Devoid of its decals, Michael Levitas' fire engine-red 1991 Dodge Stealth Twin Turbo appears the same as any such factory model. And in many ways, it is.
Only a locally designed turbo system, roll bar and mounted fire extinguisher separate the factory model from Levitas' edition.
Levitas' vehicle is factory stock, complete with four seats, a high-fidelity stereo system and a cellular phone. What is unique, however, is his patented Max Flow turbo system, which gives the car's 3.0-liter engine a 100-horsepower boost.
Levitas, owner and turbo design specialist at Michael's Motorworks in Glen Burnie, will test his self-designed and self-installed turbo system during Speed Week, whichbegins Saturday in Windover, Utah.
He left last night for the races just outside Salt Lake City, driving the very car he will be racing.
He will enter his vehicle in the F-stock series of the SouthernCalifornia Timing Association's Bonneville Salt Flat Championships. The F-stock series is a class restricted to vehicles that are "highway legal."
"This is any everyday street car," said Levitas, 32, anda resident of Baltimore County. "All emission-control devices are still intact, and we did not change the original configuration at all.
"We're driving it out there with the air conditioner on. We're going to race it, and then we're going to drive it back."
The annual races will take place on a salt lake bed that dries up during this part of the season, providing land-speed enthusiasts with a vast natural racetrack.
Levitas and two co-drivers, Steve Standard of Long Island, N.Y., and Turbo magazine Publisher Kip Kington of Long Beach, Calif., will compete in the two- and five-mile races, which are judgedon average speed.
Levitas, who has never been to Speed Week, is confident that his vehicle is capable of beating the current F-stock land speed record of 173 mph.
"This car went 151 mph originally in fifth gear," said Levitas,
while sitting under the vehicle yesterday morning, putting the finishing touches on its advanced coolant system.
"With the new turbo system we've installed, it now does 174 (mph) in fourth gear, and it's going to do 189 to 190 in fifth. We didn't change anything on the car other than the turbos, and we should have no problem breaking the record."
Levitas said he has gotten the car up to 170 mph, but having previously disclosed that he never has entered the car in any organized racing event, he was faced with the inevitable question: "How do you know it can go 170?"
"Let's just leave it at that," said a smiling Levitas.
Although Speed Week will be the first time he has been behind the wheel in a race, Levitashas been behind the scenes in other competitions.
He has helped design turbo systems for cars that have participated in a variety of races, including the Dallas Grand Prix, the Silver State Classic and Pikes Peak Challenge.
Levitas, a licensed aircraft mechanic, says it is his unique background in aviation and automotive mechanics that has afforded him the opportunity to design such superior turbo systems.
"I used to produce turbo supercharged systems for aircraft for years," said Levitas, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he majored in aviation maintenance management.
"My background in aviation is the only thing that's allowed me to design these systems. I understand the engineering and the principles of everything."
Something else Levitas understands and readily accepts is the danger involved in traveling at high speeds.
"There is a certain amount of danger in driving 170, but we've done as much as we can to eliminate the possibility of severe injury," said Levitas, whose wife, Wende, and 4-month-old son, Harris, will not be accompanying him in his travels.
"We've taken a lot of safetyprecautions. If it was too dangerous, we wouldn't be doing it."
What Levitas hopes to do in Utah is break the 189-mph barrier and gainsome additional recognition for his garage, which he says has earneda "world-wide" reputation while doing everything from brake and tireservice to advanced turbo systems work.
"We are primarily a turboperformance center and that is the bulk of our workload," said Levitas, whose shop was in Glen Burnie for five years and at its present location on Ritchie Highway for just over a year.
"We do a lot of general repair work, just because people know what we're doing and feel that we're probably more qualified. We definitely don't have kids who just got out of vo-tech schools turning wrenches here."