It’ll be hard to miss Darryl Phelps this season when he makes his Pro Modified debut. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native will, later this season, embark into the new racing venture behind the wheel of one of the most visually striking machines in the sport, which borrows on the themes of his native bayou heritage.
Phelps, with other fast door-car experience under his belt, purchased a Tim McAmis C7 Corvette chassis and body kit five years ago, and with the help of good friend and chassis builder Darrell Escoyne (insert ‘other brother Darrell’ jokes here) spent five years assembling the car.
I’m a hobbyist, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of people over the years. I used to help out Mike Moran back in the Fastest Street Car Shootout days, and in recent years got away from it, but I’ve been wanting to get back into racing.” He did so by diving right into the deep-end, purchasing one of the first C7 Corvette bodies and chassis available to go heads-up racing in the deep South.
“That body is number six out of the mold from McAmis — it’s the lightweight version of the carbon-fiber body,” Phelps says.
Phelps, a welding planner in the nuclear power industry by trade, has taken up maintenance on older “R” and “A” model Whipple superchargers on the side — he says the magnesium cases they’re made from require a special skillset not everyone has training in — and as such, he’ll utilize a familiar A980 unit on his Corvette. The beefy supercharger, which was commonplace in outlaw Pro Mod racing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, will sit atop a big-block Chevrolet based powerplant, with a New Century aluminum block (similar in design to Keith Black Oldsmobile blocks) and Brodix 14.5-degree heads, measuring out to 540 cubic-inches. The block, effectively a hybrid between a Hemi and a BBC, uses Chevrolet main bearings and Hemi rod bearings, thus using a 481X-style crankshaft. The deck pattern allows any BBC heads to be bolted on.
He’ll back it up with a three-speed LencoDrive and a Bradco converter.
The Whipple, which weighs about 80-pounds more than its modern-day screw-type counterparts, displaces a larger 9.8-liters, and as such, is run at around 65-70 percent overdrive, versus 125 on the newer units.
“I’m not sure if it’ll keep up with the Hemi boys, but it’s what I’ve got for now. Hopefully over time we’ll be able to swap over to the Hemi.”
The most talked-about part of this car, though, is its exterior theme. Despite it being a wrap and not paint — a fact some will bemoan — several weeks of work went into designing from scratch and perfecting the graphics that adorn every inch of this C7, and the finish product is plenty worthy of acclaim.
“The original idea was that I was going to have the first Z06-based C7 Corvette to come out. My wife has a C6 model that we raced, and we were going to do it up in blue to match her car. But it took so long to get the car built — life happens, and we had some different challenges — and since there were so many out there by the time we finished it, that was going to be cookie-cutter. So we’ve been talking the last couple years, and the thing we think is missing in Pro Mod is diversity…the ‘wow’ factor for the fans. My wife and her daughter brought up the idea of a Mardi Gras theme, and we felt like it’d be better for the class and bring along some fan appeal.”
Phelps gave Kryptonite Kustomz in Oklahoma some general design requests: beads, balloons, and masks. Over two months time, Kryptonite’s team mocked up the car and developed the scheme, putting the finishing touches on it late last week.
Phelps’ wife, who makes and sells Madi Gras-style craft items online and provided the product for Kryptonite to model into the scheme, plans to give masks to fans at the races, adding much-needed fan interaction into the experience.
The team will race around the South with the Southern Outlaw Tour, the Open Outlaw series, and the ADRL at its events in the region.