$10K Drag Shootout 3: Inside Team Home Grown And The Smell Camino

$10K Drag Shootout 3: Inside Team Home Grown And The Smell Camino

To say Team Home Grown is based around a family of hardcore racers is an understatement. A majority of this team entered in season three of the $10K Drag Shootout No Prep Edition are members of the Howe family. This clan has been into all levels of hardcore racing, including the operation of multiple successful dragstrips, along with street and no-prep-style competition, making them well-suited to this unique battle.

Team leader Jim Howe, Jr. is well known in heads-up, small tire, and no-prep circles along with his father, Jim Howe. Sr., and wife, Amanda Howe. Both are racers, as well. Jim describes Bret Moore as a world-class engine builder and head porter. Bret is teamed with David Reese, the talent for chassis fabrication.

The team came into the 10-day build competition a person short of a full line-up when Gary Barker required back surgery. “I knew that David and Bret would complement one another during the build just because of their overlapping talent, so it did not intimidate us in the slightest [being short one person],” Howe says. “The team we have will assist one another at the drop of a hat.”

The Car & Chassis

“We knew other teams wanted the Mustang, which was fine with us,” Howe clarifies. “We actually wanted either the S-10 or ultimately, the El Camino. We all had a comfort zone with working with either of those bodies.”

The team lightly modified the front suspension with cut coil springs and QA1 shocks. The shocks as well as a driveshaft loop and anti-roll bar from BMR Suspension, and even a roll cage, were provided. Chris Alston Chassisworks got the order for the overall X-brace style, 10-point cage assembly.

Moving to the rear suspension game plan, the team opted to install a ladder bar crossmember kit from Competition Engineering using their $7,000 gift card from Summit Racing Equipment as well as a set of used no-name ladder bars.

“I have been 4-seconds in the 1/8-mile with a ladder-bar suspension,” says Howe. “I knew from the start that whatever car we ended up with, ladder bars were our choice because of our chassis tuning experience.”

QA1 High Performance was great, supplying single-adjustable shocks for all four corners,” added Howe. “We exchanged the value of the single-adjustable shocks against a pair of QA1 double-adjustable shocks to combine with the ladder bars.”

Team Home Grown ultimately took the El Camino, which it named "Smell Camino" due to deceased critters that struck your nose whenever opening the doors.

When it came to the brakes, the team tried to skirt the rules a little, which ultimately hurt its cash budget. They used a Wilwood brake kit on the front and brought what they described as a used Yamaha retrofit brake kit for the rear. The rear brakes were caught by tech officials as actually a set of used TBM low-drag brakes.

The Powerplant

“Having never built a turbocharged or an LS-based engine, we needed lots of education before the build-off,” Howe says. “I can’t thank our personal friend, Phil Watson, enough. He is an ace LS engine builder, and he spent a lot of evenings teaching us the ins and outs.”

Jim admits when planning the build, the turbocharged Chevrolet LS combination was the best choice. Yet, it was the engine platform where team members had the least personal experience.

The team began with a boneyard 6.0L truck engine and used the factory iron block, crank, and rods, combined with new rod and main bearings from Clevite. The bottom-end also received a Moroso Performance oil pan and high-volume oil pump.

Team Home Grown chose MAHLE pistons for the turbo combo and worked with COMP Cams specialists to custom spec a hydraulic roller cam (Part #54-777-11) for the engine. Other valvetrain components, such as lifters, timing chain, and rocker arms, were factory GM hardware. A used set of 7.400-inch long pushrods from BTR Performance completed that area of the engine.

To outfit the El Camino cooling system, an aluminum racing radiator and high-performance water pump were provided by PRW Industries. A mini racing alternator from Tuff Stuff Performance combined with a Dyna-Batt dry cell battery supplied the power. An Express Series switch panel, Bare Bonz race wiring kit, and varied connectors were supplied by Ron Francis Wiring.

The cylinder heads were also 6.0L junkyard pieces receiving a thorough rebuild, including a BTR Performance valve spring and titanium retainer kit. E3 Spark Plugs filled the heads and were mated to E3 plug wires and LST race coils.

