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Cool old race cars.

ndancendance Posts: 323
edited March 2014 in Chevrolet
So here's my entry for interesting stuff that I remember (not old enough to go pre-60s).

Smokey Yunick's TransAm Camaro
Dekon Monza (AAGT cars generally)
Parnelli Jones' Funny Car Blazer
Herb Adams' TransAm Tempest
Kar Kraft Boss 429 A-Sedan
Hurst Twin Engine Toronado
The Killer B's.


  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Didn't Smokey have a 3/4-scale '66 Chevelle for NASCAR racing? Looked like the real thing until someone stood next to it. I don't know much about NASCAR but that seemed like the ultimate in good ol' boy rule stretching.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    You know, I've seen pictures of that thing and I don't think it's particularly different in size from the street car. No doubt though, there are a million rule stretches/cheats in that car. There is the famous time he drove back to the pits with no gas tank after one too many violations. I've no idea if that is a true story either.

    I seem to remember a nice stretch done by the Bud Moore team with the Boss 302's. The rules stated thou shalt cover thy headlights, so the Ford guys covered theirs with a wire mesh, and fed the air to the front brakes. Kind of like the thou shalt have a single four barrel carb rule resulting in the inline autolite.

    I'd like for someone to buy that 100 dollar Smokey Yunick biography for me for Christmas. Anybody??
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I have a copy of "Smokey Yunick's Power Secrets" that I'll read aloud to you.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Got that one. I'm talking...

    But's a hunnert dollars....

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    So, okay, go blow it on food and rent then!

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  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Cool old race car(s) du jour....

    I've always thought that cloning the Calder car

    would be a totally cool project (assuming you could find a 2800/3.0 CS that isn't made out of iron oxide). Tisn't one of those E30 M3's, but then, what is.

    Has anybody ever run into a fiberglass source for BMW coupes (flares, etc.)?

  • ndancendance Posts: 323

    I got to see one of these things (assuming there was more than one) at Parker years ago. Not competitive, but really interesting.

    It always seem to me that this would make a really interesting kit car. Get somebody like Factory Five (a cobra kit company) to cook up a frame and fiberglass body. Kind of a front engine, V8 powered rail. I have NO idea how you would license it (maybe a tag switch from a Blazer?).

  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Well, I'm just a poor boy from Florida so my idea of a cool old race car would be any NASCAR stocker built before say 1960. I don't know much about NASCAR racing but every once in a while I see a film clip of some old race and it's wild to see what's getting drifted through the turns. Buick, Olds, Pontiac, Chrysler, Hudson as well as the usual suspects--it wasn't just the current Ford vs. Chevy show in those days. I'm not sure when most of them left, maybe after the so-called racing ban, although didn't Lee Petty win the '59 championship in an Olds?
  • Yeah, the book(s) are a cool addition to your collection, but if you're looking for a "Race Prep Secrets" manual, this isn't the book.
    It's more a chronicle of Smokey's life, and some of the inside politics of racing, along with his extremely candid opinions on NASCAR, race drivers, and politicians.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    As to books, in this case I'm very interested in his life (that was one smart dude). I'm drowning in car books over here, but have NEVER (I think I can make that statement) seen a book which was of much use towards professional engine building (the S.Y. articles that used to run in Dirt Track were pretty good though).

    Seems to me that the only way to acquire enough knowledge to build competitive engines at a professional level is to start out as a parts washer (with MSc in materials/automotive/whatever engineering) and get plenty of OJT. If I ever stumble on a book by Travers and Coons,Sonny Leonard, or the pixies who work on factory efforts, I'll post a URL.
  • They actually ran convertables for a few years. Maybe more scarey than cool.
  • lleroilleroi Posts: 112
    withdrawing from racing in 1957/58(?).
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Well, the ostensible reason is that the manufacturers were getting flack from safety advocates about advertising how hot their cars were, but I've read that they were really more concerned with how expensive racing was getting. So yeah, it's possible they just got tired of having to up the ante every few months.

    Actually Ford was the only one that took the "ban" seriously--I think they proposed it--and boy did they take it seriously. The '58 and '59 Fords had absolutely nothing to compete with the hot Chevy 348s.

    What are the supercharged 312s called, the E code engine? Somewhere I've got a magazine article about a restored '57 Fairlane 300 coupe that came with a supercharged 312, was seperated from it for years while the engine was racing in another body, and then reunited with the exact same engine. There are some mighty interesting '50s stockers with limited production engines no one has heard of for years.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323

    Twin engine mini.

    Nice article on the car in Grass Roots Motorsports (which is about the only car mag I really enjoy anymore).

  • I've always had a place in my heart for the old Penske AMC Matadore Trans Am Cars. With the red, white and blue paint and low slung bodies, these things looked like life-sized Hot Wheel cars.

