Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
Today's heads-up drag racers typically choose established platforms, like the Fox Mustang, newer Camaro, and later-model Corvettes. What we haven't seen until recently are many full-size trucks trying to do the same. There are many reasons for that, but none apply to the owner of the world's fastest full-size pickup, Chris Cadotto. Why, you ask? Because Cadotto, who has affectionately named his 1997 Dodge Ram SS/T "The Brick", doesn't believe in following the pack.
"Everyone's got a Camaro and a Mustang; a belly button, I call them. You can go to Walmart and get the parts to go 3s in a Mustang right next to the jumper cables. You got your 4-second Mustang kit, bolt-on. Then you've got your 3-second Mustang, where you've got to weld one thing. But they don't have one for a Dodge Ram," he says.
He says this sarcastically, but the message has an element of truth. There are ways to put together a 4-second or even 3-second Fox or New Edge Mustang or Camaro from a recipe of sorts, proven over the years to be effective and run the number in question. But building a race vehicle with a 118-inch wheelbase and frontal area similar to a package van to run the same numbers as those slippery coupes is a task that isn't for the faint of heart. Cadotto is up for it.
"I mean, look, I'm an idiot for building a truck. I'm never going to be the fastest, but I've had to work a little harder, I think, than everybody else. Now I'm competitive in my class," he shares.
So how does he run bottom 4s at 200 mph in the eighth-mile? With a brutally simple, well-designed engine package that makes a ton of power and never leaves him wondering if he can be competitive. Mark Herek Racing Engines screwed together a 521 cubic-inch Brad Anderson Hemi filled with a Bryant crankshaft, GRP connecting rods, and Diamond Pistons. MBE cylinder heads receive boost through a BAE intake manifold, delivered from the PSI Superchargers C rotor screw blower. The mechanical injection setup is from Brian Robbins.
A few years ago, Cadotto switched from the trusty magneto-style ignition so many blown cars use to MSD's Pro 600 Ignition, with individual coils for each cylinder. He tells us that the system has made a big difference for him.
"We're taking the motors in and out of these things all the time and always had to re-phase the distributor and check everything. You had to get it in the center when you're on full retard. The mag needle is burning up spark plug wires all the time," he says.
Moving to the Pro 600 system eliminated all of those challenges. It put him in a position where he could focus on the chassis rather than worrying about whether the ignition system was up to the task of firing off the mixture.
"It is the best thing I ever put on there. It doesn't burn up wires. When I pull the motor out of it, I put marks on everything. I can just stick it right back in there. I start the thing up. I don't have to phase it. I don't have to touch it. I don't have to look at it. It's right there every time. It saves me an hour of screwing around a phasing distributor, checking everything, putting it in the right spot. It's all electronic. It's in the right spot automatically. Plus, it's 12 pounds lighter," he explains.
Additionally, the precision timing control offered by the Pro 600 makes a difference in how he tunes for the surface, especially in the critical first hundred feet of the track.
"When you leave the starting line with these cars, you've got to pull out 20 degrees of timing. When you pull out 20 degrees of timing on a mag, now that rotor's firing behind the cylinder. You've got to set it kind of in the middle, so when it's at full advance, the spark's not jumping too far, and when it's on full retard, it's not jumping too far. If you set it one way or the other, it'll misfire, and it's always a guess. You're never getting it just right. With this MSD thing, it's on there, and you forget about it," he says.
Getting the truck down the track efficiently and quickly without losing body parts has taken many hours of research and testing. Cadotto equates driving the truck to pushing a piece of plywood through the air at nearly 200 MPH. As a result, he has re-engineered many of its carbon-fiber body parts and incorporated the necessary bracing to keep them in place during a 200 + mph blast down the eighth-mile.
"We kept blowing off doors and ripping the cab apart. It would literally blow the front windshield in. We had to trick the air into doing what it was supposed to do and add some supports on the grill. Now we can keep doors on the thing," he says.
That situation is different for those Mustang and Camaro owners, who can call one of several suppliers for sorted-out, ready-to-install composite body parts and have them in short order.
Cadotto is a long-time proponent of the 33x10.5W slick tire; the truck was initially built for - and still runs in - the Outlaw 10.5 class at Milan Dragway. Cadotto also races it in PDRA Pro Street, where he finished fifth in points last season, and at several one-off invitational truck races down south.
The engine delivers the power to the 33x10.5Wx16 Mickey Thompson slicks through a Rossler two-speed transmission and Neal Chance bolt-together torque converter that allows Cadotto to tune it for the track conditions when necessary. The Brick's zoomie headers let the crackle of the blown Hemi out at ear-shattering volume...the Ram is often one of the loudest vehicles at many events.
Menscer Motorsports struts and shocks keep the suspension acting appropriately, although Cadotto says it's been a struggle to figure out that part. We'll let him explain.
"The truck had these big problems for years. I would always spin the tires because it was so front-heavy, and the wheelbase is 118 inches. If I didn't get instant traction right at the hit and I started to haze the tires, as soon as the power came in, I didn't have enough lift in the front to make the thing work. Over years and years, I finally said, 'Okay. Let's set the 4-link this way, and we'll really make it dig.' Well, we got it to work, but guess what? Here come these giant wheelies that you saw me do for two years. Everyone loved them. It was the most beautiful wheelie you've ever seen. It would drive out 300 feet and lift them up real nice. I could let go of the steering wheel and wave at the crowds like I'm on pillows, and put them down real nice and keep going. But it was slowing the truck down. We put on the bull horns. Unbelievable. Soon as we put on the bullhorns, the front tires were on the ground, and I'm driving the thing again. Now the bullhorns are pushing down so hard on the front, we have to tilt them back. Then we realized, okay, we can't go any farther with the 4-link. We put a hundred pounds in the back of the thing… I got carbon fiber and titanium all over the truck. It broke my heart to bolt a hundred pounds of lead in the back of the thing. But soon as I did, between the bullhorns and the hundred pounds right directly in the back of the truck, the thing just started going down the track every single time."
It sure is fun to watch when it does, too. But the attention it gets keeps him plugging away with this unique build.
"It's the fans that enjoy it. Somehow it's stroking my ego, I guess, it's what keeps me going. Little kids that come up and they're like, 'Man, I love this truck.' Especially the little kids—they walk right by the Mustangs to get to the truck. I don't know if it's because it's a Dodge. I don't know if it's just because it's a truck or maybe both or whatever. People just love these full-size trucks," he says.
We can see why.