La Carrera Panamerica 2006

With 2010 drawing to a close, I thought I would finish it up by giving you the end of the year blogs from 2006. These again, are from our story of racing in the world famous Mexican Road Race or La Carrera Panamericana. In reading these stories again, it’s amusing what a green tenderfoot I was to the arts of car building, road racing and writing. Of course, now being a savvy expert on the subjects, an experienced co-pilot, and skilled journalist, I am… ALMOST.… the Most Interesting Man in the World! This being said, let us revisit the blogs of Christmas past…

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We live in Santa Rosa, California, and the drive to pick up the car was about an hour and a half to Antioch. These are the first pictures after bringing it out of a long hibernation. This is a 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle, 4 door Malibu 300, with a 283 V-8 and automatic transmission. I don’t know how it started its life, I believe it has always been a California car(notice the black licence plates) and was a daily driver for many years. We pulled it out of a side yard after it had set for 5 or 6 years of retirement. A battery pack would not get it to start, but the tires did hold air.
Now I hear you saying” It’s a 4 door! Where’s the 327 Super Sport with a 4 speed”?? First of all, the original race in 1950 only let 4 doors race to show that American sedans could drive the family around Mexico safely. After that the Europeans got wind of things and the race changed. Secondly, sedans weigh less than coupes. And lastly, we’ve got a lot of stuff to haul around, spare parts, extra tires, coolers full of beer….. whatever! With a full roll cage, race seats and a fuel cell taking up the trunk, a 4 door is a good thing.
Looking the car over, a little rust here and there, no dents, no broken glass, all the chrome pieces in place, this is great. So it’s off to a new home, and a bit of a make-over. <p >Thursday, December 21, 2006 <p >NOW WHAT! <div > <div >“Now what” is right, what did we get ourselves into! Here’s what we have so far – the two of us, mostly me, get a hair brained idea to road race through Mexico. We buy a 40 year old Chevy that needs to be completely rebuilt, and turned into a race car. We are short on cash, but long on time until the 2007 race. OK, so far so good!
Lets see what we have here. As you can see from these pictures,ouch! we’ve got some work to do. Everything here will come out, we might save the front seat, it’s so pretty, but the rest is history. The rules state that you must have at least a 6 point roll cage, a fire suppression system, and safety belts with a five point harness. As the N.A. coordinator always writes “La Carrera Panamericana involves serious motor sports, which is inherently dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death”, and we don’t want that. Safety is big. Also handling, cooling and and especially brakes, you’ve got to have the good stuff. The motor looks solid though, maybe an air cleaner and an oil change, we’ll see. <div >This rambling little piece will take us into the next part…. <div >

December 25, 2006   HOW DO YOU BUILD A RACE CAR?

You’re asking me…. well…. you put a giant motor in it, maybe a 6 speed, new shocks, some good tires and brakes, and let’s go racing!
Whoaa now Hot Pipes, settle down, a little more to it than that. As I said before, this is the real deal, roll cage, fire systems, racing harnesses. Luckily my pardner Rick has built a few BMW’s that raced in Improved Touring B class, or ITB as it’s known.
The answer is – I really don’t know, I’m just doing as I’m told, and that’s to strip the interior and exterior right down to the metal. Everything comes out, door panels, headliner, armrests. That goes for the outside too. All the chrome pieces, door handles, whatever has a screw in it. If you have ever taken everything off the outside of a older car, you might have noticed that they punch a lot of holes in it to attach the moldings, name plates, and whatever. No wonder Detroit had such a huge work force, it must have taken them a week just to attach the insignias. Some of it will reappear later, most of it is history.
Now, what do we find under the rugs…. holes, big rusty holes, something the Flintstones would feel at home with, a clear view to the ground. OK, anything can be fixed, so where do you find floor pan for a Chevelle? I must say, it’s kind of surprising that you can call a parts house today an order up an exact replacement for a ‘64 Chevelle floor pan.”When would you like them, tomorrow”? Totally amazing!
These pictures show a little of the floor repair. That’s Tom doing the welding. I got to use the plasma cutter, probably as close to a Star Wars light saber as there is today. You can really do some damage with those things. I didn’t get to use it for long.
Once the floors are in, welded and caulked, we are ready move on to building the roll cage.

Saturday, December 30, 2006    HOW MANY POINTS DOES A ROLL CAGE HAVE?

It’s a trick question, one answer being, somewhere between four and as many as possible. Some of the pictures of La Carrera cars I’ve seen have what look like 12 or more.
And what the heck is a point anyway? It’s the mounting point on the frame or chassis where the roll cage attaches. Pure education here.
OK, so, roll cage, shhmole cage, who needs one anyway? Well, it’s a safety thing to protect the driver and co-driver from being whacked in an accident, particularly in a roll-over. We don’t want the ‘ol cabeza all scratched up after sliding down Mt. Popocatepetl and a photo session with the Corona girls coming up. And, it’s in the rules, the rules say you must have at least a 6-pointer. The other thing it does is to stiffen the chassis, which is what you want in a race car.
I could go into ERW’s, DOM’s, Chrome-moly…… blah, blah, blah, borrring, who cares, it’s time to finish this and go on to – let get this thing painted so we can get a sponsor or two.
Here’s a few pictures of our intrepid welding crew giving the business to the Chevy. <div >Alright, so now you’re dazzled by all this thinking,  “maybe they got something goin here, where’s all that spare change I’ve been saving”. Just you wait and see. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!   ‘OO [lll][lll] OO’