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As told to
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Sunday 15th January: It never got above zero today, but needs must! The season comes round real quick and cars donít build themselves. I was recently looking on the Jerry Bickel web site and was quite shocked regarding how much they charge for Lexan window kits. Itís an expensive part to go and buy, I like making things, which is just as well, being as itís a Cortina, you will not be buying a kit for it.
Bill and I had drawn around the original glass as a template, but the screen is too small once you take the rubbers into account. Our Lexan screen will also sit higher so as to be more flush and not disturb the air as it flows over the car. Well thatís the plan anyway. If you want to attempt this job yourself, you will need patience; its one of those jobs that you must take your time with. If you make a mistake, then you have to start all over again. Also, donít go and buy clear plastic sheet from B&Q, been there, done that, its not bad but it does have a tendency to crack if you catch it. So you will be making it more than once. The best thing is to buy a sheet from any of the chassis shops, Direct Plastics or Jack Brewster, who runs the Just Mustard Pontiac Firebird in Super Pro, who I use. It's more expensive, but it lasts and does not break easy and is fairly scratch resistant. These people pick the stuff that works best in this application, use their knowledge. Also this usually comes in 8' x 4' sheet, so you have to work out what sizes you need as sending an 8' x 4' sheet by courier does not work. When measuring up your screen, make sure you allow enough for the curves and the fact that they are never the shape you think they are. Some cars are easy, some are not, the Cortina was not, the shape was deceiving, in particular the rear screen.
So I added the extra allowance all round that I needed and drew it out, then it was time to cut it out. Some people use jigsaws, I use a 1mm cutting disc and a 4 ĹĒ grinder, the cut lines are better and there is less chance of it catching and cracking the material. You do have to be careful that the Lexan is the only thing you cut and not yourself. The cutting disc is also a lot quicker. Once I have the shape cut out, then it's on to the Cortina to make sure that itís the right size. Inevitably, it's going to be too big, itís a complex shape and you donít do this every day so its much easier to take more material off rather than be too small. Then you start the process of smoothing it down to fit the framework that the screen fits into. I also pack out the frame so as it fits at the right height, flush in this case. The rear quarter windows also got cut out. I left the front and rear screens virtually ready to go in, but will leave the final fit until I have the window frames packed out and I am ready to bolt them in. That way I have a better chance of not taking too much material out.
The other job was to remove all the panels that need colouring at the powder coaters. This includes the front splitter and rear spoiler, wheels, all the interior panels that we have made, plus all the small parts that also need colour. All the panels that we made need to be fettled to make sure that its all nice and smooth with no sharp edges.
The last job today was remove the front, which still weighs a ton incidentally, you can just about pick it up on your own! We should be tackling the weight of that over the next week or so. Meanwhile all the panels that are going to be black were delivered to the powder coaters. I also took a lot of small items like wheelnuts and the bonnet catches that were chrome or ally finish and got all of those coated black so as to maintain the beige or black colours on the outside of the Cortina.
Tuesday 31st January: Today it was Bill and I, so we both tackled different jobs. I had an idea for the door openers on the inside of the Cortina, I wanted something that was simple, not too elaborate or heavy. Plus as a driver I wanted something that I could get to with the window net still up preferably, itís a bit of ĎPlan you escape just in case you need to get out fast!í I suspected that I could attach an opener linkage to the same linkage that opened the door from the outside, and pop the opener out of the same hole the door lock knob uses. With a little fabrication, we made that part, and it worked really well and is easily accessible from the driver's perspective. Plus I used very little material so added no weight to speak of. All I had to do was go through the huge pile of parts removed from the Cortina to find the door lock knobs and linkage.
Bill finished the fabrication of the boot panels, which are always a lot more fiddly than they first appear and are rarely seen, but still need to fit properly. Originally, Bill was going to make them in one piece for each side. But the shape was too complicated with too many curves, so they got remade as two pieces each side, no they won't be seen much, but it's attention to detail that makes a car. Nearly all the panels that we have made were folded using a really cheap and handy folder that you can buy from Machine Mart, its under £100 and allows you to make a lot of panels, with folds and edges, etc. The bead roller is a more expensive piece, but you see used ones for £200-£300 and are well worth it; you need formers for the beads and drops and, if you practice, you can become pretty good, but do allow extra material for mistakes!
I moved on to the one piece front that I must say I had been itching to get started on again. I got a fair but of weight out of it the first time round when I removed all the factory underseal and some metalwork, which took about 10-12lbs out, and added the front splitter. This time round I was after more weight reduction, starting with the headlamps. Both weigh 6 lbs each, so they were leaving. Then itís a case of removing what you can around the headlight surround and indicator mounts. The rear of the wings lost a little, there was also extra weight to lose from the framework that tied it all together. Being a road car, it had a flip front for ease of access, but once we fitted the front splitter, it could only be removable to gain access. No problem for a racecar, so the extra support could now leave as well. Then it was just bits and bobs, but in total I got another 20lbs out of it, which I was comfortable with. There was also the opportunity to streamline the front a little. After removing the headlamps, I used some ally sheet to fabricate a nice snug fitting piece to fill the gap left by the headlights, but also I made sure it was a flush fit to make it virtually airtight. This would mean that the air would hopefully flow more smoothly over the wings and front of the bonnet and less turbulence would be created, more downforce and less drag. It took some doing, tucking the top just under the bonnet leading edge, but the end result looks like it will work quite nicely.
