As the proprietor of MPW Performance, Adam Rogash is not new to building show-quality, big-power cars to tight deadlines, but his new street-and-strip Capri is next level. It also represents a change of tack from Adam’s previous projects, as he elected to build the car largely at home rather than at the shop, allowing his wife Kelly and young kids to be heavily involved.
First published in the August 2023 issue of Street Machine
Not only did Adam and the family choose to depart from the Commodore platform and twin-turbo LS engine combination that has served them so well over the years, they gave themselves just six months to build it. Lunatics.
“I was keen to do a Fox-body [Mustang], but the missus liked the shape of the Capri,” Adam says. “We found one in Queensland that was engineered for a big-block, so that seemed like a sign.”
The car turned out to be a bit like a Tinder date – it presented pretty well in photos online, but when Adam and Kelly laid eyes on it for real, it was barely recognisable. “It was f*cked,” says Adam, bluntly. The years had not been kind to the Capri, with dodgy rust repairs and liberal helpings of body filler among the hidden ‘gems’ awaiting the Rogashes as they began to tear the car down.
Adam, Kelly and the kids spent every spare evening and weekend tinkering on the car together – family time that Adam is grateful for. “The car was pretty bad, but it gave me the opportunity to get the kids involved with rust repairs and bodywork and teach them the process,” he recalls fondly.
With the car straightened out, the team could turn their attention to chopping it up and sprinkling in plenty of race-car eye candy. The back end was cut out to accept the huge rear wheel-and-tyre combination, then decorated with goodies like the MPW fabricated nine-inch housing and the kind of hardware you’d expect from a 2000+hp radial race car.
The car rolls around on 315 Mickey Thompson rear radials, a tyre that Adam has used on plenty of MPW builds; however, the tubs were built to also accept a 31.5×12.5 slick. “We’ll start on a radial and then prepare the car to race at Drag Challenge on the big tyre,” Adam says. “Obviously, there’s a big difference between the radial and the slick, but we tried to build the car in such a way that all we had to change was a few bar angles and the rear shocks to swap between the two tyres.”
The fab work continued up front, where Adam was obsessed with getting everything to fit perfectly. “It took me three days to get the engine and turbos in the right place,” he recalls. The Capri’s tightly packed engine bay is like a Where’s Wally puzzle of high-performance parts, with Adam managing to cram two 98mm Pulsar turbos, the dry sump oil tank, and a fuel cell for the cam-driven fuel pump into the front of the car, functioning in perfect harmony with the chassis and rollcage, as well as the jewel in the crown: the 596-cube big block.
“We’re really known for our LS combinations, but we’re starting to see more diversity in the workshop these days, so it made sense,” explains Adam of the choice of the big-block. “Plus, we’ve got the VK [ALLSHOW, SM, Oct ’17] to the point where the LS is right on the cusp of reliability – they’re great for 1500hp, but as you edge closer to 2000hp, you can’t work around the fact that they’re a small-journal engine, and that becomes a limitation.”
For his first foray into the world of big-cube big-blocks, Adam enlisted the help of Frank Marchese of Dandy Engines. “Frank had just finished building this engine for a customer who ended up purchasing a 481X, so we grabbed the Chev engine and slotted it into the Capri,” he says. “They’d originally built it as a naturally aspirated engine, but the specs made sense for us to add the EFI and turbos and go racing.”
The mill is centred around a Brodix aluminium block, and the internals read as you’d expect them to – nothing too exotic. But remember, this isn’t a highly strung aspo engine; a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the bolt-ons.
The Pulsar turbos force-feed a Plazmaman billet intake with two injectors per cylinder – one set for street driving on pump fuel, and the other, larger set for racing the car on methanol.
One of the coolest aspects of the Capri is how easily it can be converted to naturally aspirated trim for the road legs of Drag Challenge, and for engineering and registration purposes. “The turbos sit on Maven turbo mounts, so the weight isn’t supported by the headers,” Adam explains. “The car runs J-pipes from the 2.25in-primary headers to the turbos, which I can remove and replace with connecting pipes to join the headers straight to the exhaust system, bypassing the turbos. Then we just remove the bullhorns and fit block-off plates. The whole process takes around 15 minutes.”
