More progress!

I fully realize that every title has an exclaimation point- but it has to. Every part of this deal is exciting! Here are more shots from Brian. It’s starting to look like a dragster!  (click on the thumbnails to see a bigger picture)

Brian pointed out some little trick details that will make putting the car together even cleaner. There is a pic of a tube with two holes and tubes inserted. This is one of the chassis uprights that you can see in the long shot of the car with the uprights welded in- it’s to allow a clean path for the starter wires to pass through one, and the fuel shut off cable through the other one. Also, there is an extra tube on the horizontal chassis rail where the roll cage will be welded on to strengthen the area in case for some reason I ever end up on my head. It’ll keep the roll cage from pounding the  top chassis rail.

Brian, my head thanks you.

Also, despite wanting to really go with a lot of engine setback to mimic an early clutch car- Zorba’s Ghost is at 24 1/2″ from the back of the block to to centerline of the axle- we decided to move it out to 31″ -which is still very period, so it won’t look goofy. I was lucky to get a hold of Nitro Jim Rodarmel, who runs the cool little blue digger that was pictured in my second entry- and his car is a 1964-ish Woody Gilmore car, and the engine was originally 31″ out. His car currently runs it out  38 inches and it still doesn’t look bad, so ours will stilll look like a clutch car, and if for some reason a winning lottery ticket and an ample amount of curiousity comes our way we could convert over to direct drive/clutch setup.  Jim spent a good amount of his time giving me the run down on his deal and I am so grateful. Jacin Barnes has been kind enough to let me know the problems and solutions on his dragster build as well. Likewise, Doug Petersen and Mark Fullard- all who are doing the same things with their cars that we are going to do with ours- meaning being as period correct as possible. All of this info is priceless and much appreciated.

It seems that keeping the front end down is going to be the most complicated part. One of the important parts of this whole deal is to NOT run a wheelie bar. At least not in the sense that you see them today. We will have to put a skid under the bottom frame rail the back of the car to limit how high the front end comes up, and keep from grinding the lower frame rail should (when?) I launch the front end skyward at the green light. A landing from a 2′ wheelstand is easier on the frame than a landing from a 4′ wheelie. Worst case scenario, we’ll add the small single caster wheel that was also period on some cars starting in the ’64-’65 era, but then you run the risk of unloading the rear slicks, or the car coming up on the wheel at an angle. I’d rather we just figure it out so we can leave the caster wheel off the car. In the old days, traction was so limited- hard rubber compounds on the slicks and an unprepped track- that you actually spun the tires hard off the line and then eventually the speed of the car caught up with the speed of the wheels 1/3 of the way down the strip. That’s what made the whole tire smoker deal happen. By the late 60’s, the softer slicks came in, and the clutches were made to slip at excess power rather than the tires. Plus nowadays they actually spray the track with this super sticky stuff called VHT. If you walk on a drag strip with slip on Vans, you’ll lose your shoe, it’s that sticky. So this is a challenge. But it’s important, and as a few others have proved, not impossible.

We have a good amount of engine “dump” (the downward angle of the engine) to help keep the front wheels planted using the technique they used to- not to mention is looks completely bitchin’- but the difference with our setup is we’re not a tire smoker. At least to start out, we won’t even have the horsepower to churn the rear tires, even if we went with the Mickey Thompson piecrust slicks. (which I do hope we can play with at some point- but that’s down the road) So the car will hook up off the line. 

Putting the engine 31″ out is going to transfer a little more weight over the front end, but it will still have very period proportions. We will still need to add weight to the front- but hopefully not as much as intended. Nitro Jim was running 130 (!) lbs of weight up front at one point and still was having a hard time keeping the front end down. I mean you want to lift the wheels probably about a foot at the hit and then have them settle down after the 60′ mark. But a 3′ wheelie that is only going to come down by pedaling is not such a good thing. He altered his launch so he’s leaving in high gear on the transbrake, and cutting out the torque multiplication that occurs in low, and he said it has only cost him about a 10th on the ET. Figuring that you’re not spending the first 300 feet trying to get the front wheels down while not bending the frame or grinding your oil pan, that seems like a fair trade off. The daunting thing though is at 140″, he’s got 10″ more of wheelbase than we’re working with.

Lori Petersen launches her car at a fast idle with no transbrake. She just footbrakes it. So both approaches are going to be tried, although in the interest of being easier on parts, I think we’re leaning towards not having a transbrake. The thought of really leaning on the converter at the line by burying your foot in it, and then having the car suddenly slam into gear with the RPMs pegged just seems EXPENSIVE.

We’ll see. I’m sure it’s one of those things that we can’t make an exact delcaration until we see what is going to work best for the set up. From what I understand, you can have a transbrake, but still opt not to use it.

We’re going with 10.5″ wide M&H slicks on a fairly tall tire (30″) so that should help to not give us way too much traction. We decided to do this instead of going with the nostalgia top fuel tire, which is 12″ wide at the “tread” and really too much tire for our setup. Plus, those take a 16″ wheel and going with 15″ rims will also be cheaper, and that will hopefully get us a bit closer to finishing the car a little sooner than later. It’ll still be probably 3-4 years off, which after seeing pictures of the chassis develop in front of our very eyes is going to be murder to be patient to get the wheels/tires, engine/tranny and all the plumbing and wiring together. It’s that whole funding thing! It’s going to be awfully hard to wait for things, but I know it will be all that much sweeter and exciting as it comes together with the waiting and hustling and saving.


2 Responses to “More progress!”

  1. vince Says:

    great stuff, I look forward to reading more.

  2. Jon Hansen Says:

    Hi, you have an interesting project. I owned/raced a nitro JrFuel dragster in the midwest from 1963 to 1968, then we won the US Nationals in 1969 with a BB/GD, then we had a dual engine BBC Top Gas dragster untill NHRA elimated the class in 1972, then I drove a rear engine top fuel dragster to a Div 3 championship in 1973. Now my partner and I race NHRA Heritage JrFuel to 2008 and 2009 championships. Hammer/Hansen have won the MarchMeet from 2005 to 2009, altho 2007 was a rain-out.
    I also build front wire wheels, new and I rebuild wheels. So, when you are ready for front wheels and tires, I have period correct wheels and tires. Call me when you are ready or want to brainstrorm about your project, 805-444-4489 [SoCal]

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