GOING FOR low… NASA American Iron AMC Javelin update

So after 2 years the car was rebuilt, repainted, re-stickered and ready to go. Seems like the perfect time to tear it all apart again! Ever since I first built the car I’ve been unhappy with the ride height. The car was much higher than the cars I was trying (and failing) to compete with. After all this time and work the car had nothing done to it that would make it go faster than it had before I wrecked it. Now a decent chunk (maybe even half?) of the time I was losing to the other cars was my driving. But when I put Dave Brown in the car and he was still 6 seconds slower than another mid-pack American Iron competitor I knew the car needed some re-engineering. I was about to start that process when the accident happened.

So here we are 2 years later and it was time to finally get serious about making this car faster. And that meant lowering it. Wilwood came out with these 2″ drop spindles and I really wanted them on the car. So here’s a video showing the progress. Plan is to do everything I can to get the car as low as possible and try to go racing again next year. Stay tuned…

1974 Javelin, American Iron, Suspension, video

Meet “Mad Matt” the Road Race Matador!

If you watched the video from the last post you know that’s there’s been a new addition to my little AMC fleet (totaling 5 cars now). Here’s what I know of the story so far. In the late 90’s a guy named Lynn Peterson bought a green 1974 Matador. He drove it around for a while and then he and his wife moved from Illinois to Portland, OR. He left the car with his friend Matt Lagessie. At some point in 2000 or 2001 Matt decided he wanted to go endurance racing and the Matador was the perfect candidate. So he tore into it and produced this awesome looking road racer. They ran a race in 2002 with a 343 motor. They blew the motor due to low/no oil pressure (sound familiar???). So, they decided they weren’t going to mess around and built a dry sumped 401 motor and raced it again in 2003 at Gingerman Raceway. They were going good but then threw a belt and couldn’t continue… looks like they took 2004 off and in 2005 they ran the car again at Blackhawk Farms. Not sure what happened in that race but I think they had some trouble again…

In 2006 Lynn was preparing a motor to compete in the Engine Masters Challenge. Very late in the build he finally went to put the intake manifold on the motor and found out that it didn’t fit the Indy heads and he had no time to fix the problem. So, they pulled the 401 out of the Matador and converted it to wet sump (required by the rules). That’s the motor they ran for the Engine Masters Challenge. Engine did ok but wasn’t optimized for the competition. Apparently, someone from New York bought the motor from them on the spot. So maybe it’s still in New York somewhere…

I’m not sure exactly what happened after that but at some point the car was sold. And then around 2007 the guy I bought it from got it in a trade. He put it in a shed and didn’t touch it for 7 years. Then I came along and bought it.

Matt went on to build a few more race cars; a Corvair and two Chevelles, a ’66 and a ’70? Unfortunately, in 2011, while racing the ’66 Chevelle, Matt suffered a heart attack. He was in the hospital for a few months but wasn’t able to recover and passed away in early 2012.

I first saw the car on the AMC forums in a thread someone started about building a circle track Matador. Another guy I know on the forums posted pictures of this car and said it might be for sale… I ended up talking to the guy that posted pics and he had the contact info of the current owner. A few weeks went by and no one else seemed to take the bait. So I finally jumped. I called the owner and said I’d take it. Then an agonizing 6 weeks went by while I waited for the shipping company to have a truck available to get it back to me in California.

Now it’s here and I’ve had a chance to look it over. It’s got no engine/trans and no fuel cell. Wiring’s a mess and I will need to modify the seating to even be able to fit in it. It’s got an AMC 20 with 3.54 gears and an Eaton posi. Matt fitted Cadillac brakes on it so it has four wheel disc brakes but, it’s got the Chevy bolt pattern. That’s a bummer since I can’t use any of my wheels. I’m pretty sure I’m going to switch it over to 5×4.5″. I don’t want to start buying/collecting Chevy pattern wheels. It’s a pretty BIG car too. It doesn’t look that big when you’re looking at it on it’s own but next to my Javelin race car it makes the Javelin look really low and small…

So that’s the story of Matt’s awesome Matador. Not sure when this will be back on the road but I plan to find a motor for it and get it running again. It’s such a cool car and needs to be back on track flying the AMC flag! Here’s a few pics after I cleaned it out and washed it.

