To score an outright win in saloon-car racing days you need an American “Pony Car” like the one shown here and, most important, a great deal of money to support its sub-5-m.p.g. fuel consumption and general thirst for items such as tyres.
Former GLTL Lotus 62 driver Brian Muir has conducted this particular example since it was purchased in February 1970 by his building contractor entrant, Malcolm Gartlan. Financial backing to the total of £9,000 for 1971 comes from the papermakers Wiggins Teape, without whom the Chevrolet could not run in the poorly rewarded RAC Saloon Car Championship. Last year Gartlan reckoned to have spent at least £8,000, including a £1,600 tyre bill incurred by the temporary need for imported Trans-Am tyres: the result of this expenditure was a fourth overall in the RAC series and second in class behind the ex-works Boss Mustang of Frank Gardner, plus several outright race wins.
This Chevrolet Camaro was bought from German Peter Reinhart after he had returned from his previous job with Roger Penske Racing in the USA. The car was originally intended as a back-up vehicle for Penske’s successful 1968 attempt on the SCCA Trans-Am title, but as it was not needed Reinhart completed the preparation in Germany, and competed promisingly on the Continent before Gartlan bought it on the recommendation of his chief mechanic—Ted Grace. The latter is assisted in the modern Cotswold workshop by Patrick Salter.
The Z28 tag refers to the car’s original specification of engine and transmission items specially homologated for racing: however, for next year the label will no longer be applied as the 5-litre Z28 engine, built up by Grace after two previous engines had blown up (including the well-used 418-b.h.p. Traco unit), is to be replaced by a 350 cu. in. (5,740 c.c.) Chevrolet V8, if all goes well. Incidentally, our picture of the engine clearly shows the staggered inlet arrangement of the twin, four-choke, Holley carburetters which do such an effective job in supplying fuel for many American racing V8s.
The four-speed gearbox was manufactured by Muncie, a General Motors subsidiary, and it transmits power via a 10-in. plate Borg & Beck clutch of the type used on F5000 cars. Five final-drive ratios can be chosen from, varying from 4-to-8.1 to 3-to-1. Approximate gear speeds on a fast track would be 80 m.p.h. in 1st, 105 m.p.h. in 2nd, 140 in 3rd, and as much as 165 m.p.h. in 4th if the driver is brave enough to leave all four 11 3/4-in. GM disc brakes alone in 28 cwt. of machinery.
Suspension features many GM optionally available parts for the unequal-length wishbone front and leaf-sprung rear end with its “one either side” staggered shock-absorbers, Panhard rod and two locating radius arms. Minilite wheels of 10-in. rim section are used in conjunction with Firestone 14 front tyres and the same company’s “slick”-style rears.
Altogether an immaculately prepared car which keeps the spectators entertained in the hectic 20 minutes or so of saloon-car racing which usually follows major British meetings these days.—J. W.
Letter to readers, May 1991
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