In preparation for the big race weekend this August in Monterey we are redoing the 1800Ti into a period correct vintage racer like this famous car:
We have a lot of work to do to my car to make it look and act like this one. My car was originally built to run in the Carrera Pan-Americana but due to a falling out between the owner and BMW NA it never ran in that race.
It was heavily modified, and we modified it further to make it a better track race car. It had custom rear trailing arms, no dashboard, door frames cut out, exhaust tunnel inside the passenger compartment- just to name a few.
The first step was to completely strip the shell, media blast it, and begin fixing all the rust, bent panels, and other necessary metal work.
One big issue was fabricating a new pedestal and rear brace for the back seat. Those bits had been cut completely out of the car to reduce weight.
All four doors required new lower patch panels due to rust issues.
While all this metal work was going on the suspension, fuel, electrical, and other parts were being refreshed and repainted. Here they all are waiting to go back on the car.
There is still a lot of work to do on the car, but progress is being made. Thanks to Terry Forland and Travis Koch at Racecraft for all their hard work.
One desire that I have long had is to drive a purpose built race car. That may, at first, sound a bit strange. What do I drive now if not race cars?
There is a big difference between a race car derived from a production car and a purpose built race car. No matter how refined and developed the production based race car is, it is still, in large measure, a compromise.
A purpose built race car, by conception and design, has a single purpose- to go as fast as possible within the rule set under which it is raced.
I have driven only one other purpose built race car, and that was a formula car at the Bondurant school I went to 10 years ago. It was a lot of fun, and quite a bit different than the Corvettes we were also driving that weekend.
So I went ahead and bought a car. Here it is:
It is a 1970 Chevron B16. It has a 2 liter BMW M10 engine producing about 215 HP. It weighs 1300 pounds without me. It should be a pretty fun ride.
The car was actually built in 2006 as a ‘continuation car.’ What that means is that it was built by Chevron using the exact jigs, materials, and parts as the original B16s.
Chevron built only 23 original B16’s between 1968 and 1970. These original cars are highly sought after, and fetch very high prices when they do come to market. Here is a link to a compilation of the race history of the B16 between 1968 and 1974:
My car is currently being trucked from Italy to England where it will be stored until we receive the EPA waiver we have applied for. Once we receive the waiver the car will be put on a plane and flown to SEA-TAC airport.
Here is a video featuring my car and its former owner:
At 10:50 all drivers are to be in their car, strapped in, and ready to go. The pace car leaves the grid at 10:55 and after 1 pace lap the green flag is dropped and the race begins.
There were a number a pretty fast cars (and trucks- see the video) that chose not to qualify in the rain. They started at the back of the field, but by Turn 4 of the opening lap they were coming up through the group I was racing with. It got pretty tight a couple of times.
After 2-3 laps I settled in and just tried to drive the car smoothly and consistently. Our goal was to make sure we finished, and I didn’t want to be stupid or break the car in my first stint.
All in all I drove 5 stints during the race, including the start and the checkered flag. It was quite an honor.
I had raced my 2002 at Thunderhill just a few weeks before this event, so I was very comfortable in the E30.
For the 25 Hour race they use a by-pass of Turn 5. It is a blind rise over the shank of the hill. There is quite a camber change as you go over the rise, and it gets worse the more you are to the right. The fast line is staying left, but when the fast cars come by we had to move right for them.
Just over the rise the track takes a hard, off camber, right around the base of the hill. It’s quite a handful, especially in the dark.
Our race went smoothly until my 10:00 PM stint. About 45 minutes into it morning. I was driving the car just shut down. The lights and everything stayed on, but the motor would not run. I coasted to a stop under the bridge on the back straight. Fortunately not to far from pit in.
After a short wait while the pace car picked up the field, I was towed back to the pits and the crew set to work diagnosing the problem. I went off to bed for a 4 hour sleep before my next scheduled stint.
When I got back to the pits the car was back out on track logging laps. The high pressure fuel pumped had failed, and it had taken about an hour to find the problem and fix it.
