Tag Archive: SCCA Pro racing

Some of us can remember when 300 Horsepower was a lot for the street, even some pretty exotic cars were fairly hard pressed to meet that number. But in case you haven’t heard time isn’t the only thing that has moved on.

My first GT1 car.

My first GT1 car.

The car in the picture was my first GT1 car. It had about 550 HP, on its best day, back in the late 80’s. Not bad for a club racer but its 351 engine was almost certainly the best thing about it. The professionals however wouldn’t have considered it.

By the time the second coming of the TransAm series ended they were running 310 cid engines with rev limiters. These engines were, at least for those at the front end of the pack, in excess of 700 horsepower.

But now things have really changed. The 310 has gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by the 358 cubic inch V8’s. Initially a lot of these were refugees from Nascar. Bought for less than one could build a 310 and producing big horsepower numbers. Initially some people just changed the cam, and maybe something with carburetion and exhaust and went racing. Worked pretty well and now the horsepower numbers were over 800.

But today the bar has been raised again. Some people have realized that an engine built purposely for road racing will out perform a converted stock car engine. This despite the fact that the horsepower numbers are the same.

And what are those numbers today? One racer who reportedly has about 830 HP told me recently ” I can’t pass them (the top cars) on the straight, but they can pass me.” His opinion is that he is 30 horsepower shy of the top cars.

So times have changed my friend, times have changed.



For the past several years we have had the pleasure to be involved in the Trans-Am Series.

Baucom Motorsports Trans-Am Mustang

Baucom Motorsports Trans-Am Mustang sponsored by Roadraceparts.com

We are proud to announce that we are once again partnering with Baucom Motorsports as they contest the 2013 Trans-Am Series crown. John Baucom who drives the car is a veteran competitor in the series and we look forward to helping him achieve mutual success in the coming year.

As both the team owner as well as the driver John knows the value of reliability and service. And in his words : “As a professional racer I push my car to the limit.  RoadRaceparts.com provides the parts and knowledgeable service to keep my car and team in top condition.”

The series opener will be March 3 in Sebring Florida. The 11 race series will compete at some of the classic road racing courses in both the US and Canada.

Please visit us on the web at http://www.roadraceparts.com or contact us by phone at (804) 921-0902.

Some of you may know that “the lump” is a term used to describe the engine in a car. Normally it refers to a race engine. That huge mass of iron, aluminum, titanium, unobtanium and who knows what else that resides under the hood of the car.

For most of us, I dare say we really have no idea what is inside of that big piece of metal. We rely on people who, because they are “engine builders” , tell us all kinds of stories about how complicated they are, how every piece is hand polished and machined to .00000000001 of an inch.  And of course since so much is involved it is a bargain indeed, regardless of the price. A price which no rational person would pay, and makes us live in mortal fear that the wife will discover. Having listened to many of those stories both as a former racer and a parts man for quite a few years, today I just smile.

So I thought I would share with you the tale of a couple of engines in my experience. Now what is special about these engines?  Not a thing. Two engines from different stages of my racing career, if you want to call it that. Just two collections of metal that started life at a couple of Ford plants somewhere in the world.

The first one was a V8, size and engine builder omitted to protect the innocent. Or maybe the guilty. But this was my first experience with a Gt1 car. And of course i had read all the stories and articles about the powerful Gt1 cars. So I had a local engine builder who specialized in short track cars build it. The only thing left from Ford was the block itself. One of the proudest days in my life was when I picked it up and paid the bill.

First let me say that we were/are amateur racers, and everything we knew could dance on the head of a pin. That thing was a pain from the day I got it. Constantly ran hot, not a lot of power,  despite the engine builders claims, or maybe I didn’t know what to expect, etc. On one occasion when we shut it off it was running fine.  When we next cranked it up it was missing, checked – bent pushrod.  Finally at its last scheduled race before it was to be replaced, the oil pressure began to drop,  and 10 laps later we drove it into the pits and retired. My brother looked under the hood and said “you might as well shut it off you have water coming out of the breathers”. When pulled out  and inspected, the webs in the block were busted in three places. needless to say was a great conversation piece and I still have some paperweights I think.

