Posted by: nwracing | July 24, 2017

Dragstalgia 2017 – They say its all over… it is now!

As I write this blog I realise that I have missed reporting on the results from the previous two race meetings, Spring Nationals May 27 – 29 and Nostalgia Nationals June 24-25. So for completeness, here is a quick precis.

The Spring Nationals at Shakey showed us moving forward again with the motor and we were heading towards our best normally aspirated time of 9.30 but I was still not completely happy and was looking forward to the Sunday. Unfortunately, a family bereavement meant that I made the decision to leave.

The Nostalgia Nationals was our next attempt to get back to our best. After a couple of clean normally aspirated runs the decision was taken to switch the NOS back on. However in my haste to get to the track I had forgotten the fly leads for the bottle heater which meant we would have to run with a lower than ideal bottle pressure. That being said we managed an 8.8, two 8.6’s and then on our final run we ran a personal best of 8.62 at 150.00mph! This whetted our appetites for the next meeting, my favourite of the year, Dragstalgia at Santa Pod.

We had the option to run on the Friday but my superstitious nature kicked in as we had broken the diff on the same day the year before. So I decided we would take the opportunity to completely clean the car, something I haven’t done for a while. Much to amusement of some of my fellow racers!

Saturday morning arrived and although it was overcast we were called to the pairing lanes. Sadly the greyness turned in to rain which persisted well in to the afternoon. After the best efforts of the Santa Pod track crew we finally managed to get a run in. A creditable 8.86 was a promising start so we prayed to the weather Gods for a good day on Sunday.

Dragster Fire up Road

Waiting for our first run of the day

Sunday morning arrived and as the Sun penetrated the awning we knew our weather prayers had been answered!

The scheduling meant we were out first and although the burnout wasn’t great we ran an 8.66. I did feel a jolt and thought we might have damaged something. Then the penny dropped… …I’d forgotten to change the NOS bottle! Doh! It was completely empty. So armed with a full bottle we went again and ran a new best time of 8.57, but again the burnout seemed a little weak. A number of comments about the amount of grip on the startline and increasing tyre pressures got us thinking so we decided to do the same.  I felt there was still more to come so we looked forward to the last run of the day. An improved burnout a strong launch and an extremely strong run all the way to the finish was a brilliant way to end the meeting. What we didn’t expect was the time, 8.47 at 151.56mph a personal best both in ET and mph!

 

And this leads me to explain the title of this blog. I have held a desire to build a new car for a number of years and move in a different direction. So I have decided to sell Andromeda to fund the new car. I could not have asked for a better car and am sure the new owner will enjoy the experience as much as I have.

Dragster launch

Perfect launch!

 

 

 

So long for now and I will keep you informed on how we progress.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: nwracing | August 5, 2016

And then all my teeth fell out!

After the euphoria of Dragstalgia it was time to get down to the serious work of stripping the back axle out of the car. I have never done this since I have owned the car so this was new territory for me and I was surprised at how much of the car needed to come apart to get it out. As it turned out I took the diff out of the case which made the whole thing more manageable.

With a certain amount of trepidation I inspected the diff and as you can see from the pictures we have stripped teeth off the crown wheel and damaged the pinion so that is scrap. The teeth were sat in the bottom of the casing and I can only assume that the racing gods were on our side again as incredibly they had not jammed whilst I was running. A situation I fear would not have ended quite as pleasantly as it did.

Broken Crown wheel Broken teeth Diff Bearings Pinnion damage

Just for good measure I checked the bearings to see if we could salvage anything, I was being horribly optimistic. Ho hum, every bearing in the axle is trashed. It appears that the little metal filings you inevitably see from damage like this had been round all of the races so they’re toast as well!

So now we know what we’re facing its time to order all the bearings shims and gaskets. Then I’ll source the gears and axle shafts so we should be back up and running fairly soon, however, because of other commitments outside of racing it is highly likely that we won’t make it out again this season which is slightly irritating, but that’s life as they say.

So it appears that since I decided to sell Andromeda she has reacted a bit like Stephen Kings Christine without the added advantage of repairing herself which would be quite a useful feature; for all drag racers I suspect!

On a slightly different subject a number of people have asked about the website, or lack of one! I have not really got my act together on this and hope to start the process of designing a new site as soon as possible and will let you know when it’s ready.

If you know anyone who would like to read this blog or like our Facebook page please let them know about us. We would love to see them!

Of all the meetings I had been looking forward to on the racing calendar then Dragstalgia was the one. Over the last few years it has developed in to probably the best nostalgia meeting in Europe and the variety of interesting race cars and bikes seems to get larger every time it takes place.

