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Sanity Assassin! - Ray Eldred's Celica

22.12.04. Ray Eldred’s, Super Pro ET, Sanity Assassin Celica is a familiar sight in British drag racing and has been on the scene for around a decade.  Amazingly though, the car came about primarily because Ray wanted to play a trick on close friend Vince Gibbs.

 “Vince and I had previously built another Celica together for drag racing which I’d sold (my half)  to Vince and I thought how neat it would be to turn up at the strip with an almost identical car and “blow his doors off.”  The mistake I made was confiding in friends and before long they’d blabbed my secret to Vince and the game was up.”

At this point, Ray had already purchased and had set to work on a second Celica.  Over the years it has evolved as one of the most competitive Super Pro ET contenders currently on the scene.  Externally the car appears almost stock except for the narrowed rear axle and suitably meaty back tyres, however, the key to running its 8.82 second quarter mile passes lie primarily under the bonnet – Rays’ particular forte.

 The car was purchased from a breakers yard for very little money and driven to Ray’s Midland home from Plymouth.  “The standard 2.0 litre engine drank five gallons of oil on that trip,” recalls Ray.  The timing chain had worn through the cover allowing a mobile oil slick to form under the car as he drove along. 

stock appearance hides early V8 motivation

The engine may have seen better days but the bodywork was straight and solid.  Ray, General Manager and the second longest serving member of Hauser Race Cars, then set about gutting the inside of the car before it received a full roll cage and one of their popular rear clips.  Additionally the engine bay was stuffed with Rover V8 power and a manual gearbox, a Harwood fuel cell and a number of other supplementary items.  With the exception of TIG welding the roll cage and fabricating the headers (thanks to Danny at HRC) Ray managed to screw it all together himself.

 “Originally I built this car to race in the Rover challenge in around 1993, but that series didn’t go anywhere and was sort of killed off when Phil Eaves wheeled out his all singing all dancing 700hp Rover,” reflects Ray.

 Equipped with the more macho Rover V8, Ray was surprised to find that the Celica   never felt quick - even on the road, and it wouldn’t run quicker than around 12.9 sec on the track, so he pulled the motor and decided to go the small block Chevy route.

 The first Chevy was a 350 small block which Ray also put together. Initially it ran in the mid 12 second bracket – “which we thought was absolute rubbish.   We had the trans set to shift at 6500rpm but it didn’t seem to get anywhere near that on the track.  Soon after we had a look at the shift light on the tach and there’s a switch behind it set for 4,6 or 8 cylinders - we had it set on 6!  The engine was short shifting at  4000rpm.  As soon as we discovered that, we went straight in to the 11’s and got as low as 11.01sec.” 

 “That was our first experimental venture with small block power but now we’re up to our fourth engine configuration.  The original 350 cu. in. motor developed 370hp, then came a 383 with 540 hp, a 390 with 610hp, and the current set up which is 434cu. in. and 706hp.  We were particularly pleased with the latest engine as it was the first normally aspirated small block Chevy to break the 700hp barrier on a UK dynamometer.  However, we’re not stopping here and towards the end of 2005 we’ll be working on a 440cu. in. small block motor and looking for 800hp.” 

 As you might expect, Sanity Assassin’s latest and most deadly engine configuration is all custom built by Ray who, in typical dedicated drag racer fashion, has spent hundreds of hours matching, porting and fettling a unique blend of components to get the engine to its current state of tune.

for 2004 Ray built this dyno-tested 706hp small block

 Working from the top of the engine down, a 950 Holley carburettor bolts to a special Nascar-style, two-piece spider manifold, which uses a separate valley plate and a custom, made one-inch spacer between the manifold and heads.

 As Ray found out to his cost, you can buy aftermarket race heads for a Chevy off the shelf, but not a pukka intake manifold to match.  “You can’t run a more conventional manifold as the water ports don’t line up,” states Ray.  As a result, the manifold has had a massive amount of porting and is now extremely thin in places, but this was necessary to get it flow matched to the Brodix GB heads.  These are fitted with 2.20 intakes and 1.60 exhausts.  The engine runs a 14 .1 compression and custom forged pistons to avoid contact with the angled valves. 