The other was a V6 Ford. We pulled this out of a juck car we bought for $200 to use the engine and transmission. Put it up on a stand, and scapped all the oil and dirt away so we could pull the pan off. Pulled all the rod and main bearings out. Didn’t measure anything, and replaced them with new std. bearings. Torqued everything back down, put the pan back on, and put the engine back in the car.

This engine ran  through the drivers school at Daytona and Charlotte. At Charlotte it got so hot, (idiot owner and friend had forgotten to tighten down the hold down clamp on the distributor so variable timing) that we finally had to put it in 4th gear, hold the brakes and choke it off. Did I mention that it had water running out of both exhaust pipes?

So we let it cool down, found every plastic pepsi bottle we could, filled them with water, put 2 cans of Bars Leak in the radiator and drove it the 200 miles home. After a couple of stops it sealed up and ran fine. Shaved both cylinder heads and it was as good as new.

Now this was no race engine of course, and didnt pretend to be one. But every time after that when the hand built race engine blew up or screwed up, we put that engine in and kept racing. You just couldn’t kill it. In fact a friend now has the car, and has had some more exotic, modern engines built for it.  But you know what he does when they go bad? Yep, back in goes that same old motor.

And the moral of this is that sometimes things exceed your expectations. Or, maybe you don’t know when you are well off.

Are you ever amazed how the old family cruiser keeps running after all this time? Remember the days when nobody had a car that made a 100,000 miles? Well I do.


If you follow motorsport, this is a bittersweet time of year. Until the Daytona 24 hours there is almost no racing, and in fact precious little testing. Therefore up passes for news is generally pretty uninteresting, and obviously was a streetch on the authors part.

The exception to this is the constant flow of information about the two largest racing series in the world, F1 and Nascar. Before anybody starts to aim their digital flamethrower in my direction, let me say that I know F1 is far and away the king of motorsport. And as you look at the news articles you can see why.

But every now and then somebody does something to make you sit up and take notice. This time it was Caterham F1,one of the newer F1 teams, formerly known as Lotus F1. But lets not get sidetracked as to why they are Caterham, and the former Renault team is now Lotus. I can explain, but I wont.

As you may recall, every year all the F1 teams unveil, or launch, their new cars. And this is one of the highlights of the winter doldrums. To finally get to see your heros and the all new car which will, hopefully, win the World Championship. Its the motor racing equivalent of when we were kids getting to see the new model Chevy/Ford/Dodge. Remember those days, when the cars were brought to the dealership all covered up so nobody could see them? Well, those days are gone, but not the F1 launches.

I digress however. So why if this happens every year was I impressed by the Caterham launch? After all these things happen every year, and they have been done in every type of location from exotic to mundane. From elegant and understated to way over the top. In fact, I was beginning to believe that the only way they could come up with something different was to shoot it out of a cannon and land it in a bunch of Hooters girls.

But instead they did something so different, yet simple that you have to wonder why nobody (that I know of) had done it. They simply announced that their launch would be the first of the year, AND it would be on the cover of F1 Racing magazine. Only the most widely read F1 magazine in the world. And of course they would follow with Facebook, and other digital media.

Of course some people got their issue early and the news was broken a day early. Which I’m sure caused a lot of crocodile tears at Caterham. And now ScarbsF1 has a great analysis of the car, F1 racing had a article to go along with the photos, etc.

All of this is just a long winded way to say that in a time where we wring our hands and blame the economy for every ill in motor sport what was this worth? In the name of full disclosure I must admit that I have been impressed by this teams PR savvy ever since its inception. That said,how much uncontested FREE publicity did those guys get from just having a simple idea? If you were a potential sponsor what would you think of such out of the box thinking.

So, if you’re out there trying to get somebody to help you with your racing, and your by the numbers presentation isn’t working, maybe you need to think about a different approach.

New old stock

Uprights in stock

I had every intention of having an article today to talk about the speed of todays Trans-Am type cars. Actually I was going to compare them to the cars which ran at the end of the Paul G. era of the trans-Am. Now the purpose here is not to “throw anybody under the bus”, but rather just to compare.

Briefly if you look at todays cars they have Goodyears latest and greatest “tall” radial tires. The engines are putting out not 700 horsepower from 310 cid, but 850 + from 358 cid. In addition they are not rpm limited as they were back then.

