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Everything but the same old cars

Archive for May, 2010

Behind the Screens at the Indy 500

Posted by Wrenchski On May - 30 - 2010

Editor’s note – The man known only as Wrenchski provided this from the Barcalounger and love seat roundup of the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 in exchange for one mint condition still-in-plastic California Masons Erase Drugs pencil eraser.

loveseat1The lascivious Mrs. Brady does the national anthem justice online as Jewel does it for the TV audience. WTF? At least it didn’t get hip-hopped. We all wait for Gomer Pyle to bring us back to Indiana. The more things change the more they stay the same. Who let Musburger in here? Somebody besides me knows something as one of the live driver camera feeds is Tony Kanaan, and he starts dead last. Shouldn’t use that word. Mary starts the engines. Wonder if Robin Roberts driving the pace car will make Lone Star JR wet his pants a little. Jack Nicholson in the flag stand. Can he handle the truth? Green and Helio checks out as Davey Hamilton crashes his Indy dreams and those of the supermod set. We’ll restart. Five laps later and Tony Kinnan is up to 24th. 23rd. 21st. Stop showing the the whiner and show Kanaan! 19th.

Crash for Bruno, and Sarah’s team is down another car. Tony Kanaan has sliced through half the field. Two yellows have re-bunched the pack so the leaders don’t get away. SCREW the track feed, I’m switching to the Tony Kanaan in car. More TV about the Whiner. Is no one on the TV team watching the scoring sheets? From 33rd to 17th in 11 laps? E.J. Viso finds the only way to pass an Andretti is in the grass. Kanaan to 16th behind another Andretti – Marco, who won’t even let you pass gas no less give up a position. Marco passes Justin Wilson and leaves him in the Kanaan crosshairs. Will Power brings out a caution in the middle of pit stops by leaving with the half the fuel nozzle still in the car Grandma at the Stop ‘n Save. Whoever told Power to go will be WORKING at Stop ‘n Save after Penske gets done with him.

Read the rest of this entry »

1971 Gurney Eagle Olsonite Indy Car

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 29 - 2010

gurney-flap11 In honor of Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500 comes this legendary turbocharged Offenhauser powered Indy 500 special from 1971. The racer is not just any Indy car, but one affixed with the original Gurney Flap on its rear wing. We know this because while at the Mickey Thompson: First American to 400 MPH opening, Dan Gurney himself told us that was the case. He also told us that this car had 10 mph on the McLaren cars with its boosted 161 cubic-inch version of an engine that is synonymous with American motor racing as the Brickyard itself – the twin-cam Offenhauser. The Olsonite Eagle was hatched at Gurney’s Costa Mesa, California All American Racers shop in 1971 as a development platform for the 1972 and beyond AAR Gurney Eagles. During testing in Phoenix driver Bobby Unser challenged the pit side powers to come up with a solution to solve the apparent slower than the pack nature of the car. Gurney affixed a thin strip of hardware store aluminum to the trailing edge of the rear wing, and the secret weapon known as the Gurney Flap was born.

In 45 minutes or so, the first Gurney Flap was fabricated and attached to the car’s rear wing, and Unser went out again. Within a couple of laps it was clear he was circulating no faster than before and everyone in the pit assumed the flap was a failure. But when Unser came in he called Gurney over and quietly asked him whether anyone was around to spy on what they were doing. Once Gurney had confirmed they were alone, Unser told him the rear was now so well planted that the car was pushing (understeering) badly, hence the poor lap times. All they needed to do was restore the aerodynamic balance by adding more front-end downforce and the car would be transformed. Keith Howard, Motorsport Magazine via AAR

So successful was this simple innovation that other teams started attaching Gurney-like flaps in the wrong places in failed attempts to duplicate the All American Racing success. This Eagle was designed by Len Terry with influence from Gurney AAR design hotshot Roman Slobodynski – who would go on to design the race-winning 1972 and later Gurney Eagles.  The Olsonite Eagle was piloted by Bobby Unser, who qualified on the front row in third for the 1971 running of the Indy 500. Bobby Unser was out in front of the pack twice, but spun and stacked getting around the burning hulk of Mike Mosley’s car during lap 164. Even with the crash, Unser took a 12th place finish with this boosted Offy-powered AAR Eagle. Bobby’s brother Al Unser took the checkered flag. The thin strip of aluminum that is the Gurney Flap is common in racing today, and stands as a symbol of a time in American motor sport when experimentation and testing was done in real time and on track, with innovation and greatness as the end result.