The camshaft is a custom grind with a switched firing order on two cylinders.  Apparently this benefits engine cooling and helps to equalise chamber pressures.     “This is all Pro Stock engine technology - the gains are probably marginal but it all helps,” says Ray.  One thing he’s learnt from last season is that the camshaft isn’t giving them enough flow – “it only has 0.724” lift and needs more duration too.  We perhaps under estimated how much air the engine can flow at 8000rpm.  The only thing restricting us is the valve.  If we move it further away from the port then we can flow more.  We’ll be looking at that in 2005.

The block is a Dart Iron Eagle cast item with spread pan rails and a raised camshaft location to provide clearance for the 4-inch stroker crankshaft - though “it still hit the walls,” says Ray.  The bores measures 4.155 inch resulting in an over square engine.

By chance, Ray came across a two-speed race-modified transmission based on a Powerglide with a Dedenbear case and JM bell housing from a dragster, which has been modified to suit.   Breaking from the norm, an  8.3/4 Chrysler axle is utilised instead of the ubiquitous Ford 9.0 inch.  “You have to work on the axle to get the strength but it’s lighter than a Ford and when modified, is as strong if not stronger.  You can put a 35 spline shaft straight in whereas you can’t with a stock Ford  - you are stuck with a 31 spline. 

As for the rest of the car, well, it’s pretty conventional and surprisingly stock in places like suspension – it utilises standard Toyota front suspension and brake components, yet the car hooks up hard and has no traction problems.  “The nice thing about this car is that we’ve proved you don’t have to go to enormous expense to build a competitive car.  Ok we’ve spent a fair old wad on the motor but the rest of the car is decidedly low-tech.   The other interesting thing is that the car develops its 700+ horsepower with the aid of just a single Holley fuel pump.”

 In this set up the car has run a best of 8.82 sec at 151mph - about what Ray estimated, but of course, that’s not quick enough for Ray.  “We have an 850 cfm carb to fit which, surprisingly, flows more air and makes more power.  Amazingly, the Nascar boys use 390cfm two-barrel carbs that can make up to 900hp.”  

As for driving Sanity Assassin (taken from the name of a track by the band Bauhaus in Ray’s former ’Goth’ era) Ray prefers to leave that to someone else – “it’s a bit scary,” he states.  Over the past couple of seasons John Everitt has pedalled the car but for 2005 Ray’s long time friend Vince Gibbs will be taking over.  The car has put on 50lb in weight over the last couple of months –  “a variety of nuts and bolts and the addition of a parachute,” says Ray.  It currently weights 2480lb and that’s without the wheelie bars.  “Vince has gone 9.2 secs in my old car and we’ll be looking to push in to the 8.7’s – if he can handle the wheelies of course! “

 Ray would like to thank Geof Hauser, Stephen and Pat Talbot, his wife Dee, all of the crew - Bez, Joe - and anyone else who has helped along the way.

Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Ray Edlred collection

With many UK racers opting to have engines built in the US, we asked Ray: 

Q. Would it have been cheaper to import a high-performance crate motor than build it youself?

A. There’s around £13,000 of parts in this engine and labour of about £2000.  You get what you pay for. Lets say for the sake of argument that some stateside engine shop says it can build you a 700 hp engine for $12,000.  If you add all of the individual parts up and it comes to say $13,000, then add machining, assembly and dyno time on top and suddenly you realise that something is wrong here.  You can’t have so much for so little outlay.  Once you’ve figured out they can’t achieve the performance for that kind of money, you understand why, in many cases we know of, US crate engines don’t make anywhere near the quoted power figures.  Additionally, I’ve looked at plenty of ads for engines supposedly developing more power than mine using components that I know don’t flow enough air to make that sort of power.

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