Well there I was, tooling along in my Chevrolet.......
It was a Friday evening, about 7:30 as headlights were just coming on, and I was out for a cruise in the '65 Impala conv. with the 409CI. I-395 in Connecticut was a quiet highway, little traffic back then, and speed limits 55MPH.
The early aluminum case long tailshaft BW 4-speed did not hold up too well behind the torque and HP I had in the 409 and the 3.08 gearing & M-50's out back added a lot of stress to it and it was getting more and more difficult to get a clean shift (not clutch related). Having several Pontiacs around & scrapping out some others, I had a few Pontiac TH-400's kicking around. Bought a Trans-Adapt adapter to mate the Pontiac trans to the Chevy block. Worked great -so I thought.
The dual 750CFM AFB's came from a 460CI Ford, were rebuilt, and I left the stock jetting. It ran rich on the lower RPM's, but made the engine pull like a freight train over 2,500RPM's and never stopped pulling. Got 8 MPG to the gallon as it was too tempting to open them up and burn rubber every chance I got -and I did. So I disconnected the rear carb from the foot pedal linkage and ran a choke cable to the second carb. When I really needed the HP, I pulled the cable. I think I got 9MPG this way!
A buddy had a 1969-1970 Charger 500 with the flush grille and a replanted 340CI/auto. Had big wide tires on the rear, so much that we had to pull the quarter panels out to stuff them in there. They fit. A couple weeks earlier, I was with him when we got challenged by a silver Porsche 911 on I-395. The Porsche taunted us, we bit, the race began, and then it was over just as quick as that Porsche vanished before our very eyes. I'm talking FAST.
So I am minding my own business and doing the speed limit for a change and in my rear view I see a pair of headlights coming up fast in the outside lane. I'm curious as he's moving pretty good. Might be a cop or something souped up -as there were many street racers around back then. The car finally creeps up on me and slows a bit along my door, I look over to see the silver 911, and he starts pulling away. The 409 would do circles around my buddies 340, so I decided to match the pace of the 911 and took off with him......and then it was on.
The 911 took off. I took off right behind him. The road had very light traffic, so no real danger here. We began on a straight stretch and I had no problem keeping up with the 911 as he just kept on getting it. We then entered a series of curves and I watched him briefly pull away. The '65 Impala is no road race car and doesn't have much of a performance suspension. The car was a handful hitting 100 MPH and more as I had to let off the gas and ease very carefully through each curve. There was a short straight where I nailed it open and got right on his butt, only to watch him pull away through the next curve. But I knew I could take him at this point and there was a a good 2 mile plus straight stretch of highway just ahead through the last curve.
The road straightened out, the 911 was several lengths ahead of me by now, and it was now time to spot weld his doors shut. I recall looking at my tach which indicated I had about 800 more RPM's still in the engine. At the same time, I had the speedo pegged way past the factory 120 mark, I mean it was way out of bounds coming into that straight stretch. Now was the time to pull the choke cable and burn that Porsche. When I did, it was like a kick in the pants. The car was "floating" on its suspension at this speed and the old 409 began to eat up the back bumper of that 911 like a magnet attracted to steel. The 911 slid over to the right lane to let me fly past as he must have realized I was about to over take him.
Two feet from his bumper and climbing I heard the loudest bang I have ever been witness to while in a car. I instinctively reached for the ignition and shut it off thinking the engine blew. I white-knuckled the steering wheel because at this speed, it was going to hurt if something broke other than the engine (I later calculated my speed to be about 140MPH). Sparks were flying from under the car, clearly visible in the dusk light. I quickly eased over to the shoulder hoping to make it, which I did. I sat there a moment, underwear was still clean, and watched in embarrassment the few cars I had just passed several miles back, go by. Race over.
I got out of the car and looked underneath first because of all the sparks. Lo and behold, there was the TH-400 nose down on the pavement resting on the torque converter. There was no bellhousing to be seen, just the converter fully exposed. My driveshaft was gone, and never found. It left a 6" dent (literally) in the rear floor where it whipped up and hit it. My 3" exhaust pipes were torn all to pieces from the driveshaft. Driveshaft u-joint straps got ripped off at the rear end. And there I was just shaking my head.
Nothing more to do as the car wasn't going anywhere. I had another buddy who used to race stock cars at Thompson Speedway and he had a trailer. I began to walk to the next exit, which was in site, to give him a call to come get me and the car. About 100 feet from the car, I hear on the opposite side of the highway a car gearing down through its gears. Very audible because it was pretty quite back then. I look over and there is the 911 going by me in the opposite direction. I chuckled to myself thinking he was checking out his handy work. I watched him cut through the median and head my way. He went right past me and pulled over to the shoulder. The passenger door of the 911 swung open as I continued to walk towards it. When I got to the car, I leaned in, and a guy of about 40 (I was around 22ish), looking at me and said, "The least I can do is give you a ride to wherever you are going." I laughed and accepted. He asked if the car was OK, and I told him what I saw. Was not sure if the motor had blown up or not. He wanted to know what the heck I had under the hood to make the Impala run as fast as it did. He told me he had put a lot of money into his car as he road raced it at the Laconia race track in New Hampshire. He told me he saw me getting ready to blow by him and that he had no more engine left. He told me I had him beat. I told him I had a lot more and was about to overtake him when the car let go. By this time we were at a phone booth (remember those?). He wished me luck with the car and I told him I would have it up and running by Monday if the engine was OK and I would be looking for him for a rematch. He laughed and said he would keep and eye out.
My buddy came by with his truck and race trailer and we hauled it to my house. The engine was OK, but the distributor was spinning so fast that the sudden lockup of the transmission had caused the momentum to make it jump up and rotate 180 degrees out of position. The TH-400 had locked up solid and spun off the back of the engine breaking to pieces the bellhousing. That adapter I had used never mentioned to use spacers to move the torque converter rearward to compensate for its thickness. The torque converter was not properly seated into the pump, and it cause it to overheat and probably welded itself together -I learned this many years later.
I installed the 4-speed again, fixed the exhaust system, fitted another driveshaft, corrected the distributor, left the dent in the back floor, and on Monday, as I had said, I was out looking for a silver 911.
Never did see that car again.