Walking around the pits during the five days we spent covering Sick Week in early February, resulted in tons of great interviews about awesome car/engine setups. However, among the hordes of Camaros, Mustangs, Chevelles, Ford Model As, and other classics, was something a little more unique – especially for a drag-and-drive event like Sick Week.
Among the Sick Week A-group competitors (8.49 and faster in the 1/4-mile), was Jesse Havlik of Hot Rods by Havliks, and his 1974 Opel with a massive 582 cubic inch big block Chevy engine stuffed in it. As Jesse and his team were changing the Opel from its track setup to street mode for the drive from Bradenton, FL to Orlando, we couldn’t just walk by their pit before finding out more about this cool setup.
First of all, we found out that Jesse Havlik and his brother Brian have been running Hot Rods by Havliks for over 20 years, building, fabricating and restoring quality hot rods in Cedar Rapids, IA. They’re also no strangers to the drag-and-drive community having competed in multiple Drag Week events, as well as wheel standing competitions and heads up racing over the years.
This particular Sick Week Opel build came about because the shop needed a trailer. The Opel happened to be a happy accident.
“For our shop, we needed a trailer and the trailer we found came with a car,” Jesse Havlik says. “That’s how the deal worked out. The car was a different color and it had a totally different chassis under it. We basically popped the body off, built a whole new chassis that’s certified to 6.0. It’s all chromoly and good stuff that’s there to handle that 582. Less than 30 days ago, it was a chassis, and that’s it.”
The 1974 Opel is an all steel car. Not only did Hot Rods by Havliks build a new chassis for it, but the shop also has a custom exhaust system.
“A lot of people confuse it for being a turbo motor because the headers come to the front, but we’ve got cutouts that I can open when I want to play on the street or when I’m at the track. When we’re driving, I can close it and I’ve got mufflers that go all the way out the back.”
While the Opel is something of a rare breed, the 582 big block Chevy is right at home at an event like Sick Week. However, being a naturally aspirated big block does earn it more notoriety.
“The engine has a Dart block, Dart heads and a Profiler intake,” Havlik says. “We’ve got 1250 Dominators from Competition Carburetion that seem to be working flawlessly. The blower scoop is a modified piece made for Dominators, which isn’t very common. I think I got the last one possibly available on the back shelf in the back room hidden from BDS. I had to modify the opening a little bit, but it’s not bad. It works.”
Internally, Jesse’s big block features Scat rods and Mahle pistons. The heads are 380 Dart heads and the valvetrain is all Jesel componentry. For the oiling setup, Jesse has spring oilers that go underneath the valve covers and are plumed into the back oil line. They squirt into the springs, so hopefully during drives those keep all the springs a lot cooler, since the 900 lift cam means the valvetrain is working overtime.
“We’re working that valvetrain and we want to keep everything as cool as we can,” he says.
In terms of horsepower, Jesse’s 582 big block Chevy is cranking out over 1,000 horsepower. Jesse told us they didn’t have time to put everything together and dyno the engine setup prior to Sick Week, so the horsepower number is an educated guess. However, based on ETs and the way the converter was acting, Jesse thinks it’s well over 1,000 horsepower. Again, that’s naturally aspirated horsepower, but Jesse mentioned he’d like to add some nitrous to the setup soon. Sick Week was the Opel’s debut.
“We were able to test Sunday,” he says. “On the first pass, I hadn’t really driven the car, but I went up there and did a burnout. It felt real clean, so I just let it go all the way across the starting line and figured we might as well get this party started. I went for it and it came out good and straight. I let out a little bit just to make sure everything felt good and ran it out the back door. It went 9.22 first pass.
“On the second pass, it went 8.88@155 mph. There were a few things we need to tweak, which we’ll work on, but I think it’ll get down to 8.50s. Our goal was to average 7.99 this week. We probably won’t make that, but I’m super pleased with how the car is acting. Just getting through the week is half the battle.”
Both Jesse and his brother Brian, who competed with a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, successfully finished Sick Week. Competing in the Unlimited Iron class, Jesse and his Opel big block Chevy earned a fourth-place finish thanks to passes of [email protected] mph (Bradenton), [email protected] mph (Gainesville), [email protected] mph (South Georgia), and [email protected] mph (Bradenton) – resulting in an average of [email protected] mph.
Hopefully, we’ll see Hot Rods by Havliks at future drag-and-drive events, and Jesse will capture that 7.99 average!
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original, Scat Crankshafts and Engine & Performance Warehouse Inc./NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].