Thanks to the NHRA Motorsports Museum for displaying the car and Gary Schroeder Enterprises for restoring this gem of American history. Find Dan Gurney at All American Racers.

Indy 500 Hot Wheels

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 28 - 2010

IndyeagleFrom the endless internets Indy 500 division of Clunkbucket comes this collection of directly and somewhat Indy 500 related Hot Wheels, culled from the vast and apparently growing archive of the Hot Wheels Wiki. Before the days of instantaneous all decades, all the time, on demand information, watching the Indy 500 on the Zenith color TV was the giant motor racing event of the year for kids and adults alike. Following the nationwide coverage of the race were wide-eyed kids running their own version of Silent Sam, a Gurney Eagle, or the Lotus turbine car down and or around what seemed like miles of speedy orange track. This miniature racing bonanza came thanks to the marketing genius of Mattel, and the art of Hot Wheels designers like Ira Gilford, who not only designed the Gurney Eagle Hot Wheel pictured here but also the legendary Twin Mill, a Hot Wheel so famous it was later built into a full-size 1400 horsepower functional repli-car for the 2001 SEMA show. The miracle of Sizzlers aside, there is vague memory of some sort of lever and rubber wheel contraption that sent cars around the orange track at ridiculous speeds. There is no recall if that particular orange track had anything, or everything, to do with the greatest spectacle in racing.

Thanks to Alex Nunez for the tip and the Hot Wheels Wiki for the photos!

Cole Coonce’s Cam Grind: The INDY 500 in Retrospect

Posted by Cole Coonce On May - 28 - 2010

In 1997 the recently-formed Indy Racing League was making its first foray into sanctioning an Indianapolis 500 with formula cars powered by a new low-tech spec: naturally-aspirated, production-based, 4-liter V8s. Nobody expected much, as the season-opening races had been judged a disaster by Indy Car pundits and purists, many of whom sided with the rival Championship Auto Racing Teams (or CART), an organization of racers who boycotted the Indy 500, ultimately to its own peril and obsolescence.


History shows now that—by virtue of its symbiotic relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its crown jewel, the 500—the IRL won and CART lost (and actually went bankrupt twice, before deep-sixing for good). But in 1997, that eventuality wasn’t so clear. Indeed, at the IRL’s 1997 Phoenix race (contested weeks before IMS opening its gates for Indy 500 time trials), so many engines blew up nobody was sure the race would go the 200-mile distance. Due to the flurry of caution laps based on all the carnage, the race’s average speed was about the same leisurely pace one takes on I-10 and doesn’t worry about getting pulled over by Johnny Law.

In the press room at that year’s Long Beach Grand Prix (sanctioned by CART), over the din and whine of expensive turbocharged engines spooling up and down the race track, I heard a horde of motorsports journalists queued up in the buffet line, running the IRL Phoenix race up the proverbial flag pole while spooning lasagna into their mugs, all the while blathering that Phoenix was the worst race they had ever seen, and how the Indy 500 was doomed to oblivion. Read the rest of this entry »

All Toyotafest is All Right

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 21 - 2010

2010-toyotafest-leadDespite the maelstrom of news surrounding Toyota this year, there are still a great number of people that pledge allegiance to the brand. A good lot of these folks showed up to participate in and be witness to the 15th Annual All Toyotafest on May 15th 2010 at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. In the end it was Robert Co of Vallejo, California that took Best of Show with a gorgeous stock-modified 1975 Toyota Corona. The win was a real photo finish. The AZN Motorsports crew put the final touches on the car just one day before the show. Robert told us while he had the car itself for only a few years, it had been a over ten years since he first laid hands on the original and complete HKS turbocharger system that was bolted up to the 18R-G twin cam engine under the hood. Robert and his Corona joined Celicas and Scions alike for the premiere Toyotas-only event on the West Coast. Read the rest of this entry »

Swap Meet Season!

