1970 Chevrolet Camaro - The Return Of Grumpy's Toy

Drag racing's most famous "rent-a-racer" gets restored to its former splendor

Bob McClurg Dec 22, 2006 0 Comment(s)
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If you didn't know any better, you would swear that it was the summer of 1970 and you're standing in the pits at York U.S. 30.

History records that on February, 5, 1970, Malvern, Pennsylvania Chevrolet star, Bill, "Grumpy" Jenkins wheeled his ZL1 engine 1968 Chevrolet Camaro match racer "Grumpy's Toy VI" to the first ever NHRA Winternationals Pro Stock Eliminator title over arch nemesis Ronnie Sox driving the Sox & Martin 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Within a matter of a month, the "Grump" would repeat that feat twice over, once at Orange County International Raceway's West Coast Pro Stock Championships, and then down south in the Sunshine State at the NHRA Gatornationals where Jenkins captured his second consecutive NHRA Pro Stock Eliminator title. It appeared as though Bill, "Grumpy" Jenkins "owned" Pro Stock Eliminator!

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These vintage racing action photos show Jenkins and "Grumpy's Toy VIII" in match race trim at Capitol Raceway, Spring, 1971...

Jenkins along with Sox & Martin, "Dandy Dick" Landy and the late "Dyno Don" Nicholson are all credited as being the founding fathers of NHRA and AHRA Pro Stock racing having previously competed as members of the United States Drag Racing Team, a heads-up super stock circuit which they formed in early 1968. Naturally in the fall of 1969 when both the NHRA & AHRA were forming the framework for this exciting new eliminator it was only logical they adapt many of the USDRA's rules and guidelines.

History also records that with Pro Stock Eliminator's announcement, Sox & Martin, Landy and Nicholson all went out and built brand new race cars for Pomona. On the other hand, Jenkins was patiently waiting for the arrival of the all new, second generation 1970-1/2 Chevrolet Camaro which was reportedly delayed due to UAW strike issues. Hence, the "Grump" had to rely on his trusty 1968 "Grumpy's Toy VI" to get the job done.

Speculation ran high as to exactly what Jenkins had in store for Chevrolet's all new Camaro. Then in July, 1970, the world got to see the latest in a long line of "Malvern Missile's," as formerly unveiled the all new "Grumpy's Toy VIII" on its cover!

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...along with expatriated funny car driver Bruce Larsen and the re-named "USA-1" Camaro Pro Stocker racing "Dandy Dick" Landy at Orange County International Raceway, November, 1971...

Built by the Jenkins Competition "Super Crew" which consisted of Dick Whitman, Derrick Von Bargen, Joe Tryson and Dutch Irrgang, "Grumpy's Toy VIII" benefited from the team's years of experience gained racing Chevrolet products (specifically Chevrolet Nova's and Camaro's,) in the NHRA and AHRA Stock, and Super Stock Eliminator classes. For example, Grumpy's Toy # VIII was equipped with a heavy duty 1965-70 12-bolt GM passenger car rear axle housing narrowed 2-1/2-inches, containing a 5.13:1 GM Service Package Posi-Traction gear set and heavy duty axles. Rear suspension consisted of a pair of extended 1970 Camaro spring hangers and Camaro SS 396 heavy duty rear leaf springs moved inboard to provide ample tire room, aided by a pair of Lakewood traction bars using a special wedge plate at the rear to enhance traction. A pair of Cure Ride competition shock absorbers provided adequate torque enhancement for that all important weight transfer. Other Jenkins tricks included a white-painted, Carter-equipped Camaro fuel tank to reflect heat and keep the fuel cool.

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...and Richie Zul, and the drastically re-vamped "Toy" at Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey circa 1973.

Since the all new 1970-1/2 Chevrolet Camaro was initially designed to accept a small-block engine rather than a tunnel ram-equipped 430-cid rat motor, "Team Jenkins" gusseted the entire front sub frame welding up weak areas to increase strength. The front a-frames were also re-angled to achieve more positive front caster. Sub frame connectors were added to eliminate torsional stress on the body, and the engine was torque strapped to the frame to prevent it from ripping out the front a-frames.

Actual suspension consisted of a pair of 1966 Chevy II heavy duty coil front springs rated at 220-inch pounds. The front shocks were specially valved #2018 Koni shocks which provided sufficient front end lift under acceleration to enhance traction.

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In the July 1970 issue of Hot Rod Magazine "Grumpy's Toy VIII" was un-veiled to the world in a four-page tech feature article written by famed automotive writer Bud Lang.

Powering this beauty was the aforementioned Jenkins Competition assembled 430-inch GM rat motor which featured a cross-drilled, shot- peened, and Tuff-Trided GM forged-steel 427 crank bolted up to a set of 427 big-block connecting rods pressed on to a set of eight Sealed Power-equipped TRW forged-aluminum pistons. The cam of choice was a General Kinetics #332 flat tappet grind along with a General Kinetics valve springs, retainers, and roller tip rocker kit bolted up to a pair of Dutch Irrgang-ported and polished open chamber "Jenkins" stamped 427 alloy cylinder heads. Induction came from a 2x4 Edelbrock tunnel ram intake sporting a pair of big bore 750-cfm Holley carburetors. The ignition system on Grumpy's new "Toy" came in the form of a '62 Corvette dual point tach-drive distributor firing a set of Champion spark plugs through Packard spark plug wires. The exhaust used a set of large diameter Hooker Headers. Because Chevrolet didn't happen to manufacture a torque release clutch fan at the time, Jenkins had to resort to an 18-1/2-inch diameter aluminum-bladed fan designed for the 1965 Chrysler hemi race engines to keep things cool! Backing this all up was a Borg Warner T-10S four-speed transmission with 2.43:1 low gear using a Schiefer clutch, a Lakewood bellhousing, and Hurst linkage.

It's not surprising that the save for the heavily padded Lakewood Industries three-point roll bar, Stahl tachometer, and Stewart Warner gauges, the interior of "Grumpy's Toy VIII" was surprisingly stock, although a set of A&A fiberglass bucket seats would be later added for match racing.

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