Our last major job to tackle on the Cortina had kind of been the Elephant in the Room. Bill and I cut out the dash a while back, so as we could gain better access to the motor for servicing it. As I said before, it was the only extra job that we added to the project, but it was a big one. Because along with that, we were also going to move the steering and remake the pedal box area around the driver. The seat position in the Cortina is fine, no problem, but the pedal box area is really small; I have quite big feet (size 12) which meant it was quite drivable, but could be made more roomier by moving the steering shaft higher. By doing this, it also meant that the steering wheel could be moved closer to the driver as the rake would be more shallow. Initially Bill and I had avoided this job as the plan was to do it at the Comanche Racecars workshop, but like most chassis shops, the quiet time in January never happened so getting it in there was becoming a problem.
So the decision was made to at least look at it at now. The other really hard part was how in hell to design a dash for it. You see, the problem is, all American fibreglass dashboards for any car are LHD and the Cortina is not LHD. So no help there, we would have to design one from scratch. Plus, with the motor being mounted so far back, there was a lot of dash area to cover. Add to that the fact that being a European car, it's quite small inside, and you still want to put some gauges where the driver can easily see them. So as a packaging issue its quite a challenge, and it has to be removable for serviceability.
Naturally it took a little while to work out how to do this; initially it looked like we were going to have to remove the whole 'picture frame' (a style of popular transmission mid mount that ties into the chassis very strongly) along with the corresponding chassis bars and move it all up around 8-10 inches. This was to allow more leg room and improve motor accessability. But when we looked more closely with me in the Cortina, it soon became apparent that we could possibly leave the picture frame and chassis bars alone and just move the steering and remake the firewall around the driver's pedal box, and thus achieve the results we were looking for. The design for the dash then started to take shape; with the frame staying, we knew where the dash had to land as nothing was moving. With this job now being potentially a lot simpler, it meant that Bill was a lot happier with tackling this job away from Comanche Racecars, as it now would involve nothing structural. So we agreed that this plan was best, as there was absolutely no reason to cut the chassis. There was still enough time in the day, so I gave Bill a new cutting disc for his favourite piece of equipment, the 4 ĹĒ grinder. Within 30 mins, the steering shaft, steering wheel, etc was gone and all the extra room in the pedal box area was there with the firewall reshaped. Great news really, as this means that we are now into the last major fabricating job of the project. There is still plenty to do but once this job is finished, all the remaining jobs are mainly the reassembly and some more colouring.
Thursday 2nd February: Today saw me collect the black powdercoating from KK Chroming and Coating (call Mick on 01708 749255), there was plenty of it, but powdercoating does not come off so, with the wheels, spoiler, front splitter, wheelnuts, fastners, etc, so there was a lot. Then it was off to see an old friend, ex Super Comp National Champion Paul Knight, Paul had some pieces that I really wanted. With the Cortina, you have the very latest technology in Drag Racing, the race car with a serious power adder, in this case Twin 88MM Turbos. With this kind of car there is a lot more hot exhaust pipe under the hood, plus it has an EFI fuel injected motor. Drag racing cars are subjected to a lot of violence, which can take a toll on parts. Every time I drive any race car I accept before I get in one of these that I can crash, and I have to accept that it's possible that it will happen. If you cannot accept that then donít get in one. I am quite comfortable with the way these doorslammers are built, I know if I crash I will survive pretty well. Having wrecked twice and walked away from two pretty nasty ones, I know these chassis do their jobs. Oh and donít think your driving skills will save you and it won't happen to you, it plain just donít work like that.
In my opinion, one of the new areas of danger is the use of EFI on these motors, in particular boosted combos. There has always been a risk of fire in any race car, which is why the sport has rules and regs for firesuits, crash helmets, gloves, race boots, etc. Personally I feel that if I had a fire in an EFI car it will always be a bad one due to how much pressure the fuel injection works with and how fast the fuel will spray out if a fuel line gets damaged. This is a personal choice, but I will be wearing a pair of Funny Car boots and gloves and will be getting a Dash 15/20 Race Suit, plus I will be wearing a full face crash helmet with a fresh air supply feature. You donít have to do this, but do remember that the safety regs state the minimum that you should wear. The reasoning is simple, this level of protection is exactly what my good friend and new 2017 shoe for the Shockwave Funny Car Steve Ashdown will be wearing and if it will keep Steve safe, then it will keep me safe.
Sunday 5th February: I got my hands on the one piece front for the final lightening. With the Headlamps removed and the indicator surround gone, I focused on whatever else could leave. Its all small stuff now, nothing big, I also trimmed some material from the front lower mount assembly by half mooning the tubing and trimmed some more off of the front wings, then got rid of the last of the rubberised underseal in the hard to reach areas. Bill had pointed out that there was some underseal on the underside of the hood and there was some framework that could also go. So that was taken care of, the hood weighed 6 lb less and the front had lost in total now about 25lb. That is most probably it for the weight loss part of the project. So once the Cortina is finished, we can see what the results have been. If we achieve a weight of around 2750lb without driver, that will be pretty respectable for a Twin Turbo car that started out at over 3200lb, considering that around 100lb has been added with the extra tubing for the 7.50 tag, the anti roll bar and support tube, plus the wheelie bar.
