Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Clean Start

I got an email from Gary saying that his “honey do list” had finally exceeded his ability to avoid it and we would not be able to work on the car this weekend while he caught up. Fortunately we were not pushing a race deadline so I could live with that.

It is sort of a surprise blessing that getting the new car has also rekindled my interest in the getting the Grinch’s work completed. I had lost heart in finishing it when I realized I couldn’t race it. I still loved the old beast but it was not as much fun to work on with that knowledge. Now it’s function was changing. Instead of being my personal steed it would either become a rental car so others could try the class, or I would sell it. With Gary sidelined and the Caldwell an hour away I would get back to work on it.

The first action would be to clean up the shop. I don’t know how it happens but in this household, any area not currently in use becomes a dump zone. Accumulations of junk seem to come out of the woodwork and pile in, under and around everything. The work benches, small to begin with, looked like someone had started world war three and then taken a break for lunch. It was bad enough that everything in the carport got dusty and dirty now it was super cluttered too.

Where is Mr. Clean when you need him?

Caveat Emptor

Back in La Place, I stopped by my local usual muffler shop and handed the owner a sketch of what I wanted made up.

They have a neat little machine which slips into the end if an exhaust pipe and expands it just enough that another piece of pipe the same diameter as the original will slip right in. Then they can weld it in place and as a result can make pipes of all sorts of lengths and configurations.

What I was after was a five inch long pipe with one inch expansions on each end and three inches of regular pipe left between. I wanted four of them. I was assured that it would not be a problem, but they where busy right then and I would have to wait.

I had expected something like that to happen so I told them I would stop back on the following Friday, and to fit it in when they had slack time. I did stop by on Friday but they had already closed so I missed them.

I was on the way up to Hammond on Saturday morning and stopped by to pick up my “stretchers“. They had forgotten all about them. Not only that, it turned out that they had neither the expansion dyes to fit my sized pipe nor did they even have any one and one half inch diameter exhaust pipe in in stock.

I hate it when people waste my time. I could have gone somewhere else and gotten the job done, but now it was too late. I was due at the Wizard’s in forty five minutes.

The view didn’t improve from there.

After looking further at the configuration of the headers we began to realized that just stretching out the pipes wasn’t going to solve the whole problem. We still had to find a path around the starter and between the zero roll supports on the left side.
Gary started the process of bending, cutting, welding and patching bits of header pipe together.

I am very envious of people who know how to weld. I don’t and it is a great handicap. I am going to have to learn. One should expand ones education.

With Gary busy doing magic things with a torch, I had time to further study the car.

The first thing that I picked up was that the zero roll had been improperly assembled. All the parts were there, just put together in the wrong arrangement. Not a big mistake but one that would take some time to set right.

On the other end of the car I started looking at the connections to the master cylinders and got a surprise.

David had told me he just rebuilt the master cylinders for the clutch and brake lines. The connection to the clutch peddle was just hanging from the rubber dust cover and was not connected at all. I guess he forgot to reinstall the snap ring the holds the master cylinder assembly together. It was there, loose inside the rubber boot. There had been a small spring holding the clutch peddle in place. He could have used a rubber band and accomplished the same thing. All it did was keep the peddle from falling over. That given, my confidence in the master cylinder rebuild went down.

From that joyous revelation, I went on to the brake and clutch lines themselves. Guess what. That was going to have to be redone also. The lines which carry the hydraulic fluid from the master cylinders to the to the slave cylinder in the brake drum were half the diameter we usually use.

It was becoming very obvious that who ever had been working on this car was not a formula vee driver.

So where does that leave us?
1. The body needs to be sanded, primed, and painted.
2. I need to decided about whether I am going to shift to rack and pinion steering or not. If I do then that needs to be fabricated and installed. It might alter the bodywork.
3. I need to decide what I plan to do about ducting air to the oil cooler. If I am going to use a roof scoop, it needs to be done at the same time the bodywork is done.
4. I need to complete the installation of the head cooling ducts. The previous owner had them but obviously didn’t know what they were for.
5. Rework the brake master and clutch cylinders and connecting lines.
6. Disassemble and properly reassemble the zero roll set up.
7. Do the usual checks of front wheel bearings and brakes.
8. Check the camber, toe in and front end settings.
9. Check rear cambers settings. Make sure the car is square.
10. Replace the seat belts if needed.
11. Rebuild the dash. Make sure that all gages are correctly connected.
12. Relocated the fire bottle to a better location and re plumb the lines.
13. Install the transponder.
14. Go racing.

