Dave Kunicki is a hardcore club racer from the Surrey, Vancouver area in Canada. He owns and operates Blue Max Lighting which builds lighting equipment related to emergency vehicles and their supplies. In his spare time he has resurrected a full-bore Greenwood copy from the late '70s. I spoke with Dave to get an update on his restoration project; this is Dave's story.
"I've been hooked on racing for a long time. From early autocrosses to my current fascination with big-block racers, I've always wanted to go faster. After a series of Corvettes, I built and raced a Cobra kit car with a big-block Chevy engine at the Knox Mountain Hill Climb event in Kelowna, British Columbia. That was around 1994 and that's when I really got the bug to go fast. The car I am now developing is a big-block Greenwood-style race car. In 1997, I bought this car from another local racer, Wade Ward.
Wade wasn't too clear about its whole history but he thought it might have been a Greenwood car. It had the independent six-link rear suspension and coilover shocks on the front. It also had the big Hurst-Airhart brakes, Greenwood style wide-body bodywork, and an SCCA number.
When I started doing my research on the car quite a few more facts started to emerge. First, the car wasn't a Greenwood-built car. It had been locally fabricated using all the Greenwood parts from the catalog. Two sister cars were built in '78-79. The first car was built by Gary Pulleyblank for the SCCA Trans-Am series. A twin (this car) was built at the same time for Grant Robinson. The two cars were built in '78-79 for the SCCA's big-block category. I have documentation from the SCCA which shows that the cars ran at least three times in 1979 at Hallett, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Mexico City. Pulleyblank ran again the next year in the small-block category. Robinson also ran several events, but the documentation has been harder to find for some of the nearby West Coast tracks.
Since the car was an authentic period race car, I decided to restore it and drive it in the historic series. The first restoration took three years and has required a lot of research. For a start, we were replacing the chassis which was quite rough. So we had to dig hard to figure out how Greenwood did the customer cars. We wanted to replicate the original Riley-design and re-install new Greenwood pieces exactly where they were supposed to fit.
The engine was an update on one of my previous 427 cast-iron blocks. It runs a nice 13:1 compression engine, with Brodix aluminum heads, Lunatti roller cam, Crower billet rods, Ross pistons, and a Lunatti steel crank. It runs on 114 leaded fuel through a Chuck Nyutten modified Holley 750, now flowing around 930 cfm. I've run the engine on a dyno. It makes about 661 peak horsepower but, more importantly, jumps out of the corners.
I took the car out for the first time to the first timed runs, and a new car always reveals a few surprises. We had the wrong bumpsteer and the springs were way too soft. At 450/300 pounds front and rear, the suspension was bottoming-out under acceleration. By Labor Day I was again ready to test. We rented the track at Mission, just east of Vancouver, together with Ross Bentley. I took Wade Ward with me, so he could provide an independent view on the set-up.
The car was dialed-in. It was running within a half-second of the track record. I began looking forward to setting the record, if we could just get a few more laps in. Unfortunately, it started to rain. I could hear Wade bringing the car around. Each time he tried to get the power down, coming off a corner, the tires would break loose. When he came onto the front straight the car really stepped-out on him. He hit the wall with the front end at about 100 mph; the front bodywork exploded and the hood popped straight up in the air. The whole car went up in the air and when it came down, it hit the wall a second time with the back end. From there, it pin-wheeled down the track until it came to a stop. It looked pretty bad.
I've spent the last winter fixing the car. Fortunately, a lot of the damage was cosmetic. Still, I've also taken advantage of the situation to change a few more things. For example, I am now using "break-away" chassis extensions at the front and rear. I'll carry spare extensions, radiator, fuel cell, and bodywork. The next time there is any damage, I'll make repairs at the track.
Another issue I ran across was the noise limitations that exist at different tracks. The restrictions run anywhere between 102 dB to 96 dB. I've increased my muffler size from 12 inches to 16 inches, and I've inserted some vortex cones at the collectors to act as baffles. I've also developed some turn-outs which angle backwards to alter the direction of the sound waves for the drive-by test. Hopefully this will work.
The car is pretty well back together now. I plan to be at the Knox Mountain event again this May. And the Mission track has had some changes so the track record (for the new track) is up for grabs. If I can get some time away from the business, I would also like to go east and do historics at Watkins Glen with my friends Lance Smith and Dave Force in Philadelphia. They both helped me with tons of information and advice on how to do this job properly. I'd like to show them what I've built."
Author's note: Since this writing, Dave has taken the car to the Knox Mountain Hill Climb. The car ran well. Dave came in second in class and third fastest of 88 cars with a 1:57.742. It was a good showing, with Dave being five seconds faster than previous years.