Friday 9th February: Bill gave me a list of parts that we needed to fabricate the new steering shaft. I called Chris Isaccs to ensure he had the pieces we needed, usually you use ĺ inch tube for the shaft, that makes it real easy to weld on the quick release spline for the steering wheel to attach to. Also we needed the outer tubing and some nylon to make the bearings/bushes. Chris had what I needed in stock tubewise, so a quick drive down to Basildon and I had the tubing, I elected to use chromoly as its lighter, a little more expensive but worth it. I also picked up a sheel of 8' x 4' ally to fabricate the new dash from Alco Sheet Metals also in 'Bas Vegas'. I managed to track down the nylon bar at Senor Engineering in Romford, really nice and helpful engineering company who can make or cast virtually anything.
Sunday 19th February 2017
Wednesday 21st December: It's been a week since we last touched the Cortina, and so had to get back into the swing of things again. Bill and I had a very important job to do today, which was putting everything back together and seeing if we could get the Cortina started up and running. One of the most important things to be monitored during the whole build is to ensure the ECU, EFI injection, fuel pumps, ignition etc still all function and nothing has been damaged. The Cortina had been apart and not running for quite some time now; I really wanted to get it running again to make sure that all was still well. The whole of the boot area had been removed along with the fuel tank and all the pump mounts, plus all the grinding and cutting. You always do your best to protect stuff but you just never know.
The fuel lines had to be extended to reach the smaller tank with new fittings and fresh pipe, (I always make a point of using new stuff, old is always bad news with perished pipe or bad seals on fittings). Then I remade the battery fittings and pump mounting brackets, cleaned them off and reconnected all the EFI stuff. This was after a thorough clean of the interior first, paint dust, no matter how well you protect things, gets everywhere. Lastly I cleaned out the fuel tank and fitted the battery. I am very pleased to say that once we had fuel in the tank and checked for leaks and there were not any. The motor fired up first time absolutely no problem or drama. I could not run for too long just a few minutes as there was not a huge amount of fuel in it, just a gallon. But it did what we wanted it to do, which to be honest was a cracking result. If it didnít fire up a huge amount of time would be lost on the project finding the problem - time that could be spent finishing it off. It did not look like there was too much more to do but when you list it all out, it was still a lot of time required to get where we wanted it to be. We repaired the rear tubs as well, and fitted the charge posts to the rear of the car.
Wednesday 28th December: It was a little cold and foggy, so Bill and I decided that the door frame and Lexan Window fitting was the job for today. When Bill said it would take all day to do this, I thought he was joking but as it turned out he wasnít! To save weight, the whole window frame had been removed. No a lot of chassis shops do this, they simply replace the doorglass with lexan. That is a pretty straightforward job, just use the existing glass as a template and cut round it. But to really get the weight out, the window frame has to go, so that's what we did. This makes the window job a lot harder and a lot more time consuming. You have to work out where you want the top of the window to land getting the door shut. Also the doors always have shape in the frame and you have to replicate that, plus you need to support the frame and where the lexan is positioned. As you may have guessed, it looks simple but to make it look right and work, thatís a whole new ballgame. I wanted to tuck the window in as far as I could, so the wind had less chance of getting underneath it and ripping it off.
Yes it did take all day, part of it fabricating and part of it going through different ideas on how to make it look right and function. Well after seven hours of two of us on it, plus fetching small parts and pieces, we were both happy with the result. If you look at the pictures (this is not the finished car as it will have to be picked apart and coloured before its final fit) you will notice that we used a tube that we could rivet the lexan directly to, this meant that we did not have to fabricate loads of tabs to fit the lexan to. To do that, double the time we had already spent Ė no thanks. We were more than happy with the end result, but still have to work out the door opening catch from the inside.
Friday 6th January: A lovely winter's day, time to tackle the front brakes; the Cosworth ventilated discs and Willwood 4- pot calipers on a four stud front axle needed to go. I got a pair of Chris Isaccs Racecars Ally 5 stud Hubs, which are a straight bolt on to the Gaz double adjustable front shocks, plus a pair of lightened Capri solid discs that bolt virtually straight to the hub from Burton Power Products just down the road. I will also fit a pair of ultra light Wilwood two piston calipers, again from Burtons. These are a brand new product from Wilwood, very similar to the Strange ones. All of this will mount on a 3 Ĺ x 15 inch Centerline Warrior wheel and a Frontrunner tyre.
The weight saving is quite impressive. Wheel and tyre 6lb, hub 4lb, disc 5 lb, caliper 4 lb totalling 19lb per side. Not bad, plus the four pot calipers would have locked up the front runners really easily, so would need to go. The two pots will be a lot more gentle, comparing the Cortina to the PT Bruiser. The Cortina has a little more weight, but the PT Bruiser has no problem stoping, I brake from nearly 170mph with no chute at Santa Pod. The Cortina always uses a chute as well, and so should be easy to stop. So those are the parts we will be using; there will be more later on fabricating the mounts and making it all work.
Sunday 8th January: The rear chassis in the boot area needed repainting, it was the second to last piece of painting to be done on the main body and with the air temp warm enough, it was the job for today. I decided to strip off all the paint so as to get a good finish. If you try to paint over the existing surface, you always can see the lines.
Prior to that I fired up the Cortina again and got her up to temperature. For me, it's important to fire it up every now and again to ensure everything still works fine. It also helps you monitor how much fuel it uses in a warm up. I decided to use a clear fuel cell so it is very easy to see how much fuel you have and how much you use. That way, when you are stuck in the staging lanes for a while, you can calculate if you still have enough fuel for the warm up and the run. At the moment it looks like it uses around a gallon from stone cold to up to temp, this is with gasoline. The Cortina will only carry the fuel it needs to warm up and make one pass. I have also noticed that when it gets warm and comes off the cold start fuel programme in the ECU, it runs a bit woolly and rich, then once it's up to its running temp tune, it clears. I also ran it so that I didnít have to drain so much fuel from the tank.