A two-speed Turbo 400 isn’t a misprint – M&M offer its Turbo 400s with only two gears to help racers better select more optimal gear ratios. It’s mated to an M&M bolt-together converter, which Adam and the team have already tinkered with a few times to get the car launching, while out the back, an MPW-fabricated nine-inch houses 3.5:1 gears and Race Products floating axles.
More than just a matter of making everything fit though, it had to be practical. Adam and the MPW cohort are avid campaigners at Street Machine Drag Challenge and firm believers in using their cars on the street.
“The Capri was a packaging nightmare! We had to make everything fit, but it also had to be easy to work on. It really made us consider every system – the cooling system, the oiling system, the fuel system, our suspension set-up,” Adam explains. “If you’re building a dedicated race car, then street manners don’t matter. But we don’t build mild race cars, we build wild street cars!”
Despite the lightning-quick build time, Adam says he wouldn’t change a thing on the Capri: “We built it right the first time. It will be the last big car I build myself for quite a while, so it had to be right.”
That mantra extends to the vehicle management system, and in describing how he specced the car, Adam admits he treated the Capri like the Noah’s ark of Haltech products, ushering two of every kind of switch and sensor into the tiny Ford coupe! “We’re pulling data from every moving part on the car, and even some parts that don’t,” he says. “Without the data, you’re just guessing, and on a big-dollar build like this, that’s just not an option. You don’t go fast by guessing.”
The Capri has already seen some time on the MPW hub dyno, with Adam punching numbers in the Haltech Nexus R5 that controls the car. After a few shakedown passes to refine the power management and tune the suspension, the car rattled off a seemingly effortless 6.91@199mph pass at Sydney Dragway’s Grudge Kings event – on its second ever full-track pass!
Between now and Drag Challenge, though, the Capri is destined for some road miles. “If you have something that’s safe to be driven on the street with all the mod cons – including cupholders – then anything can be a street car if you’re game enough,” Adam grins.
ADAM AND KELLY ROGASH
1970 FORD CAPRI
Paint: Custom Electric Blue
|Brand:||596ci Brodix 10.2-deck aluminium big-block|
|Induction:||Plazmaman billet intake|
|Camshaft:||Dandy Engines custom-ground solid-roller|
|Oil pump:||Peterson five-stage dry sump, custom pan|
|Fuel system:||Eight XX Racing 5500cc injectors, eight Siemens Deka 2400cc injectors, Aeromotive Li’l Bertha 30gal/min cam-driven fuel pump, boot-mounted fuel cell, two Walbro 525 internal pumps|
|Management:||Haltech Nexus R5|
|Cooling:||Custom MPW radiator, SPAL 3500 thermo fan|
|Exhaust:||Custom MPW headers, removable J-pipes, Turbosmart 60mm wastegates, dual 3in stainless-steel exhaust, removable bullhorns|
|Ignition:||Haltech IGN-1A coils|
|Gearbox:||M&M two-speed TH400, Reid case|
|Diff:||MPW fabricated housing, Strange diff centre, Race Products floating axles, 3.5:1 gears|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Custom-fabricated tubular front end, AFCO/Gazzard Bros 6in coil-overs, Strange steering rack|
|Rear:||AFCO/Gazzard Bros 6in coil-overs, Haltech travel sensors, MPW four-link, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)|
|Master cylinder:||Tilton floor-mounted pedal box|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||Keizer Beurt; 15×6 (f), 15×14 (r)|
|Rubber:||Mickey Thompson ET (f), Mickey Thompson 315 radial or 31.5×12.50 slick (r)|
The whole team at MPW, especially Abe; my good friend Mark for helping with the transmission; Frank at Dandy Engines; Dale Heiler for the injectors; Chris Cutajar for reasons no one knows; my wife Kelly and my kids for their unwavering support; Turbosmart; Haltech; Plazmaman; Pulsar Turbos; Cameron at Rosebud Panels; GJ Drivelines; Raceworks; Rick and Dragos; Scotty Cortina at Gazzard Bros; Keizer Wheels; HAMR Coatings; Racer Industries