Faster. Stronger. Harder. That’s the motto of the FSH Performance group, a team comprised of the feared Donk racing hot-shot known as “Deep” and Radial vs the World small tire standout driver Calvin Franco. Together with backing from Founderz, the men have assembled a stunning new G-body, purpose-built to take on the Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings (NPK) circuit – and more.
Operating out of an undisclosed location, Deep’s “Donkzilla” 1972 Chevrolet Impala is arguably the quickest in the world. He’s no stranger to going all-in on projects, and together with Franco, their latest collaboration has been showing signs of serious potential.
The guys got their Buick Grand National from a junkyard in South Carolina on May 18, 2022. Although it had already been stripped fairly bare, NPK’s requisite steel roof and quarters were still in place along with the floor pan, basic body panels, and VIN tags. The next few months were spent prepping and accumulating parts.
“Originally, it was supposed to be a 24-inch slick tire car that we would eventually do some 275 radial racing with, but the next thing we knew, we decided to build it to fit big tires in case we wanted to go that direction,” shares Franco, the main man orchestrating the logistics, planning, and overall setup, while Todd Buckner of T&T Fabrication tackled the hands-on work.
The first bar of the Pro Mod-esque 6.0-second SFI-certified double framerail chassis went in on December 2, 2022. From there, it wasn’t long before the engine – a Noonan Race Engineering-headed 521 cubic inch Hemi – was situated in its new home. To supply the boost to the beast, the men selected a potent PSI screw supercharger equipped with an intimidating C-rotor, then added a set of FuelTech injectors and a Bohr Racing Products blower hat.
“We wanted to be different and prove it can be better,” Franco notes on why he and Deep chose to run a Holley electronic fuel injection system instead of the traditional mechanical method. “It gives us more control over the tuning, too.”
Initially, a Liberty five-speed with a lock-up converter had been installed. “We all know the five-speed with a blower on 275s is hands-down the quickest,” laughs Franco, who has since switched the G-body to utilize a different gearbox. “We’re also running Chris Alston’s VariShocks in the front, QA1 shocks in the rear, a Precision Shaft Technologies carbon-fiber driveshaft, and two different Hammer Concepts and Designs rearends.”
Given that the original plan was to run on 24-inch (big wheel) tires and/or 275 radials, but was later amended to allow for big tires as well, Deep okayed having two separate units assembled so the car can easily be converted over to run on whatever tire is needed for any given weekend.
Additionally, three separate sets of wheels (high-end Forgiato forged wheels for the 24-inch tires, a set of Weld Racing wheels for the 275s, and 16×20-inch Race Star Wheels for the big slicks) allow the ultimate in flexibility when it comes to competition. “It’s very hard to build a car to do three things and do them well, but we want to be the best and we’re not giving up for any reason,” asserts Deep, proud owner of the showpiece.
Just five weeks before the Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings season opener in early June at Hebron, Ohio’s National Trail Raceway, the guys decided they were going to give it a try. Thanks to a strong suggestion from Street Outlaws producer Sam Korkis to do something different, Comp-Cal quickly changed the Buick’s color with a new vinyl wrap and transformed its former basic black to an eye-catching white.
Other details, such as the Grand National emblems on the sides and the GN heritage arrows incorporated into the side stripes, along with carbon accents, come together to create an aesthetic that is both relatable and exceptional. “We wanted to make it look as real as possible, so Todd [Buckner] took a Feather Carbon front end and hood, molded them together, then cut and widened it,” adds Franco of the bespoke body.
Given that Deep and Franco met years ago when both were street racing on the streets of California’s bay area, Deep decided to officially christen his car with a name that held a double meaning. “Da-Bag” references not only “da big bag” of money they race for and hope to win, but is also a clever acronym for “Bay Area G-body.”
“Two weeks before filming, we found out we were for sure going to be invited into the show,” explains Franco. With a deadline looming, the guys thrashed on buttoning up the G-body until the very last minute. “We put the car on the two-step for the first time on June 1, 2023, which was the Thursday before the event and got to the track that same night.”