As I was going to paint the rear chassis, the battery, pump and tank had to be removed. It took the remainder of the day to finish rubbing down, masking and painting. But now it's done, I can see it was one of those jobs that needed doing and it looks 100% better for it.
Tuesday 10th January: We finished the passenger side door window frame and fitted a Lexan window. There was also some work to remove the door locking system too. I always like to do this, so as you cannot get accidentally get locked in! It also removes more weight.
Bill and I had to bend the tubing so as it matched the other window and then fit it. Itís a long job as it's fiddly, but you want to do it right and not make a mess of it and then have to do it twice. Plus you have to ensure that they are both the same so it looks right aesthetically. Using the original glass windows, we marked out the cut lines for the new Lexan front and rear screens. There was no chance of me doing it on my own, itís a two man or two pairs of hands job.
Monday 23rd January 2017
Thursday 24th November: Bill and I spent the day on the Cortina, today was focusing on remounting the battery, fuel pump, water injection pump, remaking the floor panels in the boot centre. While Bill was on that I got cracking on finishing off lightening the battery tray and making it look right. Then went thru the same lightening process with the passengers side door and finishing off the drivers side. Then for good measure I removed the sunroof, which even shocked me, the total weight of the sunroof and assembly was 15 lbs!!
Sunday 27th November: With no Bill today I could finish off the boot, remove the rest of the double skin and anything else that needed to go. This is a long process and you have to be careful, 4 inch grinders with cutting discs take no prisioners, particularly when you have to remove the guard so as you can get in the tight spots. Once that was done and the whole area was smoothed out and prepped. I treated it to a coat of primer filler, paint and laquer to seal it. In total another 16 lbs were removed and just to finish I hollowed out the rear light assemblies.
Tuesday 29th November: Time for all the remaining windows to leave, so front and rear screens were removed. This weighed in at 50 lb. Bilk and I also took the decision to make the passengers side floor removable for ease of access. The boot area had the new floor fabricated, also Bill fabricated the door panels, then we bead rolled them to add pattern and strength.
Sunday 4th December: With the screens now removed it was time to paint a border on the screen surround, so a day spent rubbing down and cleaning the screen frame ready for paint. Time consuming but we had decided to keep the original paint so it was important to be careful to keep it tidy. A lot of masking up to deal with the overspray, then 3 coats and lacquer to seal it. Took all day but I was happy with the result. I also prepped and painted the doorcaps on each door in Cordoba Beige as Bill and I decided to ally panel the door panel not the whole door. Again a time consuming process as I was not going to remove the door so a lot of masking up.
Tuesday 6th December: Fabricated the passengers side floor panels, fitted the Dzus tabs and fitted the Dzus. A quite long job but well worth the effort. With the windows removed I could now remove the last of the interior that was not needed. This amounted to another 15 lb removed. This is where you could say the crying started!! Well not really, but remember I said donít deviate from the plan, well we did. But just a little.
Both Bill and myself decided that although it would require a lot of extra work, the dash would be replaced and a new one fabricated. The reasoning was simple, it was built in such a way as it was a road car, now being a pure race car, by remaking it, we could save weight but also make access to the motor a lot easier. With no windscreen wiper required it changed everything, so it all left!!! It just made too much sense to replace it now, before changing the plugs was real hard work and so was doing the valve lash as the front of the dash stayed put, now it would all come out in one piece.
Sunday 11th December: Removed the last of the interior pieces that were double skin, it most probably took another 15 lb out of the Cortina. Now there was virtually no more cutting and grinding to do so I can now colour the interior. This is another real time consuming job, but it always makes a lot more of a difference to the car than you would first think. A lot of people donít do this as its fiddly and laborious. The way I tackled it was this. Firstly I sprayed all the rollcage, I used Satin Black and as all the glass and the sunroof is still out I could get to all the bits that had never been painted. This is common as it is so difficult to hit everything with paint from the inside, some areas you just cant get to. But you can with no windows and the sunroof out. This is relatively easy to do and does not need a huge amount of masking, its all close range stuff and black satin goes on quite easy. Just make sure itís a reasonably warm day as paint donít like cold, remember I am doing this outside.
Once this was done then it was time to work out what would be painted on the interior and start to mask it up. I decided to do the whole roof, windscreen posts, and inside of both rear quarters and the rear roof posts in Cordoba Beige. So as to give a real contrast to the Satin Black roll cage. As I said this is a real labour intensive job. I spent 3 hours masking up the rollcage and did not get it all done.
Tuesday 13th December: A lot more masking to be done, the remainder of the roll cage, then the interior and the floor. After I had finished that, the entire outside of the car, with paint which I am far from an expert, its just what I have learnt along the way. I am a rattlecan painter!!! I got the local paintshop to match up the body colour, mix me up a litre and then I just have them make me up some cans from that paint, with an activator in it so it goes off quite quickly.
Where I had removed double skin metalwork from the interior it leaves very sharp edges. So I rubbed down all the surfaces and used 120 grit paper to take all the sharp edges off after using a sanding 4½" disc in a grinder to take off the worst. You simply cannot spend too much time on prepping the job before you paint. So another 4Ė5 hours later and I am just about ready to paint. I can tell you now this is a real labour of love by now, it just takes so long to get to this stage and then trying to paint and hit everything is real difficult.
