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One of the first cars we came across during the Summit Midwest Drags earlier this summer was Terry Miller’s 1982 Pontiac Firebird with a 565 cubic inch big block Chevy engine in it. It turned out that Terry was at the drag-and-drive event chasing a three peat in the naturally aspirated class having already won in 2020 and 2021.
We spoke to Terry, who does his own engine work under the guise of Miller Engines, during Day 1 of the Midwest Drags. Terry bought this ’82 Firebird when he was just 15 years old, and now closing in on 45, he’s owned the vehicle for 30 years. Naturally, the Firebird has gone through several different iterations, but it’s always remained street oriented. Terry has done some small tire 275 radial racing and heads up racing. He’s run it on nitrous as well, but since finding drag-and-drive events back in 2017, Terry has focused on the naturally aspirated classes.
Helping him attempt to achieve the three peat this year at the Summit Midwest Drags is a 565 cubic inch big block Chevy engine that features a Dart aluminum block and Dart Pro 355 heads, which aside from new valve and spring combos, new Jesel rockers and some port work, are right out of the box.
The engine has a short 4.250” stroke, but a 4.600” bore. It has a Callies rotating assembly with 13:1 compression JE pistons. Terry also told us he turns it at about 8,600 rpm through the traps. The Dominator carb on top was built by Competition Carburetion in Nevada. Wilson Manifolds did the intake manifold and the bulk of the engine was put together and built by Terry himself.
Of course, not owning his own machine shop, Terry does get machine work done at either Sperry Engines in Cedar Rapids, IA or Shepard Engine Development in Muscatine, IA.
According to Terry, every time this engine has been on the dyno, it makes just under 1,000 horsepower NA. The car has been a fastest 7.63 at 182 mph in the quarter mile on nitrous, and it consistently goes 8.50s-8.60s naturally aspirated. The Firebird has an 8.50-cert cage, so Terry admits it’s a little sketchy going mid-7s.
Behind the big block Chevy is a Powerglide transmission with a 180 first gear and a 410 9-inch rear gear. The car is pretty streetable thanks to a big radiator, an electric fan and electric water pump. The vacuum pump for the engine is actually removed when Terry street drives the Firebird, so it doesn’t pull oil out. Going down the track, he runs about 10-inches of vacuum.
Something a little unique that Terry does is drive and race on the exact same tires, which not many other drag-and-drive competitors do, but it seems to work as he’s had no trouble winning recently. He even ended up completing his three peat at the 2022 Summit Midwest Drags!
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original 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]