Testing fail – strike TWO! NASA American Iron Javelin upate

After the first test was a total fail I wasn’t 100% sure what the problem was. Best guess was the rack was bad so I went to Napa and got a replacement. Got the rack swapped out and reset the toe. I also pulled a little caster out because that was another guess. Maybe too much caster plus the worn out rack was causing the occilating under acceleration? Total guess but that’s all we had. As for the busted spoiler, I stole the spoiler off my yellow Javelin and put that on. Not enough time to try to repair the other spoiler right now…

So I sign up for the test day today. Only 3 days until the race! I get to the track early but only sign up for the afternoon since the track is totally fogged in and they are not letting cars out yet anyway. I get down to the paddock. There aren’t many cars there but what do i see? I can’t believe my luck. There is a Trans-Am Javelin ready for testing! I was so bummed when I didn’t get to run with the TA cars at the first test and now I was going to get another chance :). What was even cooler was its a TA Javelin that I’ve been around the least. This is the #1 Roy Woods Racing Javelin. Sister car to the #2 car Ken Epsman owns. Got to park right next to them and got some cool shots of my car with the real McCoy in the background. I’ve been around Ken’s #2 car a lot over the years (since it lives at Sonoma) and the #6 a few times as well but I’ve only seen this car once before. It was in the 90’s. I was still living in NY and went to a vintage race at Watkins Glen. Anyway, this car is now in the bay area as well!

I talked to the guy that worked on the car and he said they were only signed up for the morning and that the owner would probably only do about 5 laps. Ah crap… so once again I won’t be on track with them 🙁 Anyway, we waited for the fog to clear. Took a while but they finally opened the track. The #1 Javelin went out and sure enough 5 laps later he was done. The car is going to be driven at a vintage event at Laguna Seca this summer and he just wanted to make sure everything was working. It was so they loaded up. My second near miss of getting to run with a real TA car.

1pm finally came around and I headed on track. I start accelerating up the hill just waiting for the oscillation to start. Thankfully it didnt. So I make the turn and accelerate again to turn 3. Still no problem. Then I start braking for 3 and the steering wheel starts shaking pretty Bad. Ugh! What the hell is wrong with this car? I keep going and the shimmy under braking is pretty constant. I can drive the car but if I do more than lightly drag the brakes I get the shimmy. I keep doing laps hoping it will somehow get better. It doesn’t but it also doesn’t seem to get worse so I keep going. Finally after about 12 laps I get down to a 2:02. I don’t really think I can do any better with the way the car is behaving so I call it a day. Remember, my best time before the lowering and other mods was a 1:57. So I’m pretty disappointed.

So that’s it. Just 3 days until the race weekend starts. First race for the Javelin since 2012! I’m just going to go out there and make laps and hope I can get better. Unfortunately, the Socal boys won’t be coming up. Don’t know if there will be any other American Iron cars or not. We’ll see.

Here’s a pic of the 2 javelins together! very pleased with myself for this shot 🙂

2 AMC Javelin road race cars at Sonoma Raceway March 2015

Testing Fail… NASA American Iron Javelin update

After all the work done to the car over the last several months it was finally time to get it back on track for a test. First I had to renew my NASA license. After my 2015 competition license arrived in the mail I checked the Sonoma calendar for test days and signed up for the Feb. 24th morning session. I knew the car would be HELLA FAST! I mean how could it not?

Since my last outing I had:

1. Lowered the car 2″.
2. Modified the suspension to allow for some real camber adjustment.
3. Had a demon scale/alignment courtesy of Don.
4. Aero trick #1 – Front spoiler extensions.
5. Aero trick #2 – hood vents to get air out of the engine bay.

So I got the car all nut/bolted and got to the track feeling as ready as I possibly could be. As I’m pulling in I can’t believe what I’m seeing… No less than 3 ACTUAL Trans-Am cars are there for testing too!!! The #6 Penske/Donohue Javelin is there. Ken Epsman’s #15 Bud Moore Mustang is there. And one of the ‘Cuda’s is there. I’ve seen these cars a lot over the years BUT now I was going to be on track with them at the same time? In my poor man’s Trans-Am Javelin? That’s just too cool.

