40 Years of the Small Block Chevy, Part 2

Smokey Yunick & 40 Years of the Small Block Chevy, Part 2

Of the twenty-three remaining engineers that Smokey and I were able to contact and speak to, the principal one was not available. Even so, I was fortunate to have landed a conversation with his son, David, who was most helpful.

Born on September 17, 1909, in Marne, MI, Ed Cole served GM over a career spanning forty years. As a transfer from GM’s Cadillac division (where he was chief engineer), Cole came to Chevrolet in 1946, to become its chief engineer in 1952. In that capacity, he was charged with directing the entire passenger car and truck line, including the small-block V8 engine. In 1967, he became the President of GM, a position he held until retirement in 1974.

According to his son, “With regard to racing, this was an issue with my father, because he was deeply committed to racing and high performance. He loved competition and what he could learn from it.” (This statement alone accounts for the reason Smokey was involved early on, in addition to the friendship he had already established with Cole.) “He believed racing was the ultimate test of a product. Many of the engine’s features including cylinder heads and block, low friction losses and a free-breathing induction and exhaust system were all pursued because of his interest in racing. I think his desire to ‘push the envelope’ was focused on doing something that no one else had done.”

Hold that thought for a moment. Cole was Chevy’s chief engineer in 1952. Duntov had just joined Chevrolet as a transplant from Allard Racing in England. Although Maurice Olley was Zora’s immediate supervisor, he directed his Manifesto of Performance memo to him, instead of Cole, telling me once that he was simply following internal GM protocol by doing so. He later mentioned that there was no doubt that Cole would see the memo as well.

About that memo? While it has since been published in various venues, I received my signed copy in ’74, harkening back to my initial 1967 meeting with him in the GM Tech Center where, when I requested a copy then, was told that was not possible because it was “corporate business.” But the essence of the memo was clear. From a youth and performance perspective, GM had been battling Ford for years. Duntov reckoned that from a consumer point of view, “loyalty and experience is with Ford, hop-up industry is geared to Ford, the law of numbers suggested thousands of enthusiasts will be working on Fords for active competition, and appearance of the first over-head Ford is now one year ahead of us.”

Duntov believed that “Unless by some action, the odds and the time factor are not overcome, Ford will continue to dominate the thinking of this group. One factor which can largely overcome the handicap would be the availability of ready-engineered parts for high output.”

Further he stated, “In 1955, with the V8 engine and if unaided, this group will still be out-classed. The market-wise negligible number of cars purchased for competition attracts public attention and publicity out of proportion to their number. Since we cannot prevent the people from modifying the small-block and Corvettes, maybe it is better to help them do a good job at it.” Profound.

I once asked Zora what transpired after he sent the memo. He said, “Nothing. But then, after a while, all ‘hal’ brook loose.” And indeed it did.

In fairly rapid fire, non-production parts began showing up in Chevrolet dealerships across the country. Listed on production were 265-equipped Chevrolet passenger cars. You could purchase “Power Packs” that typically consisted of a mechanical-lifter camshaft, dual exhaust and a 4-bbl carburetor. Plus, if your 265-incher didn’t come with such Power Packs, you could buy the parts over-the-counter at dealerships and install them yourself…a direct fall-out from Duntov’s memo previously mentioned.

But there was an interesting twist to how these parts were priced. GM Parts Department (GMPD), in dealing with the suppliers of such components, created a plan by which they would make very large parts purchases with the intention of making them available over a several years period. Obviously, this was intended to at least make an effort to keep consumer prices as low as possible.

However, as the performance aftermarket parts industry (comparatively small at the time) began to latch onto the small-block, they had a different pricing structure. These were small operations that could sell direct, and they did, under-cutting the GM pricing structure by sufficient levels to encourage enthusiasts to direct their purchasing attention toward the aftermarket. After all, many of these parts “manufacturers” had grown out of post-WWII era of California dry lakes racers who, simply put, experimented to make their own cars faster and then responded to requests from their friends to make the parts generally available. If you don’t think this spawned an industry, consider the size of Edelbrock today, having begun in a gas station. In fact, it was Vic, Sr. who suggested to his dry lakes buddies that they warehouse their parts in and ship from a building he owned, thus centralizing parts availability and creating the first specialty aftermarket parts WD. But I digress.

