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As the owner and operator of New Era Performance in Agoura Hills, California, Alexander Esparza is no stranger to big horsepower. Established in 2015, the tuning outfit specializes in late-model GM hardware, and the builds range from mild bolt-on stuff to full-blown race cars. Looking back, Esparza says that the shop was essentially a natural progression from his hot-rodding days back in college. And even back then, too much power was never enough. “I always wanted to go faster, make more power,” he recalls. “And I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it for me, so I started working on my truck on my own.”
Back then a 2005 GMC Sierra 4x4 was his high-performance canvas, a truck he’d originally bought new from the dealer. Over time it evolved into a 1000hp, 9-second beast that surprised more than its fair share of Mustangs and Camaros. “At the time, 4x4 trucks weren’t as popular in the scene as they are now, so it was fun to catch those guys off guard. It would just stun them from a dead stop. We had traction and they didn’t.”
These days Esparza’s weapon of choice is the 2014 Chevrolet SS you see here. This past November, he laid down a 7.65-second pass at 182 mph at Famoso Dragstrip in McFarland, California, and then improved upon that with a 7.614 at 183.72 mph at the same track the following month. As of the time this feature was written, that elapsed time makes this the quickest Chevrolet SS in the world.
“I like the four-doors. For me, if it’s not a truck, it has to be a sedan,” he says. “I’m the type of guy who likes to make the heavier cars quick. Everybody has a Mustang, or some kind of other 2800-pound car that’s fast. And I liked the fact that the Chevy SS is a rare car – they only built them for four years. The record that existed when I bought the car didn’t seem like something that would be impossible to beat and, at that point, nobody had ever been in the 8s with a supercharged setup. So that ended up being our first goal.”
Purchased as a roller, Esparza installed a full factory interior in the car as well as an 8.50-certified roll cage before dropping a blown, stock-block LS3 into the engine bay and heading to the drag strip. And immediately after capturing the record with 8.668-second pass at 160 mph, he set his sights on an even loftier target. “As soon as I took that record, I wanted more,” he says. “That’s when I decided to go for the world record.”
These days the SS is motivated by a 427-cubic inch, LS-based Dart block from Late Model Engines that’s been outfitted with a Magnum-series Callies crankshaft, Dyers connecting rods, Diamond pistons, a custom camshaft from Cam Motion, and Brodix cylinder heads. Funkhouser Race Cars provided the twin Precision 7675 turbo setup, and Esparza says the combination is good for about 1,600 horsepower at the wheels when running 30 pounds of boost. A TH400 automatic gearbox built by Maximum Performance Transmissions sends the power to rear wheels through the factory differential.
“We chose a Holley Dominator ECU for this build for a couple of different reasons,” he explains. “First, in order to offer our customers the best service possible, we wanted to use the Dominator because it has the most options as far as inputs, outputs, and features, and we wanted to make sure we had a strong understanding of how to handle it. We also knew the Dominator would deliver everything that we wanted from an ECU – we’ve got safeties for fuel, coolant, and oil pressure, and we needed the dual wideband functionality for the twin-turbo setup.”
Inside the SS a 12.3-inch Holley EFI Pro Dash provides Esparza with the car’s real-time vitals, while Kirkey racing seats have been installed in order to keep the driver and front passenger protected and reduce weight. But aside from those modifications and the required roll cage, he says that the rest of the Chevy’s cabin is really more street car than race car. “It’s a full interior, top to bottom. Everything is there.”
The Chevy still retains its factory independent rear suspension configuration, too, but a set of coilovers from Santhuff Suspension Specialties are on hand to provide the tunability needed to put down the power. Meanwhile custom-made carbon fiber doors and a carbon fiber hood help to shed more than 200 pounds of weight from the car, and a custom-fabricated wing from Funkhouser Race Cars is installed out back to improve high-speed stability.
Although Esparza is currently working through some teething issues with the latest engine combination, he’s confident that the car will return to LS Fest West this year before he looks to topple some more records in the fall.
“The new setup has given me nothing but trouble,” he says with a laugh. “We went with a solid roller with the latest combination, and there’s a been some setbacks along the way. It’s been kind of a reminder that you shouldn’t assume that a new combination is going to go as-planned just because the last one was easy to work with. The motor is currently out of the car, and we’re working hard to have it ready for LS Fest, which is later this month.”
Regardless of how that mission pans out, Esparza has a game plan for the rest of the race season. “First, I want to run a 7.50 on new setup on standard E85 fuel. Once I get that taken care of, we’re going to try and drop some more weight by going to a four-link suspension with a 9-inch solid rear axle in the back and a spindle mount setup in the front. At that point, the goal is going to be a 6.99 ET. We’re going to shoot for that during boost season – right around October or November. That should give us some time to work out the bugs that we’re dealing with right now so we can push that record into the 6s.”