So I get the car unloaded and some friends start showing up. Matt was there, Doyle from my AMC club was there and a fellow NASA guy named Tom that I met on the NASA forums showed up. After getting the car situated it was time to suit up. I got out of my jeans and put on my driving suit in the paddock. I toss my jeans in the cab of the truck and close the door. A minute later I needed something from the truck so I go to open the driver’s door and it’s locked. Hmmm… walk around to the passenger door. Locked. WTF!? yep, I locked myself out of the truck… what’s still in the truck? Just my helmet, Hans device, gloves. Nothing too important… just stood there stunned for a few minutes. I guess when I was moving around changing out of my jeans the lock button on the key fob, which was in my jeans pocket, must have gotten pressed and locked the doors. When I closed the door it was already locked. Total fail. The guys and I walked around the truck like 20 times trying the door trying to think of what we could do. After 5 minutes I got an idea. Because I wanted to get something to eat from the grill I had put my wallet in my driving suit pocket. I had my phone too. I had only left my keys in my jeans because I knew I wouldn’t need them until it was time to go home. Anyway, I remembered that I’m a AAA “Premiere” member. I started doing the Premier thing when I was driving the yellow Javelin to track days. I figured it was good insurance in case I every crashed or blew up that car while at Thunderhill or Buttonwillow or something. So I call them up and after 10 minutes explaining everything they said they’d have somebody there in 45 minutes at the latest… I figured that was a conservative estimate and crossed my fingers that it would be quicker. Sure enough the guy shows up 15 minutes later. Pulls up to the car with his bag of tricks and has the door open in like 20 seconds… The whole fiasco from locking myself out to getting back in the car only took a half hour. whew… I was back in business.

I get my helmet/Hans and gloves and jump in the car. I get belted in, fire up the car and I head out to the track… the woman at pit out waves me onto the track and I’m off 🙂 I start accelerating up to the top of the hill and when I hit maybe 50 mph suddenly the whole front end of the car starts bouncing up and down really violently. I was like, are you shitting me… what the hell is that? I touch the brakes and slow down a bit till the oscillating stops and then I try giving it gas again. Same thing, as soon as I get a little speed the front end starts dancing… I try this a couple more times and it does the same thing every time I try to get going… I don’t even make a lap. I pulled off the track and pull into the hot pits. The guys meet me there and I tell them the car is totally fubar and I’m heading back to the paddock. So I pull away and start to go up the incline from the hot pits to the paddock and wham! my new front spoiler extensions hit the ground, fold under and tear up the front spoiler… MOTHER F… I get the car parked and climb out. Everyone is talking about the ripped up spoiler and I’m saying, forget that, something else is seriously wrong with this car. So everyone starts looking under the car trying to figure out what the problem is. I go to work trying to get the bent up spoiler off the car so we can see what’s up. While I’m doing that, Doyle tries to dive under the car to take a look and plows his head right into the end of the aluminum spoiler extensions. Result, nasty gash on the top of his head. So diagnosing the car is put on hold and triage begins… I had a little first aid kit I always bring to the track. I pull that out, get some gauze and some tape and patch Doyle up.

Ok, back to the car. We get the spoiler off, jack up the car and find that there’s a LOT of play in the front wheels. You can grab them at 9 and 3 and shake them side to side and there is quite a bit of movement. I get on my cell phone and call Al at Control Freak. I explain what’s going on and ask if he has any ideas. He says maybe wheel bearings. So I pull the wheels off, remove the dust caps and snug the bearings. Neither was loose so I doubt that was it. Put the wheels back on and the play is still there. We look at the font end for a while but all we can come up with is that the rack is toast and that’s where the play is coming from. So I decide to call it a day. I load up and head home totally defeated. When I get home I called Rebecca at the track and told her my sob story. I said I never even crossed start/finish, can I get my fee applied to another test. She took pity on me and said yes! So now I need to figure out what the F is wrong with the POS, get it fixed and get back out there. First race is Mar. 14/15 and I need at least one successful test day before then!

couple of pics

Finishing touches… NASA American Iron Javelin update

With the exhaust done I was down to the last few items on my list…

1. Finalize the scale/alignment
2. Make extensions for the front spoiler and make it easily removable
3. Put vents in the hood for air extraction
4. Make an upper grill area block off panel to help manage air through the radiator

