Who says you need tire sidewall to hook?
Daytona Beach, Florida racer Ozzy Acosta is proving to the contrary with every wheels-up launch of his 1981 Buick Regal, and he’s scaring off would-be competitors one by one in the process.
Acosta and his “Green Goblin” Regal are part of Florida’s fledgling big-wheel drag racing movement, comprised of cars racing on 22-inch and larger wheels that defy the common laws of drag racing but nevertheless exemplify the hot-rodding mentality through and through. Although such vehicles are commonly lumped into the category of a “donk,” this terminology is generally reserved for 1971-76 GM B-Bodies; later-model vehicles (like Acosta’s) and those of other makes are simply referred to as big-wheels, and the once-underground movement popularized in South Florida is permeating the rest of the country with grudge and legitimate organized drag racing events for the outlandish boulevard cruisers.
And as Acosta has shown, they’re no laughing matter. His Regal, powered by a small-block Chevrolet with a plate nitrous system, produces an estimated 600 horsepower on the squeeze. The car sports all the usual creature comforts: a complete sound system, full factory interior front and rear, a custom center console and door panels with built-in speakers along with amp racks, all contributing to its hefty race weight of nearly 4,400 pounds (a fact that makes its wheels-up launches all the more mesmerizing).
A lot of people say ‘oh, you put a bunch of concrete in the back,’ but no, I’ve got two 12-inch subwoofers in the trunk and that’s it.
“This is the only big-wheel car that’s picking both front wheels up this high on street tires — it comes up maybe two-feet. You’ll see other cars pick up the driver’s side a couple inches, but nothing like this.
For donk and big-wheel racers, the ongoing challenge is getting traction with the mandated 22-inch and larger street-compound tires — with minimal sidewall — while producing anywhere from 500 to 1,000 horsepower. With little ability to play with the weight balance in an already-too-heavy car, Acosta and the crew at Coast Chassis in Florida have instead dialed-in the suspension, which uses off-the-shelf aftermarket Lakewood shocks and springs on otherwise OEM suspension components to hang the hoops.
“It’s just hours and hours of suspension work and tuning. A lot of people say ‘oh, you put a bunch of concrete in the back,’ but no, I’ve got two 12-inch subwoofers in the trunk and that’s it. That’s more for my entertainment. People even thought the wheelstand was Photoshopped,” Acosta says.
Much of the big-wheel racing around the South, while organized, remains grudge in nature, meaning races are locked-in for cash and no times are shown. It also means that a race is never guaranteed until it goes off, and the wow-factor of Acosta’s Regal has cost him a race on more than one occasion.
“A couple times last year we went all the way up to Georgia, we were locked-in, and the guy didn’t even show up to pay the punk-out money. They would see how the car actually leaves in person and back out of the race,” he says.
Acosta, as you would expect, is tight-lipped on the true quarter-mile numbers of his Regal and swore us to secrecy, but for a 4,400-pound sled riding on rubber bands, it’s quite impressive. Quick as it is, Acosta says, “I will accept any challenge on anything with 22-inch wheels and up.”
Tony Bennett at Bennett Auto Center built and tunes Acosta’s small-block, while the aforementioned Coast Chassis has handled the suspension upgrades and tuning to help it scoot off the starting line in fervent fashion.
Videos courtesy Justin Malcolm