Digger Diaries-The Realization of a Lifetime Ambition

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Hilo, Hawaii, drag racer Paul Crivello is a heavy hitter in the Big Island Auto Club’s Bracket One with his big-block Chevrolet-engine Top Sportsman Dragster. His consistent 7.24 elapsed times and speeds of over 180 mph have earned him this status. For Paul, it’s been a long time coming and has taken years of preparation and dues paying to get here.

“My father Reynold was an official for the Big Island Auto Club for many, many years. My brothers Royden, Mark and I grew up around the sport and worked at practically every job imaginable at Hilo Raceway Park when we were young, from cleaning up after the races and passing out time slips to working in staging and even running the lights.”

Drag racing

Crivello got his first taste of raw acceleration when his father gave him a ride around the block in his uncle Kerry Inouye’s ‘67 Nova Gasser. “To this day, the feeling of exhilaration I experienced from that fuel-injected small-block Chevy has stayed with me. I mean, when you’re a kid, you just don’t forget an experience like that!”

Even though he was so close to drag racing throughout his early years, it wasn’t Paul’s first choice to direct his time and talents. He needed to strike out on his own path of discovery.

Here’s a look at the Mike’s Transmissions/Racetrans.com Powerglide, solid-mount 4.30:1 Strange Engineering rearend featuring Strange axles and disc brakes.

“I always say that the reason why I eventually became involved with drag racing was because I got tired of walking. I started out with four-wheel drives and dirt bikes, and got into off-roading as sort of a hobby. It seemed like no matter where I went, I got stuck. From Mauna Kea to the Pacific Ocean, the walk back was never any less than two to three miles over rocky terrain. I even entered the Big Island Enduro with my dirt bike, and while training for the event, my friend and I ran out of gas and had to walk back some five miles to civilization. However, all that walking wasn’t without some degree of success. Crivello won first place in the 125 and 200cc Division in the Mauna Kea Enduro.

Powering Crivello’s rocket is a Performance Machine/Paul Crivello 454 big-block Chevrolet punched out to 599-cid.

With a big smile, Paul is quick to give credit where credit is due. “Now if I get stuck, I have a tow car and a crew, consisting of father Reynold, my wife Jessie, my children Skyler and Ryne, mother Sharon, in-laws James and Dorothy Burton, my brothers Royden and Mark Crivello, Cy Yoshioka, Alton Nanamura, Roscoe-Cobb-Adams and Jason Taka to come rescue me!”

At 18, Paul made his quarter-mile debut in an 11-second ‘66 Chevelle bracket car, and he had some very good teachers in those early days, including Greg and Royden Wong, Lance Wilson and Gary Mizuno, all accomplished drag racers in their own right. “All those guys were totally hands-on and gave me a LOT of help. After that, I was on my way to winning races.”

Here’s Paul with just part of his pit crew: father Reynold, son Skyler, daughter Ryne and mother- and father-in-law James and Dorothy Burton.

In 2004, Crivello’s 11-second Chevelle gave way to an Al Ventura Racing Engines’ 468-cid big-block Chevrolet/Mark Williams rear-engined dragster. “Man, what an eye-opener that was the first time I released the transmission brake. The power of that car really got my attention!”

Ahead of the engine you’ll discover the controls, electronics and safety equipment.

Two years later Paul acquired the seldom-run, Dave Tuttle-built, California Chassis Engineering 225-inch wheelbase, chrom-moly slip joint dragster chassis formerly campaigned by Maui, Hawaii’s Ken Sylva. Prior to taking delivery, Kahului, Maui, fabricators Kiwi and Bill Burns replaced the ¾-inch diagonals on the chassis with 1-inch diagonals in order to certify the car for NHRA Advanced E.T. 6.00-up class racing.

All broken apart for your inspection is Paul’s Dave Tuttle-built, 225-inch wheelbase California Chassis Engineering slip joint chassis and aluminum body panels.

“With coaching from Al Ventura and Mick Yoshioka of Performance Machine, I completely rebuilt the engine. Along the way we replaced vital components like pistons, rods, cam, pretty much everything inside. With a new car, I wanted everything to be perfect.

“Jimmy and TanaGalente of Racetrans.com were a tremendous help in instructing me on how to rebuild my original Dragster’s Mike’s Transmissions eight-clutch drum Vasco Glide. I used their CD, How to Build a Top Sportsman Powerglide, rather than going to all the trouble and expense of having the transmission shipped back and forth to the mainland.” In addition to the trans rebuild, Crivello and Royden Wong also tackled the Strangerearend, preparing it for the increased horsepower.

Paul’s “office” features red anodized CCE interior, Auto Meter gauges, Simpson Safety belts and Pro Werks butterfly steering wheel. Ahead of the driver’s bulkhead you’ll find an Optima Gel Cell battery, Pyrotect fire extinguisher, MSD Three-Step Module and Computech Systems EGT Plus exhaust temp and rpm monitor.

In Crivello’s mind less is better concerning the appearance of his racer. There are no gaudy signs and stickers plastered all over it, just pretty paint and a fast race car.

Credit for the outstanding House of Kolor Sunset Orange-painted CCE eight-piece aluminum body goes to Darrell Nagasato from Hilo, Hawaii’s Tabo’s Auto Body, while the silver flames are the handiwork of the Art Works’ Ryan Matsuo.

Sponsors include Ken Silva’s Auto Body, Antonio’s Auto Repair and the Hilo Lunch Stop. Special thanks go to Keith Aguiar, Randy De Mattos, Rodney Rezentes, Ken Antonio and Gary De Rego and family.

Paul’s father ReynoldCrivello is also living the dream. “Building this dragster fulfilled my first dream, and being featured in Drag Racer Magazine has fulfilled my second. Life couldn’t get any better!”

Tech Sheet

Engine: Chevrolet

Cubic Inches: 599

Built by: Performance Machine/Paul Crivello

Crank: 4.5 in. Crower Stroker

Rods: Brooks (BRC)

Bearings: Clevite

Piston: Ross 16:1 hard anodized

Piston Rings: Ackerly& Childs

Comp: 16:1

Oil System: Moroso four-stage 7-quart dry sump

Cam: Competition

Push Rods: Manton

Valves: Manley

Valve Springs: Manley

Rockers: Crane Gold

Valve Covers: Al Ventura

Belt Drive: Jesel

Cylinder Heads: Dart 360, Mick Yoshioka ported

Intake: Dart tunnel ram, Enderle/Kinsler injection

Headers: Jack Davis/Hedman

Ignition system: MSD crank trigger

Ignition wires: MSD

Trans type:  Powerglide

Built by: Mike’s Transmissions (Crivello/Racetrans.com)

Converter: Continental

Trans Brake: Hipster

Rear: 9-inch Strange

Axles: Strange

Case and Gears: Strange 4.30:1

Steering System: Stiletto rack-and-pinion

Wheels Front: Weld

2.25 x 17

Wheels Rear: Weld 16 x 16

Tire/Front and Rear: Goodyear

Rear Brakes: Strange

Chassis: Dave Tuttle/”Kiwi” and Bill Burns

Gauges: Auto Meter


Text and Photos by Bob McClurg


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