So the new cars must be faster, right? Not so sure there, Bucky. We will take a look as soon as I can get a few more stats. But suffice it to say you may be surprised. Then maybe not.

Above are some pictures of Mike Donahue’s TA 2 car. As you can see this is a nice example of the diversity we can expect to see at the Trans-Am Series races this year. You will see the full tilt Corvettes, Mustangs and Jags of the TA, cars like Mike’s Pontiac, and the new type pony cars of TA2, and then TA3 will almot certainly have an ample supply of Porsches.

As always this brings up the issues of costs. What does it really cost to race in a professional series such as the TA? Depends on who you talk to? For the TA, one owner told me that at a track where he spent the night in his own bed, i.e. no lodging cost, it cost him $5500 and that did not fiqure wear and tear nor did he have any damage to repair. The biggest expense he had was buying tires for the weekend. Another told me that over a year he estimated 12-15k per race. His biggest cost were engines, transmissions and tires. I suspect the real number is at least as high as the later, maybe more for a winning effort. I’m sure some teams are spending far more than that.
In TA2 the numbers are probably half of a TA car. Primarily because the engines are less expensive and more durable.There is one report of a rental for $5k per weekend plus a substantial deposit in case of damage. I assume this does not include tires. The biggest advantage they have in the cost area is that stock car parts are so much less expensive than road racing parts.
I wont venture a guess as to the Porsche’s as I’m not at all in tune with the cost of their equipment.

If anybody has some information as to the real cost of racing these cars I would be glad to hear it. As well as what do you think could be done to control the costs? Or, are you of the opinion that racing is expensive, if you cant afford it dont do it?

Mustang Vintage Racer

Mustang Vintage TA Car

Aerodynamics is probably the most important aspect of the modern race car. Those of us who are F1 fans see how those teams spend untold sums of money, expend more man hours in wind tunnels and employ unimaginable computer power to gain just the slightest advantage in down force or drag reduction. Who would have imagined a couple of years ago that the engines exhaust gases could be used to increase downforce? Or that how that was executed would be the difference between a world beater and a mid pack car.

But how, if at all, does aerodynamics effect our world, where the bodywork is made from carbon fiber or fiberglass, and all made from the same molds? The answer isn’t simple, and I will freely admit that I dont know everything that is going on here.

But we do know that in the days when steel roofs were required, things were creative.  A steel roof was required to prevent the cheating up of the windshield. However a stock roof will not fit the molded bodywork. Not only was the metal stretched, but it was sectioned. In other words a pie shaped section cut out so that the stock windshield fits but the greenhouse is as small as possible.

But you say that’s just vintage cars whats that got to do with the cars we run now? True, point well taken. But remember that the laws of physics are the same for an F1 car or a GT1 car. And  its all about managing the flow of air around the vehicle and underneath the car. So I will just point some things in no particular order. And remember, in making these points I am not accusing anybody of doing anything.

First, back in the old days of the Trans-Am series they required that the body not below the line of the chassis. As part of the tech inspection a straight edge be placed across the bottom of the car. The advantage of course being that dropping the body below the frame, (which has a belly pan) you create diffuser tunnels between the door and the frame rail.

Even if the body is even with the frame rails, you can do the same thing with the filler panels between the body and frame. This requires a little creativity so as not to be conspicuous.

Speaking of the area between the door panel and the car itself, I have seen some radiused pieces placed at the front of the filler panel. The purpose was obvious, but how do you get that air out from under the car? Its blocked by the rear wheel tub, so wouldnt it be better to get it out at the front wheel opening?

A few years ago one of the major Ford teams cars cars appeared to be a little different. Just by observation it seemed that the rear undertray had more of a slope than the other Fords. Of course the part had the proper approval stickers.

The mesh on the grill opening can effect the amount of downforce on the front of the car. Of course the finer the mesh the less air can get through. And using one consistent mesh is just a matter of convenience right?

Speaking of Fords, the 93-up Mustang had a huge flat rear deck. That made these cars more responsive to body rake. By getting that deck exposed to more airflow, you increased the downforce. Almost like using a larger spoiler. Other makes may have the same issues.