By early 1954, Smokey was waist-deep in evolving the small-block into a reliable race engine, at least in terms of what it took to survive the NASCAR environment. While some of his work obviously had some impact on the high performance segment per se’, Cole had specifically charged him with the evaluation of existing parts from performance parts manufacturers (slowing getting into the fray) or the re-engineering of new parts being produced by Chevrolet.

In reflecting upon his involvement with the small-block, Smokey once said that “Over the years, this engine brought me to know some of the most brilliant engineers, technicians and racers of all time. Of course, it also dragged up some who weren’t. But that’s part of living. I remember the first time I ever went into Ed Cole’s office. He had a sign hanging on the wall that said, ‘The price of progress is trouble.’ So I guess in all my years of working on the small-block, we were making a lot of progress. But I think it’s all paid off in the long run. If you never say anything else about this engine, it’s a hell of statement of what can be accomplished if you assemble a group of hard-working guys, give ‘em a clear objective and then support their efforts. There’ll probably never be another small-block like this one.”

Of the engineers that Smokey and I successfully reached, some were able to reflect on their participation in the project and how they viewed the total effort. Though many of them are now gone, their reflections and perspectives live on, if only on these pages.

John B. Burnell was responsible for the initial designs for the small-block. Largely responsible for new casting techniques that reduced overall engine weight, Smokey once said his role was critical, early on. Burrell had said, “With little doubt, this project was a team effort. The fact that Chevrolet wanted to give this engine a performance orientation, the work done by Duntov and Yunick was critical to its success.”

Another was Ralph Johnson with whom I worked after he joined Holley and created the 4500 series carburetor design. His level of insight and creativity was remarkable. “I have so many recollections about this engine and its development that it would be difficult to single out a specific one. But along the way, I was fortunate to have worked with many of the original engineers. In fact, in 1957 while in charge of the small-block fuel injection system development program, I was sent out into the racing community by Maurice Rosenberger. My subsequent years working with Smokey Yunick just added more good stories to the ones I collected in the 1950s.”

We’ll close this segment with a final quote from the Duntov memo. It speaks volumes from how he viewed the rapidly emerging market for the small-block Chevrolet. “If it is desirable or not to associate the small-block and Corvette with speed, I am not qualified to say. But I do know that in 1954, sports car and performance enthusiasts will get hold of Corvettes and, whether we like it or not, will race them. Most frequent statement from this group is ‘we will put a Cadillac in it.’ I think this is not good. Most likely they will meet with the same problem as Allard. That is breaking, sooner or later and mostly sooner, everything between the flywheel and road wheels.”

Zora was a strong proponent of not only delivering superior performance but parts that lived in a hostile environment. It is abundantly clear that virtually every participant in the development of that original 265-incher was of the same mind set.

Source: HotRod.com

Posted in Automotive History, General Motors, Interesting Stuff | Tagged , , , , , ,

Smokey Yunick and 40 Years Small Block Chevy

Smokey Yunick & 40 Years of the Small Block Chevy

If memory serves, it was sometime around July of 1995. Over the many years of our friendship, it was not always clear what the conversation would be about. Sometimes I called him to obtain some otherwise un-obtainable information or simply to chat about a variety of issues. Typically, I enjoyed both and Smokey seemed to reciprocate. But when called me, it could be anybody’s guess, it frequently turned out to be that way and he was always direct.

When he called this time, as usual, he came right to the point. “You know, Jim, I’ve been thinkin’. We’re right on the verge of recognizing the 40th anniversary of the small-block Chevrolet V8 and I believe there are some of the original engineering team still around that ought to finally receive recognition for what they did forty years ago. The PRI Show is coming up, and I’ve suggested to Steve Lewis (Show owner/producer back then) that it’s time to put these guys on stage in front of our industry.” Not surprisingly and from this simple conversation, Smokey Yunick made yet another indelible stamp in his long list of historical contributions to the high performance and motorsports communities.

Notice that nothing was mentioned about “Is this a good idea?” or “Do you think there’s a chance anybody in the industry cares about these engineers?” No. It was already a done deal. The only question up for discussion was how to accomplish the task at hand, and Smokey had already taken the second step. Remember, he’d already given a nudge to Lewis as the first.

