Most of the time we tell the story that goes along with the cars that we feature, but in this case, it’s better left to the car owner. here is the story of Mike Jovanis’ true street-winning ’89 LX hatch in his own words.—MC
I purchased the car from my aunt in 1997. At the time, I had an '87 LX 5.0L five-speed, red with tan interior. When my aunt called me and offered the car for $4,000 (the price the dealer was going to give her for a trade), I knew I had to buy it. I sold the '87 and became the owner of my aunt's pristine 65,000-mile '89 Shadow Blue Metallic LX 5.0L automatic. The car was stock except for a Flowmaster after-cat, an Art Carr torque converter, and 3.55 gears.
Over the next year, the car received the normal bolt-on parts of the era, including GT40 heads and intake, 65mm BBK throttle body, Pro-M bullet mass air meter, long-tubes, and off-road exhaust. After being frustrated with low 13s and the AOD, the decision was made to pull the AOD in favor of a five-speed. During my teenage years, the car was seen regularly in the Toms River Route 37 street racing scene. It ran mid-12s on slicks with this setup.
When I was in college (2000), the car received another update, including a fresh engine with Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads and a Track Heat intake. The T-5 was swapped for a Tremec 3550, and the car ran in the low 12s.
By 2008, after a number of years of recreationally running in the Real Street Road Rour held at Raceway Park (Englishtown, New Jersey), I got the itch to step it up and take a shot at becoming competitive in NMRA True Street. It has been a long journey to get the car to where it is today.
The 2010 NMRA Spring Break Shootout was the first time the car made it out (B&G custom turbo kit with a PT78 turbo, garage-built 331, and PA Supercomp C4). The converter was too loose for the combination and required us to turn the boost down significantly to make it down the track. That resulted in a 10th place True Street finish and a loss in the first round to Chris Escobar in the Spring Break Shootout. (The car ended up running in the mid-9s at around 15 psi of boost).
Following getting the converter tightened, we broke a dog-bone retainer and took out two lifters and the cam while at a track rental at Raceway Park. I decided it was time to step up the game on the motor. I had Anthony DiSomma's (DiSomma Racing Engines) phone number from having seen one of his motors win True Street at Atco in 2009.
With Anthony's guidance, the motor that now powers the car was assembled. Key changes were a larger bore to bring it to 347 ci, a higher-end valve train (T&D shaft rockers, Crower HIPPO lifters, Comp custom cam, and so on), more compression, and a set of ported TFS high-ports that actually came from the car I had watched win at Atco. (It had received an upgrade to compete in 275 drag radial.)
Following the installation of the new motor, the turbo was overspun on the dyno at PSI Speed Solutions. After consulting with Brian Horne at B&G Turbo and Anthony at Precision, the PT8847 was chosen to fit the current turbo kit with minor modifications, while still being sized appropriately for the setup. This turbo consists of PT88 housings with the center section, compressor, and turbine wheel from a GT4788, and is rated at 1,400 horsepower. For people not looking to work around the larger T6-framed turbos, the PT8847 is a good option.
The end of 2010 awarded us with a win at the Ohio NMRA True Street race, despite having to overcome a fire at the top end of the track on the first pass. After quite a scare, it was determined that the downpipe lit the sound-deadening material on the passenger floorboard. The fire was quickly extinguished, and following the encouragement of a group of friends and onlookers, I continued on to make the second and third passes and take the win.
The 2011 season saw a runner-up True Street finish, a runner-up in the Spring Break Shootout, a win at Atco, and another runner-up in Ohio. We also upgraded to a Hughes Powerglide setup by the end of the season. Following another runner-up finish in the 2012 NMRA Spring Break Shootout and with the car now working, the plan is to attend at least another three True Street races this year with the hope of bringing home some wins.
Now running in the 8.50 range, I am a bit conflicted on whether a 25.5 chassis preserves the element of a real street-driven car. For now, we're looking to have some fun and try to win some races. We'll make a call at the end of the season on whether to step up the game."
At the time of this writing, Mike had just taken the True Street win at the 2012 NMRA race at MIR. He wants to thank his wife for letting him participate in this "crazy hobby," and his friend Ryan Bittel, who helped with every step of the evolution.--MC