Race cars are badass, there’s no denying this fact. But the biggest problem with a race car is you can’t enjoy it all the time. Daryl Whitlow wanted a car that had race-level horsepower, but with street manners, so he could take his family out for ice cream. His plan came together in spectacular fashion in the form of a very sexy twin-turbo 1970 Chevelle that can prowl the streets with ease.
Whitlow’s introduction to racing was just like so many others — it came at the hands of his father, who was always building something in the family’s garage. After spending years in the shop listening to his dad and his friends talk about racing, plus spending weekends at Ozark Raceway Park watching him compete, Whitlow got a car of his own: a 1995 Trans Am with a salvage title that needed a whole lot of work.
“I spent most of my teens working to pay for fixing up the car. After it blew a head gasket, I decided to do what everyone does and LS swap the car, except I couldn’t afford the fuel injection components at the time because of how expensive it was. So I went with a simple carb setup and of course included a Zex perimeter plate with it. I drove the car around for a few months spraying it and running in the high-10s at the track. Eventually, it bent a rod, so I upgraded the engine to forged internals and drove it like that for the rest of the time I owned it in high school,” Whitlow says.
Whitlow started his post-high school career by serving our country in the United States Navy and deploying several times during his enlistment. While he was in the Navy, a second daily driver was needed, so Whitlow struck a deal with his father to purchase the Trans Am. Little did he know that his father had his own plans for the car while he was still in the Navy.
“Several years after I got out of the Navy the Trans Am ended up not serving its intended purpose. It was supposed to be a capable street car setup for limited 10.5 or True 10.5, but it was more race car than a street car. After bringing our second child into the world, I thought it was time to move onto something more street-friendly that the kids might enjoy, too,” Whitlow explains.
Whitlow sold the Trans Am and purchased the Chevelle from a local gentleman who had just gotten the car from NRC Motorsports. The car had a 551 cubic-inch big-block Chevy, a Powerglide transmission, 12-bolt rearend, and 8.50-cert cage installed when he purchased it. The Chevelle had the simple setup that fit what Whitlow was looking for. After seeing the car in person, hearing it run, and taking it for a spin, Whitlow pulled the trigger to make the Chevelle his.
If the sun was out, Whitlow was driving his Chevelle to work and wherever else he could. It was pretty stout, running 7.0s in the 1/8-mile on motor, but Whitlow wanted more, so he added a hit of nitrous. The Chevelle was now a 5.80 car on the juice, however, he got just a little too greedy with the nitrous, causing the big-block to die a true warrior’s death at the track.
Like any gearhead, Whitlow hatched a plan to rebuild the Chevelle’s wounded engine with a bottom end prepped for nitrous, along with some other upgrades to make it work better. Whitlow’s father stepped in and talked him into getting rid of the nitrous to save money on filling bottles and just move to boost. After some additional coercing, Whitlow finally agreed and sold all of his nitrous stuff to fund a turbo build.
“I still wanted to maintain the drivability of the car so the wife and kids could hop in and we can go have fun. Initially, the idea was to do an X275 LS engine from Mike Lough Race Engines, but after adding up some numbers, I found this was going to really hurt the budget for the rest of the car. So I sold the parts I had gathered to my dad and he had Mike build him the engine, which is currently in his 2014 Chevrolet SS. This left me with trying to find a cheap deal to keep the car on budget and still have some fun,” Whitlow explains.
While searching for an engine, Whitlow found a nice 522 cubic-inch BBC at Key Speed and Suspension that was priced perfectly. The engine had a Callies crank, billet Callies Rods, Wiseco pistons, and World Products Merlin aluminum heads with Jesel rocker arms. After getting the engine home, Whitlow talked with Chris Watkins and Chuck Hunter of Midwest Turbo to find a turbo solution that would make plenty of power and still serve its intended purpose. The next step was to drop the Chevelle off at Moore Race Chassis and Fabrication for a chassis upgrade.
“After looking over the rules, most local classes didn’t care about engine size or power adders, it just needed to be stock suspension and drivable on the street. So knowing that, I took the car to Matt Moore to make chassis upgrades with the intention of keeping this a stock suspension car that could handle a BBC with twin 88s. Matt made adjustments to the car to ensure the safety and strength of the chassis would never be an issue. The car now sports a 25.3 chassis with complete TRZ front suspension, Moser M9 rearend, and a set of Kinetic shocks,” Whitlow says.
When the chassis work was complete, Whitlow realized some changes also needed to be made to the turbo system, so he turned to longtime friend, Matt Allen, of Red Dragon Motorsports. Allen was tasked with moving the 88mm turbos, and that meant the radiator needed to find a new home in the rear of the car. A new set of headers and hot side were made by Allen to make the turbos fit, and the cold side was adjusted to finish off the build. Whitlow’s goal was to keep the car as factory-appearing as possible and still be easy to work on —Allen made all of this happen, and then some.
The Chevelle was now ready for its appointment to see Matt Bell at Redline Motorsports for some dyno time and tuning. Bell masterfully tickled the keys and put a nice 850 horsepower E85 street tune in the Holley EFI system. The race tune on Q16 laid down 1,400 horsepower and 1,600 lb-ft of torque before the engine ran out of injector headroom.
“My ultimate goal is for this car to be something my family can enjoy while still being competitive wherever I end up racing. I have a lot of work ahead of me and it will take some time to get the car exactly how I want it and be consistent. Luckily, with my friends and family around me, I think I can make this car work. Over time I will make the adjustments needed so the car can compete at a high level with all of the great small-tire cars in the Midwest and all over the country,” Whitlow states.
Daryl Whitlow’s Chevelle is one heck of a street car that turned out exactly how he wanted. It’s awesome to see a family get to enjoy a car together on the streets and cruise wherever they want. Don’t be fooled though, Whitlow’s Chevelle is more than capable of putting bus lengths on just about anything that it wants.