We arrived Thursday afternoon as we wanted some time getting the car fettled and also take the opportunity to run on the RWYB day on Friday to get the car. Our intention was to get the base motor finally settled and then turn the NOS back on. Friday morning arrived and the weather was glorious so anticipation was high.

Looking at our data it was clear that we needed to keep leaning the mixture so we put a setting in to the carb and took it out for its first run.

Whilst it had ticked over in the pits it steadfastly refused to do so in the fire up lane and I did the drag racing equivalent of rubbing your stomach whilst patting your head! I also nearly managed to run Chris over as he was bringing me to the line. The result was a Red light and the motor only managed to settle down at half-track at which point it covered me in oil. Fortunately this was just a rocker gasket that had dislodged itself and I had not oiled the track which was a relief.

Back at the pits a quick plug check showed we had gone over the edge and it was leaner than we were happy with. So we tried a slightly different jet combination. At the start line the car seemed to launch ok with startling large plumes of black smoke but then it was all over the track and I’m pretty sure that I covered a lot more than a quarter of a mile!

As Chris towed me back to the pits there was a strange sound coming from the rear axle.  Putting the car back on the stands and firing it up again it was clear that all was not well and a large mechanical clunking confirmed our worst fears, we had broken the diff! Now as this was Friday this was probably the worst case scenario. However, we had booked for the weekend so decided to enjoy the rest of the weekend and sort the diff out when we were back at home.

Removing the rear axle

Removing the rear axle

And what a weekend it was, if you’ve ever wondered about the roots of drag racing then Santa Pod is a brilliant place to start your education  with cars from the roots of UK drag racing in the shape of the Allard Chrysler and bikes like Pegasus and Hobbit. A sight for all the senses is probably the best way to describe it.

A number of things stick out in my mind, firstly our friends Steph and Dave Milam of She Devil racing produced a barnstorming run of 6.18, the fastest in Europe for an Altered, secondly the UK v USA matchups which were absolutely brilliant and many thanks must go to the guys for travelling across the pond. And finally the overall atmosphere at Santa Pod: We were pitted next to a French and an Italian team and there were Germans, Dutch and many other nationalities present and guess what, we all got on! Drag racing has a way of uniting people in a way politicians can only dream of.

On a personal note it was great to see Simon from Eurodragster and finally put a face to the voice, and thanks to the Santa Pod team who put on a great show and last but not least all those people who tried to help us.

Back at NWR HQ the strip down has begun and as you can see from the pictures so far we have found that we need new driveshaft’s and this is before we even got to the diff proper.

half shaft

Twisted splines!

Next job is to get the whole axle out and see what else we’ve done!

Posted by: nwracing | July 13, 2016

Is it that time already?

As I write this I realise that it has been a few weeks since our last meeting, the NSRA Nostalgia Nationals. A brilliant meeting with fantastic cars was expected and although the meeting didn’t disappoint our time was somewhat less fun.  We had run the car in the pits and all seemed to be heading the right way. Then, the Xmas tree lights packed up and when we finally got to run it was to be by flag start, just like in the early days of drag racing. Something I’ve never done! So we pulled round to do the burnout and the motor seemed strong however, reversing back it started sounding a little sick and then stopped completely. So we had to tow it all the way back to the pits and investigate. As the rain had set in we decided to call it a day and get up early Sunday. We started by checking everything we could think of, electrical, carb, and fuel all to no avail. So next was to take off the rocker covers and see if we had damaged anything.

It was then we discovered that two lash caps were missing off the top of the valves! This gave us valve clearance you could measure in millimetres! As they had dropped in to the engine there was no alternative but to take it all to pieces and find the caps and see if we had suffered any damage.

Big Block Chevy

All stripped for checking!

So that’s what I have been doing over the last couple of weeks. I decided that if I would strip the motor in the car rather than taking out completely. Although access was reduced I had no trouble in getting the heads and sump off. Both lash caps were sat in the valley and a quick check of the pistons and bearings confirmed that nothing else had happened in the engine so we had been really lucky. The only thing I did do as a precaution was change both valves where the caps had come off.

We think we have identified what caused the issue. In the burnout I noticed the rev counter go quite high and I think we suffered some valve float which spat the caps out. We have now reduced our rev limiter so this doesn’t happen again.

So everything is rebuilt and we’re ready to go. This weekend is Dragstalgia at Santa Pod and we are almost packed up and ready to go.

Race Ready Big Block Chevy

All ready to go racing!

