You know you’re destined for a high-performance life when your dad takes you out for some drive time on your learner’s permit and leads you to discover the scent of nitro and burnt rubber at the local dragstrip. For Richie DeMarco of Reading, Massachusetts, it was on one particular Sunday driving with his dad that led him to New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire. From his first time walking the pits to later seeing the Little Red Wagon and Hemi Under Glass run he was hooked. From that point on he became a regular at New England Dragway, running in various classes as well as hanging out at Carroll’s Restaurant in Stoneham watching late-night street racing to see who had the hottest mill in town.
Drag racing is something three generations of the DeMarco family share passion with on a regular basis. As a group they’re quite familiar with always working together to improve performance through engineering, technology, and fresh ideas. With sons Andrew and David regularly competing in Outlaw 275 Drag Radial and Radial versus the World Classes it’s easy to see how serious they are. A number of years ago Richie began the search for a seasoned drag car, one that he could work on and improve with time. Before long he located a competitive high 9-second 1957 Chevy Bel Air running a 540ci big-block V-8 with 750 hp on tap. A deal was made and the car changed hands.
As with all race cars, time behind the wheel led to wanting to improve it so another 540ci mill was swapped in, this time with 900 hp capable of propelling the car into the low 9s. Having accomplished everything, he wanted to at the track, a plan was set that would convert it to street use while retaining plenty of its badass attitude with a twist using LS power. Having worked with Dennis MacPherson on a regular basis with the family race cars it was an easy decision to set an appointment at DMC Racing in Halifax to set plans for the cars rebirth. Let’s take a look at what makes this car so wicked.
Once torn down, the team at DMC addressed the stock frame, inspecting and updating it where needed, seeing it had previously been back-halfed. A Strange Engineering Ford 9-inch was packed with 4.30 gears spinning 40-spline gun-drilled axles and suspended in place by custom ladder bars combined with matching coilover shocks. Up front the stock IFS was refreshed and treated to Aldan American coilovers as well as a Flaming River rack-and-pinion for razor-sharp handling. When it’s time to drop anchor, a dual master pushes fluid through stainless lines to Strange Engineering discs and calipers at each corner. Linking it to the street out back are 15-inch Weld Racing Extreme Fab bead lock wheels with American Racing 15-inch Salt Flat up front, all wearing Mickey Thompson tires.
There’s nothing like a fire-breathing LS V-8 (installed by DMC) to add plenty of punch underhood. To make a statement Richie contacted Slowhawk Performance in Bridgewater to build a nasty 427ci LS, starting with a GM block, which they massaged to perfection. Deep inside a forged Callies DragonSlayer crank links to Manley forged H-beam rods capped with matching pistons getting a heavy bump from a Comp Cams stick. For seamless power a set of Precision Race Components 247cc aluminum heads were deftly matched to a Holley Hi-Ram EFI with the knockout punch delivered by a ProCharger F-1A-94 supercharger. A GM ignition lights the fire with spent gases moving through custom headers from DMC to a matching 3-inch exhaust with Borla XR-1 mufflers. Power moves rearward through an RPM Transmissions Stage VII GM 4L80 trans to a custom driveshaft. The combination is good for a searing 850 hp to the rear wheels on the dyno.
One of the coolest parts of this former race car is that it wears all of its original trim. At some point in its life the top was chopped a perfectly proportioned 1 1/4 inches. It was also treated to fiberglass front and rear bumpers as well as a cowl induction hood from VFN Fiberglass. To complete the look a coating of PPG 1971 Pontiac Quezal Gold brings it all to life. Inside it’s all business, starting with the factory dash modified by DMC complete with dials from AutoMeter to monitor the vitals while a Grant steering wheel mounted to a custom column carves a course combined with an M&M shifter to pull gears. JAZ race buckets wear black vinyl padding for comfort combined with five-point harnesses for safety along with an 8.50 certified rollcage and wiring from DMC. This is one evil Bel Air on the streets of Massachusetts making itself known on a daily basis, and we dig it. SRM