“I’ve got a list of all the living small-block Chevy engineers. I’m gonna cut it in half, send one half to you and keep the other one. You and I then need to start callin’ these guys to see who’s able to be on stage at the PRI Show (December 1995).” What followed was one of the most memorable events of my entire automotive experience, an event that will obviously never happen again.

Up to that particular time, I had reckoned that I knew a reasonable amount about the small-block Chevrolet V8. I could not have been more mistaken, as I quickly began to realize during phone conversations with “my half of the list.” Besides this, contacting these unheralded and aging engineers to ponder and collect their recollections about how the small-block actually came to life, I was charged with the challenge of compiling a brief history and chronology of the steps taken and timing involved in producing not only the engine but the 1955 Chevrolet that introduced the venerable 265-incher. Looking back, I see all this not as a task but an opportunity that was loaded not only with surprises but stark revelations. I’d not had a clue about how the small-block had come into being. And expert I clearly was not.

Let me digress for a moment, and share some comments Smokey made in his reflections while pondering the focus of the PRI project, back in ’95.

“Consider this. Seventy-five engineers, draftsmen and designers start work on May 10, 1955 (with a clean piece of paper) to create a vehicle in total that would economically suit American’s working class of car customers. Some eighteen- to nineteen-hundred American dollars would be paid in full receipt on quite a few of Chevy’s 1955 V8 models. Performance, safety, appearance, fuel efficiency…a world-class rating of ten.”

“On September 15, 1955, this car is in showrooms as the 1955 Chevy, twenty-eight months from start to finish, and the only parts used that were on the ’54 models were the brakes and three-speed manual and automatic transmissions. Roll this around in your brain cells. Sixty-five million (by ’95) small-blocks have been built since day one, and still counting. I knew and worked with quite of few of the seventy-five engineers. And you know, it’s only been in the last few years that I realized how talented these men were. I have noticed and I believe that this engine, in the last forty years, has done more to educate our young people in skills that are useful and necessary to mass transportation and high performance than any other single reason”.

“This engine not only enabled education about certain thermodynamic principles but included an opportunity to learn about engine mechanical dynamics, air flow, petro chemistry, metallurgy and lubrication for the young, would-be racers and to upcoming engineers as well as engineering instructional institutions and pedigreed engineers.”

“Recently, I began having constant thoughts that these original small-block people should have names and faces and be honored by their peers. Racers, high-performance parts manufacturers and distributors, car buffs, race fans or (in general) all the people who, in some way, earn their living in part or whole or by those who entertain or amuse themselves with the history of mass transportation need to know about the small-block’s origin. The engine is a world-wide institution, actually used as a measuring standard for engines, certainly from the perspective ratios of cost, ease of modification, reliability and understanding.”

“Ed Cole is often noted as being the ‘author’ of this engine. In reality, Ed was the keystone. The people he assembled, his managing skills, his vision of a world-class engine and delivery vehicle, his courage of conviction and intrigue of cars…these were the driving forces that were integral to how the program was executed. He knew that in the 1950s, Americans considered a car to be an extension of their bodies. It was essential to our ability to earn a living, and it was our biggest and best toy.”

Return with us now to the initial story line. In total, Smokey and I managed to contact twenty-three of the original small-block engineers. Unfortunately, not all of them were of sufficient health to travel, but on the fortunate side, all of them were willing to talk about their respective contributions to the engine. But, from a personal perspective, I uncovered Smokey’s early role in the development of the high performance and racing phases of the small-block.

It was at the maiden piston displacement of 265 cubic inches that the engine was introduced to the high performance and racing communities. In the hands of Smokey, the “under examination” small-block began to dispel some of the initial rumors regarding questions pertaining to its performance potential. With Smokey on board, and with the hands of Herb Thomas on the wheel, the new Chevy small-block powered its way past sixty-seven other cars to win the 1955 NASCAR Darlington 500.

According to Smokey, “Above about 5800 rpm, the pistons, bearings and valve gear all went to hell faster than I could fix them. We had a list of problems to solve. Chevy was willing and NASCAR was grinnin’, saying ‘Load the wagons boys, the mule is blind!” As a consequence, Smokey’s shop served as the racing headquarters for Chevrolet racing throughout 1955 and 1956.