For the alignment, I borrowed Jeff’s scales and Don came up and spent the day with me scaling the car and setting the caster, camber and toe. In jacking the car up with the new springs I found out the rear springs flop around in full droop and don’t always (never) seat correctly when you lower the car. So we took a break from scaling to pull the spring caps out, drill them for safety wire and then wired the spring to the cap and the cap to the shock. Took a little bit of time but saved us more time by eliminating the need to check and re-seat the springs every time I jack up the car… Still have the problem in the front (on the drivers side only). Don says they make something called “tender” springs for this situation. I’ll have to look into that and see if I want to add them to the mix. I also took a few minutes to make my own platforms so we could roll the car onto and off of the scales. I found that a 2×4 plus a piece of 3/4″ MDF matched the height of the scales perfectly. So I made 4 platforms. Each platform is two 2×4 pieces with a MDF piece screwed into the 2x4s. Worked great. We also leveled the floor before we started. Floor was pretty level but was a little low at the passenger rear tire. We used a couple of pieces of sheet metal to level it out. After a bunch of scaling we settled on this:

LF 910 858 RF
LR 746 690 RR Total weight with driver, full tank and cool shirt cooler full of water: 3204 lbs

For the alignment we dialed in -2* camber (with wheels straight). That’s just under -3* camber with the steering wheel 90* left or right. Total toe out is 1/8″. We didn’t measure caster.

Spoiler extensions: This was my second trip to this particular rodeo. I had first made some plexi extensions back in 2012. I got the template from Mike Camicia off his awesome Sonoco Javelin clone street car. I ran them at Buttonwillow but the car was still way off the ground and I didn’t go any faster with them on. I ended up pulling them off for the actual race. Those plexi extensions ended up being too short so I didn’t want to re-use them. I thought about going to the plastics store and getting more plexi but decided to pirate some 1/8″ aluminum panel that came on Madd Matt, the road race Matador I got recently (inner door panels). So I used the old plexi extension as a template but made them both longer and wider. I sized them so that the peak was only about 2″ off the ground when attached to the stock fiberglass spoiler. What made this project so time consuming was that with those extensions on I would never be able to get the car on the trailer. So I needed to make the stock fiberglass spoiler with the extensions attached all easily removable. I had really hoped to come up with a solution that would require no tools to mount/unmount. In the end, that didn’t happen. I used aluminum angle to make some support arms on the backside of the spoiler extensions that attached to the lower radiator support with some hitch pins. I also welded a couple of “receivers” on the bumper support arms and riveted some aluminum “tabs” on the top of the spoiler. This let me feed the spoiler tabs into the receivers to hold the weight. Then I could reach under the spoiler and attach the support arms. I also installed a body spring on each side of the spoiler that normally is screwed to the bottom edge of the fender. Lastly I cut the lower block off panel into two pieces that had overlap and used a dzus to connect the two. I was pretty happy with this. I could put the spoiler on/off with just a screw driver for the dzus. But unfortunately the extensions where just not rigid enough. If I pushed on it with my had there was quite a bit of deflection. In the end I had to also add 3 struts from the extensions to the bottom of the front bumper. That sucked because now I need a couple of wrenches. But it still takes less than five minutes to get it on/off and pushing HARD with my hand produced no movement.

Next up was hood vents. The first year I ran the car I heard repeatedly that I was “flying the nose” and that you could see the hood really lifting on the straights. Corey Webber told me to block off the grill area, which I did. But there was still a lot of lift. I needed some way for air to escape. Initially I thought, I have a cowl induction hood… doesn’t the air just pass out the back of the hood? Then Don explained to me that usually there was not a clear path for the air. I looked closer at my fiberglass hood and saw that there was structure blocking air from leaving. The cowl only had a path to the plenum over the air cleaner. So I looked around and finally found some vents that I liked. I spent a while trying to figure out where to place them. I even considered flipping them upside down and mounting them from the underside of the hood but scrapped that Idea. I was about to start cutting on my first placement when I realized I should double check that the cuts wouldn’t hit any of the hood frame structure. I took a look and realized that I’d be cutting into some support pieces underneath. So I shifted the placement to an area where I would be able to cut only the top skin layer and not hit anything else. Once I triple checked everything I got my hole saw and cut a hole in each corner. Then I took my air body saw and connected the holes. Finally I drilled all the holes for the rivets and riveted in place. While working on this project I realized my wheel wells are vented to the engine compartment via the shock towers, which I never blocked up. I think this is a good thing. Air in the wheel wells goes into the engine compartment and NOW is able to exit out the vents. That’s the theory anyway. Hopefully it works.

Last item was to block off gap between the grill block off and the radiator support. I had made the main piece a couple of years ago but never ran it. I’ve seen some people do what looks like a single piece to block off the whole area. I didn’t have enough aluminum to try that. And I already had the main center piece. I decided to make a piece for each side that would fill in the corners and allow me to attach my center piece to. This was my first time using dzus fasteners. I went to Jeff’s and got to use his box brake to make the corner pieces I needed. I riveted them in place and then installed dzus fasteners to make the main panel easy to install/remove. Job done.

