The title of “world’s quickest street car” has been passed around to a few notable names over the past decade or so. Andy Frost, Larry Larson, and Jeff Lutz have all piloted cars to ridiculous quarter-mile passes well in excess of 200 mph to claim the title. For now, Tom Bailey holds both the quickest and fastest pass in his street-driven 1969 Camaro.
Bailey ran a 5.99 at Drag Week 2019, making him the first ever to break into the 5-second range during the event. Earlier this year, Bailey clicked off a 5.881 elapsed time at the U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park. Then he followed it up with a 5.773 E.T. at 259.66 mph! Those passes were done on the same Drag Week engine, built using a Steve Morris SMX billet block, on a tune running 48 pounds of boost. After more than 1000 miles, Steve Morris has just opened up the engine to show everyone what it’s made of … literally.
Steve Morris is the man behind the twin-turbo big-block that powers Bailey’s car and is often Bailey’s copilot during Drag Week. At the heart of the engine is a proprietary billet aluminum block that Morris engineered. Unlike most billet blocks, this one has been machined with water jackets that allow it to survive street driving. On the strip, Bailey’s Camaro runs alcohol through three injectors per cylinder. Due to alcohol’s evaporative cooling properties, the engine doesn’t produce as much heat as a similar gasoline powerplant would, even though it is still capable of 4000 hp. A solid billet block, without any cooling passages, works just fine on the strip, but it wouldn’t last long at all on the highway.
On the street, Bailey’s engine uses a separate fuel system to provide a ready supply of gasoline to a single set of fuel injectors. When the engine isn’t making boost, it’s absolutely tame and perfectly happy cruising at highway speeds with its Rossler-built Turbo 400 transmission and Gear Verdors overdrive keeping engine speeds low.
Bailey’s “Camaro” is best described as a Pro Mod drag car that’s been built to survive the rigors of long-distance street driving. It’s participated in several of Hot Rod magazine’s Drag Week competitions, in which drivers race on the strip and then drive 200+ miles to the next venue and race again, five days in a row. If it sounds like it’s hard on cars, it is. The odyssey is even harder on drivers, who sometimes spend hours at the track prepping the cars to race and then tweaking them to survive the road.
The engineering behind Bailey’s car and this 4000-hp powerplant is nothing short of astounding and we’re still blown away that an engine this ferocious can survive on the street for so long and endure so many punishing passes. You can argue that Tom Bailey’s car isn’t really a ’69 Camaro, but you can’t argue that it’s not a real street car.