Even though GM corporate and the Chevrolet Division wanted a performance image for its new 1955 vehicles, the pre-racing engineering design team had not accounted for the severity of demands placed on engines on the track. But what the team had done was provide a fundamental engine design platform that caused the motorsports and high performance communities to seek solutions to the new set of problems that came with the engine in these two non-stock environments. Smokey was the first up at bat.

While time would reveal a corporate anti-racing policy in the latter 1950s, the new small-block V8 was pointed directly at its competition, specifically to conquer the flathead Ford V8 on the race tracks, the dry lakes and the street. With regard to the street, it was the infamous “Duntov manifesto letter” of 1953, penned ahead of the small-block’s production release that set stage for the high performance market. But that’s an entirely different story.

Cole may not have had specific intentions to carry the new engine into Motorsports activities, but his love for racing underscored a desire to have the small-block “convenient” to the racing world. History has proven that the foundation he laid could not have been more solid.

Source: HotRod.com

Posted in Automotive History, General Motors

10 Life Tips Toward Being a Better Craigslister’

10 Life Tips Toward Being a Better Craigslister

We live in a society of rules and regulations; complete with an accepted set of social norms. Yet there is one place where these commonalities, courtesies, and social graces die hard: Craigslist.

Let’s face it: If you’re a car guy or gal of any sort, you’ve used Craigslist. It’s a great way to buy and sell parts and best yet, it’s free! But it seems there are those that abuse the privilege of such a wonderful tool of car-guy commerce. Whether through indecency, dishonestly, or just a lack of common sense, some people can be a real pain in the you-know-what. So, to combat further degeneration of Craiglist, I have compiled my top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Craiglist users everywhere.


Be On Time

If you make a plan to come pick up or sell a part, honor the agreed upon time. We’re all busy people, with limited time to do the things we like doing most. If you plan meet someone at noon, be there. And, if something comes up—as things are prone to do—let the person know so they aren’t left standing in the cold, waiting. Hint: a seller that’s been waiting on your late butt for an hour is far less likely to shift the price in your favor.

Learn How To Haggle

Buying and selling is an art, and as a buyer, you walk a fine line of offending a seller with a bad offer and paying more than you need to. One of the most common, and least effective, haggling tactics I’ve observed is asking for the lowest offer right off the bat, via a text message. When my phone jingles and some obscure and disembodied phone number asks, “What’s the lowest you’ll take for X,” I have to wonder, does that ever work?

A seller becomes more willing to negotiate as the likelihood of a sale increases. With your polite self present and looking at the part, and with the smell of a couple extra bucks wafting from your pocket like the spectral arm of a pie sent in a cartoon, he or she is much more likely to budge on the price than in any text message exchange.

Post Pictures

Take the few extra seconds to add pictures to your add. This could easily be the difference between attracting an interested buyer or not selling your doodad at all. Even a cell phone photo that clearly shows the part (preferably from a few angles) is an immensely valuable selling tool. A savvy buyer will ask to see photos first anyway, so you might as well have them available from the beginning.

Be Responsive And Reachable

If you have gone through the trouble of creating an ad, make sure you’re available to respond to interested parties. Check your email regularly, or be around to answer your phone—if you’re so inclined as to list your number. I can’t even begin to express how frustrating it is when someone has a part I’d like to buy, and they won’t respond. Take my money already!

Read The Ad!

This one is a biggie, guys—possibly the most important takeaway from this column. If a seller has gone through the trouble to write a thoughtful description of what’s being sold, read it. There is little more annoying than having to repeat an ad, especially in a text message, because someone has neglected to read it before contacting you. Without exception; do this first. Now, if after reading the description you have legitimate follow-up questions, it is entirely within your right—and best interest—as a buyer to inquire further. You know that saying, “there are no dumb questions?” There are. They’re the ones that have already been answered.


Met People At Your Personal Residence

No one likes to imagine that bad things can happen to them. But, that’s no reason to take unnecessary risks. While countless good people buy and sell through Craigslist every day, there will always be scoundrels in our midst. Inviting a stranger to come to your garage-mahal, the place where you store your most precious automotive treasures, tools and cars—not to mention yourself and your family—is an entirely avoidable risk. Conduct transactions in a public place, ideally in the day when other people are around. Better yet, many police stations now offer designated spots at their stations for Craiglist transactions to occur. Play it safe.

