Bracket and index racing are the real backbone of drag racing in the United States. Every weekend you’ll find racers at tracks across the country slapping a dial-in on their race car and trying to run the number. This type of racing requires a lumberjack at the startling line to chop down the tree and surgical precision at the top end to race the stripe if you want to win. One of the coolest things about bracket and index racing is anybody with a vehicle that passes a basic tech inspection can race and win.
We have built some pretty amazing project cars here at Dragzine over the years that have won championships in heads-up racing, but it was time to start a project that was based more in the bracket racing world. So, with that in mind Project Number Cruncher was created to tackle bracket racing.
The weapon of choice is a 1996 Pontiac Firebird that’s seen grudge racing action, and it’s the perfect starting point for this project. The car already has a stout 8.50 certified roll cage, is fully wired, and has been plumbed for racing duty. Under the car is a Moser 9-inch rearend, aftermarket lower control arms, and torque arm, too. Number Cruncher has also been mini-tubbed, so we have plenty of room to fit larger slicks or radials under the Pontiac.
To power Project Number Cruncher, we’re building an LS-based engine that will make plenty of naturally-aspirated power. The School of Automotive Machinists (SAM Tech) is known for not only educating tomorrow’s engine builders, but they also can build a mean LS engine. They jumped on board to assist with the design and assembly of Number Cruncher’s 427 cubic-inch LS mill.
Now, the LS we’re building is a little different than your typical OEM-based engine — we went big with the help of Dart. The block is one of Dart’s iron LS SHP units that will be filled with a Dart center-weight crankshaft, K1 connecting rods, Wiseco pistons, Mahle bearings, and Total Seal rings. Keeping the engine lubricated will be a Melling oil pump. The top end of the engine will feature a set of Dart’s Pro1 LS7 285cc cylinder heads, matching intake manifold, and a camshaft from COMP Cams. Everything will be held together by ARP hardware when SAM Tech is finished assembling the engine.
Lighting off the combustion process will be a set of MSD coils and spark plug wires. The engine will be kept cool by a Meziere water pump, and exhaust gasses will be handled by a set of American Racing Headers custom headers. The fuel system will feature a Holley fuel pump, filters, and regulator that will feed all of the race gas to a set of Fuel Injector Clinic fuel injectors. Controlling the engine will be a FuelTech FT550 ECU via a FuelTech LS550 wiring harness.
Currently, the Firebird is set up for a small-block Chevy and TH400 transmission, so we will be making some changes to the engine mounting system. We’re also going to swap transmissions to an FTI-built Powerglide and use one of FTI’s bolt-together torque converters for project Number Cruncher.
Once we get the engine back from SAM Tech the plan is to start putting the car together and taking all of our readers along for the journey, and you’ll have a front-row seat to building a bracket car at a home shop. There will be plenty of great articles and videos along the way for you to check out as we build our first dedicated bracket beast!