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PROJECT DOLLY Archive - 2000

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Oct. 27-28, 2000 - Drove Dolly down to Topeka for the Winston All Pro bracket races. My Dad was also racing, with his 89 Mustang. I only got a couple of runs in at the Friday night time trials, but it was clear that the new slicks were going to help.

Me and my Dad at Heartland Park Topeka.

Saturday threatened rain all day, with clouds, low temperatures and wind. Fortunately, the rain held off. I eagerly jumped into the staging lanes for time trials. I took it really easy the first few passes, since I had never driven with slicks, but my first pass was a 13.71, which is about .6 seconds better than my previous best with the 3.73 posi. The next run I was a bit more aggressive on the burnout, and dropped the tire pressure in the slicks to 13 psi, and recorded a 13.59 @ 101 mph. This would turn out to be my best of the day. My last time trial run was 13.65 @ 100. The best part was that my 60' times dropped from 2.3 seconds without slicks to 2.05 seconds with slicks.

Me and my Dad getting ready to race.

I had entered trophy class since I was not sure of my driving skills yet. I took round 1 when my opponent broke out. Round 2 my opponent redlighted. Round 3 I ran down my opponent and he broke out. This got me to the finals! The track was really cold by this time of the day, and I didn't do a very good burnout. My 60' time was a dismal 2.22, and despite my .563 light, I lost by a hair at the finish line, running a 13.88 @ 100.90. I was really excited to get second though, and got a very nice trophy. The best part was that in each round I cut a .5xx light, ranging from .535 to .599, and no redlights. Unfortunately, my Dad redlighted in the 2nd round. In each round, I was the faster car, so I had to wait at the lights.

My wife said it best when she said, "Well, it's best to end the season with a bang!" I can't wait for next season.

Oct. 26, 2000 - Well, I finally got the new control arms in and the sway bar reinstalled, and everything fit great. It's amazing what a propane torch, WD-40 and a big hammer can do to help remove stubborn bolts. When installing the new control arms, I used my jack and a ratcheting strap to pull the axle, control arm and mounting holes into alignment so the bolts would go through.

The new heavy duty control arms

I also got my new slicks and wheels on to make sure everything fits properly and had no clearance problems. That shows the importance of careful measuring beforehand. The car looks totally mean with the slicks and black wheels. I hope it runs down the track well. It will be a totally new experience dealing with slicks. It should be exciting racing tomorrow and Saturday at Heartland Park.

Oct. 23-24, 2000 - I ordered my slicks Monday. I'll be getting Mickey Thompson ET Street 26X10.5 tires and some inexpensive American Racing wheels. Total came to $399. They should be in Wednesday. I started installing the new control arms Monday, and once again proved that nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. The driver's side control arm came right out, but the new one has one bolt that refuses to go in. The passenger side has one bolt that refuses to come out! I will tackle it again tonight. The new control arms are WAY beefier than the stock units. That should help control my 60' times quite a bit.

Oct. 19-22, 2000 - Well, I got my answer on how the new posi and 3.73 gears would affect my drag performance. I raced at Heartland Park in Topeka the 19th and at Kansas City International Raceway the 20th and my best time was 14.25 at 101.3 mph. My 60' times were in the 2.2-2.3 second range. With the new gear ratio, I have way more "leverage" than my puny 14" tires can handle. I spun them out at the line for the first 100+ feet. The choice was to either use a rolling start and lose time that way, or spin out off the line and lose time that way. I definitely need slicks, which I plan on getting anyway. Without the posi and with the old 3.15 gears, I ran a best of 13.829 at 100.7 mph since I didn't have enough gearing to spin out the tires as much.

I installed my B&M Pro Stick shifter on the 21st. The first chore was to fill the gaping hole (10" X 13") in the transmission tunnel left upon removal of the stock shifter. I used 24 gauge sheetmetal, about the same thickness as the floor material, cut it to shape and then formed to fit the tunnel contours. I used my fancy tool set - drill, socket wrench and ball peen hammer. The patch was painted black to match the floor, and it looks great!