Lucas Oil supplied all the lubricants for each team. The ‘Camino is filled with Lucas SYN SAE 10W-40 racing oil, Sure Shift ATF fluid, and SYN L9 racing gear oil. In the shop, the teams utilized Lucas Oil racing engine assembly grease, brake parts cleaner, and contact cleaner.

COMP Cams worked with each team on their cam and valvetrain combination as needed. The Smell Camino received a cam featuring a lobe lift of .372-inch intake and .372-inch exhaust with a duration at .050-inch lift of 233-degrees intake and 243-degrees exhaust.

From the Summit Racing catalog, many other engine components were used, including ARP bolts, studs, and fasteners for the heads, main studs along with balancer, header, and bell housing bolts. A Trick Flow underdrive harmonic damper was selected.


The Howes were confident in their use of a GM Turbo-400 transmission — a raw junkyard piece was loaded up for the trek to the build competition, along with some used performance parts they scored with their cash allowance.

“With the new no-prep race format, launching with TH400 in Second gear was going to be a must,” Howe shares. “We know that transmission forward and backward. I compete with them quite a bit.”

Somehow, our Turbo-400 trans ended up with a billet clutch hub in it.  It was bead blasted to look like a stock one. The inspector questioned if it was a stock piece but didn’t know quite what it was (smiling.)  Our trans budget got hit for that one. If we really wanted to cheat, there were many things we could have tried. – Jim Howe, Jr.

A used Hughes Performance 10-inch diameter torque converter is coupled to the turbo. The Howes also hand-modified the trans pump to bleed some pressure from the torque converter.

Howe says, “We knew this rear would be plenty strong and we would be working with Moser Engineering and Spicer on the spool, gears, axles, and housing ends to modify the housing width as necessary.”

Induction, Power Adder & Fuel Supply

“We have raced with normally aspirated and supercharged setups our whole lives,” says Howe. “We just dove in and educated ourselves concerning turbochargers as much as possible before the build competition.”

The boneyard truck intake and throttle body were utilized. This intake was outfitted with new Bosch 210-pound injectors, specially designed for E85 use, as the team chose Renegade Racing Fuels Pro E85 as its fuel.

Diving into their turbocharger setup, the team selected a BorgWarner 80mm cast turbo mated with a pair of 50mm wastegates from VS Racing, along with a Holley EFI boost controller solenoid. A set of upswept Kooks headers were coupled to the turbo with CX Racing and Summit tubing.

The injector system was completed with a Summit Racing order that added a Summit Racing brand fuel rail kit and a Holley Terminator X Engine Management System. Injection is fed with a used Ron’s belt-driven fuel pump in combination with an Aeromotive pressure regulator, Holley Performance inline filter, and a Rhodes Race Cars 4-gallon fuel cell.

“I personally wanted to give Adam Hodson from Team MAK a big thank you for his initial help,” Howe comments. “As we finished the engine, I felt like the biggest dummy that had ever been. Here we got this thing done, and oh, wow, we’re not sure how to begin with the initial program to start it up!”

The Dyno

The El Camino was the first to be pushed upon the chassis dyno. The entire team felt good for two reasons; they afforded some time to work anything out on the dyno, and they scored their sixth team member.

“Some sort of fallout between Team Out In Front and Karl Pritz resulted in Pritz walking away from their group,” Howe tells. “With a flash, I jumped on proposing to Karl that he join our team, and he did.”

With Amanda behind the throttle, they netted approximately 750-horsepower with the first hit. Howe said, “Karl made various tweaks to the tune, and we went for our second pull. That is where all hell broke loose.”

The second pull resulted in what Howe describes as “the 6.0 engine comes unwound and what you hear is like God stepped on your ass.”

A dome pressure sensor failed during the pull resulting in the wastegate crammed shut by the boost controller. The malfunction pushed the heads off the block with what was described as water flying everywhere and the radiator cap going airborne. The engine damage ended their dyno opportunities.


“We rushed back to our garage area, and before the end of the day, Bret, Dad, and Amanda had the heads off of the car, had them welded up at a local shop, resurfaced, then came back and had it running in under two hours.”