Count Your Beans First

Car parts are several steps down on the pyramid of necessities. Food, rent, and several other vital costs of living inevitably take precedence—though I have skipped lunch for weeks at a time to bolster my parts fund. The bottom line is that if you don’t have the money, don’t waste someone’s time, regardless of how much you want the thing they’re selling. Carefully evaluate if the part is what you’re looking for and how badly you want it before being the infamous “Craigslist flake” who bails out of the deal at the last minute.

Exaggerate What You’re Selling

It’s a timeless tale of bait and switch. You show up to look at a part/car and laid before you is not the pristinely shined object of your desire, but a rusted and gnarled imposter. This sort of trickery is far more likely to earn a seller a fat lip than a fat wallet. Be honest, and describe what you’re listing as accurately as possible. If there is damage, detail it in pictures and mention it in the description. 99 percent of the time, the buyer is going to notice the problem on arrival, so why waste either of your time?

Call In The Middle Of The Night

It’s important to remember that on the other end of that phone number is a person, a person that like most members of our species isn’t nocturnal. Just because you cruise the local listings in the wee hours of the morning, does not mean it’s OK to bother others that late. You’d think this would go without saying, but alas it happens all the time. People have families and work in the morning, so be courteous. And besides, that offer you were going to make is far less appealing when you are waking someone up to deliver it.

Underestimate The Power Of A Phone Call

While text messaging is well on it’s way to becoming the prime form of communication of this country, don’t underestimate the power of a good ol’ phone call. Texts are cold, lifeless things—despite the amount of smiley faces you insert—and lack the warmth and sincerity of a human voice. There have been several occasions where picking up the phone and actually speaking to someone has lead to something in common: an acquaintance, an interest, a car, that ultimately lead to a better deal—and a few times, even a friendship.

Source: HotRod.com


Posted in Interesting Stuff

This $126,000 Buick reveals the next big trend in classic cars



This $126,000 Buick reveals the next big trend in classic cars. Eastbound and down: $550,000 for a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am promo car from “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Another collection of Porsches is going to be auctioned and it could be a test of the classic car market

Jerry Seinfeld’s Porsches shine at an auction that might be the peak for classic car market
The classic car market has become saturated.

The next big thing? The ’80s.

Kids from that era are now adults entering the car market, Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of the Barrett-Jackson auction house, told Business Insider.

And now that they’ve got money to spend, they are forgoing the traditional limits of the classic car world, preferring instead the cars they grew up wanting.

During this year’s Scottsdale auction with houses Barrett-Jackson, Gooding & Co, RM Sotheby’s, and Bonhams, overall sales were down about 15%. That’s a major drop after years of rapid growth.

While Ferrari road cars failed to meet expectations, cars from the ’80s, long seen as out of place among automotive royalty, brought in huge prices.

A 1984 Ford Mustang GT-350 sold for $71,500, while a 1987 Buick GNX went for $126,500.

“We needed to predict the future a bit, and so we took a lot of 80’s cars — and they broke the bank,” Jackson said.

“When we saw a late model, ‘in the wrapper’ 1979 Trans-Am for $180,000 —that tells you that the next gen’ers are spending their money,” Jackson said. “And now we need to prepare for the Millennials.”

At Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach auction this weekend, expect to see some more Reagan-era automotive classics, including three Porsche 930 Turbos.

A 1987 Buick GNX sold in Scottsdale for $126,500.

This “fox body” 1984 Ford Mustang GT-350 sold for $71,500.


Posted in Auction News, Industry News

Bronze 1969 Plymouth Road Runner


Geoff Pipe first became aware of the gorgeous lines of the 1969 Plymouth Road Runner as a 5-year-old boy in 1969, while looking through a car magazine and coming across an ad featuring Richard Petty’s 1968 Plymouth Grand National Stock Car. As the years passed, his passion for muscle cars grew and although he did own a couple of other 60’s era muscle cars, he never gave up on his dream of one day owning a Road Runner.

By the late 1980’s, he had graduated post-secondary and was working at a good paying job. He decided it was time to begin searching. Geoff’s want list was fairly straight forward. It had to be a post car, it had to be a factory 4-speed and, preferably, it would have buckets and a console.

For about 18 months he answered every “For Sale” ad he came across and each time came up empty handed. The potential cars he viewed were either in very poor shape (one was a Satellite that had been used as a “bridge” between a cattle chute and the transport truck), very overpriced or, were Satellites dressed up as Road Runners.