So all I need now is the car to start performing like it should and we will have a fine weekend. I’ll keep you posted!

Posted by: nwracing | June 13, 2016

June Shootout Race Review – June 11th and 12th 2016

After our previous meeting’s success we were looking to make further inroads in to our times and creeping up on our tune seemed to be bearing fruit. A quick review of some of the data we collected suggested we had some previously undiagnosed carb issues. These were resolved easily but this has resulted in us going back to basics with our jetting.

So after getting the car ready we set a jet combination, which, if my hunch was correct would prove to be too rich but provide a better idle after the burnout which had been causing a few issues.  The car launched with a stutter before pulling cleanly. However, the plugs told their own story and we are still some way off the jetting. So a quick change and we were ready or the off.

However, the weather gods were not being kind and continuous rain prevented us from running the rest of the day and waking Sunday morning to the sound of rain on the caravan roof meant that it was unlikely we would run at all.

At about 11 o’clock the track called the meeting a rain off and so we decided to take our time in between rain showers to get everything packed up.

So we are all ready to go again and hopefully if I’ve got it right a couple of runs should put us back where we want to be ready to switch the NOS back on again!

I never seem to get chance to say thank you to all the people who make our drag racing fun so I would like to call out to Claire in The Wild Bunch for keeping us all in order, all of the racers and finally the track staff at Shakespeare County Raceway who work tirelessly for us.

See you at the track next time!

Posted by: nwracing | June 13, 2016

Andromeda Tow Kart Part 8

I had originally planned to write this in June last year but the dragster required work and it was buried deep in the garage. As this is the last blog on this I wanted to share with you some of my experiences of building the tow kart and also provide some insight in to what I will do differently in the future.

However, the first question must be:-

  ‘Did this build help me get nearer to my goal of building a complete chassis or motorcycle frame from scratch in the future?’

I have to answer a resounding ‘YES!’

Taking a non-critical project, making mistakes, rectifying them, has provided experience, enjoyment and sometimes frustration in to the whole process of designing and building a chassis from the ground up. And all without having to sell the family silver or risking life and limb!

So what have I learned doing this?

  1. Initial design: I settled on a design that was neither one thing or the other and this created some inherent conflicts. That said I also had a space restriction which did contribute to this.
    1. My advice would be to trawl the internet, download pictures, take photos at the track or anywhere else you see a cool design and really nail down how you want your chassis to look.
    2. Take more time than I did to draw up what it is going to look like. I ended up making changes on the fly because I hadn’t taken enough time to plan it initially.
  2. Trying to be clever and run before you can walk is easy to do and to be honest I became quite adept at making something twice as complicated as it needed to be! The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) does have a lot to commend it. I don’t really need front suspension. This could have been left for another design. But once committed…!
  3. Due to cost restraints I used a lot of cheap and readily available go kart parts and this created further constraints. If you look at the gearing issue this would not have happened had I purchased the bigger, but more expensive wheels to begin with. As I am stubborn I continued with what I had but in hindsight should have bitten the bullet.
  4. This was a big one for me as I have been able to weld for a long time but lacked confidence and didn’t want to risk my life or anyone else’s for that matter if my welding was not up to scratch. However, the tow kart has been used and abused at the track and so far has not shown any sign of issues, especially in light of the fact that the cheap tubing I bought created all manner of problems with the welding process. (Cheap tubing is a no no in the future!) Also, I became a little carried away and fully welded parts of the chassis straight off. The rule here is to do a lot of tacks and then skip about the chassis welding about 10 to 15 mm and then moving to the other end and repeating. It is also a good idea to do a few welds then go and have a coffee and let the whole let cool down. Distortion is an unavoidable by-product of the welding process but you can do a lot to mitigate it.

I have to say that building the tow kart has been a brilliant experience which I can only recommend to you. It would be fantastic to build something with your children that you can all enjoy.

I am inspired to do it all again with a different design and this is possibly the only down side of the whole project. After you have finished you want to do it all over with the benefit of everything you have learned!

The end result of this project has been a practical addition to the race team that I built from the floor up.

And if ever you need confirmation that you’ve ‘done good’ then the number of people who photographed it and commented positively at the track provided this. Very pleasing!

I have posted a video on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/nwracingteam so you can actually see the thing running.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this blog. If you have any comments or questions I would love to hear them.

All the best Neil.

NWRacing blogs are something like buses. You wait for ages then you get a couple together at the same time.  I won’t spoil the surprise of the blog following this but will say it is 18 months late!

