Story continues below this advertisement
“Smokey's Darkside” Nitro Funny Car is the vision of veteran motorman Larry “Smokey” Alleman. Housed inside a 1978 Dodge Challenger is a supercharged 426 Hemi on nitro—but with a twist. Despite the body style, it's not a Mopar. Instead, the Darkside uses an Arias engine, a “Hemi-heads-on-a-Chevy-block” combination. This powerplant is unique to NHRA Heritage Series Nitro Funny Car competition. The Darkside deviates further from the status quo by implementing a Titan pedal clutch instead of the more customary "glide"-type. Alleman also hired “Nitro Kitty” Mendy Fry to shoe his racecar, making this entry even more exotic: The only Arias, a pedal clutch and the only distaff driver.
Before Heritage Series competition begins at the March Meet, “Smokey” agreed to explain what makes this combination both provocative and potentially very powerful. And how it conforms to the Funny Car rules. This interview was conducted by Cole Coonce during a recent pre-season warm-up session at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, where the Arias was put through its initial tests.
: Introduce yourself.
Smokey Alleman: I’m Smokey Alleman. I’ve been racing for a number of years. I haven’t been drag racing for that long, but I have been running this Funny Car for two years. Just recently, I decided to go with Nick Arias with this motor.
It was built in the ‘70s. I looked at it and that it had potential. I kind of updated some stuff and made it more modern. I changed a number of things we felt could make it better. We are just in the process of shaking it down at this moment.
: Tell me about the motor.
SA: It’s a Chevy V-8, hemispherical head built by Nick Arias, which he developed many years ago. It’s been updated now. We changed it internally; many, many small changes, but it’s still the same basic design that was done in the ‘70s.
: Can you tell me about the block?
SA: The block is a Century big-block Chevy, aluminum casting.
: You maintain that this is more period-correct than the some of the 426s that are out there now in this class…
SA: The 426 or the 392. They are both billet blocks. This is a cast block, cast head, where they are both billet. They (the 392s and 426s) have cylinder head bolts that the original motors didn’t have anyway.
: This is a based on a mid-'70s design?