Despite the dyno setbacks, the team is enthused. The “Smell Camino” weighs in at 3,350-pounds and features everything they hoped to achieve.

Mickey Thompson supplied all teams with racing rubber. They mounted 3005s rear slicks onto a pair of used Weld Racing 15x10 Prostar wheels. Mickey 3002-series ET Front tires were mounted on a pair of used Cragar wheels scrounged by the team.

“The second dyno session just peaked at 965-horsepower before the calamity,” Howe finishes. “If all holds together following the rebuild, we have the car to beat.”

Make sure you tune into the conclusion of season 3 of the $10K Drag Shootout: No Prep Edition aired on the MAVTV network and HorsepowerWars.com, and follow along with us on Facebook and Instagram. See Team Home Grown head to Barona Dragstrip with their hefty 6.0/turbo combination and see how they fare against their smaller cubic-inch competition.

Team Home Grown “Smell Camino” Car Specifications

Vehicle: 1979 Chevrolet El Camino
Weight: 3,350 lbs, plus 200 lbs via “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” rule

Driver’s Helmet:
Impact Champ SNELL15 – #13015312
Driver’s Gloves: Impact G6 SFI3.3/5 – #34200310
Driver’s Suit: Impact SFI 3.2A/15 –  Jacket #28210000, Pants #28220000
Safety Harness: Impact 5-Point Harness– #13015312
Engine Diaper: Summit Racing engine diaper – #SUM-0590200
Windshield: Optic Armor –#19047-01
Engine and Bellhousing Fasteners: ARP Bolts

Chassis and Suspension
Roll cage kit:
Chris Alston Chassisworks – 10-Point Rollcage X Brace Style #7003
Ladder Bar Crossmember:
Competition Engineering #CEE-2019
Wheel Tubs: Summit Racing® Rear Fenderwells – #SUM-G7908
Driveshaft Loop: BMR – #BMR-DSL003
Roll Bar Padding: Summit Racing 45.1 Padding – #SUM-510305
Harness Mounting Tabs: Summit Racing Mounting Tabs – #SUM-510312
Chassis tube adapters: Summit Racing Equipment chassis tube adapters – #SUM-G7880
Steering, steering column, steering wheel: El Camino stock
Seat: RCI aluminum race seat – used

Switch Panel:
Ron Francis, Express Series Switch Panel – Pro Race Version – #SP-80
Switch Panel: Bare Bonz Race Wiring Kit – #BB16
Battery: Dynabatt 12v by Performance Distributors – #5575A
Battery box: Moroso Performance  – #74051
Battery switch: Moroso battery disconnect switch – #74101
Alternator: Tuff Stuff Mini Racer 1 Wire – #TFF-7937BST6G

Front shocks: QA1 Stocker Star, single adjustable – #STS801
Front springs: Stock, cut
Rear shocks: QA1 Proma Star shocks, double adjustable – #QA1-DD501
Rear springs: QA1 Coilover Spring, 150 lbs./in. Rate, 12 in – #QA1-12CS150
Shock Mounts: AllStar, coil-over, rear, upper, kit – #AAF-ALL60230
Front brakes: Wilwood Drag Front Brakes, GM G-Body – #140-1033-BD
Rear Brakes: TBM brakes — used
Master Cylinder: Wilwood M/C Tandem, Compact – #260-15540-BK
Brake Line Kit: Wilwood Flexline Kit– #220-7056

Transmission: Turbo 400 core
Valve Body: TH400 manual valve body with transbrake– used
Torque Converter: Hughes 4500 Stahl Gm45B Converter– used
Shifter: “Quarter Stick Powerglide with button” – #HUU-3160001
Transmission safety blankQA1et: Summit Racing transmission blanket – #SUM-590300
Mid-Mount Plate: Competition Engineering Mid-Mount – #CEE-4031
Front Motor Plate: 1/4″ Aluminum Plate – used