It’s looking like Hugh still has pulled off the best deal. His car was ready to race when he got it. Other than a non racing accident he has not had to do a damned thing to it but change the oil and drive it.

Who Dat Ya Gonna Call?

Knowing that we were going to be using longer primary headers than usual in order to clear the zero roll bars, I started wondering what effect that was going to have on performance. Who do you call when the ghost busters can’t help? Jim Shring at SR Racing and Fred Clark at Caracal cars.

To each of them I posed the following question:

Let me pick your brain a bit.
What effect does the length of the primary headers have on the performance of an engine? I am assuming they are of equal length of course.
Thanks for your input.

The same day I got back a response for Jim.


Lengthening the primaries moves the peak HP and Torque points lower on the RPM curve. Inversely, shortening the primaries moves the peak torque and HP up on the RPM curve. This does not necessarily increase or reduce peak HP, it will simply move that point to occur at a higher RPM. That is the simplest way of explaining it. It gets a bit more complex, but that is it in principle.

Typically you want the Peak HP to occur somewhere around the point where you need it most. Most Vee's peak in the 5100 to 5400 range.


The same day I also got a response from Caracal.

“Mr. Lamb,
Fred went to the hospital early this am. He is doing ok now but will be there for some testing. He will write you back as soon as he can.
Mrs. C.”

The next day I heard from Fred.

Hi Frank,

OK, here goes, Using the same collector like the flat four, the shorter the primaries, to the point of 38“, which is the shortest we have ever fit on a current vee, the higher the useable power curve, with 40 to 38 in. pipes the engine works in the 4500 to 6500 to 6800 rpm range, that said the 4000 to 5500 range suffers.

Now along comes the 4 into 2 into 1 collector, when you use this collector you regain the use of the bottom end of the power band with out losing the top end.

There is still the requirement that you have the intake and heads to get this into this power band, but most of today's engine builders are there.
My best combination is 40 in primaries and the flat 4 into 2 into 1 collector, there are non flat ( firing order or square type) collectors that work as well as the flat ones.
When I built my first vintage car a few years ago I had only an old set of pipes from an original Lynx Vee, they were 47 in long primaries, the car was a real stump puller out of the corners but 5600 was it on top end, with a current engine.

Hope this helps.


It’s amazing what you can learn if you ask.

Swap Shop

Never wasting a chance to stir up confusion, Hugh and I made a trip to Homa to arrange some labor swapping for a chance to do drive a different sort of car.

Hugh had talked our friend Donnie and his brother Jeff, into doing engine swaps on two of Rory White’s formula 500 cars.

I was quite familiar with this type of car as I had been around when they were first invented. They had started out as Formula 440. The reason they were called that was that they used a 440 cc liquid cooled, two cycle snow mobile engine with a centrifugal clutch, no transmission. They had no suspension, sort of like a giant go cart. With driver they had to weight a minimum of seven hundred and fifty pounds. But here’s the kicker, those little engines put out about seventy five horse power. That provides a weight to power ratio of about ten to one. Fantastic. Better than a ‘Vette. The ratio on a Vee is about eighteen to one.

Later the manufacturer of that engine moved up to a bigger model and stopped production on the 440. As a result the class just moved up with them and is now called Formula 500.

Rory had two of them. One was set up for Autocross and utilized a chain drive for faster acceleration from slower speeds. The other was set up for road racing and used a belt drive, since it was always at higher speed to start with and didn’t require the low speed torque.

The engine in the road racing car was used up. It needed to be replaced or rebuilt. The object of the exercise was to pull the engines from both cars, put the autocross engine in the road racing car and then, eventually, replace the engine in the a’cross car.