First of all I put on a coat of etch/primer to ensure that the paint stays on there. I used a beige etch so as it kept the interior nice and bright. Once you have that on and have worked out the right distance so as not to get runs etc. Its time to let it dry and then go for top coat, once thatís on and you have been over it a couple of times to make sure its got every bit you wanted to get, which means painting inside and upside down and backwards and forwards, outside and from above etc, I am sure you get the picture!! Lastly hit it again with lacquer to seal it and give it a bit of protection and shine going thru the inside upside etc routine again.
Then as soon as its able to, start taking off all the masking as soon as possible so as not to pull the paint when its dried. All in all a very long day of hard
work but the results speak for themselves. Well worth all the effort.
Wednesday 28th December 2016
The Santa Pod testing had been very successful, in fact better that we expected. We were only looking for 60ft and 330 ft times and with 60ft times on a RWYB track of 1.25 and then a 1.28 with less grip, its smashed the Cortinas PB into next week. So very pleased with the result.
November 18th the carnage begins!!!
So with all our goals completed, its time for the next stage... weight loss!!!!!!!
Having already built a few doorslammers, now I know that weight is not your friend. This is something that a lot of people don't realise but the day I see a 25 stone man outrun Hussain Bolt over 100 metres I will eat the Cortina!!!
You see so many race cars get built and little or no attention is paid to the weight of the parts being fitted, it astounds me. When I bought the Cortina it weighed just over 3200lb, now some weight has already been removed with the loss of the full exhaust system and some housekeeping in the front end, the passengers seat, etc. But that's it, then we added weight with, the front splitter, the Anti Rollbar, the chassis tubing to upgrade the chassis to 7.50 spec, Wheelie Bar etc. So the net loss was only about 100lb.
Firstly I spent a lot of time just looking at it, you have to have a plan and the way my mind works I have to look deep into it, devise a plan and stick to it. I got Bill Felstead to pass by so as I could run my plan by him as I needed his opinion as to if I could do what I had in mind. My plan weight loss plan was pretty ambitious and I wanted to ensure that I would not compromise the structural integrity of the shell. Remember a race car is built with a full tube chassis, everything is mounted on the chassis, it is the load bearing part of the car. ALL the bodywork needs to do is give the chassis shape. Which means that the rules that applied when the car was manufactured by Ford no longer apply as the strength is in the chassis. The body just needs to supply shape.
What you want is a single skin race car, so anything that can leave, leaves as long as the body has enough strength to not collapse, in
particular at speeds approaching 200mph. I don't mind telling you that this is my most ambitious project yet. But just take a moment to
think about the rewards.
I am seriously going to take as near 400lbs out of this Cortina, along with the 200lbs I have already removed. So that means the net total weight reduction will be 500lbs or in new money 230kg.
As we all know the rule of thumb is 100 lbs equals 1/10th faster ET. So if I use that rule and reduce 500lbs, that makes the Cortina 0.5 seconds faster. Think about that for a moment, how much more horsepower would you need to make a 8.60 second race car an 8.10 second race car. Well the answer is nearly 200 - 300hp, not just that, but everything else in the car has a much easier life and is subjected to less strain as the amount of weight it needs to move is so much less.
So how do we do this?
I must say Bill was amazed in what things weight, to the extent he had to get on the scales and then I handed him the part so he could see just how much weight we were removing.
We started with Bill removing the Fuel Tank, this was leaving as it was a 15 gallon rectangle Jaz plastic tank. Due to its design you
had to always have it half full to ensure the pump would not run dry under hard acelleration, so you carried 5 gallons that did nothing.
By changing that for a 3 gallon upright tank you saved the weight of the tank vrs the smaller one Ė saving 10 lb, plus the 5 gallons of fuel
37.5lb. Removing the tank mount was substantial, a saving of 6lb, plus the battery which was huge for street use could now be downsized for
race only to a diesel transit type, saving 26lb. If we go for an Ion one we can knock off another 30lb.
Whilst Bill was still trying to get over how much weight came off so easily, I started on the doors. Now you do have to be a bit careful with doors as you have to make sure you don't ruin them and you pick them apart carefully. This is a very rare two door model and I would not want to have to find another pair. That said with what I had in mind there wouldn't be much left!! Okay this is what ended up on the floor. Window Glass, winding mech, door panel, interior opening mech, all the metal behind the door pad and lastly the window frame as I wanted to fit one piece Mylon frameless ones. There is quite a bit of work involved but the end result looks really cool. Also with what needs to go back in the doors will weigh at least 25lb less each which is a 50lb saving just there.
So in just finishing what we started today we will take 130-160lb off depending on battery choice. All in all a good start.
Sunday 20th November 2016
I needed to get the boot area done so as Bill could start remounting the fuel pump, new fuel tank, water injection tank and pump and
the battery tray and battery. I needed to get all the weight out first which involves a lot of cutting and grinding, so best I get started.
Just as well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would. You don't get second chances so I had to be careful not to damage the exterior
paintwork if possible. Also not cut any of my fingers off which is also possible!!
The Bumper was going to be remade in Aluminium but I managed to thin it down enough to get 6lb out of it and still retain a stock appearance, so I was happy with that, it now weighs 4 lb. I was also mindful that the bumper supports the rear wing so it needed some strength to sustain the pressure developed by the wing at speed.
