Beast Mode: 1965 Buick Riviera with 2000 Horsepower Arias Hemi Head LSX


Acclaimed automotive artist Steve Stanford did the rendering for the car, combining show car looks and race ready stance to make for one bad ass looking Riviera. This would make an awesome street machine too.
Built to compete at Bonneville in the Classic category, this unique homebuilt supercar is also being built to show car standards and will see occasional street duty as an ultimate muscle car statement. Imagine tooling down the street in this rare beast with up to 2000 horsepower on tap. Odds are you won't anything like it in street car trim or at car shows.  Rick Head is building his own vision of a triple threat car that talks the talk and walks the walk on the salt, on the street or in the showroom. Well done Rick. 

This 427ci LSX based Arias Hemi was built for Rick Head's Bonneville project. Rick is the owner, fabricator and car builder at Da Rod Shop in Simi Valley, CA. He is also the sergeant at arms for the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). He chose the classic class for earlier vehicles. "Basically we are building a 1965 Buick Riviera for Land speed Racing in B/CBGC (Classic Blown Gas Coupe). It sports a 427 CID LSX with Arias Hemi Heads, Exile 94MM Large frame turbo, custom intercooler and a Mike's Transmission TH400 direct drive. Because we race on salt and dirt we are building the car as modular as possible so it can be disassembled, body removed and cleaned. Class rules require mechanical fuel delivery, one distributor or magneto hence the use of the blow through carb and front mount distributor."

The LSX engine with extra tall Arias Hemi Heads is a tight fit in the chassis with all the supporting elements such as intake and exhaust tubing dry sump oiling, alternator and fuel system components. With the short block installed in the chassis and a set of mock-up heads in place, they are ready to build headers and intercooler plumbing using the stainless tubing and collectors from Vibrant Performance.
Like many projects, this one evolved when Rick and NA3 (Nick Arias III) were having a beer on the back patio talking about the project when the question arose: what are we going to do with this thing? Should we build a drag radial car? Maybe a Bonneville car? Rick's 1965 Buick Riviera, a future project car sat nearby. Nick said "Hey man, are you thinking what I'm thinking? That thing would make a sick Bonneville car." After consulting the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) rulebook, they realized there is indeed a class for it: Classic Blown Gas Coupe (CBGC). It would need to run about 230 MPH, but a record was within reach. That's when this project took a hard left turn down a familiar road.
Both had experience racing at Bonneville so it would not be their first rodeo. But we knew we're going to need a solid plan and some help with the car. Since the car evolved from the engine concept we outline what it takes to assemble a short block capable of withstanding the torture of Land Speed Racing. After consulting with fellow land speed racer Mike LeFever of Mitech Racing Engines regarding camshaft specs and arriving at a 9.5:1 compression ratio 4.125" bore x 4.00" stroke 427 CID, it was time to gather parts.
The foundation for any max effort engine project is a good block. Due to the high cylinder pressures involved, they chose a GM Performance Parts (GMPP) LSX block. The LSX block provided many key features including extra-thick cam bearing bulkheads, deck and Siamese bores, six head bolts per cylinder keeping the high cylinder pressure of turbocharging in check, a true priority main oiling system, external oil pump feed, bay to bay breathing pockets, six -LS7 dowel in place steel main caps and lifter access windows, to name just a few. Proper block prep included the 4.125" bore and hone, installing the ARP main stud kit, align honing, deck, and clearance for the Jesel belt drive. This build uses ARP fasteners exclusively.


Needing a bulletproof rotating assembly, they turned to Callies for a 4.00" stroke "Dragon Slayer" LS crankshaft.u00a0 The Dragon Slayer is a premium USA made 4340 forging of Timkin Steel forged in Lansing, Michigan and finished at Callies Fostoria Ohio facility. The Dragon Slayer is Nitrided to Callies "Ultra-Case" heat treat spec enhancing strength and creating an extreme load bearing wear surface. Other features include gun drilled mains and analyte drilled rod journals polished to .5 or better roughness average (RA). Both main and rod journals feature larger radiuses and a 96%-98% available bearing surface area. The main journal oil feed holes have a "lead in" feature that takes the load off the oil film and increases oil flow as it transfers to the rod journals. The Dragon Slayer has a standard LS flywheel bolt pattern and a longer snout is available for dry sump applications. Callies custom balanced the crankshaft to the bob weight they provided and sent it on it's way to their 2000 horsepower LSX Hemi build.
The Dragon Slayer has a standard LS flywheel bolt pattern and a longer snout is available for dry sump applications. Callies custom balanced the crankshaft to the bob weight they provided and sent it on it's way to their 2000 horsepower LSX Hemi build.

