Car of the Week: "Shock & Awe" Electric Motor '03 Pontiac Firebird

Car of the Week: "Shock & Awe" Electric Motor '03 Pontiac Firebird

Welcome to the BTE Racing Car of the Week series, where we feature our customers and fans, and the cars (and trucks) they love to race. Today, it’s all about Pat McCue of Washington state, his team of high school students and their record-breaking electric-motor Firebird.

How did you get into drag racing?

I am new to the sport of drag racing, other than going with my brother a few times when I was younger to watch.  As a high school auto shop teacher, when we decided to build an electric drag car for my automotive class, I enrolled in the Frank Hawley school of drag racing to get the basics down and earn my license.

When and where was your first race?

My first race was at Mission Raceway in Mission, BC.  We had run the car at our local track Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA, but only as solo runs. To this day, track officials like to send me out on solo runs to let the crowds hear (or not hear) what the car sounds like going down the track. I don't mind it too much, but would like to run with other cars as much as possible to gain more experience.

What model/year do you race now?

Our car is a 2003 Jerry Bickel Pro Stock chassis with an '03 Pontiac Firebird body.

Does your car have a nickname?

Shock and Awe! Fitting for an all electric vehicle don't you think?

What's under the hood?

This is where it gets pretty different. Under the hood we have a dual AMRacing A/C electric motor drive system. Kind of like two Tesla motors put together. It runs off of two Rinehart PM250 motor controllers. Together they are capable of making about 600 ft/lb of torque (from 0 RPM's all the way to about 9,000 RPM's) and 900 HP. We also have an 800 volt battery system under the hood. It contains 768 individual batteries! All of our high voltage electric stuff is under the hood, from the firewall back this is a standard NHRA spec race car. There are many electric racers out there utilizing D/C motor technology. But their motors are fragile when pushed to the limits of their power output. We have over 50 runs with no motor failures and no signs of fatigue!

Which BTE products do you use in your vehicle?

We use a BTE Top Dragster Powerglide transmission. Of course because of our special circumstances, it had to be specially designed and modified. Our electric motors do not idle. So we do not need to have a torque converter or bell housing. We needed to have a custom input shaft fabricated to mate up with the electric motors. If it wasn't for Randy Hobson I don't think the shaft ever would have been completed. Randy and Bryan were critical to the completion of the project.

Why do you use BTE?

BTE was who another electric vehicle conversion company was using. Now that I've had the opportunity to work with them, I have sent several people directly to them. They are a pleasure to work with and were able to give me advice and specifications, like how much pressure and flow my electric fluid pump needs to produce while the "engine" is not running. Super helpful.

Someone you look up to in racing?

We have a great team of mentors working with myself and my students. Our biggest supporter in racing is Jeff Lane of Hancock and Lane Racing, he is a long time family friend and I appreciate the way he never hesitates to take time to help us and others while at the track. He and his son Cody run a Comp and a Super Stock. They've been allowing us to pit next to them at all our local races. They've even had their entire crew come to the line with us and mentor myself and my students in the details of pre-race prep and staging strategy. Jeff really thinks that with the A/C motor technology we use, it wouldn't be hard to build a dragster that could easily crack the 200mph barrier that Don Garlits has been striving for.

If money were no object, what would you drive?

Well if we are talking street car, I really don't have a fantasy ride. I've built a few street cars and enjoy the build almost more than the driving. I'd really like to build a dragster. I think that with some financial support we could build a 3 motor A/C powered dragster that would easily break 200 mph, and be robust enough to not have any motor breakage issues!

What is your pre-race ritual (if you have one)?

I always have high school aged students working on and around the car, so getting the time to focus myself is sometimes difficult. I have taken a page from our race mentor’s son Cody Lane. I respect the way he, as a young man in the sport, is taking this sport so professionally while still maintaining a happy and friendly demeanor. He is hyper-focused but doesn't get wound up or carried away when things don't go his way, every time he gets into his car he stretches and takes a deep breath. I try to take the time to put my earbuds in to block out some of the noise, stretch and take a deep breath.

Posted by Amber Ambrose at 12:33 PM