The boot area had some double skin in places so that was what was leaving, I got half of it done and got 14lb out of it, so with the rest and the light assemblies it should be 30 to 35lb weight reduction in total. I was also impressed that I lost none of the bodyshell integrity, quite often when you remove so much the body sags a little and you have to add supports to get it back. On the Cortina no sign whatsoever, its still solid. So total weight removed today once the boot is finished is another 40lb. That makes the running total 170-200lb.
Monday 5th December 2016
Okay just a quick bit of background on this project before we get started. I have always wanted one of these cars, a Twin Turbo big block Doorslammer race car that is, I was looking at this being the kinda car that I would have to import from the States. But when Jon Hollingworths Twin Turbo Cortina came up for sale, it just ticked too many boxes not to at least go look at it. So my good friend and his son Gary and Aaron Springford (Drag Race Engineering) and I went to have a look at it. It was primarily used by Jon who had owned it for 20 plus years as a street car. Yes it had a 8.50 chassis tag and had run in Street Eliminator for quite some time. Well after some research and talking to Jon Sleath at Jon Sleath race cars who has built the car and maintained it for all its life really. I decided to buy it and a deal was done.
The plus points were, the engineering on it was all Jon Sleath, (you can check out Jon's own web site to see the Cortina in its early days and the build up) so I know it is sound and practical, which to be honest suits me perfect, I simply could not justify tying up the thick end of 100K ukp in a race car that you only get to use at a max of 10 times a year, the value for money is just not there.
So this came in on budget, but would require quite a lot of work as it's a street car primarily with an mot and taxed.
My plan was to see just how fast we could get it to run as a pure race car. So no street tyres, instead, slicks, wheelie bar, race gas and a diet and make it look like a race car put some urgently needed Aero on it).
I can honestly say that like most of you, drag race turbo cars are a dark art to me. I know them to look at but why and how they have evolved I had no clue. So what you will see in this blog is how we got on with understanding how these things work. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we will.
This is exactly how it looked when I collected it, note its got that sleeper look about it.
This is the spec:
Ford Cortina Mk5 2 Door
Mid Mounted (virtually) 510ci SVO Block Big Block Ford, Trick Flow Heads and Intake. Roller Camshaft, Roller Rockers, Forged Crank, Rods, etc, etc. All the parts you need to be able to live with 1600hp on pump gas.
Fuel Injected with a FAST management system (ECU) One set of 8 Race Injectors.
2 x 88mm Hybrid Turbos Jon Sleath design.
Water to air cooler system with pumps and radiator.
Stainless Headers and mountings Ė Whole system designed, constructed, installed and mapped at Jon Sleath Race Cars.
MSD Launch Control.
Fast Data Logger that WORKS PROPERLY.
Transmission Ė JW Pro Mod Spec TH-400 with reverse patt shift.
Convertor Ė JW Turbo Spec custom converter.
Chassis Full Tube 8.50 (will go 7.50 with one additional bar).
Suspension Ė Gaz all round double adjustable.
Axle Ford Nine Inch with strange Iron Center Section.
Wheels Ė Centerline Warrior 6 x 15 front, 15 x15 Rear.
Weight 3400+ lbs with driver.
Performance Fastest to date 8.58 seconds, 172 mph.
Why Beige? Jon Hollingworth or Moose to anyone who knows him actually painted it that colour, not my favourite colour. But I kinda figure it might be cause Jon Sleath simply hates the colour. As they have been very good friends for about as long as Moose owned the car, it's a guy thing.
At this point I must say that this is all Bill Felstead's (Comanche Race Cars') fault, as I bought the Cortina and was just content to look at it and decide what I was going to do and when. But Bill was round one Sunday in July and said "Okay let's just spend a day bullshitting the car and see where we get to". I can tell you now, its been 100% on the Cortina for both of us ever since, when ever we have spare time.
I have always admired Bill's eye when it comes to making things look right and we bounced ideas off of one another. So this is what happened. We first of all worked out what simply had to be done before it went to the track. We weighed it. Without driver it's 3200 lbs, which is heavy by most race car standards, but looking at it prior to buying it I knew that there was weight that could come off. I also knew that this was a real step into the dark. Turbo cars work so different that you really have to learn and understand them before you can get started on it. So I have been reading books and learning from everyone I can.
Let's go racing!
First thing that you must always do with these kinda projects is MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT. If you don't do that it never gets finished, costs too much, plan runs out of time etc, etc. There are workshops all over the country with those kinda cars, not this one. So this is what we did, with the plan being to make Shakespeare County Raceway's Open Sport Nationals.
The Cortina was built around Mickey T's Street Tyre, the block tread type. So it soon became apparent that fitting slicks would not be straightforward. After some measuring and checking, we found a slick that would fit and would also take the weight of the Cortina. As you can see above you can hardly tell the arch has been altered.
The front was already removable but was a little complicated, so we simplified this by replacing the hinge mech at the front with quick release pit pins. Then I ground out all the factory underseal from the front wings, primed it and painted. This saved 6 lb in weight with a couple of other bits I got 10 lbs out of this piece.
The fabrication of the front splitter took quite some time, but was desperately needed.
To fit slicks instead of road tyres, this was not easy as the car was built around a block tread Mickey T. We could have gone the Drag Radial route, but having competed and attended radial tyre events in the states, ie No Mercy and Lights Out at SGMP, over here slicks are the way to go. The rear arches needed a little work to make the slicks fit, we are using a 32 x 14 x 15 Goodyear with a stiff sidewall.
