Long Rides, Racing and Tough Days

Not too sure of the mileage traveled but the first few months of 2016 have definitely been busy so far. We made the run from central Virginia to Jacksonville, Florida to visit with my daughter and her family for an extended week. Certainly had some fun and enjoyed ourselves. We then made a quick run down and across Florida to St. Petersburg to visit with my wife’s aunt. She recently turned 90 and is doing well. Coming back we stopped off at Ormond Beach to check out the town and look around at some real estate. I guess our beach town of Surf City has spoiled me because Ormond was way, way too busy for my taste.

One of the things that we planned was bringing back the Jeep that we will be swapping a fresh small block Chevy motor in over the next couple of months. As we were heading back up Interstate 295, there was a sudden rumble and as I checked the mirror I knew we had a tire that just exploded. The next question on my mind was whether it was my truck or the trailer? As it turned out, the front right trailer tire had let go, making a mess of the fender, destroying the marker light and leaving us in a lurch. There was an exit just a few hundred yards away and lucked out when we were informed at a drive-in that a tire store was just a few miles down the road. So, four trailer tires, a little over an hour of time and $400 later we were back on the road headed to Virginia.


Back home again, I dived back into the Monza again. I finished up the new brackets front and rear for the ladder bars, got the rear spring mounts fitted and was ready to put the new rear disc brakes in place. Bam, dead stop. The discs were supposed to come with dual axle patterns for 1/2 inch racing studs. No luck the discs were single pattern and of course not the one we were running and the holes were not drilled for 1/2 inch studs. On the phone, the tech at the place we purchased the rear from is telling me that they don’t sell any single pattern discs. Right – and then tells me that he will call me back in an hour. So later that day I end up calling them back again and I am told that new discs are being shipped out to me. Okay – that takes care of the problem. In the interim we put together a portable paint booth made up from PVC tubing and plastic sheeting. My main objective here is to try and keep dust from the garage off of the fresh paint I shoot. My shop is an “everything” deal so a perfectly clean paint booth it is not. I also start reassembling the interior of the car getting just about all of the interior sheetmetal back in place, the seat, safety belts and other bits and pieces. Moving the car to the center of the shop, I then started working on straightening out the sheetmetal and fiberglass. This has turned out to be a very long process as the body in various ways is far from being straight. A constant series of priming, guide coating, blocking and then more bondo putty as  needed seemed to be the drill for several days. Finally, the steel shell was relatively straight and I could start the process on the fiberglass parts.


Towards the end of the following week we take the Camaro and venture down to the Racer Appreciation Race at Rockingham Dragway, NC. An interesting way to start the season, this is a free entry race for both days and there is $2000 for footbrake racers each day. Saturday starts out a little ominous as the 40 degree weather is making it really difficult to get the engine fired up. We try our usual bag of tricks but still no luck and time trials are well underway. I opt to try a little bit of the fuel that we use for the generator and get myself into some trouble. As I am adding a douse of fuel to the carb, I forget to check and make sure that there is no heat coming from the carburetor venturi. Alcohol burns clear and it can be difficult to tell that you have a small fire going on. So I end up making a big mistake, the fuel flashes and with my gloved hand on fire, I drop the small cup of fuel down the left side of the engine. Phil pulls the extinguisher from the car and between that and smothering the flames with rags we get the fire out. Now we have a carb that has a pretty good dose of powder in it so it has to come off and we stay busy for a bit cleaning up the engine compartment. We go to our backup carb and start trying to get the engine fired again, which it does after making a few adjustments to the idle mixture screws. The car is running fairly well staying within about .001 of it’s dial but a late reaction time in the 4th round ends our evening. The next morning, it’s a little warmer and we get the engine fired up okay. There is no time trial so the plan is to re-enter if we miss our dial for 1st round. The burnout is good, the car launches and then about half-track I don’t hear anything but see Phil move to the right of the lane – something is wrong. After doing what checking we can, we find that we have an engine issue and our day is finished.

Since I was close to our beach house – a little less than 3 hours – I headed in that direction while Phil took the rig home. My plan was to spend a couple of days there with my wife Debbie, get a few odd ball things done, pickup Enzo and Theo – our Yorkies and head back home.  Getting back to my shop, it was time to get back on the Monza again. Besides fitting the new rear hatch in place, I gave the main body of the car a good overall sanding and then starting taping off the interior portion of the car. I also used some cardboard to keep excess paint off of the underside of the car. I needed to keep working on the one-piece front end of the car as the fenders did not match up very well with the new ‘glass doors. The back edge of the fenders has to be extended and then matched to the contour of the doors. The front end will need quite a bit of work to get it ready for paint too. Next up was making up a batch of epoxy primer and giving the main portion of the body a really good solid coat. I sprayed about two wet coats then waited a 5 minute flash time before applying two more. I did this once more and the body is fairly well sealed up at this point. The idea behind the epoxy primer is to seal any old paint and exposed metal plus provide a solid base for subsequent body work.


At this point, the rear brake rotors had still not showed up so the rear still sits on the table waiting. BTW, we are now at day 12 and counting since I was informed that new ones had been shipped to me. Back to the body, between removing paint and some of the old bondo work, the body was wavy at best. So it was time to start leveling out the body with bondo and hammer work as needed, block sanding it down, spraying on a filler primer and then blocking again. I only had to repeat this for three days before I was actually happy with the body and I still have a few spots to work on the roof and cowl areas.

The brake rotors finally showed up so I was all set to install the brakes on the rear. Oops, dead stop again. Seems the discs that they sent were the plain Jane models and not the upgraded slotted and drilled units that I had originally ordered and paid for back in December. So back on the phone again, this time with the guy that took my original order. He apologizes and says he can get the replacement discs out overnight to me – good, problem solved – again. The new discs arrive and they are the right ones. But, before I break out the welder and go to work we have now ordered wheelie bars for the car and those brackets have to be added to the rear end too. So after all of this, I am now waiting for that order to show up and hopefully I will have a completed rear that I can put under the car in the next few days – we will see how that works out.

Next up was picking up the completed engine from Progressive Performance, without revealing too many details let’s just say that we have a very stout small block, in fact according to the shop it is the best one that they have ever had for this cubic inch size. We touched up the bare block with a few coats of clear paint, made sure that everything was tight and proceeded to mount the engine between the frame rails. Everything fit well except for having to grind off an 1/8″ from the bottom of the MSD crank trigger mount to clear the front crossmember. When we mocked up the front engine plate late last year we had lowered and leveled the engine in comparison to the original side mounting of the engine. In fact the old mounts had the engine pointing skyward so we had some anguish as to whether the Hamburger racing pan was going to clear everything, including the ground. As it turned out, all was good and looks just about perfect to us. Our next work item will be making the headers and probably moving some of the brake pieces to provide room for them.


We had hoped to make the first points race at Richmond Dragway this season but hopefully we will be out with the car before the second meet comes up in about 4 weeks. We expect the performance to be strong somewhere in the mid 5’s or better for starters.





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