Mary had volunteered to act as cook for the team. She had prepared meals ahead of the weekend and warmed them and set them out for the team. We also had a table full of snacks, fruit, and drinks that she kept ready for the entire event. Her efforts were greatly appreciated by everyone on the team. What a gal!
Our race settled down again after the fuel pump replacement. We were able to do about 90 minutes on a load of fuel. The rules state that you can only change one tire during a pit stop unless you take the car behind the wall. We had developed a schedule of changing one tire about every 3rd or 4th stint. The system worked pretty well for us.
Everything was going great until our pit stop and tire change about 2 hours from the finish. Unfortunately one of the wheel studs broke off. We debated whether or not to fix it and continue. We were far enough ahead of the next car in our class to stay ahead of them even if we stopped.
At Mary’s urging the crew fixed the stud and I hopped back into the car and drove it to the finish. It would have been a shame not to drive the car under the checkered flag. It had taken about 30 minutes to fix.
We finished the race 36th overall, but 2nd in our class! To keep that finish we still had to pass tech. Seems like a no brainer, except for the fact that we had filled in a tech sheet that qualified us for our class and now those items would be checked thoroughly by the inspectors.
Fortunately we passed without any problems, so we got to keep our finishing position.
What a fun event! I can’t wait to run it again. It is the type of driving that suits my style and skills to a tee.
Following this event our trusty E30 was put up for sale. While it was very reliable, it was pretty slow. We got beat by a Honda Fit! We all want to run the event again, but with a better chance to place well.
Currently the team is looking for another, faster car.
I finally got the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to try- endurance racing. It was a real gas!
Terry Forland, Jim Froula, John Hill and I all went together and bought a 1989 E30 BMW Pro3 car. It was an old war-horse needing a few things, but E30’s are pretty simple, and the rules for Pro3 require only factory parts. We also purchased a couple of extra sets of wheels for the car.
We ran it in the Cascade 8 Hour Race in Portland last October as a warm up for the 25 Hour race at Thunderhill in December.
The 8 Hour is run without the chicane on the main straight. I used to race PIR in a lay-down go-kart without the chicane, so I quickly adjusted to not having to break at start-finish. The biggest problem for me was heading off into turn 1 in the pitch black at very high rates of speed. It was my first experience driving in the dark, and the lack of visual cues required some re-thinking.
All in all we had a good race. We finished 4th in class and 14th overall. Here’s the video from that event:
The 25 Hour Race at Thunderhill is held the first weekend in December, and it is a really big event. There are typically more than 50 entries, with several big teams and big names that run it each year- Randy Probst, Al Unser Jr., and Kurt Bush were all entered this past year.
Walking through the paddock Friday afternoon before the race was eye-opening! The amount of equipment, people, and support stuff was mind boggling. It was not like the vintage races we usually attend. One team had 3 Radical sports racers they were running, with 6-8 mechanics for each car. Mazda had 3 diesel 6 series sedans entered that were being driven by a collection of their dealers.
We arrived with the Racecraft semi loaded with our car and a spare E30 we could use for parts if the need arose. We figured that if the weather turned nasty the semi would also make a dry place for the team to hang out. As it turned out, that was never an issue.
Once the car was unloaded and our pit area was set up the crew set about giving the car a last once-over. Brett and the crew spent time checking everything over one last time- the suspension, the brakes, the engine, and even the lights. Once that was complete it was time to tech and qualify the car.
We had a bit of a problem in tech. When the officials looked over the roll cage they found some areas that had not been welded fully. These were up on top of the main hoop, and on the outsides of some of the diagonal braces. These were areas that you could not see, but had to feel by reaching in with your hand.
The crew surged up and down the paddock looking for someone who had a welder. Finding one, Jim folded himself up and jammed himself into some tight corners, and welded up the bad places. The car went back to tech and passed.
Qualification was on Friday night, and it began pouring rain about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to go out! I was chosen to qualify the car because I was the only one lacking sense. Being the old guy on the team has some advantages.
The big plus for me was that the rules required the driver that qualifies the car also has to start the car in the race on Saturday afternoon. I ended up qualifying 43rd out of the 56 cars entered.