The brakes also received an overhaul and were detailed.
Next was dump the full exhaust system which is heavy and not needed anymore. Instead we designed a set of ĎCowhorns' which has the exhaust exiting as quick as possible, back pressure of any kind in a Turbo car is a bad thing, particularly with twin 88s.
We lowered the Cortina as much as we could, 1Ē at the front and 7/8ths at the back. I also cleaned off and removed all the factory underseal from the front wings, then primered and painted it all. As previously mentioned, this took a couple of days but it took 10 lbs off of the weight of the front clip. Plus made it look a lot tidier. Also the windscreen wipers, motor and the horn were removed.
Having already been involved with Aero work with my PT Bruiser, which we discovered had 400 lbs of lift on the rear when in the wind tunnel at MIRA, I knew in
advance that the Cortina was in trouble. The main problem was air underneath the car causing the whole car to raise itself at speed. With terminal speeds in excess
of 170 mph in its previous set-up and no aero on it at all I knew what to do to start with. Front splitter and rear spoiler were designed by Bill and myself. Once you
know what you need it's a case of building and fitting it and then fine tuning at the track. Having a lot of experience of what they should and should not feel like, it's
a logical process.
This will be an ongoing job, but to start with it was simple things like removing the passengers seat, removing all the factory underseal from the front clip. Full exhaust system, passenger side seat belt, etc. Just by doing these simple things we took 100+lb out of the car and more as the parts we were fitting eg, front and rear splitter and spoiler and wheelie bar were adding weight.
After a lot of thinking, although I personally hate black interiors, I decided that it would involve so much work to change the colour. I would have to strip the car down to virtually a bare shell. If I wanted the car out this year then the black needed a lot of tidying up but it was worth trying. Then after even more thinking I eventually decided that for now at least the exterior colour would stay Cordoba Beige. My thoughts behind that were, the more it looked a race car the less the colour would annoy me!!!!
To be honest it's never going to look like the PT so I went for a North Carolina Grudge/Quick 8 kinda look, with the Mk5 Cortinas having virtually no chrome on them I decided to take that further and black out everything and make it look mean. This is how it looked at SCR.
I refurbed the chassis, the wheel tubs, the whole interior and the engine bay. The front brakes were also given the treatment as was the boot lid that was single skinned
which saved and additional 20 lbs.
The début August 2016
Well even after we finally got the Cortina finished enough to get to Shakespeare there still were a few jobs to be done prior to getting onto the track. The first being sorting out the front geometry and tracking. As we had lowered the car the camber was now all wrong and needed doing again along with the tracking.
There were also the travel limiters to fabricate Ė Let me just take a little time to explain. Originally running in Street Eliminator, as most of you know is a street class, you run pump gas (real hard to do safely and reliably which is why most Eliminator cars nowadays run turbos). Plus you must run road legal tyres, which don't work very well on a drag strip with a heavy car and little grip. To help this the 4 link is set up to help the car as much as it can. When Bill and I looked at the current set-up, you could immediately tell that the guys who set this up Jon Sleath and Jon Hollingworth were no fools and the setup was optimal for what they were doing. On race cars you can work out the IC instant center and the squatline. From this you can set the car up to do what you think it needs to do which in the case of Eliminator cars is usually squat and transfer as much weight to the back tyres to help them hook on the start line. Think slow and soft.
Now by fitting slicks which will provide a lot more grip which means that we can go at it faster and harder, now moving the 4-link to hit faster and harder with the intersection point above the antisquat line as opposed to below. I hope you followed that.
Now that its hitting harder thats why you need travel limiters on the front suspension so as it makes the whole car react faster as it stops the rotation that helped the car when it was slow and soft, the travel limiters make it faster at reacting and so help promote it moving forward and driving off of the startline. What you want is to get it moving and up on its tyres as soon as you can, that way it covers more distance early on the run and reduces ET and builds speed quicker.
Throughout all of this work one think I must say was utterly faultless was the motor and trans, even after having a lot of bits off and on again. The motor always fired up first thing and the trans also never gave us any trouble. The weird part of it was the way it started. Anyone who has had a race car will tell you drag race motors can be temperamental, but not a fuel injected motor. You hit the starter and it bursts into life no drama then just sits there idling away without a care in the world. In the past we have broken starters, broken ring gear teeth, even burnt off people's eyebrows (Gary Springford) but not with one of these.
I must also say that for the sake of fairness and to give us something to measure against, the tune in the motor is unchanged. This is how Moose ran it, our first objective is to see just how fast an Eliminator spec car can run as a race car, i.e. slicks, wheelie bar and race gas for added safety. The launch rpm, boost etc all remain the same.
SCR had had some good weather leading up to the event so the track was awesome right from the get go. On the first run all I was looking for was a 60 ft and top of first gear really. Burnout was good, a lot of smoke in the car but got that out okay. My plan was to run solo and go into full stage (Super Pro so Sportsman Tree) then build up the boost and ping it. With a turbo car you have to build up boost whilst on the trans brake, so in I go hit the trans brake release the footbrake and it just rolls thru stage Ė no transbrake. So I reverse up and reposition the shifter until I have first and the transbrake. Now I wait to see if the starter will give me another chance, but he is not interested so I stage wind it up a little and ping it. It hooks right a little so I am off it quite quick. With the steering wheel nearly upside down I really have no idea where straight is, so I complete the run and drive back to the pits.