    Who ever thought that "The Captain" would ever align himself with lowly AMC? In today's terms that would be like Roger campaigning a Kia on the NASCAR circuit.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Just imagine what the guys at Traco had to go through to build racing engines for the Trans-Am and NASCAR out of AMC V8's. I suppose, if nothing else, you do get the advantage of clean-sheet design. By assuming that the components aren't optimal, the way is cleared for using either internally designed parts (for things like oil pans, etc) or the best aftermarket stuff (connecting rods, maybe) from the get-go.
  • Weren't they famous for using parts from other manufacturers and putting them together? If I remeber right, they used ford A/C units.

    Where their engines completely AMC, or a combination of things?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I think the alternators were also of Ford design but the AMC V8 (and six) were AMC designs.

    The V8 first came out in the mid '50s as a 250 and as a 327 in the first AMC musclecar, the '57 Rebel. I don't remember it getting much attention until around '69-71 when AMC finally got into performance (especially with the AMX) and there were occasional articles about it.

    The V8 was fairly small and lightweight because AMC had to use it in their full range of cars from compacts to Ambassadors. The 390/401 in particular was lighter than comparable big blocks. There was also a 290 that was popular in the American (one of the better looking compacts) later stroked to a 304 that showed up in a few Gremlins. And there was a 343 later stroked to 360 CID.

    Apparently the engine had a convoluted oiling system and the heads hadn't been updated to breathe like some of the better engines in the late '60s, so ndance is right that anyone building a competition AMC engine had their work cut out for them.

    But they weren't dogs, at least on the street. I've read estimates that the 390 put out anywhere from 250 to 290 real horsepower, as good or better than most of the base musclecar engines. AMC offered a dealer-installed cam (I'll bet that's where the 290 hp came from) and two intake manifolds, one a ram-tuned dual quad set up although I suspect these parts were developed by the aftermarket.

    I seem to recall that AMC won the Trans-Am series after the other factory teams pulled out so maybe they didn't have to run their engines on the ragged edge, but it's still quite an accomplishment.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    the Penske Javelin took on the full boat, factory sponsored Ford team (in addition to the Chaparral Camaro/Gurney Barracuda/etc.). They actually did pretty well (2nd for the season I think) and were competitive throughout. In 1971, the leftover 1970 Mustangs were fielded by Bud Moore as kind of an independent (after Ford pulled out) and the Javelins won the series.

    I expect that with sedan racing at this level (in terms of both expertise and money) that practically anything can be made competitive. It isn't like a T/A car (even of that era) was a showroom stock car with some sway bars. I'll bet that lacking the strong homologation efforts that both Chevy and Ford had in terms of race parts, that the Penske guys immediately went to home brew, high dollar designs for things like brakes, suspension design (where legal), wet sump design (which was a big deal in those cars), etc.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    while I don't know a whole lot about AMC V8's, I expect that they lack quite a few advantages. Just looking at the years and dollars invested in small block Chevy's, it's kind of a miracle that any U.S. built stock-block V8's win anything in classes against the SBC. As far as I can tell, the only times that other companies have been very successful is times where the car itself is kind of a rolling billboard for the brand and thus gets the funding needed to make up the difference in development dollars. Cases where the cars are brand-neutral (sprint cars for example) always seem to use Chevrolet designs.

    For street cars (at least 98% of the time), I honestly don't think that the brand makes a whole lot of difference. You could probably stick a 401 AMC engine in place of a 400 Pontiac in a GTO and (if painted the same color) hardly anyone could have told them apart. About all that you lack (30 years ago that is) with makes like Oldsmobile, Pontiac (with a couple of exceptions), Buick, AMC is ultimate performance versions (ie big cam, solid lifters, holley, four bolt mains,windage trays) like Chrysler (426,440/6), Chevrolet (Z28/LT1/L78/L72/LS6), or Ford (Boss 302/351/429, 427).

    If anything, the last 10-20 years has solidified the lead the most common high-performance V8's have held (SBC/BBC/SB Ford) in terms of development. It's flat amazing how many crate engines, aftermarket cylinder heads, aftermarket engine blocks, etc. have been pounded out lately.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I wonder how many cubic dollars AMC had to throw at racing to get from zero to championship so quickly (and so publicly).

    It sounds like Penske could minimize part of the learning curve by borrowing chassis upgrades from his competition. But getting that engine to make reliable competitive power that quickly must have been one of the all-time thrashes. I wonder how many DNFs they had that first year?

    You're right, most standard musclecar engines were pretty much interchangeable except for a few underperformers like the 390 GT and nailvalve Buick. Most of them got a halo effect from optional (and expensive) engines with big port/big valve heads, lumpy mechanical cam, better manifolding and more carburetion. I think the Chevy big block was the best example of this.

