Volume III, Issue 2, Page 43


Words and photos by Ro McGonegal 02/15/08

You’re going to hear more than this about Todd McCutchen and Benny Smith in MaxChevy very soon. They embrace the work ethic as if they invented it. They are seemingly tireless and relentless human beings who care only about doing the best job possible despite unholy or untoward circumstances. People call them “Machine.” Quite often they refuse payment, their only recompense being the smile of the person they’ve helped (I know. I am one of them). They are hot rodders of the kind Wally Parks envisioned and espoused when he led Hot Rod those many long, lost years ago.
Hail from cotton country up by Drummonds, Tennessee, which is a lot closer to the Arkansas border than it is to Memphis, and they didn’t mature with the burden of big city angst directing wanton thoughts or Godless behavior. They run by their own rules, “country ethic,” if you will. These good ol’ boys are drag racers hard-core and they’re swarming a meticulous ’67 Nova, but for the time being our cash-strapped volunteers appreciate this unlikely Impala with a juiced, pretty much junk-part, big-block. Todd tunes. Benny drives.


The ratty office is all business. Passive safety devices are in there, too, couching Benny in a 12-point ‘cage that’s certified to 8.50 while the Crow Enterprizes 4-point harness straps him to the seat without ceasing his circulatory system. “Machine” built a gauge and switch panel and also rewired the contraption. All gauges and that big tach hanging over Benny’s head like a full moon are Auto Meter Sport Comp stuff. Benny grips that Grant tiller and works a Cheetah ratchet shifter. Line-Loc just sort of lays there.

As Todd says, “This car was built on a tight budget. We bought all the parts on a deal, either from eBay or from friends’ stashes. Sometimes we bought ‘em because they ‘fit the hole’ or because they would simply get us by. We traded the big-block that was in the car plus a roller small-block for a square port, iron-head, 2-bolt 454 that needed rebuilding. We sold the pistons from that motor and a console to get new Lunati forged 12.5:1 pistons. We bought the rings, bearings, and gaskets and assembled the car’s first motor. 

But on this day, the Imp humps a 532, but the boys ran 9’s with a single shot on a 468 Rat saddled with iron 990 heads. It met an ignominious demise late one night. No telling what the bigger motor will prove.


The boys staged their home-built bullet with a 502-cylinder case. Used a 4.600 bore over a 4.00-inch stroke and made a 532 out of it. The GM steel crank supports Eagle forged H-beam 0.250-long connecting rods and JE pistons of the 12.0:1 persuasion. Solid roller lifters ride the Lunati camshaft that went into the block with a Lunati timing chain. Related valve train components include used Comp guide plates, locks, and retainers, new Comp springs, pushrods, and 1.7:1 stainless steel roller rocker arms. For the section in the tech sheet about the cylinder heads, Todd wrote that they were “home-built” Racing Head Service 360 Pro Action holding Comp stainless steel 2.30 and 1.88 valves in 119cc combustion chambers. They host an Edelbrock 454 R intake manifold topped with a Holley 1050 Dominator and underwrite the power program with a NOS Pro Race fogger and cross-bar plate. Monte Smith at NOS helped with the tune-up. To cool the Rat and keep it running, Benny and Todd stuck it with a Hamburger oil pan and high-volume pump and CSI electric water pump and 4-row aluminum core proctored by twin thermostatically controlled fans. An MSD 6A box and Blaster coil the zap the plugs. Todd says the exhaust system is simple: junk headers and Flowmaster mufflers. Drivetrain amendments begin with Precision 3,800 stall speed converter that stuffs torque to the race-built Turbo 400. Fluid temp is kept under control by a B&M cooler. Fleet Pride in Memphis built the 3-inch diameter driveshaft and crowned it with 1350-series yokes. At the end of the powertrain, a rehabbed 12-bolt with 4.11:1 gears, Mark Williams 35-spline axles, and a no-moving–parts-to-break spool.