The urge to rip the beating heart out of one beast and shove it into the leaner body of another is older than Doc Frankenstein's ponderings on defeating death. It's the heart and soul of hot-rodding, the granddaddy of tuning-taking what you've got and cramming the biggest motor lying around underhood. Of course, that's not always enough to play with the big boys on the block.
Matt Drouin's work as a subcontracted master technician for Underground Racing in Charlotte, N.C., puts him behind the wheel of mega-horsepower customer cars on a daily basis. When the time came to build his own project, he knew it had to be something that would standout from the Mustang, Viper, and Vette crowd but still be able to go toe-to-toe with the local heavyweights.
Instead of going with a Fox body build like the rest of the wrench monkeys in tobacco country, Matt decided on a car he'd pined for since childhood: an '87 Chrysler Conquest. The aging coupe's bold lines and low stance were exactly what came to mind when the words "sports car" were uttered around him, but after driving the car for two months on the rebuilt stock 2.6L four-banger, he knew it was going to need more than the Mitsubishi block could dish out.
There's no denying that the stock mill is known more for its explosive properties than its power numbers. The obvious solution was to replace the vulnerable powerplant with something more robust, something like a 5.7 liter LS1 straight from a '04 Pontiac GTO.
A few years ago, a customer with Carolina Performance decided to chuck his 14,000-mile example for a Crate monstrosity. Matt was a tech at the shop at the time, and picked up his miracle mill for the core charge-just $800. With that, he set about wedging twice the cylinders into the Conquest's engine bay.
Unfortunately, those eight bills only paid for the long-block. All of the peripherals that make the Bow Tie motor breathe fire were missing in action. For the next year and a half, Matt scoured eBay for the bits and pieces he needed to get his mill in fighting form, successfully earning himself the nickname "eBay Whore" around the shop.
In the meantime, he turned his attention to shoehorning 5.7 liters of all-aluminum pushrod power between the headlights and the firewall. Of course, lodging the shining star of General Motor's engineering into a nearly 20-year-old coupe with Japanese bloodlines wasn't going to be a bolt-on operation. By the time it was tucked in, Matt dropped over 200 hours of personal fabrication time on the project.
Pieces and parts from a slew of vehicles across the manufacturing spectrum were cannibalized and cut up for the construction. The carnage started with a set of headers from a '99 Corvette, spliced in half and flipped to fit with Viper tips. That's when Matt noticed the opportunity to turn this Chrysler into something more than a mule with a big motor. "I had to fab the driver-side manifold anyway," Matt says. "I figured I might as well put a turbo on the car."
The mad fabricator bolted a Turbonetics T66 to his new manifold, wrapped around the car's steering rack from a Dodge Mighty Max pickup. The cutting continued when he put his hands on a GReddy intercooler designed for twin-turbo 350Zs. His solution? Run the single 2.25-inch piping from the T66 into a custom y-pipe. The dual 2.25-inch pipes run through the GReddy unit and exit into a single 3-inch pipe.
After situating his trick intercooler and piping, he noticed something was going to have to be done to make room for a system to keep all of that extra displacement cool. Matt constructed new radiator supports for the massive intercooler and a radiator to handle all the heat generated by four more cylinders-an aftermarket job designed for a '57 Chevrolet Bel Air.
All 9.5 psi of boost runs through an 80mm throttle body into mostly stock internals, with the exception of a cam from a '01 Corvette Z06. The bumpstick from GM's purebred controls Patriot Gold double valvesprings with titanium retainers. Spent gasses exit through, get this, a single 3.5-inch exhaust from a diesel Ford F-350.
With the car breathing through its bastardized respiratory system, Matt looked into feeding eight forced-induction cylinders. The car swills down 93-octane fuel by the bucket full thanks to a 500lph pump shooting through Simmons 60 lb/hr injectors. An Aeromotive 1:1 regulator ensures a constant supply of fuel.
Matt looked to a Haywire harness coupled to a reflashed ECU from a '02 Camaro SS to control the ignition and fuel. Tuning was left to Carolina Auto Masters in Durham, N.C., the same folks who duke it out on Speed Channel's Pinks from time to time.
After spitting in the eyes of car gods from every denomination, Matt turned his attention to getting power to the rear wheels. He chose a T56 six-speed manual transmission for the job-the same box that gets everything from Z06s to Mustang Cobra Rs rolling. The "eBay Whore" installed a Center Force clutch and pressure plate along with a Fidanza billet flywheel to translate all his ponies into forward motion.
The bulky dog box required some cutting on the drivetrain tunnel, but after slicing on the engine bay and mounts, Matt wasn't shy about turning his knife on the virgin body. The result was a little extra room to couple the six-speed to the stock, four-bolt rear end via a custom CCS driveshaft.
While everyone else in the vicinity may be waiting for shards of Mitsubishi differential to rain from the sky after erupting from the rear of the car at anytime, Matt has no problem hammering on the decades old platform. Even after 16 pulls down the quarter-mile on 11-inch race slicks, the stock rear never even whimpered.
Befitting of a work in progress, the car's suspension remains terrifyingly stock, making for launches that look as if the entire cast of Celebrity Fit Club took a marshmallow break on the car's rear deck. "The car weight transfer's pretty bad," Matt says. "If I'm not careful, it'll pull the front wheels off the ground by about an inch and a half." While that may be great for the giggle factor, it's not so hot for controlling the vehicle.
Though Matt has the stock springs and struts doing unspeakable things, he's squared away the most important part of any build: stopping. The car wears 12.5-inch rotors in front and 9.5-inch discs in the rear, both custom pieces by CIN Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C. All four corners are clamped by calipers modified to accept the larger discs.
Matt's vision from the beginning was to build a serious sleeper by avoiding outrageous exterior modifications. A custom aluminum spoiler up front sits below a lazy eye headlight conversion, which wraps up the exterior changes. The car still runs the stock wheels rolled in super-sticky Mickey Thompsons.
The monster's 570 whp and 550 lb-ft of torque are good for low 11-second passes down the quarter-mile. Those numbers put Matt's concoction of pieces well within Vette-slaying range. Not bad for $7,500-less than a sixth of the cost of a new Z06.
5.7L LS1 V-8
'02 Corvette intake manifold
? 80mm throttle body
Corvette Z06 Cam
Stock bottom end
ARP rod bolts
GTO oil pan
Patriot Gold valvesprings
Exhaust manifolds fabricated from a '99 Corvette manifold
Turbonetics T66 turbo
Turbonetics 42mm wastegate
APS blow-off valve
GReddy 12x4x30-inch intercooler
Dual 2.25-inch piping in, 3-inch piping out
Simmons 500lph fuel pump
Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator
Simmons 60 lb/hr injectors
3.5-inch exhaust from a Ford F-350
'02 Camaro SS ECU
T56 six-speed transmission
Pro 5.0 shifter
Center Force DFX clutch and pressure plate
Manual steering box from a Dodge MightyMax pickup
205/50R16 Mickey Thompson (front)
26x11.5 R16 Mickey Thompson (rear)
? TCIN Motorsports rotors 12.5-inch front, 9.5-inch rear