The War in the Woods no-prep at Indiana’s quaint Brown County Dragway is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most treacherous drag races, combining a short, narrow racetrack right out of the 1950s with a surface about as slick as a dance floor. It takes some industrial strength sackery, as our good friend broadcaster/announcer Brian Lohnes would put it, to race there, and it is most certainly not the place for primo-condition automobiles to chance their existence. Yet, there in the midst of it all this past September, at the seventh edition of War in the Woods, was this beautiful all-original 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS fit for a magazine cover or a show-and-shine award.
“What is this guy doing here?” was our initial reaction. We probably weren’t the only ones to think that to ourselves. But Eric Trigalet wasn’t phased.
Trigalet brought his real-deal muscle machine over from his home Danville, Illinois home, not so much as batting an eye at the famously-sketchy Brown County racetrack in front of him. In fact, he double-entered the car — after his race on big tires, he’d hot-foot it back to his trailer, where he and his crew wild swap wheels and tires and remove the wheelie bars, download the data, refill the nitrous bottle, and install the 28×10.5s needed to run in small-tire, and hustle back to the lanes to make his pairing. The effort all paid off, as he marched through the Big Tire field and won the whole shebang, marking the highlight of his season and his to this point brief no-prep racing career.
“I started racing BMX when I was eight years old, and later on I started racing motocross. Growing up racing dirt bikes, I always felt like I was in control, and I avoided a lot of injuries. So then I get into a car with a cage, a fire suit and helmet, and everything else, it gives me confidence that I’m in control, and so it doesn’t bother me to go out there and race a nice car. I hate rusty-looking junk that looks slapped together, and other guys can be confident I’m not going to run into them because I don’t want to. I do care, but I also do push it.”
“After getting married and starting a family, I started doing competitive four-wheel drive land navigation with my Jeep,” Trigalet adds of his story and his path into drag racing. “As my kids got older, we migrated back to motocross as a family in 2006. I bought a ’72 Chevelle in 2017 and fixed it up, but it was too nice to make a race car out of it. I bought a ’99 GMC Sonoma in April of 2019 and took it to my first test-and-tune shortly after and continued throughout the season. With my competitive nature and quest for speed, I built a new motor the following winter for the Sonoma and painted it. I started racing no-prep in 2020, and that following winter, I built a bigger motor and started winning races. In mid-2021, I bought the Camaro and started racing it in the fall of 2021. As the 2022 season ramped up, we started hitting bigger races and it all started getting serious.”
“The car was originally built as a bracket car, so it really wasn’t set up very well for no-prep. I bought it in mid-2021 and spent the rest of the year testing and trying to get the car to work. That winter, I went through the car, making chassis and drivetrain changes. I rebuilt the motor and transmission, and had Prock Performance flow the fogger system on the intake and add a second kit more suitable for this type of racing. I updated the suspension with a set of AFCO Big Guns, front and rear, and sent the carburetors back to Pro Systems for updates and a refresh.”
The body on Trigalet’s Camaro is all steel and original ’69 equipment, save for the hood and trunk lid. The bumpers are factory chrome steel, and it has all working lights, including the turn signals. The windows are all glass, all the way around. The factory dash, roll-up windows, and tilt steering wheel are still present, as well. A back-half style chassis, the Camaro sports a mild-steel cage and a four-link.
Despite tipping the scales at over 3,500 pounds race-ready, Trigalet was quick to say, “they might weigh less than we do, but we’ll get them with horsepower.”
“I’m capable of spraying 2,400, and if a guy can get that down on no-prep, then he probably doesn’t need to be playing with us, he needs to be playing with the big boys,” he adds. “I haven’t been able to use this car to its potential on a no-prep surface since I’ve owned it; if we get on some nice, sticky tracks, though, we can put some numbers down.”
Tom Venus built the big-block Chevrolet powerplant that propels the heavy ride; the 636 cubic-inch mill utilizes a 10.600-inch deck Dart iron block as its foundation, with a Callies Magnum crank, MGP connecting rods, and BME nitrous pistons with the Hellfire ring set. A Cam Motion cam spins the Trend pushrods with Manley retainers, T&D rockers, and Ferrea valves, moving air through the 14-degree Big Chief aluminum cylinder heads. A Profiler Hitman spread-port intake is paired with a big Pro Systems 1600 Pro IV carburetor to introduce air and fuel into the cylinders. A Jeff Prock Performance fogger nitrous system utilizing a Nitrous Express plate and NRL AMS2000 controller helps achieve the big horsepower numbers. Trigalet and his good friend, Richard Simpson, work together to tune the car.
A Reid-case Powerglide built by SRT Racing Transmissions with a 1.69 first gear ratio is paired with a Neal Chance bolt-together converter to send the power back to a Mark Williams fabricated 9-inch rearend with a Strange billet case and pinion support and 40-spline gun-drilled axles. Trigalet utilizes Aerospace Components’ four-piston brakes to bring it to a stop. Up front, the aforementioned AFCO shocks provide the extension to transfer weight to the rear slicks on the no-prep surface, in unison with AFCO remote-canister Big Guns on the rear, with a wishbone and anti-roll bar. It all rides on Weld Racing V-series wheels and Hoosier rubber.
Inside Trigalet’s office, the factory look continues, with black carpet, and the aforementioned OEM dash and glove box, along with the door panels, a Kirkey racing seat, and Grant tilt steering wheel. Autometer gauges and Racepak data acquisition deliver all the vitals.
Trigalet thanks all of his friends and family for his ability to race at this level, and particularly, his 13-year-old son Kaden, who he says “lines me up straight most of the time.”
Trigalet owns and operates a commercial truck repair shop and towing service, and when he’s not working or winning War in the Woods, he competes with the Hoosier No-Prep Series in and around Indiana.
“I’d like to hit bigger races in the future and try to get the car more competitive on small tires. However, my big accomplishment this season was winning War in the Woods, which was made especially gratifying since I went out in the first round at that race back in the spring.”