Rear End Housing: Used Ford 8.8 housing
Rear end gear:
Spicer Ring & Pinion – 8.8 3.73 ratio – #10004662
Axles, spool, axle bearings, rear end cover, drive studs: Moser Engineering 30-spline 8.8 Ford kit
Housing Ends: Moser Engineering housing ends – #MSR-9750

Front wheels: Cragar 15- x 4-inch – used
Rear wheels: Weld Wheel 15×10 Pro Star – used
Lug Nuts: Enemies Everywhere, titanium rear lug nuts 5/8″ – donated
Front tires: Mickey Thompson 26.0/4.0-15 ET Front – #MTT-30071
Rear tires: Mickey Thompson P275/60R15 ET Street Radial Pro – #MTT-3754x

Engine block, crankshaft, rings:
GM LS 6.0 junkyard assembly
Pistons: Mahle Pin 24 x 13 x 58.1mm ch144g – #197871200 
Rods: SCAT H-Beam Connecting Rods LS1 – #SCA-66100945
Rod bearings: Clevite, H Series, .001 in thinner – #CLE-CB663HN 
Main bearings: Clevite, Main Bearings, H Series, 1/2 Groove, Standard Size – #CLE-MS2199H
Head bolts, studs, fasteners: ARP Bolts
Damper: TrickFlow underdrive harmonic damper – #TFS-18012
Oil Pan: Moroso GM LS A-Body Rear Sump – #MOR-20150
Starter: Proform High-Torque Starter – #PRO-66277

Cylinder heads: 6.0L engine heads
Valves: stock
Valve springs: BTR valve spring kit w/titanium retainer – #BTC-SK001T0560B
Camshaft: COMP Cams custom ground camshaft – #CCA-54-000-11
          Cam specs: Duration at .050: 251/267, Lift: .638/.639, 117 LSA
Rocker Arms, Lifters, timing chain: Stock GM
Pushrods: BTR used 7.400 length – used
Head gaskets: Ridgecrest 4.030 Clevite copper Head Gaskets – used
Gaskets – oil pan, exhaust, water pump, fuel pump – Victor Reinz

Engine Oil: Lucas Oil Racing high-performance motor oil – #10911-1
Automatic Transmission Fluid: Lucas semi-synthetic sure shift – #10052-1
Rear End Fluid: Lucas Racing only gear oil — #LUC-10458
Assembly grease: Lucas Oil Assembly grease – #LUC-10891-1

Radiator: PRW Industries racing radiator 19- x 29-inch – #PQX-5421931
Water pump: PRW Industries Water pump motor and housing assembly – #PQX-4494495

Power Adder, Engine Electronics, and Induction
BorgWarner 80mm cast – #BWW-177287
Wastegate: VS Racing Wastegate – #VSG-VSR50WG
Boost Controller: 
BorgWarner 80mm cast – #HLY-557-201
: Holley Terminator X Engine Management System – #HLY-550-903
MAP Sensor: Holley – #HLY-554-108
Nitrous Solenoid Driver: NOS Relays, Solid State – #NOS-15620NOS
Throttle body: Stock GM
Throttle cable: Lokar, Black, 48 inch – #LOK-TC1000LS1U48
EFI intake: Stock GM truck
Fuel injectors: Bosch 210lb 2200cc –  #0280158821
Ignition coils: E3
 racing ignition coils pack set – #E3-600
Ignition wires: E3 DiamondFIRE Heat-Sleeved Racing Ignition Wires – #E3-1509
Spark plugs: E3 racing spark plugs – #ETP-E3-109
CO2 Bottle: Shifnoid, CO2, 1/4-inch hose, 20-feet – #DED-AB25K
Fuel pump: Ron’s Racing belt drive – used
Fuel regulator: Aeromotive return regulator – used
Fuel filter: Holley -12AN inline – #HLY-162-575

Turbo Flange: Vibrant Inlet Turbo Flange – #VPE-1417
V-Band: Summit V-Band Clamp O-Ring Seal – #SUM-695830
Inlet Tubing: CX Racing assorted 90°-bends, u-bends, v-bands – used
Tubing Couplers: Vibrant aluminum clamp assembly – #VPE-12518

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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