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 20 - 2010

pomona-swap-leadThe snow is mostly gone. The mud is getting a little drier. The sun is higher in the sky. With the weather warming up you’re realizing the only thing holding that old bucket together was the ice frozen into the holes left by rust. All of it adds up to one thing. Swap meets all over the place! One of the biggest swaps out here on the left coast happens in Pomona. It’s no secret that we love going to any swap meet or junkyard, so it comes as no surprise that we rolled out to the San Gabriel Valley and forked over a few bucks to walk around the big swap in Pomona a few weeks back. Everything from mostly complete cars and trucks to disassembled project trucks with five-gallon buckets full of parts in the bed were for sale as long as you had the money. If you can’t find that Chevette horn cover at the Pomona Swap Meet you probably need to get another car, or get out there earlier. We’re still looking for one of those old school oil-filled dash compasses, as the one we picked up from the 99 Cent Only store reads exactly opposite of the earth’s actual magnetic fields. Maybe there will be a super deluxe at the next swap meet.

Check out the Pomona Swap Meet for upcoming junkfests, or head on out to the San Gabriel Valley this Sunday for yet another Swap Meet at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale from 6AM-3PM.

Pomona Swap Meet Junk and Treasure

Mickey Thompson: First American to 400 MPH

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 12 - 2010

mickey-thompson-leadMickey Thompson is a legend in American motorsport and hot rodding. The NHRA Wally Parks Motorsports Museum is currently exhibiting a collection of Thompson’s lifelong achievement through photographs, memorabilia, and the very machines that broke the records. To get an idea of who Mickey Thompson the man was, consider that while holding down a full-time job as a Pressman at the Los Angeles Times, he also founded the iconic Lion’s Drag Strip, started a successful speed equipment manufacturing business, and ran flat out on drag strips and dry lakes to the tune of 400 MPH in racing machines he assembled in his own home garage. And those were just a few of his accomplishments. A five-year involvement in Indy racing with the likes of Dan Gurney and the creation of indoor stadium off-road racing as we know it today are a few more of Thompson’s innovations in motorsport. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brasilia in California

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On May - 12 - 2010

brasilia-01 Even though almost a million units were produced over its nine year production run, the Volkswagen Brasilia is high on the list of cars one is unlikely to see rolling along the roads of North America. This 1975 Brasilia was driven up from Mexico by a man known to us only as Luis. The Brasilia was slammed after he got it back to the USA. The  suspension was left stock for the journey north to handle the topes or any other on or off road obstacles along the way. Luis originally located the Brasilia in Mexico, and re-painted it there. Once the wagon-like VW was up north, Luis lowered it onto a set of eight-spoke EMPI Sprint Star wheels for the correct SoCal VW Cal-Look.

While it appears that perhaps the Brasilia is based on the VW Type III wagon and/or 412 wagon chassis, the car actually sits atop a VW Type I Bug chassis. The Brasilia is a Beetle under its own stylish steel skin. The Brasilia was designed and built by Volkswagen do Brasil, who were also responsible for creating the near-mythical Volkswagen SP1 and SP2 sports cars. The engine is an upright 1600cc with a shorter cooling shroud for the tight engine compartment fit. The Brasilia was a popular choice in the country whose capital city holds the same name. The wagon-like three door was manufactured from 1973 until 1982 for a total of 950,000 stylish, yet practical cars. It seems at least one extra hardy Brasilia has made it through to Mexico and then onto the USA. Luis drives his Brasilia a few days a week, or to whatever VW gathering he can make it to. Whichever comes first.

1975 Volkswagen Brasilia on EMPI Sprint Stars

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Five Tips for DIY Automobile Repair

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