A big problem I had to deal with was the fine spray put up by the cars with ground-effects. With our bright headlights it made it almost impossible to see. Quite a thrill!
This time of year it gets dark in northern California by about 4:30, and the sun doesn’t come up until after 7:30 AM. This means you spend a lot of hours racing in the dark at this event.
Thunderhill doesn’t have any lighting around the track itself. They have pretty good lighting in the paddock, and they rent portable lighting for pit-in and pit-out, but the rest of the track is pitch black.
The lights you have on your car are critical. We had invested in a powerful LED light bar we could mount on the hood, plus a set of aircraft landing lights in place of the factory high beams.
Qualification showed me that we needed to adjust them all slightly for maximum vision, but in general they were pretty good.
Saturday dawned clear, dry, and cold. The norm for this event is pretty nasty weather, with cold temps, lots of rain, and even snow some years. Looked like we had gotten lucky.
The cars are required to be on grid and ready to go by 10:30 or you have to start at the rear of the field. There is a lot of pomp and circumstance before the race with military color guards, bag pipes, and dignitaries walking up and down the grid of cars.
What they had discovered was the aluminum calipers were so old and porous they were leaking brake fluid around the seals on the pucks. This was causing the spongey pedal after just a few laps.
There was nothing that we could do for this race, but Jim was already planning how to permanently fix the problem. His idea was to sleeve the calipers. Certainly a winter project.
For this weekend they would plan on bleeding the brakes for every session. I would be sensitive to any softness in the pedal and just take it easy.
One of the highlights of Saturday for Mary and I is having our whole family come out and cheer the car and Grandpa on. We usually get some team shirts and hats made up for everybody. It’s a lot of fun.
The time came for the qualifying race and I lined up 23rd out of 44 cars. Unfortunately I got stuck behind a turbo Porsche that was quick down the straights, but slower than my CSL through the corners. It was pretty frustrating not to be able to get by him. I ended up finishing 19th.
I got an excellent start in the feature race, which was good because I desperatly wanted to get by the Porsche early in the race. Once by, I found myself racing with Ernie Spada in his IROC 911, and Dennis Singleton in his green RSR Porsche. We ran nose-to-tail for several laps. It was a lot of fun.
I sneaked by Ernie as he was balked by a slowing Ferrari coming out of Turn 5.
About this time Adam Carolla came up from behind in his ex-Paul Newman 300 ZX Datsun. He got by me just as we turned up the hill towards the Cork Screw. As we got to the top of the hill the red flag came out so we all pulled over to a stop.
Unfortunately Ken Epsman in his Dekon Monza had a wheel break going through Turn 4. He went off into the tire barrier in a big cloud of dust, and his left rear tire bounced over the fence and into the grandstand. Fortunately no one was struck, but all emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene.
After collecting the field with the pace car we had one last lap under green. I had a mirror full of yellow and green Porsches, but I was able to hold them both off to finish 6th. It was a great race, and a lot of fun.
At the Awards Ceremony we were given the Rolex Award of Excellence for Group 5A. Certainly this was due to the beautiful restoration work done by Racecraft. Thank you Terry and Jim!
Adam Carolla does a video podcast called Carcast. He featured his outings in his Datsun, and there are some shots of the Luigi CSL. NOTE: These are rated PG-13 for language.
First, though, here’s my in-car video:
Now here’s Adam’s two videos:
Finally, here’s a dramatic video of the Monza loosing its wheel:
Every year during the 2nd and 3rd weekends of August there occurs an event that boggles the automotive mind. It is called “Car Week,” and it happens on the Monterey Peninsula.
During the week there are 5 major auctions, 7 major car shows or concours, a dozen minor events, and the Rolex races at Laguna Seca. People come from around the world to attend the event.
This year I signed up for a couple of new events for us, including the Friday evening car show in downtown Monterey. About 25-30 race cars are escorted by CHiPS from the track into downtown Monterey and put on display for anyone and everyone. One of the local restaurants provides hors d’oeuvres for the participants. It is a very fun event that really kicks off the entire car week scene.