Concerned about the best rod selection to deal with the sustained boost application, they turned to their friend Brian at Pauter Machine. Pauter Machine prides itself on its ability to cater to the "made-to-order" customer, manufacturing everything from normally aspirated moderate horsepower "feather light" rods to extreme duty high-boost exotic fuel applications. Brian provided a set of his unique single rib design 4340 chrome-moly forged rods. The single rib design is essentially an inside-out H-beam. It puts all the strength in the rotational direction with one thick blade verses two smaller blades with thinner cross section common to the standard H-beam. The single rib feature provides better windage and puts the support right where it needs to be.
Pauter 4340 forged chrome-moly single rib rods with Arias pistons, Akerly & Childs Xtreme piston rings and Clevite 77 rod bearings installed and ready for assembly.
For over forty years Arias has been a leader in manufacturing high-quality high-performance pistons and NA3 himself took up the task of designing the pistons for our LSX Hemi. Multiple factors go into the design of the piston, most importantly, application. To say Land Speed Racing is a torturous environment for the piston is an understatement. Add a turbocharger to the mix and you better get it right.

Nick started with LS-specific 2618 high-tensile forgings. With a 74cc combustion chamber, zero deck and .040" Cometic head gasket, the piston will have a negative 20.3 cc inverted dome to arrive at a 9.5:1 compression ratio. Nick used a deck height (9.240") along with rod length (6.100") and stroke (4.00") to arrive at a compression height of 1.140". The ring groove location and width are a function of compression height and application. He chose a metric ring pack of 1.1 MM top, 1.1 MM second ring and 3.8 MM oil ring. As a result of compression height, the oil ring intersects the wrist pin bore requiring the use of an oil rail support or (ORS). Mondo .927" diameter .225" wall tool steel non-tapered wrist pins keep the pistons connected to the Pauter rods. In most blown gas applications Arias sets the piston to bore clearance between .006" - .007". With this LSR application Nick opted for .009" as the power/heat will be sustained for a longer period.

For rings and bearings, they spoke with Ray at Akerly & Childs. Ray came through with a set of their low-tension Xtreme piston rings and a set of Clevite 77 rod and main bearings. The Xtreme top compression ring is a HTD (High Tensile Ductile) material used in Pro Mod and Top Fuel applications with a cast iron taper-faced second compression ring. Most cast iron and moly rings are porous and hold an oil micro film within the ring. To achieve the best seal with the smooth surface of the HTD top ring, Ray recommended a 280 cylinder wall hone finish, followed by an 820 stone just enough to "plateau" the 280 finish and hold the micro oil film in the cylinder wall. For boosted applications he recommends .007" per inch of bore ring gap for the top ring (.007' x 4.125" = .028) and (.004" x 4.125" = .0165) for the second ring. Ultimately Ray explained that while this is what he found works the best, these numbers will vary from one engine builder to another based on their own experience.
Arias 2618 Hi-Tensile 4.125" LS Hemi piston with .927" diameter .225" wall tool steel non tapered wrist pin. Notice the Hemi valve notches!
When it comes to roller camshafts for racing applications, one name stood out from as long as they could remember, Iskenderian. Ed the camfather himself set them up with a dual pattern 8620 steel billet solid roller 272 intake duration and 270 exhaust, @ .050" on a turbo-friendly 114 lobe separation. A 1.75 rocker ratio nets .747" intake .735" exhaust lift. The cam bumps a set of "Red Zone EZ-Roll Max" lifters. The EZ-Roll Max series lifters are an ultra-low-friction bushed roller bearing design capable of handling the high RPM extreme loading and spring pressure conditions common to high boost turbo applications. They can sustain up to 10000 RPM and 1300 psi open spring pressure. You can't do that for long with a needle bearing lifter!
Isky Steel Billet solid roller camshaft with "Red Zone EZ-Roll Max" roller bearing lifters. Isky made the lifters .100" taller for tie bar clearance as the LSX block has a slightly taller lifter boss.


When it comes to Land Speed Racing and Bonneville in particular you can be wide open full power for up to 6 miles at a time so oiling is a paramount consideration The oiling system is the heartbeat of the engine keeping the lifeblood flowing. Skip a beat and you'll have a yard sale within milliseconds. A wet sump system simply can't hold enough oil to make it past the first mile. Dry sump is the only way to go, so they turned to John Schwartz of Aviaid. John provided one of his "LS-D" five-stage dry sump oil pump (one pressure four scavenge) systems, complete with Gilmer belt drive, ATI Balancer, and low -profile Billet oil pan.

According to Schwartz, Land Speed Racing is one of the most taxing forms of racing for the oiling system. With sustained high RPM and power levels, the oil has little chance to breathe. Couple that with the fact that the oil is the most un-contained fluid in the engine, yet it has to be at several specific points to do its job effectively, and you can see how important it is to get it right. The system holds three gallons of oil. John set the pump up with a 60% underdrive. With max RPM between 7500 u2013 7800, the pump speed will stay in the 4500 - 4700 RPM range. If the pump speed is too high, it will reach a point of cavitation and won't pick the oil up. If the pump speed is too low, it may not provide adequate pressure/volume or scavenge.