Matador - clean and mean!

1974 Matador

what’s new in the shop???

got a surprise update…


Repaint Complete!!! – NASA AI Javelin update

Well it’s been 3 weeks since I dropped the Javelin off and it’s finally done. Picked it up this morning. WOW, what a difference new paint makes. Looks great (again)! Now I just need to get the stickers reapplied and the “cosmetic” reconstruction will be done. Now I get to bolt everything I took off for paint back on… (fuel cell, seats, belts, battery, tail lights, etc, etc). Unfortunately I’m still working 7 days a week and won’t be able to spend much time with it until late August :(

1974 Javelin, Body and Paint

Shop Talk – Gremlin Bench Seat!

A good shop needs good seating. A place for buddies to take a load off or for you to just sit and ponder your projects. My shop is pretty weak in this department. I have one CHEAP Ikea stool and… that’s it. Before I moved in I had thought I would snag a free couch off craigslist. But once I got all my stuff moved into the shop I realized it really wasn’t big enough to put a couch somewhere. So I gave up on that idea…

I had pulled the Gremlin bench seat out of the track gremlin and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I knew I was never going to put it back in a Gremlin but I didn’t want to just take it to the dump. Then it hit me. Slap some legs on it and make it a SHOP SEAT!

So that’s what I did. Picked up a 10 ft. stick of 1×2, some angle iron and four casters from Harbor Freight. Maybe an hour of time to cut and weld and voila! An AMC shop seat that rolls! Can you tell I’m quite pleased with myself?

Here are a couple of pics:

Gremlin Bench Seat - Detail

Gremlin Bench Seat

Shop Talk

Finally! back in paint – NASA AI Javelin update

Well it’s been over a year and a half but the car is FINALLY back in the paint shop! Took it back to Maaco in Santa Rosa. It’s been there a week and will be at least another week before I get it back. Dropped by this morning to see where they are at… MAN that’s a lot of dust! Just glad to see some progress is being made. Talk about Deja Vu. Sucks having to build the same car twice :( at least I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

1974 Javelin, Body and Paint

Father’s Day Car Show

I’m not a big car show guy (I prefer a race track!) but there’s a local, annual show that the Norcal AMC club has been going to for years. Usually they have maybe 2 to 4 cars. I wanted to help up the count so I registered the yellow Javelin. I considered bringing the race car as well but was too lazy in the end. I took my father in-law. We had 8 AMC’s and it was the biggest club showing yet. Next year I really want to bring the race car.

1973 Javelin, Car Shows, Norcal AMC

Gremlin Track Rat – gutting doors and buying parts!

So I’ve been splitting time between the Javelin and the Gremlin. At this point I’ve completely removed the interior and pulled the engine/trans. I haven’t explained why the motor came out so let me tell that story. I had originally hoped to get the engine running but a little bit of time messing with it proved that was not going to be an option. First I tried to turn the engine over with a breaker bar. Nope. At that point I decided to drain the oil. YUCH!!! When I removed the drain plug FIRST I got a TON of water. Next I got a lot of white sludge. I *think* that means this motor was run with water in the oil… anyway, it was clear this motor was going to need some major attention if it’s ever going to run again. I don’t know why I didn’t start by pulling the valve cover but I finally did (wasn’t even bolted down. more carnage. Both cylinder #5 rockers/pushrods were missing. also, one of the pushrods for cylinder #6 was bent badly. So that’s why this motor got pulled. The auto trans was pulled because it was an auto and the track rat needs a stick…

I’d been watching craigslist for a while and over time I scored an engine and a Mustang T5 trans (separate purchases). Both were close by. I got the engine for $400 bucks and was told that it came out of a 1980 Jeep. Story is it had been rebuilt and then run for less than a 1000 miles before being pulled and swapped for a v8. In the pics below it’s the red one (the motor on the stand is a 1972 258 I got for $50). The red motor is already set up for a T5 and came with the flywheel, bellhousing, etc. Hopefully the story about the rebuild is true. The T5 was $170. Guy said he bought it for a project that never happened and that it’s supposed to not have any problems. Fingers crossed.

