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1969 Chevrolet Camaro-Bodied Funny Car

Connecting Rod

Ro McGonegal Aug 1, 2013
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This is a race car. It has everything it needs and nothing it doesn't. It doesn't resemble your Camaro in any way. It swills exotic nitromethane by the gallon. It is a self-contained capsule that Jason Rupert pilots literally by the skin of his teeth. There is no tachometer, nothing monitoring the engine save an oil pressure gauge that wags in front of him like an accusing finger.

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You think your Camaro accelerates hard? Rupert fairly shimmers inside this booster rocket. Like a man who has experienced clinical death, he recounted his first brush with mortality. "I slammed the gas down. It was like a hammer hit me in the back of the head, it was so fast. I thought if something happens I'm going to crash. It was much more than I thought it was going to be. With these cars, you never know what is going to happen."

His motivation had nothing to do with braking or handling. Like some of you, he built the car to do one thing extremely well. It was about going as fast as hell in a straight line. He wanted to capture the NHRA Heritage Series, all the while having a good time with his family and friends. Briefly, the Heritage is the embodiment of Nostalgia Funny Car ('79 and earlier body style), whose constituents actually replicate the cars they shadow, unlike contemporary Funny Cars that look the same, each one a pitiful monstrosity that bears little resemblance to the car they are supposed to mimic. It's difficult to identify with them when they are difficult to identify.

When asked about the unique feature of his car, Rupert said, "How much the body resembles a '69 Camaro even though it sits on a modern Fuel Funny Car chassis." In fact, the body was constructed in 2010 and bound to the newest and latest safety equipment, like dual 'chutes, hood burst panels, and an escape hatch on the roof. The rest of the "rules" are loose, much the same as they were in the old days. One of the mandates is the capacity of the fuel system. The belt-driven (1:1) Sid Waterman pump delivers 21 gallons at 8,000 rpm to the Enderle bird catcher.

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Jason's circle of family and friends form a broad palette that includes dad, Frank, (majority of the machine work); Ed Vanderwoude; Matt Bynum; Devery Howard; Brad Littlefield; Felipe Jiminez; Phillip Cook; Billy Payne; Dave Schwartz; James Hughes; Greg Vanderwende; Danny Douglas; Jack Rainwater; Matthew Rupert; and Craig McKee, who did all the fabrication and assembly.

Jason didn't come by his avocation accidently. Dad raced Top Fuel in the '60s when his son was 5. Dad teamed with Richard Bays to field Black Plague, the first Vega-bodied Funny Car. Years later, Rupert the younger went to Australia with Gary Densham and they operated Densham's AA/FC. On his return, Jason sought his license and progressed to Top Alcohol Dragster. A couple of cars later, he ran the Camaro you see here but on alcohol, not nitromethane. He qualified for the show at the NHRA Winternationals but went out in the first round. Concurrently, Infineon Raceway's Dave Schwartz was trying to throw a bright light on the Nostalgia form and aspect. Jason fell for it like a ton, kissed nitro on both cheeks, and has never looked back.

Given its purpose, this Camaro wouldn't be able to take a corner at 40 mph, but it'll skin quarter-mile tarmac in a whisker over 5.5 seconds. And it takes an engine with hemispherical cylinder heads and a big, fat roots-type supercharger to make that happen. Brad Anderson Enterprises (BAE) figures heavily in this project.

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Preparation is everything and nothing less than billet or forging will suffice. The cylinder case is a forged (not cast) member sympathetic to the Chrysler 426, and fitted with a 4.500-inch stroke Velasco billet crankshaft, GRP billet aluminum connecting rods and 4.187-inch JE pistons capable of producing a 6.5:1 compression ratio. The cubic inch limit in Heritage racing is 500, but the reach of the entrails is just 496 cubic inches. Billet BAE cylinder heads cap this compendium. Rupert Racing extended the long block with ARP fasteners, Manton pushrods, a Crane camshaft of undisclosed attributes, PAC springs and two valves per cylinder. The intake side measures a fat 2.450-inch but the exhaust is limited to a 2.000-inch diameter. Jason's tried larger ones but discovered that they wouldn't open against the motor's hideous cylinder pressure. Hussey copper head gaskets seal the billet to the block.

