photos by: the author
A Humble Family Man Takes the Road Less Traveled
Don’t let the name of this feature fool you; Josh Johnson of Maplewood, Minnesota rarely has beef with others. Actually, he’s quite personable and understated. We had many good car-guy like chats with Josh before and after he let us shoot his twin-turbo’d family car that he adorned with the license plates “FMLYHLR”.
You know how some people look exactly like their pets? Well, this is truly a case of Josh’s car mating almost perfectly with Josh himself. One look at the impressive patina and 4-door appearance almost makes it too obvious of a choice for a sleeper but that’s the beauty in the beast. It’s so obvious it often gets overlooked and one lift of the hood and BLAMO! Right in the kisser, a set of twins permanently affixed to a 5.3 LS iron block lifted out of a Suburban. It packs enough juice that taking a face full of that giant metal dash doesn’t seem all that enticing.
Just as the car itself is understated, so is Josh, “I built this car to drive and enjoy with my family. I wanted something with modern drivetrain and something that packed some power!” Josh hauls around a wife and two little kids as proof lies directly in the back seat. Child car seats have been lovingly installed so that the kids can get hooked on speed at an early age.
To say that his car packs some power is a bit of an understatement. You see, under that beautiful patina that Josh refuses to paint over lies the heart of a 5.3-liter beast adorned with two mighty snails (aka turbos for the old-school hot rodders out there). Josh is proud of the fact that his 4-door Belair purchased in 2014 and finished a scant 8 months later, has all original body panels and at the jealousy inducing price of $6,500.
The main feature is of course the engine. It’s an iron block 5.3 LS block with a stock bottom end, a TU1 Speed custom cam, 799 heads, LS7 lifters, stock intake and exhaust valves but with PRC dual valve springs. The fun part comes in with the twin 70mm ON3 turbos feeding a Edelbrock Pro Flo XT intake with Siemens 80lb injectors and a 92mm throttle body. He runs good ‘ol pump gas right through a Bosch 044 pump and has his tuning done by Kyle Lindeman. Exhaust on his ride is down right whisper quiet with OBX turbo headers directly pumped into a 3-inch exhaust system with Dynomax mufflers by Dave’s Exhaust in St. Paul, MN.
Your standard 4L80E with a Circle D Pro II 258mm 3200 stall torque converter makes the magic seem effortless by the time it gets to the rearend. He’s got a dual pass trans cooler and a bunch of fun built internals that were put together by John Wade.
Josh estimates he’s got around $20k into his build. Judging on his design cues of leave-well-enough alone styling, anyone would be hard pressed to go out and find a car that looks this good and slams this much power into one ride. Although Josh doesn’t have exact figures, he told us that his twin-snail powered LSX makes about 650 horsepower to the wheels.
We find that number to be a bit dubious, but we’ll suffer him thus far. Josh ran his previous engine combo at an 11.0-flat ET time at 129 miles per hour, which is respectable considering his suspension setup and curb weight. Josh predicts a much quicker ET with his next LSX 6.0 liter combo and horsepower gains.
Josh is running a set of upper and lower CPP tubular control arms with QA1 coil-overs. He added a set of 2-inch drop spindles which gives this old car a very appealing stance. He matched the rear with 2-inch drop leaf springs in the rear and plans on a 4-link when the time comes.
He opted for a standard GM disc brake swap for the front wheels and a Quick Performance retro fit for a 9-inch rear which his car has, natch! The rearend is another Quick Performance piece filled with 3.50 gears, Moser 35-spline axles and a Detroit TruTrac locker.
The wheels are 15×7 GM old school rally’s in the front and 15×8 in the rear giving it a very sleeper feel and appearance. The only tell tale sign might be the 255/60R15 Mickey Thompson ET Streets out back and the 235/60R15 Cooper tires up front. Even then, it will take a keen eye to spot that before the light turns green and your left in the dust, kids in tow.
The interior looks almost as 50s as the outside with a couple major differences. While the original (and best we might add) metal dash remains intact, a Dakota Digital dash was opted for as it takes a wee bit more sophisticated system to watch all the vitals in a modern engine.
The Winters Performance Sidewinder shifter is another dead giveaway but the lap belts were a luxury item most often ignored back way back.Today Josh estimates he puts about 6,000 miles a year on his car and doesn’t even break a sweat on several multi-hundred mile treks to car shows. He told us that he’d like to thank “buddies, Dave, Korey, Zach, Colt, Steve and Brian for fabbing the turbo stuff Kyle for tuning it.” He also adds that he thanks his wife Carrie, don’t’cha Josh?
Eric is an automotive journalist with an eclectic taste. He has written text manuals and creates dynamic features with exciting photography and engaging writing. He holds a masters degree in a different field and lives in the blustery state of Minnesota. He builds cars on the side and enjoys road racing as a weekend warrior. His current project is an LS3-powered RCR SLC.