In the last few issues of Mud Life we have filled the pages with military axle mega trucks and custom-built mud buggies. Some readers may not know that there is a side of the mud world that just doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. Hours upon hours are spent welding, fabricating, building, and racing these extremely fast rigs just to earn a little purse money and a whole lot of bragging rights.
Rail car mud racing is alive and well all across America, and one of the crews leading the pack is the husband and wife team of James and Nina Berrier in their 1949 Chevy racer known as Wicked Witch. This ridiculously fast mudslinger was originally built for a little fun and some competitive mud racing at the local track. Then, just like we have seen before, the addiction sets in and the desire for more takes over. Now, after around 13 suspension changes and years of trial and error in the mud, this crew can proudly brag about their First Place finishes across the country, including a national win at the Kansas Badlands Mud Park. This is definitely a lifestyle of patience and hard work, but for some it all pays off when they grip the wheel and smash the throttle and thousands of fans cheer. Nothing can match the feeling of flying through the mud at incredible speeds.
Starting with some 13⁄8-inch DOM steel tubing, James built the chassis so it sits with a 150-inch wheelbase. Mounted in the front is an ’09 Dart Machinery Chevy V-8 with 605ci of displacement. With the help of B&M Machine shop in High Point, North Carolina, James balanced and blueprinted the motor. A final 16:1 compression ratio was achieved. The engine and heads were then sent to Brian Salter Racing Engines head modifications and flow benching.
A 1,200-cfm Holley dominator carburetor was bolted on, and the power and torque runs through a ’67 Powerglide that’s been completely reworked by Mike’s Transmission in Salisbury, North Carolina. Mike’s also added a Coan Racing custom torque converter and midplate custom strut rods, and tuned for a stall speed of 6,500. The rail is also fitted with a Profab gearbox.
An ’80 Dana 60 axle placed in front and a 14-bolt rear axle spin those chunky 44-inch Super Swamper Boggers. The steering is handled using a hydraulic forklift ram from Tractor Supply, and the brakes are from a Chevy truck. The extremely fast ride is surprisingly smooth since the rail rides on the 16-inch Kings coilovers. A few final touches, high-horsepower, and killer paint and graphics are all this machine needs to get the fans cheering. James painted it himself with T&M Graphics from Reidsville, North Carolina.
Owner: James and Nina Berrier, North Carolina
Engine: ’09 Dart V-8 with 605 ci of displacement
Transmission: ’67 Powerglide
Transfer Case: Profab gearbox
Suspension: Custom parallel 4-link
Axles: Dana 60 front axle and a 14-bolt rear axle
Shocks: 16-inch King coilovers
Tires: 44-inch Super Swamper Boggers