One Perspective on Northwest Racing

Jeff Zurschmeide

The Camaro Keeps On Keepin' On

In last month's issue, I told you all about this new race car project I'm working on - a 1976 Camaro put together for the local "beater stock" endurance racing series. Well, I am happy to report some progress on the project.

I got a couple friends over and we stripped out the car (well, what was left inside, anyway) and started prepping it for the races. I don't know about you, but one thing I hate from the bottom of my toes to the ends of my hair is working on a dirty, yucky, car - you know, the kind with 20 years and 200,000 miles of road grunge stuck to every conceivable surface? I don't know how it sticks there, because it surely wants to come off and fall into your eyes, mouth, and hair. Anyway, I hate it and my local bubba ring has acquired a pressure washer.

Bubba Ring - This concept was brought to my attention through the very fine book "Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them" by Roger Welsch. It's nominally a book about tractors and restoring antique Allis-Chalmers in particular, but really it's about the zen of wrenching and internal combustion engines and its relationship to human beings and life in general. Jeff-Bob sez: Go buy it and read it today.

Anyway, simply put, a Bubba Ring is your circle of friends who borrow tools and implements from each other. You don't really need a shop crane or a pressure washer, because Fred or Maxine has one and it's been a month and a half that they've had your nice Snap-On torque wrench anyway... You get the idea.

So we hoisted the old Camaro up onto one side and pressure washed all the grime and grit of 20 years off her underside and into every nook we could find. We also blew out the 1/2'' of fine dust from the trunk and all the sound-deadening material GM saw fit to glue in the cabin. I now have a chassis which will pass the white glove test anywhere you can reach. Aaah - some things give immense comfort to the soul.

We removed (with some difficulty) the windshield and other glass. GM in the 70s had this brilliant idea to put in windshields with this abominable black rubberized adhesive. I'm sure it was cheaper than rubber molding and probably sealed better, too, but removing a windshield is a big pain. After doing all this, I decided not to go with the wire mesh windscreen, and decided to get a used windshield from the junkyard. I will now impart a piece of automotive wisdom that the young gentlemen at the junkyard showed me. (While telling me all about their time in prison and what nasty fellows their parole officers are. I Am Not Kidding.)

When you encounter one of these monstrosities from Michigan and you need to remove the windscreen, take a piece of your best stainless steel safety wire (or unwind a strand from a parking brake cable, like these guys did) and heat the end with a match. It will then melt its way through the thoroughly stiffened and weathered rubber and you can wrap both ends around screwdrivers and use it like a cable saw to cut the windshield out.

Needless to say, when I put the new windshield in, I'm going to rely on metal strapping to keep it in place and seal it with RTV, to make my life easier the next time around. We also stripped out the dashboard and all the wiring in the car. My last beater stock made some use of stock wiring, which gave me fits as long as I owned the car. Life is a learning process, my mother used to say, and I don't intend to shame her.

The next step is the cage, and some research showed me that the least expensive, and still reasonably safe way to go on this was to obtain a copy of Circle Track and Racing Technology magazine and look at the ads for cage kits therein. Now, there are about a bazillion publications dedicated to the deification of Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon and Kyle Petty, but very few oriented towards the participant in circle track racing. But I found a copy of this magazine, and aside from a few silly articles taking up space that could have been given to advertisers of products I wanted, it was quite useful. There's an economy of scale in buying and bending tubing, and CSC Racing Products of Toronto, Ontario, Canada knew just what I needed, and shipped it to me on a truck for $195, free delivery. Looking around Portland, it was going to cost me nearly that much just to buy the lengths of tubing I'd need. Bending would be extra and no one I could find had a jig for 2nd generation Camaros.

I'm taking the car and the kit over to my local welder this evening and for an additional $200 or so, I'll have a really fine cage, custom bent and cut to fit a 1976 Camaro. I should have her back by the weekend.

Here's what's next on the to-do list for this project:

  1. Prep the bodywork for paint. This won't be much work at all - given that a nice paintjob has a half-life somewhat shorter than your higher order radioactive isotopes in this form of racing. I'm going to throw bondo into the holes with a trowel and call it good.
  2. Paint it. I think my bubba ring has a paint gun, and I know it has a Wagner power painter, so we're in good shape there. I have the whole front end off the car now, so I'll paint that separately and put it on after we've got the motor into it.
  3. Put the motor and transmission into it.

The motor and transmission are more or less ready - or let's say that I don't really know what gremlins are lurking in that portion of the project yet. My main goal is to get them ready in such a way as that my wife doesn't find out what this is costing us. I've been buying a gasket here and a rebuild kit there and whistling past the graveyard on my way home. So far, it's working.

Before I finish up, let me point you at the Camaro/Firebird F-Body Home Page. If you want to know just about anything about Camaros and Firebirds, this is the jumping-off point. I hope to have pictures of the work in progress soon. But you see, it's been February in Oregon, and I blew our 15 minutes of sunshine getting my hair dry and forgot to roll the car out of the shop for a portrait. For now, just imagine the scroungiest (but clean!) stripped out Camaro you can think of, and you won't be too far off.

More next month, as we tackle paint and mechanical issues.

Racing Around Oregon

Also, this month marks the start of the racing season around the pacific northwest. Oregon Region and Northwest Region, SCCA have had their first events already, and the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs will have their season openers later this month. 1997 looks good from this angle - I plan to enter the Oregon Region Vintage series and hopefully will compete consistently enough to win something in the production cars under 2 liter class. Although with the number of Porsches and Lotuses and such around, my little bugeye will have to work doubletime to do it.

This article copyright © Jeff Zurschmeide, 1997

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