A) Fire System: A yank...
A) Fire System: A yank on this T-handle fills the cockpit and engine compartment with flame-extinguishing foam. Brett once tested it in the safety of his own garage, so the handle is locked in place with a pit pin until just before takeoff. B) Removable Steering Wheel: You cant get in or out without removing the quick-release wheel. Before going down the track you make dead certain the lock-ring on the wheel is snapped firmly into place. C) Nitrous Button: Brett just added a 150-horse NOS unit, but sadly, the transmission wasnt in the mood for the extra power this weekend. D) Gauges: Auto Meter units reveal temp, oil pressure, and rpm. All you really pay attention to is the tach. E) Switch Panel: From front to back are switches for the ignition, starter button, electric fuel pump, electric fan, nitrous system, and main battery disconnect. F) Shifter: The gear selector is a B&M Quicksilver, perhaps our least favorite shifter for a race car. Only Regan knows how to work it properly, and she looks down at it for every shift. Yikes! We sent the Yates a ratcheting Quarter Stick. G) Go-Pedal: A drivers tendency is to try and cram the accelerator pedal clear through the firewall for every degree of throttle-blade opening. Good for a leg cramp. This setup is best actuated with your heel rather than toe. H) Steel Floorboards: These act as a scattershield and transfer every bump in the road right to your tailbone. I) Arm Restraints: These are required on open cars to prevent your arms from flinging wildly as you tumble off into the weeds at 100-plus. We were not able to test their effectiveness.
Pulling the parachute proved...
Pulling the parachute proved futile on most of the roadsters runs, as it either didnt open at all or it was a whirlybird, flying in a tangled bundle with no discernable slowing effect.
Our ride was powered by a...
Our ride was powered by a 360ci small Chevy based on a Bow Tie block. The Brownfield 220 spread-port aluminum heads still have the bosses for the injection down-nozzles for a Sprint Car. The valvetrain includes titanium valves and retainers and the cam is a 0.630-inch lift Chet Herbert grind. The Lunati pistons squeeze 13.0:1 compression and the rods are 6.2-inch Carillos leftover from a NASCAR team. The carb is a 1050 Holley Dominator and the nitrous is an NOS Cheater.
Bretts best run to date...
Bretts best run to date in the roadster has been 173, so he added an NOS nitrous system to run in the Fuel classes. Alas, tranny trouble kept our finger off the button, but at the next race they had a new trans and Regan ran 178.962 on nitrous.
The steering box is a standard...
The steering box is a standard Vega unit, and the top bolt also serves to affix the hood sides. The shocks are MG knee-action units; you change the damping rate by changing the fluid inside them.
The Ford 9-inch rearend carries...
The Ford 9-inch rearend carries an open diff and 3.00:1 gears. Its suspended by coilovers and located by homemade radius rods. Note the very limited uptravel in the suspension, good for a few jarring bangs on the rough part of the track.
OK, so I didn't run exactly 170. It was 169.492, and in land speed racing, theres no rounding up. That extra 0.508 mph is a frustrating barnacle on the hull of glory, a nagging keepsake of the battle of tenths that has been fought on Daytonas sand, SoCals dry lakes, and Bonnevilles salt since before a hot rod was called a hot rod. But this time it was at the Maxton Monster Mile in North Carolina.
Still comparatively unknown, the East Coast Timing Association (ECTA) was founded in 1995 by a group of Bonneville racers hankering for top-speed action east of the Mississippi. The ECTA dug upliterallyan abandoned WWII runway at the former Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, removing 40 years of dirt and weeds at the site where glider pilots trained for the attack on Normandy.
Fortunately, club members didnt unearth the wartime ordinance or barrels of mustard gas rumored to be buried nearby, but they did discover nearly 2 miles of concrete that has become land speed racings newest venue.
As a devotee of El Mirage and Bonneville, Id hankered for the Maxton experience and got the opportunity thanks to Keith Turk, the ECTAs most caffeinated fanatic and unofficial PR agent. Turk swindled my way into the cockpit of a 27 T roadster owned by Brett and Regan Yates for a behind-the-wheel feel of LSR on pavement. The experience proved that first-time gearheads on a budget can get involved and have a hysterically good time with the laid-back ECTA scene.
The Yates race car is a simple fiberglass T on homemade, stretched A-type rails with a small Chevy and a TH350 trans. Theres no science to it, yet its a multiple-record holder and big-smile fun for a total investment of less than $10,000. Brett and Regan both drive and wrench (shes just a few mph slower than he is), but at the April event it was my turn to shoe.
My rookie pass was a prescribed 100-mph shakedown. Since there was no standing record in B/FMR, that was the class the Yates entered for my first pass of 107 mph. When breaking records, ECTA members are awarded two points for every mph they run over the existing record, so this slow record gave the Yates plenty of room to score big at the next meet. The ECTA allows cars to run-up class; for example, with no engine change, this C/Gas Modified roadster can also run in B/, A/, and AA/GMR for progressively larger-displacement engines. Gas engines can also run in Fuel classes.
To take advantage of this, my subsequent record runs were in A/FMR. As I graduated to faster and faster clockings, I got slower in the cockpit, the suspension harshness seemed smoother, the track became more familiar, anddang itthe trans started to go away. By the time Id made the best run of 169.492, there was no Second gear at all. Even so, the lightweight roadster ran in First-to-Third at just 4 mph slower than its best-ever pass.
Unlike El Mirage, Maxton provides the opportunity for as many runs as you want; there were 427 in 2001s opening weekend. While illegal at other venues, you can drive race cars to and from the pits, which is remarkably convenient. Also differing from any other land speed surface, the traction-abundant concrete runwaythough choppy in placesreally lets you put the power down early with a minimum of peddling. Its practically a 1-mile drag race with 132-foot timing traps (the same trap distance as El Mirage). The pucker comes from two mild doglegs, one about 300 feet from the start, the spookier one a third of a mile past the shutoff, where the course also necks down to about half its width and gets pretty sandy.
I also drove Bob Gribbles 200-mph Busch Grand National car at Maxton and learned that big-powered cars need some finesse around the first turn (dont shift there), but the Yates roadster was only a bit loose. The curve in the runoff road seems daunting in theory, but its fine if you dont panic. On one pass the chute didnt open on the roadster, so I coasted through the turn and the sand, rather than braking, to avoid upsetting the car at speed. Even with rear-wheel-only brakes, I didnt touch the pedal until about 30 mph at the turn onto the exit roadat which point I was ready to head right back to the starting line.
The entire experience let me imagine what it must have been like in the early days of Bonneville. From the relaxed environment to the grassroots cars, from the WWII roots to guys wrenching out of their hotel rooms at the Pine Acres Lodge, this was the essence of land speed racing. Best of all, despite that measly 0.508 mph, I got my name in the ECTA record books. Someday that record will be obliterated, but in 50 years Ill be able to claim I was there when... And you can never take that away.