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GM High-Tech Performance / April 2010

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Long Live The Goat – The Fastest IRS GTO In The Country And The Friends It Made Along The Way

By Justin Cesler
Photography by Scott Parker

Like most things in life, Frank Beck’s story starts off innocently enough, “I bought this car brand new and it was supposed to be a daily driver. Once we reached 3,000 miles we started taking it to the track, my wife would bring the drag radials in the back of her Range Rover and we would bracket race it. We were just excited to meet other GTO owners at the track who shared the same passion for drag racing and for the car. The first year, our personal best was a 13.40 at 116 mph.” And while some may be satisfied with that, Frank told us that the first year was just a tease, infecting him and his family with what would turn out to be an all-consuming GTO speed addiction. An addiction that would not only end up changing the “face of late-model GTO racing, but one that would build a career, a great group of friends, and a killer shop in the process.

“After several modifications in the second season, including adding a MagnaCharger, we got it to end the season in the 12.10s at 122 mph. The third season re-vamp added methanol, nitrous, a blower, and my brother-in-law Walt McGregor (driving). We both ended the season in the 10.50s at 130 mph. Now with two heads working on the car, there was no stopping what we could do.” Well, make that three heads. You see, Frank and Walt had a trick up their sleeve, a man you may know from the Corvette world-Doug Ring. If you’re not familiar, Doug is the mad scientist at East Coast Supercharging, one of the premier LS-based supercharging shops in the country. “ECS really made our dreams a reality. They never gave up on our goals and always gave of themselves to make sure that we accomplished what we set out to do.” And for the team’s fourth season, they set out to do something quite unique.

“We wanted to build something different, something no one else had done. At this point, we had started Rocksand Racing, which was born from a need for GTOs to evolve. We were building a ton of GTOs for customers and friends, and wanted something to showcase our talents.” As a Pedders suspension dealer, naturally they had to install the full complement of upgrades from bushings to shocks and springs as well as a few others Rocksand developed on its own. However, for the engine overhaul they called in ECS. The first step was to tear down the stock LS2 engine and stuff it with a set of forged TRW pistons and a set of Oliver forged connecting rods. While apart, Frank and Doug took some time to spec out a blower-friendly camshaft and, while they were tight-lipped about the exact specs, we can tell you it was ground on a 114 LSA and is in charge of moving the valves inside a set of 235cc CNC-potted TrickFiow cylinder heads. With the engine all buttoned up, it was time for Frank and Doug to fabricate the crowning jewel, the completely custom, one-off Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger system. Evidently, having the fastest IRS GTO in the country wouldn’t be unique enough for the Rocksand Racing crew; they needed to be the only one to do it with a Paxton.

Of course, building a one-off supercharger system is a bit more difficult than bolting on a kit. Once Doug and the crew at ECS had the brackets installed and the head unit in place, they broke out the TIG welder to begin fabricating all of the necessary charge piping. A custom radiator support and matching radiator gave them some extra room up front, which they filled with a large, custom, vertical flow, air-to-air intercooler. This intercooler is key to keeping temperatures in check, since the blower is spun to around 18 psi, which can induce some serious heat. To fuel all of this air, Frank is using a set of 90-lb/hr injectors, which are backed by two in-tank Bosch 044 fuel pumps. Tuning is handled by Doug Ring using, of all things, an LS1 F-body ECU. American Racing 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers help expel the spent gasses, which pass through a pair of MagnaFlow mufflers before escaping the rear of this monster GTO.

Sitting behind that impressive powerplant is a built TH400, assembled by Pro-Formance Transmissions, which is spun by a Dynamic Converters 4,500-stall converter. Frank and Walt stay in control of the transmission with a Cheetah shifter, which controls both the transbrake and the (full manual) reverse manual valvebody. As the ‘brake is released, power is transferred down a custom one-piece driveshaft and into a Hendrix Engineering-prepared Ford 8.8-inch centersection. “We wanted to keep the independent rearend, but the stock unit just wouldn’t handle the power we make. The Hendrix 8.8 has worked out well.” So well in fact, that Frank and Walt currently hold the record for the fastest and quickest IRS GTO in the country, running consistent 1.41 short times on their way to some blisteringly fast 9.11 quarter-mile times at 153 mph.

“I have had older guys tell me that this car isn’t a real GTO. They have told me to put masking tape over the emblems or just not call it a Pontiac GTO at all. It’s fun to mess with them… I usually just ask them to race; that makes them shut up.” Lame old-man-diehard-Pontiac-lovers aside, most people (including us) really dig this style GTO. Outside, Frank has added a set of “SAP” style grilles, which are matched both above and below with a touch of custom mesh. Out back, the parachute grabs most people’s attention, while the blacked-out center trunk helps give a little more punch to the round GTO rear end. For safety and NHRA compliance, Frank runs an approved on/off switch on the rear bumper along with a pair of charging ports for his battery. Inside, the SFI goodies continue, with a pair of aluminum Kirkey seats wrapped in a driver-friendly eight-point rollcage. The center console has been upgraded to jet-fighter status; with a slick carbonfiber-backed switch panel and gauge-mount setup. A large Auto Meter tach keeps Frank and Walt in the loop, letting them know when to shift.

The driving technique is pretty simple. We leave at about 2,500-2,800 off the line. We shift at 6,200 and go through the traps at 6,400 rpm. The car usually dead hooks and goes straight.” They make it sound easy, but remember, this is the fastest IRS GTO in the country, and Frank has no intentions of letting that record go any time soon. In fact, he told us “For 2010, we plan on hitting the 8-second mark” And, we don’t doubt that Frank; his wife, Roxanne; Walt; Doug; and the boys from ECS will keep on working until that happens. Will anyone else be there to contend with them? Only time will tell.