Whats That Red Car In The Shop?

A few folks have been asking about the red car in the shop.

Don’t tell—it’s not German or even European.  It’s American iron and has been on my passion for seven years. 

After getting the $1 ’72 Pontiac Firebird running, I realized I would not be happy with it as a stock car.  I looked at notable Pontiac race cars and one stood out because it had such a bad 1970 season—DNFs and a wreck that killed the very popular driver.  Bingo–build a car that finishes a CVAR Vintage Race and do not crash.

I chose to build the version of the Jerry Titus car as it ran the last two races of the ’70 season.  Goal was 98% accuracy and original parts.  I had already found an original Moldex crank, Carillo rods, Doug Nash intake and Rock Crusher Muncie transmission.

Over the next two years I made some fantastic contacts—Dave Bean, the crew chief in 1970, Tom Nell, a Pontiac engineer who was instrumental in their race efforts and several Pontiac collectors who shared their time and knowledge.  Project morphed into a history project and I love history.

Drivers John Cordts and David Hobbs at Kent.   Two giants, no doubt both thinking about simply finishing…

Vintage Camaro

When I found the 303 block, the build morphed towards the ’72 rules and the Trans Action effort  This was the Herb Adams and Pontiac performance guys side-effort and G-job.  There is a story here which I hope is chronicled.  I nominate AJ Blaime.

The 303 is book waiting to happen:

  • 500 were made; I don’t believe the Pontiac brass knew about them until later
  • The block has two oil pumps; essentially, it has an internal dry sump pump
  • The crank has a 2.87” stroke, almost half as short as its conventional peers; this gives it a theoretical redline of 9,200!
  • It used Ram Air IV heads; massive ports for a small displacement engine
  • In Trans Am trim, the 303 produced 450-ish hp
  • In NASCAR trim, the 366 produced nearly 550 hp – there are some fantastic bore/stroke/piston speed ratios which still hold today and these guys were way ahead
  • The SCCA killed the 303 when the Titus team tried to run it in 1970; NASCAR killed the 366 as it was going to beat everyone like the Daytona did

Switching to the ’72 rules meant some changes: doors allowed to be gutted and battery in the trunk.  I am retaining the flairs, pipes and TG details.  Too far down the road to change.

SO for this version, I am trying to show what the TG cars could have looked like if they continued running a Tin Indian.   I am trying to replicate how the Adams’ team set the car us as I believe they nailed it.  Just look at their results; these privateers cleaned up.

Here is the Adams’ car.  I still get giddy thinking about details.  Single hose clamp! Doug Nash intake!  Cloth-wrapped oil lines! I though that was a SD pulley, but they were 1/8” too thick.

In ’72 there was one Cardinal Red Trans Am produced for a SCCA official. It had an automatic and he drove to across country to races. My car is mostly in that red–shiny guide coat of single-stage PPG and just a little more fabrication to go.

Working on the right amount of orange peel.  I want to be accurate and not over-restored.

First race of ’70 clearly shows no lock.

This is the only big thing I will redo one day—I should have used a GM differential.

2” lower springs will be ordered and eliminate the lowering blocks, welded towers will replace the clamp-ons once I understand how to set them up. 

I built a set of front and rear pillow-block sway bars, turn buckles and ends per the GM plans.

I got close with the Watt’s link.  The swedge tubes are real good and custom made.

Dual gas fills, dual fuel pumps, gas filter are close to period correct.  Diff and oil coolers made by Fluidyne—they bought the original manufacturer and very similar.

Hall Chaparral did this.  Looks clean.  Needs lenses and a few catalogue items.

Will finalize the nose now that the spindles and ride height are set.  I expect the front sheet metal to be wedged more and get the spoiler closer to 3” off the track.

Two TI ignition boxes will mount on the console.   Need to hunt a vintage trans temp gauge to protect the Rock Crusher.

’71 was the first year of it being glued to the windshield. 

Jerry Schwartz reworked the inner cowl vents differently in ’70.  He was a master fabricator and ahead of the field.  I could not figure out what he did.  His cage was the cat’s pajamas and year’s ahead in design features.  Note the gas pedal and its bearings.

Steerman Biplane lever for the fire bottle.  I hunted pretty hard to find a NOS one.

Also correct vintage.  Note the stitch-welded panels.  I built a rotisserie in the driveway and spent HOURS welding everything together.

That’s the throttle pedal.  It is all mechanical and has roller bearings.

Sway bars per the ’70 GM design.  Rear uses a ½” bar.

Not exactly where Tom Nell put them.  He used the filters in series to slow the flow of oil out of the sump pump before going to the cooler and tank.  The window under the tank will be where I mount a 3 gallon oil tank.  Moroso custom shop can build it circa 1970.

Corvette tank has the fill rotated.

Car just got back from DFW Speed Shop in Dallas.  Ryan and Matt made 180 degree headers similar to these.  Herb Adams used them for the ’72 team.  Oil pan by Armando has a super small sump as the oil tank holds oil.  Gives room for the crossovers.  It’s worth coming to see the car just to see the headers.

In the next month I move into engine build.  Parts are in Abilene at a builder.  He is the top guy for Ram Air V engines and a wiz at heads.  With the 2.87” stroke and Ram Air IV heads I am using, the porting will make or utterly kill the engine.

Goal is 2021 to finish.  Although as slow as it is during the CorVid-19 quarantine, I am working more on it than I should.  I should be fixing Mercedes…