In late February of 1991, he came across an ad for a 1969 Plymouth in the local Bargain Finder paper. The ad simply read “For Sale 1969 Plymouth” and a phone number. Figuring it was likely just Fury or Valiant, he ignored the ad. The same ad appeared again in the next two issues of the paper and now he had a nagging feeling that he should make the call. Thankfully, he did.

The lady who answered the phone said it was her husband’s and he was out at the time, but she did promise to pass his number along to him. She apologized for not knowing anything about the car but she did say she thought it might actually be “one of those cars named after that Saturday morning cartoon bird.” Needless to say, his pulse ratcheted up a few points. The owner called shortly afterward and confirmed that the car was a real ’69 Road Runner post coupe with buckets, console and 4-speed! He said it was most certainly not for sale if Geoff planned to do anything other than restore it.


Being as this was the early 90’s, it was the height of the Pro Street movement. Geoff admits that his plans were to tub the car and add an 8-point roll cage but he denied having intentions to do anything that involved cutting the car up. They arranged a time for him to drive out to Standard, Alberta that weekend to look the car over. When Geoff arrived at the house, he discovered a very tired Plymouth.

Wearing a white, roller-applied paint job, the Road Runner housed incorrect E-body seats, a homemade trailer hitch, no brakes, a transplanted 440 with a serious death knock and a 4-speed with the shifter mechanism held together with a clothes hanger. On the positive side, the car was quite heavily optioned for a Road Runner with the exception of manual steering and brakes. It was perfect! The following weekend he headed back to Standard with payment in hand and the transfer of ownership was done.

As often happens; life intervened, and between a marriage (and subsequent divorce), a lack of funds, no proper work space and seven different storage sites, the car sat in pieces for 15 years. During that time, he swayed away from building a Pro-Street car and was now planning on a full restoration. Over time, he was able to collect and restore many good used and NOS parts for the restoration that he was beginning to wonder if he would ever perform.


In 2003, he got remarried and they bought their first house the same year. Though not a car girl, she was very understanding when it came to the car they affectionately nick named “COYOTB8.” For the 6th time, the car was moved as he finally had a space to really start working. In 2006, with the pending birth of their second son, Geoff’s wife said if he was going to get the car finished then it was time to sell his soul and get serious.

The first order of business was to contact his friend Terry Levair at Investment Vehicle Restorations in Ganum, Alberta. From there, they began to work on a plan and budget for the body work and paint. After years of refusing to have a “brown” car, Terry sprayed a custom mixed Bronze base coat very similar to the original T7 Saddle Bronze Metallic followed by a number of clear coats and gave it a glass-smooth wet sand. Geoff said, “Many thanks go to Terry as he went beyond the agreed plan without altering the budget we had settled on!”

While the body was getting finished, Kori Alexander at Show and Go Restorations in Red Deer, Alberta had worked his magic on the A-833 4-speed transmission and 8.75 Sure Grip differential. Originally a 383, the 440 Source 438ci stroker engine was machined and assembled by BER Automotive in Red Deer. On top of a mild port match and polish, modifications to the engine included a Lunati Voodoo camshaft, Proform 850cfm 4-barrel carburetor, Mopar Performance dual plane aluminum intake and a double roller billet timing chain. Exhaust is a full 2-inch system with an X-pipe supplied by TTI.

Luckily for him, another friend and Mopar guru, Neil Patrick was heavily involved in the cars reassembly and finally on October 1st, 2009, it moved under its own power for the first time in 18 years. The pressure was really on to get the car finished as Geoff had committed the car to the Northern Mopars Car Club display at the 2010 World of Wheels in Calgary in late February and there were still a number of unfinished details like installing the glass and the interior needing to be completed among other things.

After some anxious moments, the car was completed a few days before the show and was ready for the Thursday move in. Geoff says “COYOTB8”s debut was more successful than he had ever hoped with it being awarded not only “Best in Class,” but also “Outstanding Engine Restored” and “Outstanding Restored.”

Geoff would like to extend his thanks to Terry Levair, Kori Alexander, Neil Patrick, Rob Campaign, Larry Gammon, Paul Desjardins, Barry Manning and many others for their help; especially his wife Cathy and sons Lucas and Matthew for putting up with it all!