The low profile Billet pan is a sweet piece, to say the least! Less than 2" in overall height, it allows for low engine mount situations or in this case a way to get the header primaries and collectors under the engine between the pan and cross member up to the turbocharger. Billet construction eliminates cracking and porosity issues common with welded steel or cast pans. Five ports will allow us to use three stages of scavenging from the pan, one for the heads and two ports to use for drain back.

Rick's friend Jon Meyer of Jon Meyer Engineering (JME) assembled the short block. Once all the components had been deburred and thoroughly cleaned Jon lays the main and rod bearings in place, torques to the manufactureru2019s specs, and begins measuring. During this process, Jon will check and document every componentu2019s dimensions. Jon sets the rod and main bearing clearance between .0028" - .0032" which sometimes requires swapping .001" under or over bearings get where he wants to be. Once all the components are qualified, rings are ground, clearances are set, pistons and rods assembled and any other obstacles overcome, it's just a matter of bolting it all together!
Aviaid "LS-D" five stage dry sump oil pump with Gilmer belt drive and ATI Super Damper. Notice the trick billet mounting bracket that attaches the pump directly to the side of the block. There is an auxiliary drive on the rear of the pump.
Low profile Aviaid dry sump pan features five scavenge ports and a windage screen for optimum oil control. A front scavenge port is essential under braking. Five ports will allow us to use three stages of scavenging from the pan, one for the heads and two ports to use for drain back.
With LSX block de-burred, cleaned and the Isky cam installed. Jon installs the Callies "Dragon Slayer" crankshaft.
Here Jon installs the piston and rod assembly using a special guide tool that keeps the rod aligned with the rod journal.


A blow-through carburetor is required by the rules, hence the 900 CFM CSU carburetor mounted on a Holley Manifold. Pressurized air is routed from the turbocharger, under the intake manifold, and through the firewall to the intercooler in the car. Then it flows on to the carburetor through the cowl.


Contamination is particularly important with fuel and ignition components. hence the modular component approach. They chose an MSD Grid system as it is the most powerful ignition in terms of voltage and millijoules per spark energy. Perfect for boosted applications, The Power Grid system can control many other features however, the class limitations won't let them take advantage of everything it has to offer other than shear spark energy, tach, shift light, and upper RPM limiter outputs. The LS to MSD trigger converter allows them to use the internal 58 tooth crank trigger wheel and convert it to a four-count square wave that the MSD can recognize. Also, they had to modify the front-drive distributor to make room for the turbocharger boost tube. They made a new mount plate and used a keyed coupler, a hand-made driveshaft to a Snap-On 5/8 socket to drive directly off the upper Jesel belt drive pully left-hand bolt. The driver side of the engine has the starter, headers, dry-sump scavenge lines, and steering in the way of the oil pump, so they modified the pump for counterclockwise rotation, inverted it, and solved another problem of where to put the alternator.

The MSD Power Grid is a favorite among racers for its broad versatility. It is the most powerful ignition available and offers complete control if all systems. The LS System Converter allows seamless connection to the LS engine's crankshaft trigger wheel.
The MSD front drive distributor required modification and a new mounting plate to clear the turbocharger boost tube. The Buick offers plenty of room up front to accommodate this setup.
The MSD setup was modularized on a separate aluminum panel to facilitate easy disconnection for routine cleaning between evens. This protects against salt corrosion and dust contamination.
To facilitate the connection between the distributor and the camshaft, a keyed coupler with a hand-made driveshaft to a Snap-On 5/8 socket drives directly off the upper Jesel belt drive pulley which used a left-hand bolt.
The driver's side of the engine has the starter, headers, dry-sump scavenge lines, and steering in the way of the oil pump. They modified the pump for counterclockwise rotation, inverted it, and drive the alternator off the pump.
Rick uses a 94mm turbocharger from his own company Exile Turbo Systems. Exile has contributed to the success of Hot Rod magazineDrag Radial King and 2004 World Street Nationals Outlaw Drag Radial Champion.

The car is not finished, but they are working hard to make the next Bonneville meet. They chose the car it was available and for the classic styling that is so different. The current class record at Bonneville is 226.243 MPH and 202.618 at El Mirage. That's what they're after! The body is not aerodynamically ideal, but the awesome power of the turbocharged Arias Hemi Head LSX is expected to make the car fully competitive.


MSD Power Grid

GM Performance Parts

Callies Performance Products

Pauter Machine

Arias Pistons

Akerly & Childs
(661) 702-1999

Isky Racing Cams


Little People Customs
(805) 290-5585

Jon Meyer Engineering

Vibrant Performance
(905) 564-2808