How many people can say they purchased an 8-second car over the phone, sight unseen? Well, Dave Vasser, commonly known as “Nitro Dave,” is one who did. In 2009, Vasser, owner of Nitrous Outlet, bought a 2000 Camaro SS with a 10-point cage. It was supposed to be a “turn-key” 8-second car. Dave quickly regretted the purchase.
“When the car arrived, it had signs of kissing a guard rail on the passenger side,” Dave explains. “The converter came apart on the first pass and took out the transmission and the intake manifold had been ported so thin that I accidentally pushed my thumb through the runner.”
photos by: Devin Duckworth
Dave casually worked on the car when time and finances allowed. In 2011, Matt King loaned Dave a LS2 402 cubic inch engine. John Goebel built a Powerglide transmission with a stall converter. They rewired the car and Sykora Truck painted the car Hugger Orange. “Orange Juice” was beginning to come together.
The intake manifold had been ported so thin that I accidentally pushed my thumb through the runner. -Dave Vasser
The problems didn’t end there. The engine had mix and match internals. The cylinder walls were egg-shaped, and the pistons were slapping the heads. “The wiring was an absolute nightmare,” remarked Dave. He also noticed that due to the poor quality cage install, the car was extremely unsafe. His new toy got parked for two years.
The first few track outings on radials were unsuccessful due to a lack of traction. Nitro Dave reached out to Brian at Madman & Co. Brian, known as “Madman,” provided a list of suspension and chassis setup changes to perform. With the changes Madman suggested, Dave’s car pulled a 1.21 60-foot and ran a best of a 5.48 at 125.44 mph in the ⅛-mile and an 8.65 at 145.42 in the quarter. The Camaro was an 8-second car!
In 2011, a 5.48-second ⅛-mile pass was a fairly fast time for your average street/strip car. Dave realized people who relied on him didn’t want to see him get mangled up in a poorly-built race car, and he decided that he needed to address the widow-maker cage in the car before going back to the track. What Dave didn’t know was that the decision to redo the cage would turn into an eight-year-long complete rebuild project.
With the help of Charles Bourassa, Dave replaced the 10-point cage and built a removable front clip using the factory fenders and front bumper. The 10-point cage was converted to a 25.3 certification. After the cage was upgraded, the car sat in the back of the Nitrous Outlet shop for about a year waiting for Dave to find the desire to finish it. He was also waiting for Brian at Madman & Co. to have an opening so that Madman could finish the rest of the chassis fabrication.
Once all the chassis fabrication was finished, Elco Powder Coating sandblasted and powder-coated the entire chassis. Then the car went to J&M Collision, where John Amador put his talents to work with the paint and bodywork. John repainted the car Hugger Orange once again. The name Orange Juice would stay. After paint and body were completed, then the reassembly started. The car went to Illinois where Midwest Chassis installed a carbon Kostick Racing hood and carbon-fiber doors, VFN Fiberglass rear hatch, and a Midwest Chassis custom fabricated wing. After Midwest Chassis was done, the car went to RaceWire Solutions, where Brian Black wired the entire car.
This is the longest I have ever kept a car. I guess you could say I’m married to it and we have a love/hate relationship. – Dave Vasser
In May of 2017, Orange Juice was beginning to come together again. The reason the project was taking so many years to complete was that Vasser was building his business.
“Throughout the years of building the Nitro Dave corporation, I was never able to afford to keep my hot rods very long,” Dave said.” I always had to sell cars off to turn a profit and reinvest back into the company. A fast-growing company comes at a great expense of time and financial strain, despite the perception that all small business owners are loaded.” Dave admitted the over-the-phone purchase of the fourth-gen F-body was a bad decision and because the car was so poorly built, the amount of money and time he has invested in it has turned it into a project that will never be profitable. According to Dave, “This is the longest I have ever kept a car. I guess you could say I’m married to it and we have a love/hate relationship.”
The car was finally assembled in Waco, Texas and A lot of people threw their talents at the build to help Dave out. Jonathan Cornelson of Mohawk Racing was kind enough to loan Vasser a Henson Race Engines 434 cubic-inch LSX engine. John from CID Heads supplied a higher-performing intake manifold for the engine, while Rodney from RPM Transmissions built a new Powerglide. Dave contacted Joe from ProTorque, who then built a billet bolt-together converter for the car. Robin from Holley supplied a Dominator ECU. Davis Technologies provided a state-of-the-art traction control device, thanks to Shannon. Eric from Midwest Chassis supplied all the front suspension, andTom from Mickey Thompson supplied new drag radials. It was time to hit the track.
In September of 2018, Orange Juice made its debut at No Mercy 9 held at South Georgia Motorsports Park. The debut meant Dave was driving an untested car.”We battled ignition issues all weekend and ended up burning a valve,” he explains. Allen Martin from Texarkana Nitrous and James Livingston pulled the head off Orange Juice and drove it to Voss Racing in Florida where they did a fresh valve job. Allen and Aaron Cashwell spent all night putting the car back together while Dave fell asleep watching. The guys finished reassembly as the first round of eliminations was called to the lanes. “Unfortunately we were eliminated first round due to our ignition issues,” Dave shares, “but, the amount of testing and technical help we received over the weekend saved us months getting the car figured out.”
After No Mercy, Dave landed the perfect partnership with the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology (SAM Tech). Moving forward, Orange Juice will be used as a marketing and teaching tool for both Nitrous Outlet and SAM Tech. In the event that the engine is hurt, it will be removed and taken back to SAM Tech; The students will review the computer logs to see where the engine became unhappy, then disassemble it to access the damage and repair it. For the first compilation with SAM Tech, Allen Martin pulled the engine and Dave drove it to the school. The students pulled the engine apart, changed the crank to a center weight crank, changed the pistons to be more nitrous-friendly, and softened the chambers on the heads.
With a fresh engine, the team had a new goal in sight: to be ready for Lights Out in February 2019 at South Georgia. Allen Martin got Orange Juice ready and the team was able to head to XRP in Ferris, Texas, to test the weekend before leaving for Lights Out. Unfortunately for Orange Juice, the testing did not go well: The car went up on two wheels and came down hard, crushing the oil pan and bending the lower control arms. The car never made a full pass. Midwest Chassis next-day-aired Dave a set of lower A-arms, and his fabrication shop rebuilt the oil pan. The following weekend they towed out to Lights Out. Again, Orange Juice and Vasser were at one of the largest races of the year with a truly untested car. The team went into qualifying with no real test passes. The reality was, neither Orange Juice nor Vasser had made an actual full pass down any track since 2011. The good news is that at the event they were finally able to accomplish three full passes down the track.
With 3-degrees of total timing and 700 psi bottle pressure, the car completed a 5.01 ⅛-mile at 138.27 mph with a stunning 1.12 60-foot time on radial tires. Unfortunately, traction issues resulted in being eliminated during the first round of eliminations again. David says he will not attend another event until he has successfully made some fast passes under full power.
Dave describes his 10-year long love/hate passion project as a marriage. Orange Juice is a car he has owned longer than any other in his lifetime, and it was a car he purchased over the phone from an ad in Racing Junk back in 2009. Now it is a beautiful F-body with tons of potential and power. With some more R&D and seat time, we should see an orange blur barreling down the track while sucking down massive amounts of nitrous from Nitrous Outlet in the near future.