Dive planes of course are useful in tuning the front end.

And the primary goal is doing anything possible to first prevent air from getting under the car, secondly to exhaust the air that does get under the front of the car. I had a steel bodied Mustang, that used a steel hood, with a scoop, that had all the reinforcement removed. Down the straightaway the rear of the hood would rise up to the full extent of the hood pins. Perhaps 6″ in the center. If we could have prevented that it could have meant some nice gains. Food for thought.

If its allowed by the rules, opening up where the rear license plate was allows a place to exhaust air from the rear. many people  use this as a place to place an oil cooler for the trans or rear.

And of course the wickerbill on the rear end can be used as a tuning tool, as well as the angle of the wing itself will increase rear downforce.

Like anything else when you change one end of the car it effects the other as well. We’ve just thrown a few things out there, and obviously just scratched the surface of what may be going on. But if you look closely there may be things that make you say “hmmm?”

Chassis under construction My apologies for the quality of the above photo. But you can see that it is a collage of photos showing the side view of a chassis under construction. No points for what type, but look at the braces between the front of the greenhouse.

Earlier in this blog, I had posted a photo sent me of a car that someone wanted me to help sell. Being several states away, we never went to see the car but did mention it to several people that we knew who dealt in similar things.  As it turned out the gentleman was able to sell it on his own and we  moved on to other things.

This weekend we were contacted by the person who had bought the car and seen the photo which we had posted. It appears that the information we had been given by the seller was not exactly correct. That the car was not in fact what he had indicated but rather a homebuilt attempt at a replica using spares from similar cars.

Now I certainly am not going to accuse that person of anything unseemly. For all I know he had acquired it from someone else in the interim and was merely repeating what was told to him.  In addition the price he was asking was more than reasonable, (read cheap), and about the value of the spares package.

But the moral of the story  is this. Many of these cars and chassis have been around for quite some time.  . Some of them have been owned and/or raced by multiple people over the years. And in a variety of configurations, even different manufacturers bodywork and running gear. So at what point of its history are you going to restore it to?Only some by the larger fabricators even have serial numbers, and the lack of a number may not confirm anything, although it may eliminate some others.

You need to be sure you personally look at the car, and do the research to find out exactly what is being presented to you.

Now btw, the picture at the top? Its not a Roush chassis, but a similar chassis built by a name fabricator which was a Riley type design below the belt, and a late Roush style greenhouse. Food for thought.

Chassis of the "Baja Boats" Capri pictured a couple of columns earlier

"Roush" chassis stripped bare

One of the things that racers love to worry about is the weight of various components. And of course it is exceedingly important. After all we’ve never found a way around the law of inertia and that little thing called momentum. So it does behoove us to plan carefully and to not carry any unnecessary baggage with us on the track.

To the professional racer this is so important that teams go to what seems like ridiculous lengths sometimes. In an article recently it was revealed that last year McLaren wanted to add an additional sponsors logo to the drivers uniforms. This caused a major row within the team’s management because the logo weighed _37 grams_! Admittedly F1 is a totally different world than anything seem here in the states but the point is well taken.

In our world, I.E. club racing as well as the Trans-Am style cars it takes on a different spin. On more than a few occasions, I have had potential customers for bodywork pass on what were attractive deals. Their reason? They didn’t want anything that had any repairs to it. Not because of aesthetics or financial reasons but because they didn’t want the additional weight. While certainly their prerogative and understandable regarding the car, it sometimes make you wonder. Many of these same people, and I am certainly one of them, could more than offset that by putting the driver on a diet.

So I suppose the moral of this is that like so many other things about racing it is the total package. To be truly effective you have to incorporate every facet, sometimes it makes no sense to save .75 of a pound by using aluminum washers or leaving them off entirely if the driver is 30 pounds overweight. Food for thought if you will excuse the pun.

We want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Please be safe out there tonight. We want you back , to join us in what promises to be an eventful, and exciting, if challenging 2012.

I think many of us believe that motorsport in general may be at or at least near a crossroads, so lets see what happens.

They say that with great challenges come great opportunities, and I for one am looking forward to it.

Again, Happy New Year!

Russ Edwards

Another Capri

Jim Miller Capri at Firebird