Where There's Smoke
A good friend of ours had the misfortune of running into some serious heat. I could change the names to protect the innocent, but you know me: If you break it, you own it. Charlie Allen decided he had enough of Super Gas racing and sold the Vega wagon he'd raced for many years to build a Stock Eliminator car. He chose to build an off-brand car to this book, but his challenges fit any make or model.
At the first race of the season, he brought out his new car and was having a great day. After winning the first round, he was back at the trailer, checking the weather and filling out his log book, when a young kid came up and said, "There is a car on fire out here!" Well, it was an electrical fire burning up the interior of Charlie's new race car. It took three dry chemical fire extinguishers to put it out. The dash was toast, and the windshield was black. The cluster was melted, and all the vent controls were gone. What happened was that when Charlie installed the aftermarket gauges and switches for the electric fan, he had not installed a relay for the load of the cooling fan. The switch overloaded while he was cooling it down, and it caught fire!
This past weekend he was back at the track after many trips to the local Pick-and-Pull for interior parts and pieces. I felt so bad for what happened that I gave our friends at Painless Performance a call and picked Charlie up a six-switch panel and wiring harness. This is a killer wiring kit for race cars and has lit, fuse-protected rocker switches. We also spec'd out a couple of 30-amp relays for the water pump, electric fan, and fuel pump. Most of these power accessories take a good amount of amperage to run, and as temperature goes up, so does amperage demand. Any switch should only be used to trip the relays and let the relay carry all the load of the circuit.
This could have happened to any of us. I know that back in the day I built many cars using switches to carry loads. Over the years we've become accustomed to using electric-powered drives for fans and pumps. Detroit has also made the electric load conversion. You can pick up used relays and connectors at your local wrecking yard; they're all over late-model vehicles, feeding the electric fans, A/C blower motor, and other high-load accessories.
Protect yourself and your car with power relays. The last thing you need is Smokey the Bear to visit your toy with a three-alarm blaze. Be safe out there.
Free And Clear
Q: I love your magazine and the honesty and detail of your answers to readers' questions. I just read the Feb. '09 issue and was interested in a little more information on the roller rocker upgrade. I've got a '68 Camaro with a stock GM crate engine (330 hp, 380 lb-ft), Hooker headers, 21/2-inch exhaust with Flowmasters, a Tremec five-speed, an Edelbrock 600-cfm carb, and 3.07:1 rear gears. I took it on the Hot Rod Power Tour this year and averaged 23 mpg! Would the rockers mentioned in the article work on my engine without fear of hitting the pistons? Also, what improvements would I see in power and torque? What else can I do to the engine without pulling it apart to get me up around 345-350 hp? Thanks!
A: Nice mileage! Years ago we stuffed a ZZ4 in a '67 Camaro Pace Car Convertible with 3.08s and a TH700-R4. It knocked down 21 mph on the Power Tour without even trying. This was with a Holley 750 double-pumper right out of the box! There are some easy ponies to be had out of your engine. Let's talk.