For those that know me I have owned Land Rover Defenders for the past 16 years and they have been brilliant towing all my stuff around the country but nothing lasts forever. I have wanted an American pickup for as long as I have been racing and watched enviously as they arrived at the track. So decision made I purchased a Chevy truck and was as pleased as punch. My enthusiasm has still not waned but I did have a certain amount of trepidation setting off as the whole rig is over 40 feet long! I need not have worried as it tows perfectly and surprisingly returns about 2mpg less than my diesel Land Rover, or should I say it would have done except that the male curse of not reading manuals properly reared its ugly head. There is a tow/haul function on the auto box so with complete confidence I engaged this and set off for Shakespeare County Raceway in Stratford upon Avon. Half way to the track I noticed how high the revs seemed to be and it seemed a bit sluggish…

…And then the penny dropped, it’s like a low range function! Aagh…..

Very quickly I disengaged it and used it only to pull away on steep inclines. But the damage had already been done to the fuel consumption which looked very similar to that of a transatlantic liner! However on the way home the mpg was comparable to my Landy, with the added benefit of having that much space, I could if I wanted, take most of the contents of my house with me!

If you have followed my blog you will know that we have had taken some time to rebuild the dragster as we have had issues with both the engine and the gearbox. At this point I would like to recommend Dave Milam of She Devil Racing and Andy Frost of Penn Autos for their help with the engine and gearbox respectively. Their guidance and support has been invaluable; and keeping me positive when I thought the drag racing gods were against me has been fantastic.

So first time out in 2016 we wanted to make sure we had all the bases covered and decided to run this meeting normally aspirated and concentrate on getting everything working efficiently including me!

The first thing we needed to do after firing the motor at home was check the timing. However, no matter what we did the timing was jumping all over the place. A chance encounter with a fellow racer who asked how it was going narrowed the issue to my fancy digital timing light. So he kindly lent me his and we set the timing and then found another issue. We run a retard function which is supposed to come in when we use the NOS. However,  it appeared to be on all the time. Now I was beginning to get a little stressed as time was slipping away and the car hadn’t even turned a wheel! Retracing all the wires to our MSD ignition revealed a complete wire missing from the system! Now as Chris and I are the only ones who work on the wiring so we were both at a loss.  However, it took only 5 minutes to fabricate a new one and then we were ready to go! Or we would have been, I was busy getting dressed in the race suit when one of our friends told us that the track had been closed because someone had put oil down for virtually half the track! So with a huge sense of frustration Chris and I settled ourselves ready for the next day.

Sunday arrived and early in the morning we checked every inch of the car and sat waiting for the track to open. So our first run out and we ran 9.98 at 134mph. This is a way off our best of 9.3 but we always knew that we would need to creep up on the performance following the rebuild. A quick plug check confirmed we needed more fuel so we upped the jets went out again and ran a 9.7 at 134mph. Again we upped the jetting and aimed to go out again but another oil down put paid to our plans so we waited for Monday. As we were in the competition proper we needed to select our dial in. Feeling there was still more I dialed in at 9.6 and hoped we could get near this with minor changes. For the sake of brevity I have detailed the numbers below:-

Round 1: 9.811  135.40mph

Round 2: 9.605   136.00mph

Round 3: 9.632   135.67mph

Round 4: 9.583   135.81mph

As you can see we were pretty close to our dial in and all the time were changing the carb jetting to improve the situation. The overall result is that we came 2nd in the Wild Bunch competition and also closest to dial in which was great result for us considering all the issues we had had over the last few years. So the crew and I have two nice trophies on our shelves which certainly provide inspiration for the next meeting on June 11th and 12th at Shakespeare County Raceway.

I don’t have any pictures but did take my little video camera and attached it to the car, which has been moderately successful as I put it right next to our ignition! I hope you enjoy the footage and please come along to the next meeting and say hello.

Finally, a number of people have asked me about the NWRacing website. At the moment it is currently  being redesigned and  will have a new web address. As soon as it is ready I will let you know.

Posted by: nwracing | March 14, 2016

Everything went a bit blurry!

Due to my advancing years, (no comments please!), I decided that continued freezing  of my extremities in the garage had to stop. So off to Machine Mart, and I purchase one of those little jet engine heaters, the sort that uses propane.  And brilliant it is, I have used it to keep me toasty during the winter months without any mishap, until the other day.

After all the machining, manhandling and general use, the engine block and cylinder heads were looking a bit tatty. So it was time for a respray. I don’t do this just for looks it also serves a useful purpose as you can see oil leaks and blowing from the exhausts,etc.

