecting rods and a set of custom Diamond Racing pistons to keep a boost-friendly 8.5:1 compression. Keeping everything lubricated is an external Peterson Fluid Systems oil pump that gets its fluid from a Modern Muscle oil pan.
A set of aluminum Modern Muscle cylinder heads that have been worked over by Dave Weber sit on top of the modern Hemi. Inside the heads are titanium 2.165-inch intake and 1.650-inch exhaust valves. The hydraulic camshaft from Comp Cams works with the stock Gen III Hemi rocker arms. Sucking all the air in from the twin turbos is a stock Gen III Hemi intake and 90mm throttle body that has been ported by Modern Muscle.
Fueling for the Jeep is handled by injectors from Injector Dynamics and those are fed by a single Weldon fuel pump. A Fore precision fuel regulator keeps the pressure up to 65psi when the Jeep is rolling down the track. Schurr tunes the SRT8 with the stock factory computer and electronics that includes the stock wires, coils and ignition box.
The stars of the show under the hood of Schurr’s Jeep are a pair of Precision 67-66 turbos. Jason Hensley at AGP Performance crafted a wicked custom turbo kit that uses 1.75-inch custom headers, three-inch hot pipe to the turbo and three-and-a-half-inch exhaust out. Hensley also constructed the cold side piping that ties into a custom intercooler that keeps the oxygen cold as it feeds into the 420-inch mill. Helping keep the 25psi of boost are TiAL wastegates and blow off valves.
This well thought-out combination helps the massive Mopar make 1500 horsepower at the tires and 1450 lbs./ft. of torque. Ace wheelman Al Genarelli has been able to maximize all of that power to push the Paramount Performance Products Jeep into the five-second zone in the eighth-mile and 8.00 in the quarter mile at over 173 mph. Think about that for a second — an SUV that has the aerodynamics of a barn door, weighing over 4,000-pounds has nearly clicked off a seven-second pass!
All the power in the world does you no good if you can’t put it to the ground, and Schurr found that out real quick with his Jeep’s newfound power.
“The Jeep was bought as a daily driver and quickly evolved into a transmission-eating machine as soon as I increased the power in the stock engine. As a Senior Development Mechanical Engineer by trade, I set out to design a transmission based on the stock production five-speed NAG1 transmission“, says Schurr.
Schurr designed an improved valve body that could take the abuse of his combination and provide firmer shifts; he succeeded and the end result was the new Paramount Performance transmission, which could take well over 1,000 horsepower worth of abuse. To take the power to the next level, Schurr went to a TH400 transmission, but then began eating converters.
“We began to get great life out of the TH400 but the darn converter had a ton of slip trying to move 4,200-pounds down the track. I then designed the Paramount TH400 to work with the same lockup converter we knew worked previously and our slip was gone. We can now launch with a very high stall and immediately lock it up.”
Aiding in the power application is a suspension and chassis set up to handle the power. Jason at AGP Performance stepped up again and built the control arms, rear sway bar, and shock mounts. A carbon fiber driveshaft from The Driveshaft Shop transfers the power to the nine-inch Ford rear end that’s filled with 40-spline axles and a Strange spool.
The Jeep rolls on a full set of Weld Racing wheels with M&H tires up front and a set of 275 Mickey Thompson radials out back. Genarelli brings the SRT8 to a stop with the stock Brembo binders up front and a set of Wilwood brakes in the rear.
Inside the Jeep the stock dash remains intact and now houses the Racepak data logging system. Most of the interior also remains, sans the passenger and rear seats. AGP Performance fabricated the roll cage that resides inside the Jeep and the parachute mount on the outside.
The Jeep is more than just a street legal animal that sees some track time — it really puts the laps in on the weekends. Schurr ran in the Outlaw X275 class at Lights Out 6 in Georgia, running a new best of 5.08 in the eighth-mile at 138 mph with a 1.20 sixty-foot time. But Schurr says he’s ready to step that up, telling us, “the new goal is 4.70s to the eighth.”
The Paramount Performance Products Jeep also runs in the Modern Street Hemi Shootout series and is the current record holder in the Super Pro class.
Schurr has set this race SUV up right and makes Genarelli’s trips down the track nice and smooth. “The Jeep runs straight as a string. It’s all automatic; hit the trans brake button, floor the accelerator, let go of the button and hold on,” says Schurr.
To get the Jeep where it’s at today has been a team effort for Schurr, and the Paramount Performance Products crew is thankful for all their help.
“Al Genarelli does a great job of driving the Jeep. I also have to give thanks to Jason Hensley for building the chassis and being our crew chief and Dan Benton, who keeps the Jeep in race-ready mode at all times. Also Chris Seidle for his powerful GenIII Hemi engines, Dave Weber for his cylinder heads and machine work, and Lenny at Ultimate Converters for his help in developing the Paramount Torque Converters,” says Schurr.
There really is only one cure for the racing bug, and that’s lots of track therapy in one form or another. Bill Schurr gets that therapy from his twin turbo Jeep SRT8. Schurr’s Jeep has smashed the perception of what a big SUV can do and shown that it’s more than just a dolled-up grocery getter. When most people would pick something half the size to go heads-up racing, Schurr did what he wanted to do, and that hard work has paid off in the form of one insanely fast and attention-getting SUV.