The next task was to choose a spot for the new shifter. I installed it quite a ways back of where the original shifter was, and angled it slightly toward the passenger side. The final location falls easily to hand. I drilled a 1" hole in the transmission tunnel under the dash and routed the shift cable through it. I sealed it up with a 3/8 heater hose section to protect the cable from the hole edge, and filled in with black silicone sealer.

Under the car, I modified the stock shift lever on the transmission case to accept the new shift cable and yet retain the stock steering column lock lever. The B&M kit makes no provision for this, so I would have had to block the lock lever in the up position, making it possible for the wheel to be locked at any time the key would be turned off, whether the vehicle was moving or not. This was obviously not desirable, so I drilled an extra hole in the stock lever and attached the B&M shift cable. Works like a charm! If anyone is installing any B&M cable operated shifter in an AMC with a 727 tranny, I can give you more details on the modifications necessary.

The shifter looks and works great, and totally prevents mis-shifts. There are positive stops from 1-2 and 2-3, as well as neutral and reverse lockouts. The car actually drives pretty well on the highway. At 70 mph, the engine is turning 4000 rpm, so it is loud. I had no problems with handling, either. I will be installing the boxed rear lower control arms early next week, and that should help in launching.

Oct. 3, 2000 - I had the posi and 3.73 gears installed on Sept. 25th. The car accelerates quicker, and I can't wait to race it again to see if I can cut down on my 60' times and better my ET. I'll still be running on my 14" tires, so it won't be ideal, but better than it was.

For safety, I am replacing the ball joints on both sides. The uppers looked pretty questionable, and I sure don't want to lose the front end on the highway or the track. I also re-installed the seats, but removed the insulation under the back seat. I didn't like the look of the car with only one seat, and the weight of the insulation is equal to the back seat anyway. Plus, now I can have passengers! Yesterday I removed the back bumper, too. That thing is heavy! It makes the car look faster, and it just looked unbalanced with only the front bumper removed. Removing it's weight more than makes up for the weight of the other front seat.

In addition to the ball joints, I am really hoping to get the new shifter installed. The stock shifter just really doesn't lend itself well to racing. And, if I have time, I will install the heavy duty rear lower control arms. I'm trying to get all this done before Friday so I can race at Scribner, assuming I don't get rained out again. I'm also planning to race in Topeka at the end of the month. My Dad will be racing his Mustang, too, so it should be fun.

Sept. 8, 2000 - I had such a good time at Cordova that I wanted to race again. Julie and I went to the Nebraska Motorplex in Scribner, NE (http://www.teknetwork.com/dccvb/motoplex.htm) for their Friday Night fun race. Unfortunately, it started raining 20 minutes after we got there, and didn't let up. A 3 hour round trip wasted.

Since that was my last chance to race until the end of this month, due to my schedule, I decided to go ahead and address the issue of the rear end. I ordered a new Richmond 3.73 ring gear and pinion set, and have an appointment for HP Motorsport to install it and my TrackLok posi unit, as well as replace the axle bearings. I had a 3.54 set, but the threads on the pinion shaft were damaged, plus I decided that the 3.73 ratio was closer to ideal for my setup. With 26" slicks, it should be awesome. I've been driving Dolly on occasion just for the fun of it. With the throaty rumble, she gets lots of attention.

Aug. 17-20, 2000 - Well, after a little late bashing to get her ready to go, I got Dolly, my white 76 Matador coupe, on the road to Cordova for the NAMDRA Nationals. I drove it, while my wife drove our Ram pickup towing our camping trailer. We arrived Thursday evening and set up camp.

Our campsite South of Cordova

Friday we grubbed on the picnic goodies and checked out some of the cars before the time trials started. I walked around and tried to pick the brains of those who had experience racing. The best advice I got was to "just relax". Easier said than done.