Dr. Rory, who stays very busy with his practice and his other activities, just didn’t have the time to do it himself. He’d offered some “seat time” for getting it done.

We went over to Rory’s shop. Both cars were stored in a container he keeps beside the shop.

The cars are small and light. It didn’t take long before we had the first one out, on the trailer and headed back to Donnie’s.

Two days later the car had had the engine pulled, the whole car had been degreased, pressure washed and had most of it’s nuts and bolts tightened up It had never been cleaner.

Now they were ready to go after the second car.

Exhaust(ing) Work

Now that I have the car home, I have started the study process. That means you start stripping the body off and you walk around the car looking at all it’s naked bit and pieces. It is a voyage of discovery, and not always a good one. In this case it seems to be better than average.

A couple of major elements I knew about before I bought the car. It needed a new carburetor and it needed an exhaust system. That adds about another thousand dollars to the cost of the car. As simple as this sounds, these pieces are not as easy to get as going to the store and buying them off the shelf. Especially the exhaust system. .

The carb was actually that easy, thank goodness.

Before I left on the trip to Langley I had been on the phone with Jim Schings at SR Racing in Lexington, Ky. The guys at SR are around the top of the short list of “go to” people when it comes to Formula Vee and Formula First racing.

From them I ordered and new Bocar 34 PICT carb. It is the only one legal in he class. This had the advantage of not only being the legal carb but since I was getting it from them it would also have all of the required modifications done, and it would be flow tested and tuned to be at optimum performance. They would even set it up to run at its best in our very near sea level atmosphere.

It had not arrived before I left but I wasn‘t worried. They had told me that it would take a bit because they do their flow testing on actual engines on the dynometer and no dyno test were scheduled for the next few days.

From looking at the photos of the car supplied by David Rountree I knew that the intake manifold would also have to be replaced, so I added one to the order from SR. The manifold currently on the car was for a dual throat carb and would not work with the single throat Bocar. With these, I added the restrictor plate which is the equalizer for all the carbs in the class. The whole package arrived about a week after I got home.

That left the exhaust system. I had already been down the lane with exhaust systems, trying to get one fitted for the Grinch. It still amazes me that something so simple should be so complicated and expensive, but boy is it ever.

What was on the car now was a selection of short individual header pipes, no collector, and no attempt at tuning. That would not do. It was, among other things, dangerous, and likely to cause a fire if run that way for an extended period of time (like a twenty lap race). On top of that, the sound level would exceed the allowable limits (yes Virginnia, there are limits on how loud a race cars exhaust can be).

Even worse it was taking away potential horse power. Even with the larger engine we use in Formula First, we don’t have any spare power to give away.

I had hoped that the “Tri Mil “ mid engine system I had previously obtained would work, but as I studied the zero roll set up I began to realize that it was not going to fit. Sometimes it is a curse to be able to see things in three dimensions. I didn’t even have to try it on to know it wasn’t going to fly.

I was still hoping I would not have to shell another six to nine hundred bucks for a new header system. I knew that I could get a “Roxanne” system but that would be the price range, and it just didn’t fit my budget.

I remembered that Gary had a Roxanne type system that he had obtained in one of his trades ( he does a lot of swapping around with parts and pieces). I called him and found out that since it had not fit his car he was about to cut it up to use for something else.

I offered to trade him my Tri Mil set up for it. Since we had about the same amount of cash involved in each system it seemed like an equitable trade. There were was a race the following weekend and I took it over to the track with me for him to see. After he examined it he agreed to the swap and I was a happy camper. We set up a date for the next weekend to get together and see what would be required to fit it to the Caldwell.

Rusty and I towed the Caldwell up to the Wizard’s on the appointed day. With the car unloaded we stared removing the old header pipes and trying to fit the Roxanne look a likes. They didn’t fit exactly either, but there was a subtle difference. It looked all we had to do was to extend each primary pipe three inches and everything would clear the zero roll bars. The collector was a flat four into one similar to the one we used on the Grinch..

The schedule glitch was that Gary had to go to Houston for the next two weeks to attend some company required seminars. They were not being held in New Orleans because of the conflict with Mardi Gras. The stretching of the exhaust system would have to wait for his return.