    I remember around '69 or so Pontiac had a 5 liter V8, a destroked 400 with Ram Air IV heads, they were going to use in Trans Am racing. I think there was even a road test of one. Didn't they decide to use Chevies instead, ostensibly because Canadian Firebirds used Chevies?
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Oh yeah....I've got that old Trans Am Pontiac article somewhere (Motor Trend maybe?). You're right about the whole Canadian Firebird deal (so they could use the 302 Chevy, don't blame 'em, just throw some money at an established engine builder and blammo, competitive V8 at your doorstep). I expect that if the Firebirds (Titus?) had been competitive, there would have been some serious objections raised by the other teams.

    The history of that serious is pretty interesting/funny. A bunch of real heavy hitters with serious money racing taxicabs. Oddities like the crossboss intake/Autolite inline (strangely enough, with the runners exactly lining up with Boss 302 ports...hey the book says 4-bbl, doesn't say how it looks). Absurdly over-carbed motors until 1970, the Penske 50 foot in the air fueling rig, the 'covered' headlights on the Boss 302 (mesh + front brake cooling duct), etc.

    I wonder whatever happened to the Grey Ghost (Herb Adams' Wife's Tempest)?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    You remember a lot more about the series than I do but I do remember the Grey Ghost. I'm pretty sure it first raced at Lime Rock and maybe Adams was a GM engineer. Anyway the car got several pages in one of the magazines (Car & Driver?) then. I think it's still around. I vaguely remember someone testing it for a magazine a few years ago.

    I think Pontiac copping out on using its own engine speaks volumes for what AMC was able to achieve. Pontiac had its NASCAR and drag racing experience to draw on plus a lot more money, and those RA IV heads had to be lightyears ahead of what AMC started out with. If Delorean and Estes were still at Pontiac it might have been different--those guys would have outthought Chevy instead of using its engine.

    The comparison with Kia is interesting but I think AMC was a more established (if still marginal) automaker facing a crisis caused in part by a stodgy image. Maybe Nissan is more apt. They haven't had a performance image leader since the 300ZX went away and they've paid for it.

    I think it would be a trip to watch the Winston Cup cars race at Sears Point. Maybe that's a little like what Trans Am racing looked tlike.
  • Pontiac didn't "cop out" on not using their own engine in the Trans Am series. They spent a ton of money trying to develop the 303 engine strictly for the series. Both the factory engineers and TRACO did a lot of work, and they got to where they had around 490-510 hp. Reliability was still somewhat shaky, however.
    I seem to recall one of the engineers being quoted as saying that they were having trouble making a high revving small engine out of a big engine. Keep in mind that Pontiac didn't have "small block" and "big block" engines like most of the other makes. They had one block size, and juggled bore/stroke to determine displacement.
    What confuses people is that Pontiacs of 400 or less had 3" main bearings, while the 421"-455" engines had 3.125" mains. These people then jump to the "big block-small block" conclusion, when in reality, the two blocks were visibly the same.
    Being a long time Pontiac enthusiast, I read a lot about their Trans Am series involvement. Due to the ever present GM politics, Chevrolet always got more of the "racing" budget, and Pontiac got a lot less. Therefore, when the 303" engine didn't jell as quickly as they had hoped, as well as Jerry Titus' unfortunate death, Pontiac just backed away from the whole thing. They had the T/A that was selling well for the street, and basically that's all they cared about.
    Somewhere in the depths of my memory, I thought that I also recently read something about the "Grey Ghost". I think it still might be around.
  • Car and Driver did an article on the Grey Ghost about a year and a half ago. It was pretty interesting. If I remember correctly, they even took the car out and abused it a little bit. :-)

    Speedshift - comparison of Kia to AMC was written for effect. I was by no means insinuating that the two manufacturers have/had a lot in common - just two lackluster auto manufacturers with less than stellar racing pedigrees, that's all.

    On a completely different note. Does any body remember the Formula 1 "Fan Car"? I think it was made by Tyrell, but I'm not sure. I've heard rumors that the drivers actually considered using gravity suits to help withstand the high g-forces generated by this car.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    The only fan car I can think of is the Chaparral 2J.

    As far as using gravity suits (I assume that's some sort of pressurized outfit), it wouldn't suprise me if that was considered at the height of the turbocharged, passive ground effects, F1 seasons. I guess those cars were real bone crushers.

    Here's a picture of the Tyrell 6-wheel car (on this page)

    Seems like a heckuva lot of trouble to go to for some aerodynamic gain. I'll bet they ran into a bunch of front-end geometry issues.


    I found it on my own. Here is a link to the very innovative, but immediately banned, fan car.

  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    That's right, that's right... I remember that.

    I mean, really, that sort of thing needs banning. All of the outer limit concepts in downforce not only add really ungodly stress problems to both the car and the driver, but any change in state (a belt or subsidiary engine failure, for instance) results in instant crash when the stuff is in use (pulling 3 g's around a corner for example). Those guys have enough problems with failure in the non-moving, super heavy duty stuff (tabs, or wing mounts or whatever) as it is.
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