If you ever need an example of what doing more with less looks like, you can check out what Canadian racer Dario Gaiga has created with his Po-Mod Chevette. Gaiga’s car may be small in size but it makes up for it in all the right places at the track. This nasty little LS-swapped economy car straight boogies on a budget, and it’s knocking on the door of a seven-second time slip while still being street-driven.
Getting his start in bracket racing Gaiga quickly got hooked on speed, but also the mechanical challenges that it can present. After going through a wide range of cars and combinations Gaiga found something he enjoyed in trying to take a stock short block of any kind and making it go really fast. To take it a step further, he always wanted to do it on as tight of a budget as possible to get the most bang for his buck — this set the stage for the build of his Po-Mod Chevette.
Originally, Gaiga’s plan was to build a first-generation RX7 due to their scant weight, but since he’s 6-feeet, 7-inches tall, fitting into one of the cars was out of the question. After some research, he found a car that would make an interesting replacement: the Chevette.
“A Chevette has similar dimensions to an RX7 except it has a taller roofline. So I figured if I was going to do one, I would do one of the ugliest years: a 1976 model. I found this car online and bought it off some hippy kid for $500. When I got it the car had purple trim, purple wheels, and smelled like spilled bong water. I drove it stock for six months before I cut into it. It was literally the slowest car I’ve ever owned,” Gaiga says.
The Chevette hit the dyno and put down a whopping 33 horsepower and would barely hit 55 mph when the stock 1.4-liter engine reached full song. With the idea of stuffing an LS-based engine into the car and adding boost, Gaiga set out to create a solid foundation and built his own 25.1 certified chassis. The car still retains all of its factory steel and glass while weighing just 2,350 pounds. To go with the new chassis Gaiga added Viking shocks to the stock front suspension and an S&W Performance Group ladder bar set up to the rear of the car.
The power for the Chevette comes from an aluminum LC9 LS engine that uses a Brian Tooley Racing Stage 2 turbo camshaft, ported 243 heads, Del West titanium valves, and Brian Tooley Racing valve springs. Boost comes from a pair of BorgWarner S369 turbos that receive exhaust gasses from a pair of C6 manifolds and turbo kit that Gaiga built. The budget theme for the Po-Mod continues with an intercooler that uses a pair of eBay cores along with VS Racing wastegates.
Putting the power down is a Freakshow Performance Powerglide with a 1.76 gearset purchased from eBay along with a used PTC 9.5-inch torque converter. The rearend is from a Ford Econoline van that has been narrowed and braced to deal with the additional power from the boosted LS engine. Inside the junkyard rearend is an aluminum third-member, Strange Engineering 35 spline axles, and 3.50 gears.
The Po-Mod has been a best of 8.52 at 159 mph on 29 pounds of boost. What makes this little Chevy even more interesting is that it’s driven on the street rather often. When the car does go to the track it is raced in whatever heads-up class it fits in, along with any street car shootout, True Street, or no-prep event that Gaiga can make it to.
“This car is something that I built myself including the chassis, engine, wiring, rearend, tin work, and a lot of other stuff. The only things I didn’t build were the transmission and driveshaft due to a lack of time. I can’t thank my friends for all their help, especially Ryan and Billy. My wife Tara and children Nicco and Nella provided a lot of support as well,” Gaiga says.
Gaiga’s Po-Mod is rolling proof that you don’t need cubic dollars to build a fun car that can go insanely fast!
Lead Photo Credit: Bryan Anvil Donald