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Stage V in Walnut, California, supplied the blower manifold that accepts the Mert Littlefield LB20 6-71 compressor, which is filled with two-stroke oil, limited to stock GM standard lobes, and 18 percent overdrive which equates to 35 psi positive manifold pressure. The Enderle barrel valve and injector are fed by that Waterman 21-gpm fuel pump. Cirello Magnetos drew on its more than 40 years of experience to provide the furnace for the nitromethane, a single 8-amp points mag. The timing gear and upper galley is closed with a Casale Engineering front cover, and Williams Performance in Lake Elsinore, California, provided the critical aluminum dry-sump pan as well as the rocker shrouds. Power Pros in Placentia, California, spread out some hairy stainless steel for the modified zoomies. Output is estimated at 4,000 hp, and Rupert routinely racks his rotating assembly to 9,000 rpm.

You don't just walk that much thunder around, you more or less hope to contain it. Rupert Racing attempts this feat with a Molinari pressure plate assembly that's couched in a Probell Racing Products clutch can. Right behind it, a B&J Big Boy two-speed planetary gearbox (as assembled by Mike and Jeff Strausberg) that transfers torque to a pair of splined couplers rather than a conventional driveshaft. The motor's considerable issue is ultimately absorbed by a mondo Chrisman 10.5-inch axle housing attended by Moore Automotive axleshafts.

The Camaro replica was built in 2010 by some "talented locals" at an undisclosed skunkwerks. Its grille was built by Dave Zatezalo. Logos and insignia on the Gel Coat Red body were designed and applied by Ultimate Designs. Rupert Welding used a field of aluminum sheet from Ashworth Metal Products to create Sparky's tin womb. Surface textures were applied by A&R Powdercoating in Anaheim. The "glass" in those big holes is plexi from Professional Plastics.

This body is supported and contained by an AA/FC chassis built by Grant Downing at Worsham Racing in Orange, California, that Rupert acquired from the Worsham's after crashing his alcohol car in Woodburn, Oregon. Downing also built the front control arms that are attached to Strange Engineering spindles. The disc brakes (10-inch front, two-piston caliper; 11-inch rear, four-piston caliper) are CNC devices and are eventually aided by the parachutes' bloom. There is no suspension system per se; everything is solid-mounted.

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In the hidey hole, Rupert confronts the Downing-crafted butterfly (pegged with buttons for the RacePak and the B&J shifter) and is flanked by the fresh-air bottle lever on the left, fire bottle activation button by the right hip. The big handle is for the brakes, with a hand-grip for the fuel shutoff. To the far right, at waist level, are the spidery 'chute handles. The straps on the Taylor Motorsports seven-point harness are pulled so tightly that Jason can barely breathe.

Chosen for form as well as function, Goodyear skins on Centerline Convo Pro rims abound. Rupert directs 25.0x4.5 Frontrunners on 15x4 rims and bites tarmac with (D1022-compound) Eagle slicks that top out at 34.5x17x16.

So how'd all that work out? At the 2011 March Meet in Bakersfield, California, he qualified Number One and set the track speed record at 256.11. Rupert pinned the Heritage Series in 2011 and 2012 as the first and only Nostalgia Funny Car to surpass the 260-mile-per-hour mark. As of this writing (3/'13), he holds all of the Series' track speed records. But what's it really like? Jason: "It's like a bull—if those things want to throw you off or crash, you are pretty much in a helpless situation. You try to be in control of the beast."

Given its purpose, this Camaro wouldn't be able to take a corner at 40 mph, but it'll skin quarter-mile tarmac in a whisker over 5.5 seconds.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Inspired Funny Car Lifted 16/20
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