Source: Mopar Connection Magazine
Mopar Connection Magazine
Posted in Mopar | Tagged , , ,

Adding a Custom Rollbar to the 1972 Corvette Scarlett Project Car

1 1972 Corvette Project Scarlett Rollbar

It hasn’t escaped our notice that shoehorning over 600 horsepower into a stick shift car can make it a real handful. So far we’ve added traction control, five-point harnesses and a custom chassis to tame that power into something manageable. But if you’re going to put a car on the track where the goal is to drive to the limit, you have to plan ahead for what happens when you push it too far. This brings us to the rollbar.

There’s a lot of fab work and no small inconvenience involved in shoehorning in a ’bar, especially in a car with as little room as a C3, which already has about the least usable room of any Corvette. The first good reason to make those sacrifices is that many tracks require it. At the dragstrip, for example, once you start moving deep into the 11s, you’ve got to have one if you want to make more than that first pass that gets you thrown out. A well-braced bar also helps stiffen the chassis, which is always a plus, and the added weight in the rear can help with weight distribution.

There is, however, a fair amount of controversy about including full ’cages—and even ’bars—in street cars, and for good reason. If the driver isn’t helmeted and restrained in a crash, like they would be on the track, there’s a great chance their head will hit the ’bar. That’s about the same as getting hit in the head by a baseball bat, which is a pretty unattractive proposition. If you have a compelling reason to go ahead and install a ’bar anyway, it makes sense to reduce that risk in any way possible with bar design, padding, etc. It is, however, virtually impossible to eliminate all risks, and that’s something that bears serious consideration when you decide to put one in.

In our case, we felt the car’s intended track use required it, so we went ahead. Unfortunately, while safety is a hot topic in the Pro Touring world where Scarlett belongs, as of yet there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules on what’s required, leaving racers who want to be safe looking to SCCA, NHRA, NASA and other rules when they plan their builds. Similarly, we looked to the NHRA rulebook for general specifications and followed the basic design of a main hoop supported by a pair of uprights and braced by a crossbar that doubles as a harness mount. For material, we starting with seamless DOM steel tubing with an OD of 1 3/4-inches and a wall thickness of 0.120-inch that we MIG welded together, and to the frame to form the bar.

Since the C7 rear suspension on our Street Shop chassis requires modifying the back deck to make room for the bulkier A-arm system, we had already sawzalled out everything behind the seats, which left us with a large open area to measure for the bar, and to test-fit as we went. Even so, we raised and lowered the body off the frame several times to get the fit right.

Once the critical dimensions of the bar were set, we realized that our Corbeau seats sat higher relative to the bar than we wanted, which is a side effect of trying to shoehorn so much together in so small a space. In order to lower the seats (and therefore the driver’s head) below the bar, we started by cutting and re-welding the brackets that mount the seats to the floor of the car, which earned us an extra inch or so of room. We also learned the A4 seat is available with a shaved base that removes one inch of foam from the bottom seat cushion, which would buy us a little more space to work with. Had we known the rollbar specs when we originally ordered the seats, we’d have gotten the shaved version. Since we didn’t, however, we’ll have them modified to get the extra inch, and have a set of seat heaters installed at the same time.

With the bar finished, the frame goes to powdercoat, and once back, we’ll rebuild the back deck and storage trays around the rollbar and add larger wheels for our wider rear tires.

2 Autocad Bar Plans

01. Measure three times, cut once. After taking careful measurements inside the car to fit the bar as closely as possible to the interior, Tray Walden drew up the ’bar in AutoCAD. It may appear simple on paper, but the angles get fairly complex.

3 Seamless Dom Tubing

02. We started with 1 3/4-inch diameter seamless DOM tubing with a wall thickness of 0.120-inch, just a bit thicker than the 0.118-inch required for an NHRA ’bar. This allows a bit of wiggle room to allow for the tubing to thin as it’s being bent.

4 1972 Corvette Project Scarlett Rollbar

03. With the dimensions established, Tray started the bends in the middle of the tube with a slight “crown” that follows the inside roofline.

5 Rollbar Series Bends

04. This is the main hoop after the initial series of bends. After the shape was fit to the interior, the legs had to be cut to length. Note in this photo that the legs have been cut at an angle, which is necessary to fit it flush against the frame.

