If your family has been perfecting a combination and winning with it since the 1960s, why change the formula? Alan O’Brien and his father have been using AMC power in their racecars for decades and that has extended to O’Brien’s Race Tech-built Top Dragster. With 499 cubic-inches of AMC power and a pair of turbos, O’Brien has been able to rip off sub-six second passes all while staying true to his family’s racing heritage.
When O’Brien was just 16 years old his father became a factory driver for AMC and began his affiliation with the upstart brand. For his first car, O’Brien raided his father’s parts bin and built his own AMC to drive from whatever he could find, that’s where he learned the art of building a car. After trying his hand at racing on the street one time, O’Brien decided the track was a better fit for him so he converted his AMC to a full-blown racecar and hasn’t looked back.
“I spent a lot of time racing in the 10.90 IHRA Hot Rod class and had fun with that. I built a tube-chassis AMX back in the ’70s and moved to the 9.90 class, but then quit racing in the 1980s to start a business. I started back to racing in the late 1990s with a dragster and moved up to Top Dragster where I’m at now,” O’Brien says.
With decades of experience working with different AMC engines, O’Brien has found what works best and he enjoys doing something that nobody else does. Learning how to make massive power with the AMC brand has been a family bonding experience with his father as they unlock the secrets of the platform.
The Racetech dragster that O’Brien pilots in the NHRA Division 3 Top Dragster category currently uses a 499 cubic-inch Visner Engine Development billet block and intake that was assembled by Barry Alan. A pair of Precision turbos pump boost through the turbo system built by Race Tech, while a BigStuff 3 ECU controls everything as the Racepak components collect data. A Powerglide transmission from Weaver’s Automotive and a torque converter from Greg Slack Converters apply the massive power that has rocketed the dragster to a best elapsed time of 5.97 and 239 mph.
Since O’Brien’s father began his racing career as a part of the original AMC racing program behind the wheel of a 1968 Hurst-built AMX in Super Stock, you would think that he would follow in his father’s doorcar footsteps. In reality, when it came time to take his racing career to the next level O’Brien had to take a different path.
“I started racing in Top Dragster because I didn’t have enough money to buy a door car to race in Top Sportsman at the time. When IHRA brought the class out it was the quickest and fastest sportsman class at the time and that really attracted me to it, as well. I started running it the first year it came out with an all-motor AMC combination and was able to run in the low seven-second range. We went nitrous for a while, but could only crack into the 6.60s. After watching an episode of Pass Time with my dad we got the idea to move to a turbo setup and haven’t looked back,” O’Brien explains.
In a class dominated by big cubic-inch nitrous engines and supercharged engines O’Brien’s twin-turbo AMC-powered dragster stands out. His decision to stick with his AMC roots lets him enjoy racing with what he knows and by integrating new technology he can run with anybody in the class on raceday.