Shaking down an untested car in front of a crowd can be nerve-wracking, and although Franco kept his cool, the car didn’t cooperate. “It was terrible, but nobody’s fault,” he affirms. “A fuel pressure sensor thought it lost pressure, so when it left the line, it stumbled and shook the tires.” The second hit resulted in Da-Bag blowing its tires off, and the guys headed home.
Things went well initially during a test session at Darlington Dragway in South Carolina, but Franco was unpleasantly surprised on a subsequent run when the passenger side window blew out around the 500-foot mark and he had to lift. “The tune-up looked good, but when everything’s new, you have to run it to see what will fail and need to be bolstered,” he adds.
After Buckner repaired the errant window, the guys headed to Virginia Motorsports Park for the second NPK race of the year. Still busy sorting out some of the bugs, the performance went “okay” overall, but hopes were high when they pulled into Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota the following weekend.
Unfortunately, a shifting issue meant the Buick shook its tires severely between gear changes and Franco had his hands full. “We got picked to run on Boddie’s team and I drew one of the ‘lucky chips’ after the Race-Your-Way-In so I knew I’d be in the big show on Saturday,” recalls the driver, who wound up going for a wild ride as transmission fluid from the dump solenoid got under the Buick’s passenger side rear tire and shot him right across the track.
Fortunately, Franco did a fantastic driving job and avoided collecting Kallee Mills in the opposing lane while he spun a full 720 degrees down the centerline. It was truly a thrilling “hero” moment, albeit not quite the one the guys had been hoping for.
“We jumped back into testing but the car was fighting us and doing stupid stuff left and right,” states Franco. The guys were off to Kentucky’s Beech Bend Raceway Park and New Hampshire’s New England Dragway for the fourth and fifth stops of the 2023 NPK tour, respectively but didn’t have much time to test in between or were met with wet weather when they did.
Still struggling to find the performance sweet spot despite the top-shelf parts used in the build, Deep and Franco connected with “King Tut” Todd Tutterow and trusted the legendary big tire racer’s expertise. Tutterow recommended replacing the Liberty transmission with a Lenco unit and pairing it with an FTI non-lockup torque converter for softer shifts on the unforgiving no-prep surface while also invoking a weight break.
Just a few weeks before the next NPK event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the men figured out the shock setup was “way out in left field” and went over the car with a fine-toothed comb. Tutterow also worked closely with Franco on adjusting the Holley EFI tune-up, as he would explain what he wanted to be done on the mechanical side for fuel and timing changes and Franco would “convert” the request into the EFI system.
Back on track for testing, Da-Bag cooperated for three days in a row. Running fast and straight, it seemed like the worst was behind them.
“We ended up at GALOT Motorsports Park [in North Carolina] and still had a small issue where it would shake a little,” says Franco, who had a few things in mind to change on the following day. “The last pass of the night, though, it went out about 500 feet and I shut the car off, then coasted into the shutdown area, and it blew the right front tire and pulled me into the wall.”
It wasn’t just a small incident, either, as the initial impact smashed the front strut and caused the car to drive itself into the retaining wall – hard. “So, then it was flame, fire, and the whole nine yards, all because the oil from the strut and the brakes got on the header,” laments the driver. Franco pulled the fire system and was able to mitigate the damage, but the entire front half of the Buick would have to be redone as a result and he wasn’t able to make it to the Tulsa race after all.
With one issue after another plaguing the FSH Performance team, the guys are eager to show off what their Bay Area G-body can truly do. Sadly, while they wait for new body pieces to be delivered, they’ll have to sit out the upcoming events in Idaho and Colorado, but are hoping to be rolling again in time for the September outing in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“In the meantime, we’re busy finishing engines to try and stay ahead of the curve. We’ll need to finish testing it, but we both want to see it perform well,” Franco relays of the plan, which also includes eventually running Da-Bag on 275 radial tires and tall 24-inch tires. Fortunately, the beautiful screw-blown Grand National’s owner, Deep, shares the same tenacity as he believes “you gotta go through tough times to appreciate the victories…if you’re not learning, you’re not living.”