EVERYONE has their own idea of the perfect holiday, whether it’s sunbaking on the beach, gawking at historical monuments or wasting away your life savings in Vegas. But what about five days of drag racing? For Gino Aiello, Drag Challenge 2019 sounded like the ideal getaway.
This article was first published in the June 2020 issue of Street Machine
“It was the perfect opportunity to have some time away with the boys without having to worry about anything else,” Gino says. “We had a ripper of a time.”
While his approach to the event may have been fairly relaxed, Gino’s choice of weapon was anything but: a beastly 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS sporting over 900hp of supercharged LSX goodness.
We featured Gino’s Chevelle in great detail in Street Machine LSX Tuner #8, but here’s the basic rundown: an LSX 454 crate engine livened up further with a VCM 883 camshaft, Magnuson TVS2300 blower, bigger injectors and an E76 Chevy Performance ECU running flex-fuel for both pump 98 and E85, with all the work carried out by VCM Performance. The result is 900hp and 900lb-ft of torque, sent via a TH400 with an SDE 3800rpm converter to the upgraded Ford nine-inch and 275 drag radials on the track.
The rest of the car had been given a full resto in the US before it made its way over here and eventually into Gino’s hands. At that time it ran an old-school big-block. But while the Chevelle now sports the much more contemporary LSX, it was never Gino’s intention to build an all-out drag machine. “I just wanted a tough street car to cruise around in, and then if we took it racing that’d be something we could do later,” he says.
However, with 900hp on tap, getting the car ready for Drag Challenge required more than just sticking a set of radials under the massive rear arches. Gino gave Jamie from Full Flight Engineering the job of fitting a rollcage, parachute and front seats to ensure the car was all clear to run as quick as eight seconds without any dramas. “We did one test a few weeks before Drag Challenge, but other than that the car had never raced before,” he says.
The Chevelle still retains the left-hook steering, now with a full rollcage and a new pair of front seats to keep it safe in sub-10sec territory on the track
Last year was Gino’s first crack at Drag Challenge, and for the most part it was a fairly successful campaign. “We had zero dramas on the road, no overheating or anything,” he says. “We had the car stacked up with people and a fully loaded trailer and it was fine.”
The trailer Gino and the boys dragged behind the big Yank tank is also an impressive piece of kit. “A mate of mine built it just two weeks out from Drag Challenge, and it’s a beautiful trailer,” says Gino. “It’s got carpet on the floor and lights inside, and it towed really well”
But while Gino did get the car down the strip at each track, he was plagued by an underlying fuelling issue.
“Every run we had, the car was starving for fuel,” he says. “The quickest run we got was on Day One, and the car still hesitated two to three times down the track.”
This Chevelle is a factory 454 car, which was one of the reasons Gino went with the LSX 454 when choosing a new donk from this side of the millennium. “I was aiming around the 1000hp mark, but the big-block the car came with couldn’t get there,” he says. “Plus, the 454 LSX keeps with the 454 heritage of the car”
On that day at Calder, Gino posted a 10.63@124mph, followed by 7.11@96mph and 8.55@89mph over the eighth-mile at Mildura on Tuesday and Wednesday. Day Four saw an 8.26@82mph over the Portland eighth, and Gino completed the week back at Calder with a 10.78@124mph.
“It was pretty frustrating, because we know the car should go into the mid-nines pretty easily,” Gino says of the fuel problems. “We’ve fixed that issue now with a swirl pot, and it’ll get a Haltech soon as well.”
Despite the setbacks, Gino still thoroughly enjoyed his first crack at Drag Challenge. “It was great; everybody is awesome, with no egos,” he says. “It’s a really well run event. I’ll definitely be doing the next one.”
Gino plans on bringing a brand new ZL1 Camaro to run with his son at the next Drag Challenge, but there’s no doubt we’ll see the big bad Chevelle back at the track in the future.
1970 CHEVY CHEVELLE SS
Class: Haltech Radial Blown
Engine: Chevrolet Performance LSX 454
Blower: Magnuson TVS2300 Heartbeat
ECU: Chevrolet Performance E67
Trans: GM TH400 three-speed
Converter: SDE 3800rpm
Diff: 9in, 3.7:1 gears
Previous PB: N/A
Best DC 2019 Pass: 10.63@124mph