In the 2003 season, many top-flight teams struggled to keep their transmissions in their cars. Project NORAD has a unique solution to the transmission problem-a Lenco five-speed planetary unit that's almost bulletproof. We discussed the transmission, slipper clutch and V drive in the installment on page 118. Here, we research the rest of the driveline.

In keeping with Bob Norwood's "break it if you can" philosophy of racecar construction, the 2004 NORAD Celica features some time-honored ways of harnessing the horsepower that the over-achieving Toyota 3RZ will generate.

"The key consideration for us was the strength of the driveline," Norwood explains. "If I had a dollar for every driveline failure we had in the past couple of years, I'd be kicking back on a Caribbean island with one of those fancy umbrella drinks in one hand and the other wrapped around a bikini-clad goddess. Unfortunately, here I am trying to engineer a 'Rado-proof' driveline that'll get the car down the track every time."

Norwood decided on a solid rear end to transmit the power to the front wheels. He wanted to eliminate the weaknesses and utilize a true four-link suspension, so the Ford 9-inch rear end was a natural choice. Then he had to make it work within the application, taking into consideration suspension travel, steering, CVs and driveshafts, among other things.

The NORAD team consulted with the drivetrain experts at Mark Williams Enterprises, which has a long history in drag racing and a complete line of top-quality components. Norwood chose a number of the Mark Williams components that meet the strength requirements he was looking for, but some were modified by the NORAD team to meet their exact specifications.

First the team needed to get the drive from the Vee-Drive forward to the rear end (front end?) assembly. Mark Williams had the answer in the form of a solid 4340 heat-treated steel driveshaft. The driveshaft is more than capable of dealing with the horsepower that will be generated by the 2.7-liter Toyota 3RZ engine and it's attached by 'Quick release'-tempered 4140 steel couplers at each end.

The shaft is located within the couplers by custom machined aluminum lock rings. Changing the shaft is simply a matter of loosening the lock ring screws and sliding the shaft out. It's fast, simple and effective.

The (Front) Rear End
Norwood's design called for a solid front axle assembly. This new approach to a front-wheel-drive racecar called for some innovative thinking by the NORAD team. A Mark Williams 9-inch Ford casing (with massive external bracing to minimize flex) was mounted upside-down over the top of the transmission spacer that separates the clutch and bell housing from the Lenco transmission.

The spacer assembly allows for enough clearance for suspension travel, while the car still meets the minimum ground clearance rules. Even with the spacer in place, modifications had to be made to the casing to allow everything to clear. "I had to chop about an inch from the bottom of the center housing," Norwood says. "Once that was done, I machined the ring gear to allow it to pass through the smaller hole, and the pinion support was machined to allow it to mate perfectly with the modified casing." The casing was further modified with the addition of an oil filler/inspection port and a bracket for the transverse locating rod.

The pinion support is a Mark Williams ball-bearing Pro Stock-spec part designed to be extremely strong and light. The casing is cast aluminum. The pinion support is bolted into a Mark Williams aluminum Pro Stock third member. This component features huge aluminum bearing caps and a 40-spline spool forged from 7075 aluminum and then hard-anodized. The spool assembly weighs a scant 5.2 pounds.