Time trials started Friday afternoon. I got into the staging lane and moved up for my first ever drag racing pass. I drove around the water as much as I could since I had street tires on (215 70R14 Pirellis). I did a couple of short dry burnouts to clear the tires, then moved up to stage. The very nice track official came up to my window and informed me that I had the back tires staged. Doh! The worst part is that my wife has this on tape. So, I backed up and restaged, using the front tires this time. I left the car in drive and set my rev limiter to 4800. The third amber light came on, I mashed the gas, and ran down the strip. A .974 reaction time (ouch), 15.568 ET at 85.36 mph. Not too bad for a first run, and what a blast!

Cooling off in the pits

I fiddled with the carb setup, fuel pressure, and shift points, and ended up with a best that day of 14.33 at 99.46 mph. My best RT of the night was a .574, so at least I was moving in the right direction.

In the staging lane at Cordova Dragway Park

Saturday dawned early, and I jumped eagerly into the staging lanes for the Y2K AMC Nationals. My first run was an unimpressive 15.03 at 98, since I accidentaly shifted from 1 to 3. Darn stock shifter! By the last time trial run, though, I had dropped to 14.05 at 100.3, and a .588 light. Dolly was cooking!

Dolly in action at the lights

The first round I was really nervous. My first real race! I set a 14.05 dial-in, and waited for the lights. I left with a bad .720 light, but ran down my opponent, crossing the finish line first. Unfortunately, I also broke out, running an amazing (amazing to me, anyway) 13.829 at 100.7, and this is without posi, without any chassis setup, and without any exotic parts! Dolly has a MSD 6AL ignition, MSD Blaster coil, MSD 8.5 wires, Bosch platinum plugs, stock points distributor, an Edelbrock Performer EGR intake (#3731), a Performer 750 carb (#1407), an Edelbrock Performer Plus cam (#2132, .448/.472 lift at valve), stock cast pistons, valvetrain, etc.; an 1800 stall converter and a stock 727 with a B&M shift kit; 3" exhaust; and a non-posi differential with 3.15 gears. I was ticked that I broke out, but really thrilled at running in the 13s.

I decided to stay and run in the evening open races. I won my first round Street Eliminator race when my opponent redlighted, and then I redlighted with a .438 in the second round, my first and only redlight of the day in the races. Bummer! Oh well, for a first outing, I felt really good, and I can't wait to get back next year. I'm going to try and race locally at the Scribner, NE and Topeka, KS tracks this year, and come back next year with the rest of the mods done and run 12s. Look out boys and girls, I'm hooked!

Thanks to Jock Jocewicz and all the others who made this event happen. It was a lot of fun. Saw some beautiful cars, and some not so beautiful cars (AMC Dan, I'm talking to you!), and got some goodies at the swap meet.

Dolly ran well, and drove the 700+ mile round trip with no problems. I don't think I would make the trek every week, but it really wasn't too bad. Just very LOUD at 70+ mph on the interstate! Can't wait to get out and race again, and make the rest of my modifications.

Aug. 16, 2000 - Finally got the driver's side exhaust installed. I used my BFH to flatten the top side of my header extension so it would clear the tranny crossmember, then bolted it up and connected the muffler. I also put on the turn-downs I had custom bent at a muffler shop today. I put them on to direct the exhaust away from the chassis and the passenger compartment, since the exhaust ends just behind the front seats. Looks real slick. Sounds totally awesome, too!

I decided at the last minute that I really ought to have a real temperature gauge with actual numbers, instead of the factory gauge. I pulled out the old amp/oil gauge pod my Dad had installed, and put in a new mechanical oil/temp. pod. It was fairly easy, since the oil line was already run. All I had to do was route the temperature sender line, and install the sender bulb in the manifold. That wasn't too bad, since there was a tapped boss on the right side of the manifold that was a perfect fit. Oh, and by the way, don't forget to drain some coolant before removing any coolant plugs on the manifold. Ooops! I also changed the oil and made a bunch of last minute checks. I got to bed by 1:30 a.m.