So after taking a long time to mask off the machined surfaces I proceeded to spray the block and heads with fetching red engine enamel. Ideally to cure properly the ambient temperature should be around room temperature which it wasn’t last week so I engaged the assistance of the jet engine heater and get the garage nice and warm for the paint to cure.

Well after about 40 minutes I noticed that everything seemed a little blurry, thinking my eyes were tired I put on my specs, nothing changed…

…even with a mask it appears that the combination of propane fumes and enamel curing creates an unusual mix of gases that is not conducive to health. So I beat a quick exit back in to the house and immediately felt fine. A lesson for the future methinks!

Notwithstanding my little mishap I think you’ll agree that the engine block and cylinder heads look fabulous and the rebuild can continue. The trouble is that new paint makes some of the shiny parts look a bit dull so it’s out with the metal polish!

DSC_2723

Big Block Cylinder Heads

Fresh paint makes all the difference

Posted by: nwracing | March 9, 2016

2016 Race Dates

The engine has started to come together nicely and given our experience with debris in the engine it is taking probably far longer than it needs to as I check, double check and check again. I have even bought one of those magnifying visors so that I can inspect everything more closely! That aside everything looks good and I hopeful it will be complete by the end of this week.

We have finalised the dates of the meetings we intend to compete in this year as flows:-

May 28-30 Yanks Weekend/ Gary’s Picnic      Shakespeare County raceway

June 11-12 June Shootout                                    Shakespeare County raceway

June 25 -26 Nostalgia Nationals                        Shakespeare County raceway

July 16-17 Dragstalgia      (to be confirmed)     Santa Pod raceway

July 23-24 July Shoot out                                     Shakespeare County raceway

We would love to see you at the track and guarantee you a warm welcome, but please check with us first in case of any unforeseen changes.

On final piece of news…

… I have decided to sell Andromeda. After many years of faithful service I am looking for a new challenge in drag racing and am looking to build an altered, so she needs to go to make room for another garage project. I know you’re not supposed to get sentimental about race cars but I look forward to seeing someone else continue the journey.

So that’s it at the moment. As usual I look forward to any comments or questions that you have.

Posted by: nwracing | February 25, 2016

Progress at last…!

The engine block is now back with me and all looks well. Dave Milam after a lot of investigation identified that the culprit for our engine woes was a small piece of debris that had clung on to one of the oil gallery plugs from all the machining work. This is surprising given that I had cleaned out all the galleries and had used a pressure washer to get in to all the nooks and crannies or so I thought! If there is ever a lesson on clean once, clean twice, then clean again this is it. A sobering thought is that this little piece of swarf cost us the whole of the 2015 season! As usual Dave was a star and if you need engine work doing I would highly recommend him.

Big Block Chevy Oil Gallery Plug

The culprit for all our damage!

 

Also I have replaced the oil pump again! We can find nothing in the engine that provides any indication as to why we lost 20psi of oil pressure so as a precaution it has been changed. My only thought is that the oil we use has altered chemical composition so in order to test this we are going to use a different brand of oil.

I do get asked sometimes if we use cheap oil as we replace it so often. I have met racers in the past who do this but for me this is a false economy. If I had been using cheap oil when the engine let go the damage would have been significantly greater. This was confirmed when we looked at the bearing shells as you could still see clearly the marks made by the dial bore gauge from when I had clearanced the bearings. On the subject of bearings we are using the same Clevite H bearings which are slightly harder than the stock V bearings. They are supposed to be a little more wear and crush resistant. Some engine builders prefer to use the V bearings as they effectively form a sacrificial part. However our experience with the H bearings has been positive. So, if they’re good enough for NASCAR they are good enough for me!

Melling HV Oil Pump

New Melling Oil Pump

As you may remember we also suffered a gearbox failure and I decided that given my lack of knowledge on stripping down a Powerglide I would undertake this myself. I was surprised at how few parts there are in the gearbox and with the aid of my Powerglide book all of the internal components were inspected and checked for wear or other maladies. Other than the broken section at the back of the case the rest of the gearbox looks in rude health!

I decided that whilst I was happy with stripping the gearbox I lacked some of the special tools to rebuild and modify it for racing. So the whole lot has been shipped off to gearbox guru Andy Frost at Penn Autos for him to work his magic. I have used Andy for over 10 years and have always been impressed with work so it really was a no-brainer!

So that’s really it at the moment.  Everything seems to be coming together nicely and we are on schedule to be ready by April. I have just received the calendar for the 2016 season so once I have had time to digest this I will post the dates of the meetings we intend to compete in.

Older Posts »

Categories