On the way back to the track the lead motorcycle officer cracked the throttle, and of course, we had to keep up with him. He had a big smile on his face when we arrived back at the track. Fun duty!
We raced the Pre-reunion race on Sunday. It was a bit of a disappointment because we only got 2 sessions on track for the whole weekend- qualifying and then the race.
We were still fighting some brake issues, but I managed to finish mid-pack. The group we ran in is was quite a mixed bag with a GTP Toyota, some big-block IMSA cars, and some tube frame Trans Am cars, along with the usual mix of turbo and non-turbo Porsches.
On Tuesday we again were part of an escorted group from the track. This time we traveled to downtown Carmel for the Concours on the Avenue. My grandson, Andrew, rode with me in the car. It was a lot of fun to come down from Highway 1 through Carmel to Ocean Avenue with crowds of people snapping pictures and cheering us on.
Luigi was awarded “Best in Class” among the race cars. Quite an honor and tribute to Racecraft’s work!
Racing began in earnest on Thursday. We had a practice session on Thursday, one on Friday, and then 2 races on Saturday. Luigi was in Group 5A- “1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars.”
There were 2 other CSLs in the group, Henry Schmitt’s IMSA car, and the factory museum car. There was also the factory museum M1 driven by Randy Probst, along with Porsches, Datsun Z-cars, big block IMSA cars, an IROC Camaro, and Adam Carolla in is turbo 300ZX. Quite a collection of fast cars!
On Thursday I had the brake pedal go to the floor as I broke for turn 5. I was right outside of a 935 Porsche, and had to pump the pedal furiously to get the car slowed enough to make the corner.
I thought, “Oh no, here we go again!”
It turned out to be a new brake “problem.” It seems we threw a wheel weight, which struck the retaining clip for the brake pads, allowing them to move back out of position. How strange is that?
Friday’s practice went much better. I put in a couple of good laps and qualified 23rd out of 44 cars. I still didn’t have complete confidence in the brakes, and was breaking pretty early for turns 2, 5, and 11. After 5-6 laps the pedal was still getting spongy. Something was still not 100% with the brakes.
Saturday Mary and I arrived at the track early to find Terry, Jim, and Mike huddled over Luigi’s left rear brake caliper on the table in front of the Racecraft truck. It didn’t look good.
I had three cars entered for the 2014 Portland Historics, held July 11-13 at Portland International Raceway- the freshly re-done 700, the Koepchen 2002, and the Luigi CSL.
Right from the very first lap of practice on Friday the trouble began.
First to go down was the 700. On my very first warm-up lap in
practice the left side barrel separated from the block. Not knowing the cause, or if any internal damage was done, we decided it was best to park the car for the rest of the weekend.
Next up was the 2002. This car is pretty quick, however, the Group it was running in was made up of ‘B’ sedans from the 60’s and early 70’s, and since Datsun was the featured marque this year there was a whole bunch of very fast Datsun 510’s up from California in my group.
I was able to qualify well, about mid-pack, and ran both races on Saturday without incident.
Sunday morning I went out for the warm-up session, and the motor did not feel right. Jim started to check the engine and found it had no oil pressure.
At first we thought that the drive gear had come off the oil pump shaft, but it turned out to be much more serious than that.
The motor went down to Terry Tinney and he found that the chain tensioner for the cam drive chain had broken and dropped down into the front of the timing chain cover. There it lodged in the chain and broke the crankshaft.
So we had 2 major engine failures. But wait there’s more.
That left me racing the CSL. You may remember that we had brake issues in Sonoma that almost caused me to wreck the car. Those issues reared their ugly head this weekend as well with similar results.
Jim had changed the brake fluid to a higher temp fluid. But the problem showed up again during my first qualifying race. Going into the chicane on the opening lap I almost wrecked it again when the front brakes didn’t work.
Jim put on some heat shielding for the next race, but still the pedal went mushy after a few laps.
The cherry on top of the sunday came on Sunday when a thunderstorm came through just before the flag race for the CSL. Since I don’t have rain tires for the car I was forced to sit it out.
Not a very fun weekend to say the least.
I did get some fun video though. Here are the links. First is the video from the 2002: