by Andy Bell
On July 16th , OVR was invited to participate in a road and track test for some hot rods built by Woody’s Hot Rods and tested for Buckaroo Communications and the Goodguys Hot Rod Club. Our contacts at Jeg’s and National Trail Raceway put Chis Sondles from Woody’s Hot Rods in touch with Tim, Craig and me to see if we could come out and set up a "Road Course" to compare three high performance hot rods against each other so they could be reviewed and documented by three hot rod magazines. Part of the test would be the road course followed by a drag racing segment. We found out about the event on the 11th just before the board meeting. We all saw this as a good opportunity to help out our track owner, a club sponsor, and get a new audience for SCCA. The press release looked like this:
The day of the test was beautiful. When we pulled into National Trail, all three of the test cars were already there and polished up. There was a 40 Willy’s owned by Gary Anderson, a ‘55 Chevy Del Ray owned by Fred Sondles, and a ’69 Mustang owned by Bob Steinbacher. The unique thing about all of these cars is that they were mounted on a modern purpose built hot rod chassis. All of the cars were beautifully done. The paint on the Chevy and Mustang looked so glossy, you would think you could dip your finger into it.
We talked to Chris Sondles from Woody’s and determined that they would like to have each car driven three times on the course and then they would change over to the drag race portion of the event. John Fergus volunteered his time to do the driving on the road course and Jeg Couglin would come out in the afternoon to do the drag racing.
From OVR, Mike and Tonya Smith, Craig and Cody Wollenslegel, Coby Hartman and voluntered to come out and help with the event. We set up a very basic course with elements that we thought cars guys would like. We had a decreasing radius turn, slalom, hairpin turn, lane change, kink, and a constant radius curve. As we set up the cones, Mike asked me how far apart we should make the lanes. I answered " Think $15K paint job." Immediately we went back and widened everything by an additional 2 feet! Having not driven these cars and having just done the GTO event a few weeks ago, we assumed that these cars would need a lot of turning room and tried to keep the course pretty open. It turns out our fears were unfounded, but more on that later. The test was to show off the cars, not to see who could go fastest, and we didn’t want to leave cone marks on the cars.
John quickly got to know the owners of the cars, who were there to see how they did, as well as the staff from the magazines. It was cool to see a professional driver in action. He drove the course several times with the assorted press members in his Audi. Then he showed them where he thought the cars would get the best pictures. Once he was comfortable with the course, he took a quick shakedown cruise in each car to see how they would react. Finally he got ready to make the timed runs.
While John was feeling out the cars, Mike and Cody were teching the cars. The Willy’s had to have the hub caps removed, and that’s about when we realized the hubs were originals which are almost impossible to find. The owner was very grateful for us for suggesting the removal. Our other major concern was tire pressure which was quickly remedied by the crews who brought them up to their max inflation levels. Other than removing some remote controls and cameras from the interiors, the cars seemed to be in tip top shape.
The Buckaroo Communications guys had a Viper with them and John took a base line run with it. Then it was time to see what the rods would do.
First up was the Willy’s. For a car that just looks like it should be top heavy, this thing really was a great road car. There was hardly any body roll at all! I’m pretty sure there is more roll in the Go Kart than this car had. The turn in was very quick and it had great potential as an autocross car. However, the car was set up for drag racing and the fuel pick up was positioned so that if the fuel started to slosh, the engine would start getting fuel starvation. This dampened the first two runs while the crew tried to figure out how to work around the problem. John had two great starts, but ¾ of the way around the track, the constant turns would cause the car to cough and sputter, ruining otherwise great timed runs. John then took two more runs in the car with the tank topped up and a bit smoother around the back of the course and just edged out his base run in the Viper.
Next was the Chevy. John took his first run and again we were impressed. The thing handled like an F Stock car. Halfway through run two John suddenly slowed down. We all watched apprehensively as he idled back to the start line. Turns out he had accidentally released the seatbelt and had to make a re run with it fastened. Of the three car owners, Fred Sondles, the Chevy owner seemed the most nervous about the sea of cones surrounding his beautiful car and the sudden slow down had him pacing back and forth. That said, he still wanted to see what his car would do. John quickly did two more runs and was just short of the Willy’s time by less than .1. The owner and his wife were very impressed with their "shoe box" and relieved that it came home in one piece.
The Mustang held the most promise as well as the most challenge. It was the only car of the three with non power steering and with a HIGH horsepower engine. In his test drive John remarked that he had only depressed the pedal by about 1 inch and was flying. The extra ponies came at a cost however and after the first run, the engine was getting hot so we took a short break to let it cool down. Once cooled down, the Mustang strutted its stuff coming across the line in first place of the three hot rods.
All of the OVR members were impressed with the potential of these hot rods. The chassis they use could work in our type of racing and it would be fun to try out a chassis when you don’t have to worry about who owns the car, multi thousand dollar paint jobs, and could dial it in for autocross rather than drag race.
As the Mustang made its last run, Jeg pulled up and came over to watch. Introductions went all around and when we mentioned that both Cody and Drew are kart racers Jeg perked up. He has been playing around quite a bit with go karts recently from TAGS to a set of karts he runs with his son in their back yard track. John took Jeg for a ride in the Willy’s and Mike and Tonya started giving rides to the owners and crews in the Subaru. We did some exhibition runs in the cars and John edged out the Willy’s time with the Chevy. The Willy’s owner was quick to joke that this was an exhibition run and "no longer counted! " but the Chevy "shoebox" owners now had improved their bragging rights!
Once everyone had their rides (Including Tonya who had talked her way into driving the Viper, can you tell I’m jealous!? ) We packed up while the photographers did their thing and everyone moved over to the drag strip for the next phase of the test. Craig and Cody stuck around to watch and from what I could see the Willy’s was running about 100MPH in the quarter mile. I would have liked to seen the Mustang at full power, but we needed to get going. We are supposed to be notified when the magazines will come out with the article and I’ll try to make sure I post it to everyone when it does.
2007 August 6