Volume X, Issue 4, Page 105
Words and photos by Rod Short - 4/8/2008

After replacing the nitrous with a single large frame turbo, Spiro Pappas tooled around some on the street before returning to the track in this original 1969 Camaro Z-28.

hen the old National Muscle Car Association was in its heyday, street legal muscle cars racing heads up on the quarter mile captured the imagination of nearly every car enthusiast in the country. More than a few still remember those days – and one of those is Spiro Pappas.

Spiro was one of the Chicago gang of 10.5 racers that made all the magazines back in the mid 1990’s. With Jeff D’Agostino, Spiro’s 1969 Camaro Z-28 street car had run as quick as an 8.391 at 163.75 mph at the end of 1996 against names like Chuck Samuel, Bob Johnson, James Jackson, Tom Joysey, Mark Enwia, Dan Bills, Todd Moyer, Nick Scavo, Bob D’Andrea, Bob Hood and Ray Sanchez. At the time, Spiro was running a Fast Times 427 with EPD heads, a 1050 Dominator and an NOS 2-stage Big Shot nitrous system through a Don Stanley-prepped TSI Transmissions Powerglide on 10.5x29.5 Mickey Thompsons. His black Z-28 with the yellow stripes had become one of the most recognizable and popular in heads up racing.

His black Z-28 with the yellow stripes had become one of the most recognizable and popular in heads up racing.

Unfortunately, family and business situations sometimes keep racers from doing what they love most. That happened with Spiro as he eventually left NMCA racing. While rumors had been circulating that Spiro would be attempting a comeback, more than a few fans were still surprised to see him out racing at the beginning of 2007. In place of the naturally aspiratednitrous combination was a 402 EFI big block that was well fed by a single 106mm hair dryer from Precision Turbo. Capable of supporting up to 2,400 hp, putting such a big turbocharger on the car seemed like a giant overkill, but it seemed like everything would be okay.

Even so, keeping a handle on a car at speeds approaching 190 miles per hour can be radically different from just tooling around on the street. Spiro found that to be true early on as he usually had to lift at the 1,000-foot mark when incoming air kept the front wheels off the track surface, which meant he had no steering.

While that was eventually corrected, things got a bit worse when the car’s parachute came off past the finish line, which resulted in the car going nose first into the wall. While the damage looked worse than it turned out to be, that down time gave the team an opportunity to take several hundred pounds out of the car, thanks in part to a new carbon fiber nose. Keith Engling of Skinny Kid Race Cars did his usual fine job in getting the car back together while crew chief Rick Gerardi went to work on the tune up.

That all paid dividends as they ended the year with a strong finish. With three runner-up finishes and a 6.971 national ET record, Spiro finished third in the battle for the NMCA Super Street championship. At the Street Car Super Nationals, he ran even quicker with a stunning 6.792 at 212.36. That qualifying pass made him the quickest single turbo car in 10.5 racing history. Yet, it was the first NMCA race of 2008 at Bradenton that showed that Spiro was back. He won that race and came home with the championship point’s lead. It was a long hard road, but this Chicago boy is back!