“We were in Smokie’s ’48 Willys Jeepster on our way to the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival (in Dawson County, Georgia). I’m in the back seat with my wife, Terri. We’re sippin’ tea (’shine) and talking about what car to build. Terri says, ‘Let’s build a car we can beat on versus beating on our beautiful first-gen Camaro.’ That one was featured in CHP and called Baby Boomer’s Boom,” JB informed. “Yeah, we were just drunk,” he confessed.
Smokie Ingram thought about it … suggesting a ’66 Corvair rather than the second-gen Camaro they were leaning toward. The idea began to coalesce.
John Bradley Granger isn’t the usual car enthusiast. It’s more like he’s absorbed the concept and has been projected Zen-like beyond normal limits.
Second reason: wanted to beat Kyle Tucker and Brian Finch autocrossing. “Clearly, I needed a game-changing concept to beat two awesome second-gen Camaros,” he explained. You should know that it is a friendly rivalry—they are stone pals. JB is more road race than dragstrip, so his priority was superlative handling and a multifaceted vehicle rather than just burning a ton of rubber for validation.
“The third reason I built FnNader (a nod to Ralph Nader’s virulent Corvair harangue) was to race it in the second season of (Speed channel’s) ‘R U Faster Than a Redneck.’ I was sure contestants would not know what a Corvair was, let alone an FnNader, a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he quipped. Unfortunately, the second season of “Redneck” never materialized.
The genesis was this: “Once your wife says let’s build another car, you best hurry up. Under a large dosage of tea and after viewing a ’66 Corvair body, the prescription for FnNader was born. Days later, I purchased a running ’66 and Smokie and I began brainstorming on how we would build an awesome Pro Touring-style Corvair.” Yeah, clearly that high-octane clear can enhance your thinking process.
JB found the vexed ’Vair on Craigslist. Picked it for $1,500. JB: “The body was real solid, except for the floor. We did not need the floor. We wanted to put the engine in the back seat area and fabricate a one-off tube chassis.” So you can see that this project would not be ordinary; nearly every part of it would require making something from nothing. One of the original crew was Clay Fowler, who built the hatchback lid, but he passed away suddenly before the Corvair reached completion.
Smokie Ingram’s Classical Gas Hot Rods & Restoration, Clay’s place of employment, took the helm. The idea was to maintain the correct weight balance and have it distributed advantageously; this is the reason Smokie and JB elected to retain the back-motor configuration rather than build a front engine, rear-drive chassis. “We needed weight in the middle of the thing. It was like building a dirt car in the old days; we used a piece string to do the measuring,” he laughed. And not by accident, the completed version had a tasty 48/52 weight bias made even tastier by a 50/50 equation with JB on board.
Utilizing Corvette suspension pickup points, Smokie built the chassis within the Corvair body. In the front, he posed the C5 components, including the stock spindles, with PAC springs over JRi shock absorbers and featured Fab-Worx bumpstops and Finch Performance modifications. At the back of the car, it’s a repeat: Corvette components, Fab-Worx bumpstops, and PAC springs over JRi dampers.
During the protracted build, Rusty Grindle had plenty of time to install the aluminum wheelwells, finish the body, and apply the metallic red paint. After the dirty work was done, Greg Pirkle upholstered the Procar seats and the remainder of the passenger pod and its appointments in leather.
JB likes using equipment that is scary and arcane. He joined forces with Mendeola Powertrain in National City, California. Mike Mendeola is a premier sand racing outfitter and his transaxles are legendary for longevity under massive torque and harsh conditions. The SR2 unit in FnNader is a drum-activated dog-ring sequential five-speed unit.
You’ll notice on the spec chart that the LS2 is a wee bit weak. JB defended, saying that he used it only for positioning and to get the car rolling. Since winters are for dreaming … and fixing problems for the coming season, he has it in his head to build an LS2 “in the 500-horsepower range.”
What would he have done differently? “No regrets, but a CAD-CAM designer would have been nice to have on the build team,” he cracked. What was the most challenging aspect? “I would say routing all the pipes, lines, wiring, and the Vintage Air system was quite a task.” What about it makes you smile? “Wow, I was blown away when Autowire prez Michael Manning came down from New Jersey to install the components.
“Since unveiling the car (after a four-year gestation), I think so many people saying this car is ‘sick, badass, best Corvair I’ve ever seen’ are just a few comments that make such a complicated build worth it!” Clearly nuts, JB. We’ll be liftin’ a cup of tea to that.
|Owner:||JB Granger, Cumming, Georgia|
|Cylinder Heads:||OE, 2.00/1.55 valves, 65cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly:||OE nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal connecting rods, cast pistons|
|Valvetrain:||OE 1.7:1 rocker arms|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams (specs proprietary)|
|Induction:||OE EFI, K&N element in custom airbox, fabricated fuel cell, Aeromotive Phantom pump|
|Exhaust:||2006 GTO exhaust manifolds, 3-inch Jet Hot-coated system, MagnaFlow stainless mufflers|
|Ancillaries:||AutoRad aluminum core, DEI insulation, American Autowire by Mike Manning, chassis wired by Neil from American Autowire|
|Outout:||389 hp at 6,000 rpm, 365 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm|
|Machine Work:||John Tucker (Norcross, GA)|
|Transaxle:||Centerforce flywheel and DYAD dual-disc clutch assembly, 2013 Mendeola SR2 five-speed transaxle built by Mendeola’s Ian Kirkland, Dana 44 limited-slip differential, 4.86:1 ratio, The Race Shop 19-inch halfshafts|
|Frame:||Construction, fitment, and six-point rollcage by Smokie Ingram, Classical Gas Hot Rods & Restoration (Cumming, GA)|
|Front Suspension:||C5 Corvette, stock spindles, JRi shocks, PAC 450 lb-in springs|
|Rear Suspension:||C5 Corvette control arms, Fab-Worx bumpstops, JRi shocks, PAC 550 lb-in springs|
|Brakes:||Baer 14-inch discs, six-piston calipers front and rear; Wilwood master cylinder, pedal assembly and proportioning valve|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Forgeline DE3P 18x9 front, 18x12 rear|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich Rival S 275/30 front, 335/30 rear|
|Upholstery:||Greg Pirkle Upholstery (Cumming, GA), custom console by Rusty Grindle at Rusty’s Rod Shop (Cleveland, GA)|
|Seats:||Procar, Impact five-point safety harness|
|Steering:||Flaming River column, Budnik Dragon wheel|
|Dash:||Spider Strategies insert|
|Audio:||Panasonic, one speaker in center console|
|Bodywork:||Rusty’s Rod Shop (Cleveland, GA), aluminum wheelwells by Rusty Grindle|
|Paint by:||Rusty Grindle|
|Paint:||2016 Corvette Long Beach Metallic Red|
|Hood:||Steel, custom-built by Smokie Ingram|
|Bumpers:||OE, shaved and tucked|