Optima Batteries Ultimate Streetcar Invitational - Vindication

We Head To The Desert To Find Out If Pro-Touring Cars Really Can Run Hard

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The Rules

Each of the three performance events would be timed and the lap times accumulated into a final score. Think of golf where the low score wins. The build quality and style portion would be judged on a 1-10 scale with one being the best score. Since all of the timed laps counted a single mistake could put a car out of the running. Also, any car not finishing all the events would be disqualified.

Camp 0904 06 Optima Batteries Ultimate Streetcar Invitational Sway Bar Install 2/33

On the big course there would be a warm up lap, followed by two timed laps and then one cool down lap. The cars would be sent out individually; it wouldn’t be fender-to-fender racing. The autocross would consist of three timed laps. Hitting a cone would result in a 1.5 second penalty and making a wrong turn in the cones would result in a automatic 40-second run. Hey, it’s better than being disqualified from the event.

The Invitation

In an effort to gather up a strong contingent of Pro-Touring-type cars, Jimi Day contacted several website owners and asked them for cars to represent their sites. We were hit up by Scott Gulbranson, owner of lateral-g.net, to be one of the two cars racing for his site. That was two months before SEMA, so we kicked it into high gear and got to work making our ’68 Bad Penny Camaro as good as we could, in that timeframe, for the race. With the help of the guys over at Best Of Show Coach Works we dropped in a 402 stroker, added some custom-valved Bilstein shocks from Racecar Dynamics, a sweet-shifting T56 from Rockland Standard Gear, and some lightweight 17-inch ZX3R track wheels from Forgeline.

This event was for production cars, not racecars or kit cars, so things like turn signals and lights had to work. We had never been able to get our LED turn signals to work properly. After some tech talk with Brian Santilli over at Spaghetti Engineering they diagnosed our problem and rushed out some modified Digi-tails LED boards that would be compatible with our custom wired car. With that issue fixed we then chose the tires. Competitors were allowed to run as low as 100-treadwear and we chose the same tire we run on the street—the Toyo R888 R-compound tires.

We went as wide as we could on the front, 275/40/17, but in the rear we sized down a bit from the 335s we normally run. The 315/35/17 would help balance the car a bit and make bringing the back end around a little bit easier. The taller aspect ratio of the tires would help provide more driver feedback and more predictable handling. To knock the weight down even more we removed the steel cowl hood and replaced it with a full carbon fiber one from Anvil Auto. Hey, it’s a race we wanted to be competitive in, so we were going to do everything within the rules to turn in respectable times.

The Drivers

The organizers of the event decided that this was a competition about cars and not car/owner combinations, so it was put forth that the cars competing could have drivers if desired. It made sense since the event was trying to draw “show cars” from the SEMA show and in many cases the owners weren’t at the event or more likely had little to no experience maneuvering around a road course. Of the top six fastest cars on the road course, all had experienced drivers behind the wheels, many of them not the owner of the car.

When I go to driving events I’m generally stuck behind a camera and this event wasn’t going to be an exception. Since I haven’t figured out how to take a picture of myself driving a car, I pulled the trigger and assembled “Team Bad Penny”. This would do two things. First, it would free me up to cover the event and second, it wouldn’t handicap our ’68 with myself as a driver. Yes, it’s humbling to say, but I’m not the best wheelman.

Lined up and ready to hit the track. Passengers were allowed to ride provided they had signed all of the legal paperwork and releases. Here Tyler Beauregard gets ready to take a spin with wheelman David Pozzi. This was his first time ever driving Penny and his first time on this track, but even his warm up lap was fast. David recalled, “Once out on the track Penny drove like a dream— very smooth and nimble and body roll didn’t seem excessive, but I’ve found it’s hard to tell exactly how much roll you have from inside the car.

I found during the practice session I could easily catch the car ahead of me and desperately wanted to pass him but we were warned that passing wasn’t allowed.”  If you want to check out a video of this, and hear Tyler laughing like a lunatic, just hit up You Tube and do a search for “bad penny Camaro”. Don’t forget the “Camaro” part or you will just end up with the band (they aren’t that good).

The car seemed to be running great the first couple of laps, but then a disconcerting smoke appeared under the car. Tom Holt and David Pozzi popped the hood and found the problem. The breathers were filling up with oil and blowing down on the headers. Not enough to start a fire, but enough to make a mess and a bunch of smoke.




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