Rippamonti says that in his area of the country, you can even source the bigger, more powerful stock 5.3-liter LS1 for about $350. While you will need a new flywheel and a small adapter kit, you could bolt up pretty much any transmission and you're off to the races. "You can't find a Chevy 350 for that...at least I can't," he says.

Automatic Trans?
It turned out that the biggest challenge of all was tuning the automatic transmission to behave in an oval track environment. Using the dyno at Performance LSX and a program called EFI Live, they tuned the trans so that it wouldn't shift. "We just stick it in Drive and once it shifts into Second at 12 mph, it won't come out of Second gear. It'll never come out of Second gear," explained Rippamonti.

Tuning it on the dyno was a necessity to ensure that they would not have any issues with the trans down shifting or doing something crazy while the car was on the track. Rippamonti reports that it has worked out great.

Surprisingly, fitting an LS1 motor and automatic trans into a '78 chassis presented just a couple of challenges. First off they had to fabricate motor mounts. Beyond that, the only other change they had to make was using two driver-side exhaust manifolds on the motor. In order to use the stock passenger-side manifold, they would have had to notch the frame. Their solution was to turn a second driver-side manifold upside down and run the exhaust up, over, and down where the A/C unit would have been.

"We thought it looked pretty cool," Rippamonti said.

The team also swapped in a Corvette oil pan. It's a shallower pan that has kick outs on both sides plus a built-in baffle and windage tray, all that good stuff you'd find in a race pan, but out of a junked Vette means it was a fraction of the cost. It's not a necessity but the boys decided to do it anyway.

They did decide to leave the stock truck intake manifold on the motor. They could have chosen the Camaro-style intake from a 5.3-liter, which would have netted more horsepower at the expense of torque, but Rippamonti knows that torque is the all important number in oval track racing, so they decided that the torque loss wasn't worth the horsepower gain, and left the truck intake on, even though it eats up some hood clearance.

On to the Track
Since the car was a completely different animal than his would-be competitors had ever seen before, Rippamonti went to the front-runners to explain the project and offer testdrives to anybody who wanted one.

While he was initially met with skepticism, that would soon change. "I told them that this thing was really, really stock. They asked what kind of power it made and since it was tuned on the dyno at LSX I could show them the numbers-275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. That's nothing; these guys are making close to 300 hp and 300 torque.

"I went on to tell them that the only advantage is that my torque curve carries a lot further than theirs. If we were running in a straight line, by the time we got to the 1/2-mile mark, I'd suck you up and leave you in the dust. But we're not running in a straight line. Shady Oaks is a 3/8-mile oval. Unless I take a high line, there's no way I can keep up with them. Ultimately, it came down to them saying so long as you don't rub my car I don't care."