540 cid Supercharged Big Block Chevy Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

540 cid Supercharged Big Block Chevy Engine

Born without arms, Matt Stutzman, aka the Armless Archer, has excelled at competitive archery. Now, he's turning his focus to another passion – drag racing. Looking to go 200 mph in the 1/8th mile, Matt runs a Top Sportsman drag car with a supercharged big block Chevy engine. Check it out!

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In the six months leading up to the 2023 PRI show, we kept hearing a bunch of info about a guy named Matt Stutzman. However, we weren’t necessarily calling him Matt at that point, because he’s better known as the Armless Archer. Matt is a soon-to-be 4-time Paralympic archer, and what’s most impressive about Matt is what he can do with only his feet.

Born without arms, Matt grew up having to learn to do everything with his feet. Thanks to parents who didn’t let him cut corners or restrict him from trying certain activities, Matt figured out how to do a lot that you might otherwise believe he couldn’t physically do. One of those activities involves motorsports. He grew up wanting to race, whether it was on motorcycles or in cars, and taught himself how to work on the vehicles as well. He’s also a man who once he puts his mind to something or finds a reason to excel at something, you better get out of his way, because he’ll do it – and he won’t just do it – he’ll kick ass at it.

Matt Stutzman’s Top Sportsman drag car

That’s exactly how archery came about. Someone didn’t think Matt would be able to shoot a regular compound bow, so he bought one anyway and created his own shooting technique. In the years since, he’s competed in three Paralympic games (2012, 2016, 2020) and countless other worldwide competitions, earning medals and world records along the way. This summer, Matt will be going to his fourth Paralympic games. However, as his Paralympic goals continue to be met, Matt has begun to change his focus back to motorsports, and specifically drag racing.

He wants to achieve 200 mph in the 1/8thmile, and he’s doing it in a Top Sportsman drag car that currently features a 540 cid supercharged big block Chevy engine, and very surprisingly, no major modifications to the car. Anything that Matt has altered to aid himself in driving and operating the vehicle with his feet have been very minor. The car would feel very “normal” to anyone who’s familiar with a drag car.

After those six months of hearing about Matt and his inspiring story and the lofty goals he still has for himself in an entirely new discipline, we got to meet him at PRI 2023 in the PennGrade 1 / D-A Lubricant booth. He told us his story and how he became who he is today, as well as showing us exactly how he races the Top Sportsman car without the use of arms, and he also gave us a rundown of his big block Chevy engine, which he primarily does the work on himself.

“I joke that I’m truly one of the only people who uses foot-pounds of torque,” Stutzman says with a big smile. He’s also got a great sense of humor, as if this man couldn’t get any cooler than he already is. “I do pretty much everything on this car and the engine.”

As mentioned, Matt wants to ultimately go 200 mph in the 1/8th mile. To do that, he’s enlisted a 540 cid supercharged big block Chevy engine.

“For the speeds that I was trying to reach, I knew it needed some power, so obviously I decided to go with the big block Chevy,” Stutzman says. “It’s an engine I know the most about. This engine started with a bow tie block. We have a Callies crank, Oliver rods and a BDS 10-71 blower. We actually only spin it at 7% overdrive, so it’s only like 12-lbs. of boost right now. But that gets me into the 4s really easy. The thing is reliable, it’s consistent.

“Of course, I run 50-weight PennGrade 1 oil, and I can run a whole weekend on that stuff and drop it out of the bottom when I get back to the shop and it looks amazing. But that’s pretty much the basic setup.”

This engine build came about after Matt’s previous engine had run into some issues. He enlisted the help of a friend who owns runs a machine shop in the back of a NAPA store to build this 540 cid big block, but Matt didn’t just sit on the sidelines. He put the heads together and built a significant amount of the engine and the car as well.

“My friend does a lot of blower engines for monster trucks and he’s really good at what he does,” he says. “When he gave me this engine and said, ‘I think you’re going to be happy,’ I did not expect to be this happy. I mean, we literally aren’t even running the car hard at all and we are way exceeding speeds to this point. We actually have to slow it down a little bit, so we don’t go too fast.

“The heads on the engine are Dart Pro 1 aluminum cylinder heads, and I run a Jesel belt-driven timing set. I run carburetors, which is kind of unique to what other people might run. These are alcohol carburetors – 1050 Dominators – and we run the car on alcohol. What I’ve learned is that I don’t have to do as much changing at the track to run consistent numbers with them, and that’s one of the reasons why I like them so much.”

While Matt has a legit Top Sportsman car here, he says the engine still runs water, so “I could drive it to Walmart, if they would allow me to.” The big block Chevy is mated to a Reid Powerglide transmission, and the Chevy engine produces 1,500 horsepower.

“We’ve got probably about 1,500 horsepower, so it’s really not too crazy, but to get to that 200-mph mark, it’s probably going to need a different engine,” Stutzman admits. “We’ll probably need around 3,000 horsepower I’m guessing. But it is in my future. It is my plans. I’ll get there.”

As mentioned, Matt’s drag car does feature some minor alterations to fit his needs, but incredibly, the car has remained very close to what it would be if someone with arms were to drive it. Matt did that intentionally so the car could be sold when the time comes.

“A lot of people actually ask me, ‘It must be crazy having a car that’s all modified like that,’” he says. “I then show people the car and open the door, and you can tell people are confused. It’s still a ‘normal’ car, so to speak.”

Just as with Matt’s Paralympic archery, which began by learning the ropes and mastering the craft in his own way, his journey in motorsports is just getting going. We have no doubt that given Matt’s determination, drive and skillset that he’ll be meeting his mph goals before we know it.

“I’m really impressed with how consistent the car and engine run,” Stutzman says. “It makes me fly. It makes me feel amazing.” Matt will be racing the car this summer.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – Das Original and 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].

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