Story: DragRacingActionOnline  Images: Phil Hutchison, Geoff Sculley, and Tara Bowker

Switching a drag radial car to slicks isn’t as easy as just popping them on your car and heading to the track. And if the car is the quickest nitrous fed small block Chevy X275 Drag Radial in the world, the task can be even tougher.

Townsend Del. Racer Ron Rhodes knows this all to well. His ’68 Camaro X275 has gone as quick as a 4.15 in the 1/8-mile in radial trim. When the PDRA announced that it would feature a limited four race Super Street series using slicks instead of radials, Rhodes was all in.

During the off-season, PDRA Series Director Tyler Crossnoe along with PDRA president Tommy Franklin and Tech Director John Sears decided to add a new class for 2022. They got Mark Menscer from Menscer Motorsports and AFCO to get on board as series sponsors and the Super Street class was born.

“After my success in Drag Radial I was looking for a new challenge,” Rhodes said. “I have always liked what the PDRA was doing and it was perfect timing. I ran slicks 20 years ago but there is no comparing now to then with all the power these cars make today.”

“We knew there would be some challenges, but didn’t realize how much of a challenge it was going to be.”

The class debuted at the North vs. South Shootout at Maryland International in June and Rhodes posted a best of 4.94 in his ’68 Camaro good enough for the #3 spot. The car spun the tires in a first round matchup against the Nova of Kaitlin Quartuccio ending his weekend early. Rhodes said after the loss at MIR, “We left Maryland not knowing where we were going with it and trying to figure it out.”

“The engine is the same but I had to add 100 pounds and take out the lockup torque convertor to meet the PDRA rules.” But that was just the beginning of the switch to bias ply drag slicks. Rhodes continued, “We have changed every single thing except for the engine itself. From tuneup to shocks to transmissions to gear ratios to converters – there’s nothing the same as the radial car.”

In addition to all the changes to the Camaro, the biggest difference is the performance on the track. “The 60 foot time with the slicks is so much different than the radials,” Rhodes said, “The radial is a much better tire than slicks. With the radial setup we, on average, have a 1.02 to a 1.04 60 foot times and have dipped into the .90s. At Richmond the car was 1.19-1.20 in the sixty foot. And you add the weight, the different convertor, and a different tuneup; it’s all new to us. You cannot accelerate as quick as running the radials. The radials have no deflection at all, it just shoots the car forward.”

After extensive testing after the MIR race, Rhodes turned the performance corner with Low ET and Top Speed at the PDRA Summer Shootout at VMP in July. Rhodes’ 4.644 @ 158.19 set the pace for the 13 car field on his way to a win.

The only hiccup Rhodes had during eliminations was in during a second round bye run.  As Rhodes describes it, “In R2 we went after it and it spun the tires and the motor went up on the rev limiter and with all that nitrous coming in the manifold we had some flames coming out of the hood. The fans love it but there was no damage to the car.”

In the finals at VMP Rhodes was up against Dan Whetstine’s ProCharger boosted small block ’93 Mustang. Whetstine, who is the crew chief on the 2021 PDRA Pro Street champ Tim Essick’s Brown Sugar Mustang, had been running 4.90’s throughout qualifying and eliminations but was no match for the small block Chevy of Rhodes. Whetstine was second off the line and second to the stripe losing with a slowing 5.402 to Rhodes’ 4.716.

Kim, Ron, and Scott Soucy celebrate Rhodes’ win at VMP

After the win Rhodes said, “I see nothing but good things with PDRA Super Street. We had seven cars at MIR, thirteen at Virginia, and I expect a much larger field at Maple Grove for our third race of the year. There are a lot of cars that want to get into this class.”

Rhodes, owner of Rhodes Custom Auto Body, which specializes in small tire cars and has built some of the fastest X275 and Ultra Street cars on the East Coast said this about the Camaro. ”I bought the car in 1984 and the car still has leaf springs and stock steel floors. It’s very close to a real street car. It’s been a work in progress since I bought it.”

Motivation for the Camaro is a 500 cubic inch small block Chevy with Brodix heads prepared by Tony Bischoff at BES Racing Engines. The induction comes from a Holley EFI in place of a carburetor that Ron ran for years. “The EFI gives me more control and makes the motor a lot happier.” Rhodes said,  “When you spray as much nitrous as we do you want to keep the motor happy. The nitrous adds about 700 HP to the motor. We make about 1700 HP with this combination that is unbelievable for a small block Chevy. I still want to race Radial but I’m not touching the car until the Maple Grove race in a few weeks.”

The three speed Turbo 400 trans is supplied by RPM Transmissions out of Anderson Ind.  and the torque convertor comes from Neal Chance at Neal Chance Racing Convertors in Cheney Kan.

In addition to his partner and BUG (Back Up Girl) Kim Weicker, Rhodes would like to thank Brandon Layfield for helping out with the winning Camaro.

Five of eight PDRA events have been completed with the non-points Summit Racing Equipment ProStars this weekend at VMP. Then it’s off to Maple Grove Raceway for the Northern Nationals August 12-14.