So, a good chunk of the drive train is coming together. I’ve been looking for a Mustang 8.8 rear but haven’t found anything yet. I’m considering welding the spider gears in the stock rear I have and just running that.

Next up I wanted to gut the doors AND try to lighten the hood. I started with the driver’s side. In addition to cutting out the inner door panel I also wanted to remove the window frame. It was a bit of a job but after drilling about 6 spot welds out and bending the frame back and forth I got it out cleanly. On the hood I just started cutting away the inner frame. I left most of the structure around the studs though. Next up I need to gut the passenger door and then I need to start working on the rusty floors!

1975 Track Gremlin, Body and Paint, Drive Train

American Iron Javelin – Getting ready for paint

After the test day in January (2014) it was time to get the car ready for paint. I was not looking forward to that bill so I wanted to do as much as I could on my own before bringing it back to Maaco. I had a long list of things to do:

1. make/weld in a block off panel between cockpit/trunk area
2. fix/install rear spoiler
3. weld up little rust pin holes in the quarter panels
4. sand surface rust off the new roll cage bars and prime them
5. cut out some rust from the inside trunk panel
6. remove all the interior items since the inside is getting painted (seat, belts, rollbar padding, fuel line, etc…)
7. put on my old wheels so the new ones don’t get messed up while in the paint shop

For the block off panel I wanted to do something different than I had last time. On the original build I left part of the package tray intact and then built an aluminum panel that hung off the shelf. It didn’t really seal very well as my shape around the wheel tubs was not that tight. This time I decided I would completely remove the package tray and just weld in a sheet steel panel. I didn’t have a big enough piece to do it as one piece. So I used every inch of the piece I had to create 2 side panels with a strip down the middle to finish it off. This took a LOT of fiddling but I got it reasonably close and was able to weld up all the seams.

At the test in January I didn’t run the rear spoiler. Most of the mounting bolts had broken off when I wrecked the car and since the car under-steered I thought I might as well try it with no rear spoiler. But now that the test was done I, of course, wanted the spoiler back on. trying to restore the stock mounting studs (and drilling the stock mounting holes in the correct locations) seemed like it was going to be hard. So, I came up with a different solution. I got rid of all the stock studs and bent up 4 pieces of flat stock and fiberglassed them in. I put bolts into the flat stock. Now I had 4 mounting studs in a fairly straight line. I took some measurements and drilled holes in the trunk. Pretty happy with how it turned out. I also fiberglassed a couple of big chunks that had been knocked out of the spoiler.

So with all that done, I need to figure out a time to get it over to Maaco. Pics below:

1974 Javelin, American Iron, Body and Paint

Norcal AMC “work day”

So, 99.99% of the time, when I work on my cars, I’m solo. I don’t mind it but I do think it’s nice to have another set of eyes and hands to help with projects. So, I suggested a “work day” to the club. My idea was get people to drive their cars over to my shop and spend the day helping each other work on any projects that needed doing. A few guys said they were in so we scheduled it and today 4 cars showed up making a total of 8 AMC’s in one place at one time :) A couple of guys swapped carpet, another couple worked on the windows in their ’68 AMX and I yanked the motor/trans from the track Gremlin (with help from some of the guys). It was a lot of fun and I hope we do it again. Here’s a little video I put together.

1975 Track Gremlin, Norcal AMC, video