So that’s it. It’s time to schedule a test day and get back out there!

Exhaust Redo… NASA American Iron AMC Javelin update

Now that the car was 2″ lower the problem became ground clearance. The long tube headers were only an inch + from the ground. This was expected but I wanted to take everything one step at a time. Well, now it was time to deal with the problem. When Don was up one day he swapped my long tubes for a set of Edelbrock shorties while I was working on the front end. With the shorties on, headers were no longer a problem. But now I needed to connect the rest of the exhaust to the shorties. At first I was hoping to re-use and modify my existing exhaust. I started at the back and cut the hangers off the exhaust and re-welded them to get the back of the exhaust to within a 1/4″ of the underside of the floor. At the front of the X pipe I needed the exhaust to make a sharper bend to better line up with the trans xmember humps. Don suggested cutting off the pipe ahead of the X and get some J and U bends and starting over. I decided to make some pie cuts and see if I could work with want I had. After about a half hour I realized my approach might work but I was going to burn through 100 cutoff discs and a ton of time.

So, I decided to take it back to Johnny Franklin Mufflers in Santa Rosa and let the guys that do this stuff all day handle it. They re-used the mufflers and x-pipe from my old exhaust (which they had also built) and started over. I hung out to watch them work. After the guy had been working for a while I noticed he had the down pipe from the headers pretty tucked up but not quite as high as I wanted. I got under the car to talk to him and found out he was trying to work around the pull style clutch slave cylinder. I don’t him to not worry about it and that I would relocate it. So I got a wrench from them and took out the one bolt that holds the end of the slave that’s attached to the transmission x member and moved it out of the way. After that he was able to get the pipe tucked up high so it wasn’t any lower that the frame rail. I was really happy with that. Rest of the exhaust went smoothly. Very happy with the result. Now I have 3″ of ground clearance everywhere!

Sway Bar Upgrade – NASA road race Javelin update

As the suspension overhaul continues I wanted to redo the swaybar setup. What’s been on the car was a parts bin find from Joe. Steel, splined, bar mounted using Control Freak solid bar frame mounts. The arms where steel as well and hung BELOW the lower control arm. New setup is a Speedway Engineering hollow bar and aluminum arms (15lbs lighter than the old setup!). I created a mount so that I can ditch the Control Freak frame mounts. Nothing wrong with them but they are for people who don’t want to drill on a car. They bolt in so you can remove and go back to stock if you want. This is a race car so I didn’t want the extra pieces or weight. Here’s a video showing what’s what…

Adjustable LCA – NASA AI Javelin update

So I got the road race Javelin 2″ lower all around. But, I didn’t have any negative camber. After thinking about a few options I hatched a plan to make the lower control arms adjustable. That would allow me to push the bottom of the front tires out causing the top to tip in. If you aren’t up on camber, just google it. Here’s a video of the adventure. This chapter is complete and I can now dial in as much negative camber as I want!

adjustable lower control arm

Adjustable LCA!

My first 401!

I’ve been on the hunt for a 401 motor for Madd Matt (the road racing Matador). One popped up on craigslist about 2 hrs from me. It was still attached to a 1971 Javelin SST. The car had damage to both quarter panels and had the passenger fender, door and the hood replaced (all that sheet metal was in good shape). I debated for a while and finally decided I should go get it. Came with an Edelbrock Performer manifold, new in the box. Here’s a pic of the car. Plan is to pull the motor and just set it in the Matador for now. When time/money frees up I’ll get the 401 rebuilt.

The shell I’ll keep for spares. If anyone reading this knows the full history of the race Javelin they might realize I should probably be stockpiling some spares! If not, go back and read some of the old posts. When you find it, you’ll know.

Oh, btw, if anyone is REALLY interested in buying this (including the motor), let me know. This is a Z code 1971 car and I believe the motor is original. Motor has a z-code tag on the valve cover as well. I’m not a numbers matching, car show kind of guy. But if this is super rare and must be saved, speak now… Otherwise, 401 goes in the Matador and the shell hangs out as a parts car. This is ALSO my first ’71 (or ’72) Javelin. Even though I’ve had 4 Javelin’s before this one they have all been ’73 or ’74 cars. Here are a couple of pics:

1971 Javelin SST 401 side

1971 Javelin SST 401 side

1971 Javelin SST 401

1971 Javelin SST 401 rear

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…

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!

what’s new in the shop???

got a surprise update…