A year ago, July of 2002, when people
asked me about the debut of Nitro Nova, I answered honestly that it
would come at MoKan Dragway Memorial Day of 2003. I expected that before
that, I'd be licensing and making certainly 10-12 runs to get
accustomed to driving.
As you can tell, that hasn't happened.
Seemingly a thousand people have asked
why and I've tried to answer as truthfully as possible. Simply stated,
it is hard to build a racecar of any kind with no money. It was done in
the old days by many people, especially those with huge desire, and
including many of those funny car heroes from the late 60s.
Plus, Chris Stinson has stepped up to far
more choo-choo driving than he was when he raised his hand to offer his
time and talents. If you didn't know, Chris wants to be a tinman. He's
done quite a bit of chassis fabrication and repair, and built a few
dragster bodies as well. He told me that he'd really like to put a
funny car on his resume and offered to do my car for the cost of
materials. Early on, there was a time estimate but that went away with
all of the setbacks. He has been nothing but great at every point and it
is difficult for me to bitch about anything.
Plus, and let me make this point more
clear, this is virtually a favor. I'm paying for tubing and aluminum,
and incidentals like gas, but Chris is donating his time for the love of
the funny car wars of old. And he is doing a great job.
When this project started, I was in
Washington State. Then I was in Southern California. A few months ago, I
relocated to Carson City, Nevada. I still haven't found a place to
live yet – I'm in a pay-by-the-week motel room with kitchenette. But
I'm really enjoying my new position with T&D Machine, makers of
the finest rocker arms in racing. As soon as I do find a house, I still
need to go back to Washington to retrieve my belongings.
So, I've been on the phone some,
discussing pieces and parts, and I've been searching for others. Some
of the companies that I've spoken to include Strange Engineering,
Crower, Childs & Albert, Bill Miller Engineering and Brodix.
The wheels have been a headache as I've
mentioned a dozen times. I spoke to a few sales people, especially Bob
Gibson at American. He owns the Tom & Jerry Duster and is nearing
completion on a brand new replica of the Tom & Jerry Mustang. He is
also the guy that tours the American Racing Wheels display to drag and
rod events all over the country. He has been a big help in advice so
Others have not been as helpful.
Here's a rough sketch of my two pairs
of wheels that Chris sent:
With the chassis changed in the back to
accept a much larger offset wheel, it was just finding one. One day I
called old friend Bob DeVour. Among other things, he is currently fine
tuning Ed Marx' alcohol funny car. I told him of my dilemma and he
said, "Hey I think all these current 16x16s have a five inch back
You could have blown me over with a
Before you write and tell me that 16x16
beadlocks have no business on a vintage FC, I did agree 100%. However
there are some valid reasons that I have changed my mind. First, nobody
makes inner liners – the original means of securing tires to rims --
for fuel wheels anymore. The used or NOS liners are getting pretty old
now. That means rotted and unsafe. Reason two has to do with the same
thing -- the beadlocks take over to retain the tires to the rims.
Current tires are really the only way to go. Not only will they allow
the car to get hooked up under pretty poor track conditions, I can get
reasonably priced take-offs.
I thought of a couple people that had
offered fairly current wheels a few months back and E-mailed them. One,
Erik Carlson, immediately told me that indeed, he still had a pair of
16x16 beadlocks. We came to a price agreement and he shipped them. In
such a short time, I thought my woes were behind me. Here's the
picture Erik sent me.
According to Erik, the wheels are 16x16,
a 5.5-inch bolt circle, a 4.5-inch backspace, and from the axle flange
to the bubbled-out sidewall they measured about nine inches. They
arrived in Winslow a few days later and Chris reported quickly that
while we'd gained some, we could go some more. The body still didn't
fit over the rear tires. Sigh.
I suggested he trim the rear wheels
deeper/bigger on the body, stick it at ride height, and proceed. I then
looked harder into the situation of rear wheels and quickly found that
16x16s come in two backspaces, 4 and 5 inches. Of course, I'd found a
pair of affordable wheels with the shallower of the two.
The next thing I discovered was that the
current fuel cars had received a mandatory SFI upgrade on rear wheels
and that every team was forced into a wheel change. There must be dozens
of pairs of the deeper backspace 16x16 beadlocks sitting in dark corners
of raceshops but I haven't found any yet. Not cheap anyway.
One Friday, Earl Watts drove the two
hours to Winslow to give Chris a hand and shot the next photos with the
new wheels on the back and my Americans on the front. This should give a
better idea of just how the car will look. What do you think of that
peanut-pushing front bumper?
By the way, the 3/4-rear view of the car
that is here is the first time I've considered that I'd run it with
the radiused rear wheel wells. We'll see. Also, I think the five-spoke
look of the Weldstars is a reasonable match for the Americans. If I end
up running them, they will de-glossed somewhat.
Bottom line, this nitro-less Nova still
needs rear wheels!