Some of the Most Amazing American Race Cars

Racing is in America’s blood. We started off racing horses, which is still one of the most profitable forms of betting to this day. We also love boat racing, whether it be sailboats or motor boats. We also love racing planes. It should only seem logical that we decided to race cars when they came out.

Our country has created some of the boldest, most successful and boldest racecars in history. These cars are some of my personal favorites, and they only scratch the surface of America’s storied racing heritage.

  • Chaparral 2E: Chaparral’s 2D was a very successful racing chassis, the 2J earned immortality thanks to it’s snowmobile-engine-driven suction fans. The 2D was better than both combined. It ushered in the aerodynamics era thanks to it’s driver-adjustable rear wing (which was adjusted via a pedal in the cockpit) and it’s side-pod mounted water cooling system. It was pure Texan ingenuity. Every modern race car owes at least something to the Chaparral 2E.chaparral-2e-03
  • 1967 Gurney Eagle-Weslake Mk. 1: Dan Gurney was a true American racing pioneer. This is what I view to be his masterpiece. He also won a Formula 1 race in this car. That’s about as good as it gets, but I still love this car to pieces. The tiny 11,000 RPM V12 and styling that looks like a shark and torpedo are just icing on the cake.gurneyeagleweslakemk1
  • Lotus 56: It’s not just another turbine-powered IndyCar. It was a car that solidified the basic shape of most high-level race cars from 1967 on out. It sent the cigar shape packing. It also had a one-speed automatic and AWD. While turbines and AWD would be banned from future IndyCar seasons, the shape remained and evolved. Even though it’s got a Lotus name and Peter Chapman modifications, it’s still basically an all-American STP-Paxon car.lotus56
  • 2016 Ford GT GTE: There was no doubt in any car or race fan’s mind when this car rained on every other car’s parade at the Detroit Auto Show this year. It’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 has been proven in the TUDOR Championship series, Chip Ganassi Racing has had lots of success racing Fords and is ready for a new challenge, and what might be most important to those automotive fans who like to cook (like me) is the fact that the rear diffuser is big enough to chiffonade an acre of potatoes without trying. The fact that it is dressed up in a very patriotic livery makes it just that much more amazing.fordgtgte
  • Dodge Viper GTS-R Mk. 1: The original Dodge Viper GTS-R immediately proved that a big V10 is an essential asset in endurance racing. On it’s third outing at Le Mans, the SRT Motorsports team took a class win in 1998. Again in 1999 and 2000. You can’t forget the overall wins at the Nurburgring, Daytona, Spa, and the five (yes, five) FIA GT and two ALMS championships. Plus, the fact that it was incredibly intimidating helped.dodgevipergtsrmk1
  • Corvette Racing’s C5.R, C6.R, and C7.R: For 17 years, The Corvette Racing team has put three generations of increasingly amazing Corvette race cars on the track. All have had an “.R” designation, except the first, which was a “-R.” They have proved themselves multiple times. 1999 marked the first year of the C5-R, which snatched three class wins at Le Mans (among many other wins). The C6.R took seven thundering liters of American muscle around the world, and won many races. The C7.R just grabbed the GTE Pro class win at Le Mans, and that was one of it’s first races!corvettec5-rcorvettec6.rcorvettec7.r
  • Panoz LMP-1 and LMP07: Many, many years before Nissan’s GT-R LM caused folks to scratch their heads as to why a front-engine endurance race car is a good idea, Panoz’s LMP-1 Roadster S and it’s less successful sibling LMP07 proved to the world that an endurance racing prototype does not need to carry their engine behind the driver. Neither car was wildly successful, but the LMP-1 certainly got into a few good battles with the BMW V12 LMRs and Ferrari 333 SPs to snag the 1999 ALMS team championship.panozlmp-1panozlmp07
  • Ford 999: Henry Ford should go down in the history books as a stark raving lunatic (for several reasons) because he took the crude, incredibly dangerous 18.9-liter Ford 999 racecar to 92 mph (the equivalent of somebody taking a car to 300 mph today) – a world record – on a frozen lake. The frozen lake was the only place large enough to get the car up to that speed. It made a whopping 80 horsepower, a lot of noise, and had killed a man a year before. It was a brutish, outrageous car that put Ford on the map, even if he became known for utilitarian and economical Model T’s and the now-legendary 1932 Ford.ford999
  • DeltaWing: No other American creation has so upset the normality of what race cars should look like as the Ben Bowlby-designed, Panoz-managed, Gurney’s All-American Racers-built DeltaWing. The car drastically reduced frontal area to reduce drag and fuel consumption. It worked, and even sparked a copycat (the Nissan ZEOD RC), even though it didn’t achieve any incredible success.deltawing
  • Cadillac ATS-V.R: Cadillac attained massive success for ten years with the CTS-V.R in the Pirelli World Championship Series. Now it’s the turn for the ATS-V.R to take the reins. It’s got some big shoes to fill. It’s got a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 making somewhere around 600 horsepower that sits somewhere between the massive fender flares and the huge extractor hood. Between this car and the Ford GT GTE, it looks like most, if not all, future American race cars will have forced induction engines.cadillacats-v.r
  • Swift 007.i: The year 1997 was a lucky year. The team owned by Paul Newman and Carl Haas stopped running a Lola chassis, and switched to a chassis made by the American company Swift. The car had a Ford Cosworth engine, Goodyear tires, and an all-American driver in Michael Andretti. I should probably mention that it won it’s first-ever race outing. Talk about coming in with style. Oh, and I was born that year.swift007.1
  • Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe: This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful cars ever made, as well as one of the most successful. Carroll Shelby needed to make the already-successful Cobra 427 faster, but that meant he needed a more aerodynamic body. He brought on legendary designer Peter Brock, who helped design the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Brock designed a flowing, muscular body that still looks like nothing else on the track. The result was a smashing success. The car won the 24 Hours of Daytona, Le Mans, Spa, and countless other races.shelbycobradaytonacoupe
  • Dodge Daytona/Plymouth Superbird: Mopar’s “Winged Warriors” made aero cars illegal in NASCAR. That should be telling as to how good those cars were. They packed quite the punch with their 426 HEMI engines and special aerodynamics packages. NASCAR outlawed aero cars after 1970. Buddy Baker campaigned a Daytona through 1970, and Richard Petty had one of his most dominant years in 1970 with his Superbird. It’s also one of the most iconic race cars ever.dodgedaytonaplymouthsuperbird
  • 1966 Chevrolet Corvette: The 1966 Chevrolet Corvette is one of the best race cars Chevrolet ever had. It had a walloping punch with it’s 427 cubic-inch big block V8, with the code-name L-88. This engine made any car it was in a true monster. It’s still fast enough to show a modern NASCAR stock car how it’s done on a road course. It’s like carving a statue with a hydraulic shovel. 1966chevroletcorvettel88

