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The Legendary “409” Chevy “Continued”

July 2, 2007

In June of 1962 I received a box of “goodies”at my home in New Castle, PA. from Jim Rathmann Chevrolet in Melbourne, Florida. I was home for the Summer vacation from college when a box containing 8 Crower “Power Slot” pistons with special rods & wrist pins arrived. They had a deep horseshoe notch in the tops of the pistons…they were rated at 14-1 compression! I needed 2 batteries to crank my car!I spent the next 4 weeks going to the Valley Machine shop in Youngstown, Ohio where I personally balanced and blueprinted my 409 engine. I installed all new rings and bearings and really took my time making sure every reciprocating part was meticulously balance and assembled with great care.I towed “Black Thunder” behind a pal’s Mopar to Indianapolis for the holy grail of drag racing….”The Nationals”( who was anyone in drag racing was there.. Dave Strickler, Grumpy “Toy” Jenkins, Don Nicholson,Hayden Proffitt, Tom Jacobson, Malcolm Durham, Butch Leal, Jim Wangers, Arlen Vanke, Arnie Beswick, Harold Ramsey, Howard Maseles, Dick Brannan, Bill Lawton, Al Eckstrand, Tommy Groves, The RamChargers, Bill “Maverick”Golden, Bud Faubel, Les Ritchey, Len Richter and more( it was incredible…I was in awe…afterall…I was barely of legal drinking age…I had the luck to draw the Ramchargers( in the 1st round….in a flash I was back on the trailer…..I was so disappointed that my crew and I headed for home and didn’t stay for the rest of the meet. I was out of my league…these guys (and gals) were the best of there best.

Hayden Proffitt ( took home the Stock Eliminator Honors in his 409 but that was the beginning of the end of the real glory years for Chevy and it’s 409 engine (

In 1963 Chevy  built 57 of the Z-11 optioned special cars with the 427cid engine( It was to be the only car ever built by Chevrolet expressly for drag racing with a Z-11 option cost of $1237.40.

This stroked 409 had a displacement of 427 cubic inches and had a new set of cylinder heads, a new camshaft and a new dual 4bbl intake manifold.

The body package consisted of special aluminum fenders, hood, fan shroud & bumpers and no sound deadening materials…and of course a radio & heater delete.

It weighed in at 3245lbs or 145lbs less than a standard Impala..

It was rated at 430HP but 550hp-575hp was more realistic.

Throughout 1963 these unreal Z-11 cars were running in the low 11’s at OVER 120mph and were constantly putting the competition of the trailer!

The Z-11 met an early demise when General Motor’s( decided to end it’s involvement in ALL racing programs.

In 1964 many went to the Ford and Mopar( camps where they were welcomed with open arms……

To be continued…