6 Main Hoop Checked Interior Trim

05. The main hoop was checked continually for fit with the inside of the car. While the interior trim pieces are removed in this photo, they were put in place for measurement purposes and later during the fitting process.

7 Crossbar

06. Once the main hoop was bent, we started on the crossbar. Since the crossbar is [itself] bent and also meets the main hoop at an angle, it was carefully set up in the mill at the correct angle before being notched with a holesaw.

8 Crossbar Prior Welding

07. Here is the crossbar in place on the main hoop prior to welding.

9 Hoop Crossbar Welded

08. This is the hoop with the crossbar welded in place. In addition to strengthening the hoop, the crossbar also serves as a mounting point for the seat harnesses. Note the concave bends on the crossbar; this provides maximum clearance for the seats.

10 1972 Corvette Project Scarlett Rollbar Downtubes

09. Once the hoop and crossbar were together, we cut the downtubes and welded them to the frame. As with the crossbar, they meet both the hoop and the framerail at an angle. Obviously, indexing the tubes correctly while the angles are cut is critical.

11 Thick Plate Welded Frame

10. We used a thick plate welded to the frame as a mounting point for the main hoop. The tubing for the hoop was welded all the way around its perimeter once we lifted the body back off the chassis.

12 Rollbar Mounting Studs

11. An obvious problem created by the rollbar is its interference with the ability to tilt out the rear window. Shortening the mounting studs made it possible to unlatch the top of the window, lift it upwards to free the studs, and then slide the window down and out of place.

13 Corbeau A4 Seats 1972 Corvette

12. With the structure of the bar in place, we put our Corbeau A4 seats in place to check their height, only to find they fit higher than we expected.

14 A4 Separate Base

13. We had ordered our A4’s with a separate base that screws to sliders mounted to the bottom of the seat. Once we began looking for places to remove height from the seat, this bracket on the back of the seat base was an obvious choice.

15 Seat Bolt Holes

14. After carefully removing the bracket from the base with a cutoff wheel, we used an awl to locate our seat bolt holes through the floor insulation and then laid out the pieces of the base and bracket we had cut off, clearancing them where necessary, and tacked it together.

16 Stock Seat Base

15. This is the first seat after rewelding the base (right), shown back-to-back with the stock seat base. It earned us about an inch. We’ll have the foam in the base shaved for another inch.

17 1972 Corvette Rollbar

16. After sorting out the seat height, we turned back to the rollbar, and added an additional pair of diagonals inside the main hoop for strength.

18 Seat Belt Harness

17. If you use seat belt harnesses that wrap around the mounting bar, you’re required to have some way to keep them from sliding on the bar. Tray, again, drew out a guide in AutoCAD and then burned a pair of them on the hi-def plasma.

19 Harness Guide Welded Crossbar

18. The harness guide was welded in place on the crossbar. We put them on the bottom to make them as unobtrusive as possible.

20 Rollbar Assembly

19. This is the finished rollbar assembly. Once the chassis goes to powdercoat, ’bar and all, we can start assembling the suspension, brakes and powertrain components.

By: Jeremy D. Clough

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Here’s How to Fight the EPA Ban on Constructing a Race Car

Sema Camaro Save Cars

If last Monday’s announcement that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) proposed a regulation to prohibit the conversion of any street-driven vehicle into a racecar left you feeling helpless, here’s a link to petition the White House against the proposed EPA regulation, and fight back.

Here’s a quick refresher of what the proposed regulation is about. SEMA has issued a press release informing the public that the EPA is aiming to make it illegal to convert automobiles originally designed for on-road use into racecars, even though such conversions have been done since the dawn of the automobile – it’s called improving the breed.

002 EPA Racecar Ban SEMA Petition Oppose Sign

Under the EPA’s proposed rule, it would also be illegal to sell any performance-related products for those cars. The EPA’s proposal would have a devastating impact on motorsports since many types of racing rely on production vehicles that have been modified for use strictly at the track.

In recent affairs, SEMA battled proposed legislation to register all racecars. Isn’t there another group of enthusiasts that say registration is the first step to confiscation?

Now is your chance to voice your opinion and protect our beloved American hobby! Follow the link below to the official petition, put forth by the SEMA Action Network and protect the right to build racecars.

Ask the EPA to Withdraw its Proposal Now!


By: John Gilbert

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Posted in Industry News, Interesting Stuff