Next pass after the burnout, I stop and check that I have the rather unpredictable shifter in first and the transbrake works before arming the data logger. Do it the same go into full stage, transbrake it, spool up the turbos, then ping it. This time again it seems to like right, but I manage to control it but on the shift it doesn't, so I have to double hit it to get second and click it just before the eighth mile. This time once back in the pits we have data to download. Jon Hollingworth the previous owner very kindly gave me all the previous data in his very well kept log books plus the laptop with all the previous data logged files so as I can compare the new runs with previous.
So upon downloading, all looks good but although I spooled the turbos up, it was not nearly enough as I only had .9 lb of boost off the line. Everything else checked out so we
turned the Cortina around again and went down for Q3.
This time I was starting to get a little more comfortable with driving the Cortina so decided to pre-stage it, then spool it up and use the bump box to stage it like you are supposed to. Burnout was good, selected first , checked that I had the TB as well, then armed the logger. Pre staged, then spooled up the turbos, bumped in and then they run the tree. I noticed it sounded a lot more angry and with the gates popping and banging away and with 5 lb on the boost gauge, I knew we were ready. I also noticed out of the corner of my eye flames coming out of the cowhorns. So I pinged it, got about a foot and the rear UJ failed, I shut it down immediately, no one was hurt, the chassis did its job of protecting the driver.
I did kinda think we would break something before the weekend started, I just didn't know what, now we know.
The propshaft is history, the axle yoke was also damaged, I called Eric at JWs who confirmed that the sprag in first gear is almost certainly damaged, the track locator for the rear axle is also trashed. But unlike the Monza axle explosion in UK Top Sportsman 2015 and on U-Tube with over 3 million hits now, the tinwork has survived!
Tuesday 31st August: On the phone and placed wanted adds for the parts list, ordered the Transmission parts from Eric at JW Transmissions in Rockledge Florida.
Sunday 4th September: Tore the Cortina apart with me Bill Felstead and Sefton Whitlock so as repairs could be taken care of, sent the transmission to Terry Robbins of Robbins Race Cars.
Sunday 18th September: With Customs taking 10 days to clear and deliver our transmission parts the Test Day this Friday is not looking promising. It's the final piece in the puzzle. I had been busy during the week, having picked up a spare set of 3.40 Pro gears from Ray Tucker along with an ally pinion support. Bill Felstead at Comanche located a 31 spline spool so as we don't have to refit the locker which saves a lot of unnessasary work. Plus a Webster made propshaft was donated to the cause again by Bill at Commanche for shortening. Chris Isaccs at CIRC sourced the heavy duty propshaft end required, along with the moly tube to remake the wishbone track locator and the C-Clips and the heavy duty UJ.
Sunday Bill and Luke Felstead and PMR Car Chief Sefton Whitlock convened for the day on the Cortina. Sefton and I go on with housekeeping, some of the pipes and cables. Plus
I made a master cylinder cover, Bill warned me that small stuff takes far too long to make and he was dead right. Plus I remade the rear wing supports as the steel struts weighed
nearly a pound each, the ones I remade with ally tubing weigh 3 oz each!
Big thank you to the Floridian department of PMR Tony Morris who carried over a Pro Series anti roll bar for the Cortina. Tony passed by with another very good friend Jon Dewey to go through a couple of old stock alcohol carbs.
I bought the rollbar from Corky Markqart at ART, I have known Corky for about fifteen years now and I trust his judgement. Corky advised using the stronger Pro Series one due to the weight of the car.
Then it was time to collect the third member from Gary at Drag Race Engineering, Gary always does my third members, I wouldn't use anyone else. Got some spacer shims from Russ at Customville so as we could build the ally pinion support, Pro Gears and 31 spline spool into the Strange third member casing. It's all small pinion, but its what it came with and should be strong enough. If its not and breaks then we will upgrade and build it stronger. As I said before this is all new territory for us, so we are learning as we go.
Wed 29th September: Collected the TH-400 from Terry Robbins at Robbins Race Cars, all done and ready to go back in.
Sunday 2nd October: Bill Felstead, Luke and I got cracking on putting the transmission back in the Cortina, to be honest with the small removable floor panel parts, it was not as difficult a job as Bill and I envisaged. Although it did involve using an engine crane to lower the transmission in. Both Bill and I like our fingers just the way they are and did not want to lose any. Yes a TH400 Trans is very heavy and everything is pretty tight in there. With all this done, the following Friday it then was time to fit the propshaft, unfortunately the propshaft was faulty. This put paid to us attending the Saturday Night special at Santa Pod and the Sunday RWYB. So we had the propshaft remade and managed to finally get the Cortina to the very last RWYB of the season at Santa Pod.
Sunday 30th October: Santa Pod Raceway RWYB
Weather was a little cold and the RWYB was busy so we only got two hits. All I wanted to do was ensure it all worked and nothing broke!
First hit it went right off of the startline, which is what it was trying to do at SCR. We had paid special attention to make sure it was dead straight. So we now knew
it was in the chassis. Bill Felstead took one flat out of the Preload and then back out for the second hit.
Got it out to 330ft and second gear, then it started skating real bad so I clicked it. It didn't feel too bad inside the car, but the crew on the startline were shouting at me to lift!! It had still gone a little right on the hit, but no so much and I pulled it back without too much drama.
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