Out and About in Sonoma County!

So, my mom and I were driving along when we saw a meeting of the local chapter of the Ford Model T and Model A club.  Of course, we just HAD to stop!  I took some pictures of these cars.  I hope you like them.IMG_20131024_181309This lovely 1912-ish Ford Model T proves that Henry Ford DID make Model T’s in colors other than black!  Please try and get over the fact that everything is backwards on the Model T.  It is NOT right hand drive – it’s just the way that my imaging software works!

IMG_0814This beautiful 1909 Model T Roadster is truly amazing.  The spare tire on the back doesn’t have a wheel on the back because it was cheaper for Henry Ford’s horseless carriage to be made with four wheels and one spare tire.  It has higher ground clearance than a modern Jeep Wrangler!  That’s because in 1909, roads were still just wagon ruts.  Nothing hung down below the axles so that the engine or transmission wouldn’t be knocked off!

20131005_091845Fully resplendent in Henry Ford’s famous color – black!  This four-door 1908 Model T is fully restored, and looks better up close!  This thing takes shiny to a whole new level!

20131005_091745This 1923 Ford Model A pickup is cool!  It’s a convertible pickup!  It’s in bone-stock, completely restored condition.  This thing purrs like a kitten.

20131005_091711This Model T owner has brass, and a big windshield!  I want the seats from this car – they’re basically just leather sofas!  Even the wheels have brass spacers and center caps.  This car looks amazing!

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I like this daily-driven 1916 Ford Model A Speedster.  Essentially just a stripped-down Model T, the Speedster was kind of like a homologation special that became really popular!  It had no creature comforts, and all non-essential parts were taken off!  It weighed about 900 pounds!

20131005_091621A whole row of Tin Lizzies!  I like the red one closest to me.  It stands out nicely.  It probably gets a lot of thumbs-ups, too!

How Fifteen Cars Can Tell the Tale of the American Dream

“An innovative car (the Prius), its insufferable drivers (the pious), and the advent of a new era” proclaims chapter 13 in the book, Engines of Change.  Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Paul Ingrassia, has a HUGE stash of knowledge about Detroit’s ups and downs, Japan’s ups and downs, and the automobile’s upa and downs.  Engines of Change comprehensively covers fifteen cars.  It starts at the revolutionizing Ford Model T, and works its way up to the Toyota Prius.

The front cover pretty much says it all.  “A narrative like no other:  a cultural history that explores how cars have both propelled and reflected the American Experience-from the Model T to the Prius.”

“From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66, from the lore of Jack Kerouac to the sex appeal of the Hot Rod, America’s history is a vehicular history-an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Ingrassia.  Ingrassia offers a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles, including the Corvette, the Beetle, and the Chevy Corvair, as well as the personalities and tales behind them:  Robert McNamara’s unlikely role in Lee Iacocca’s Mustang, John Z. DeLorian’s Pontiac GTO, Henry Ford’s Model T, as well as Honda’s Accord, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jeep, among others.  Through these cars and these characters, Ingrassia shows how the car has expressed the particularly American tension between the lure of freedom and the obligations of utility.  He also takes us through the rise of American manufaturing, the suburbanization of the country, the birth of the hippie and the yuppie, the emancipation of women, and many more fateful episodes and eras, including the car’s unintended consequences:  trial lawyers, energy crises, and urban sprawl.  Narrative history of the highest caliber, Engines of Change is an entirely edifying new way to look at the American story.”

I recommend reading it.  It may be a bit expensive ($30.00), but it’s money very well spent.  Once you’ve read the first chapter, you’ll be hooked in to the book.  You probably won’t stop until you’ve finished the book.  Paul Ingrassia has a sense of humor, just itching for you to start laughing aloud about various people’s (and cars) mistakes.

I would like to thank my faithful reader, Uncle Howie for giving me the book.  Thanks, Uncle Howie!  It’s an awesome book!