Aug. 13, 2000 - Got the driveshaft loop installed; fixed the transmission leak I discovered; put in the new Bosch platinum plugs gapped to .046; removed, checked and reinstalled the alternator; put in a new heavy gauge ground strap; removed the existing 2" exhaust and installed the passenger side 3" exhaust; started work on fixing up the body rot areas that could dump debris on the track. The transmission leak was very annoying - lots of wasted time. I discovered transmission fluid on the driveway under the car, and this is after a complete rebuild! I drove out to the tranny shop, but on the way, the car died and wouldn't restart. The battery was dead. My wife brought me a spare battery and I drove the car home, since by that time the shop was closed. Thinking the alternator wasn't charging properly, I took it out and had it checked, but it tested fine. In the meantime, I discovered that a splice coupling the shop had put into the transmission coolant line to the radiator was not properly attached - one end was just barely in the fitting, and wasn't clamped at all! That would explain the leak. I put on a new crush sleeve, tightened it up, and it was fixed. After that, I removed the existing exhaust, and the new passenger side exhaust bolted right up with no problem. The driver's side header, however, is 3/4" higher than the passenger side, so the 3" exhaust won't fit that side without some modifications, since the floorpan is in the way. To add to my frustration, it rained all day Sunday, which caused no end of problems for me, since I am working out in the driveway. I am confident that I can overcome these little obstacles and be ready to go to Cordova on Thursday.

Aug. 10, 2000 - The spark plug wires are on, as is the new cap and rotor. The MSD universal wire set comes with a crimping tool, so the wires can be custom cut to length. I had to get a new cap, since one of the top terminals had completely corroded. The others were bright and shiny. I wondered why I had a miss! Runs good now. I also installed the new Autogage Monster tach and shift light. It plugged right into the MSD 6AL, and works like a charm. I finally got to take the car on the road with the new stuff, and it runs pretty strong. I am getting very anxious to take it to the strip and find out what it can do. Unfortunately, I messed up my back somehow, so the exhaust, driveshaft loop and shifter installation has been postponed. Posi rear and drag slicks will also have to wait - money and time. Oh well! At least I'll be able to get used to the track rules and the lights.

Aug. 4, 2000 - I installed the MSD 6AL and the Blaster coil. My original thought was to put the 6AL on the transmission hump, but in the interest of time, and not wanting to do a lot of splicing and wire routing, I mounted it on the right fenderwall where the battery and stock ignition module used to be. That should be a good spot - away from heat sources and relatively isolated. I mounted the coil on the right radiator support, using some old shock absorber grommets to fashion a vibration dampening mount for it. The 6AL install was very easy, and the instructions and wiring diagram are a cinch to follow. I will have to splice and route wires for the RPM selector module, which I will mount on the transmission hump, but that's only two wires. I'll be putting on the MSD spark plug wires next, and then I should be ready to start it up with the new ignition system. After that, I'll put on my new exhaust pieces and driveshaft loop.

Aug. 3, 2000 - Well, I didn't get it ready for the O'Reilly Bracket race. Still waiting on parts, and I ran out of time to install the stuff I already have! I finally got the shutoff switch installed last night, and have the wiring all laid out to install my MSD 6AL and Blaster 3 coil. I also have a set of MSD Super Conductor wires, which will complement the system nicely. I plan to install the 6AL on the tranny hump, along with the MSD multi-selector rev limit module. I also finally got my Dynomax race mufflers today, so I can finally get rid of the existing exhaust and put on the 3" system. Don't know when I will do all of this, since we are going camping this weekend. Still waiting for my pictures to get developed so I can put them on this page.

July 27, 2000 - Not sure if I will make my goal of being race ready by the 28th (tomorrow), but progress continues. Too many other "things to do" have interfered. I installed the battery in the trunk with a Taylor battery relo kit; the transmission has been rebuilt for performance oriented duty; fuel lines have been replaced, using as much metal line as possible; interior carpet, insulation, console, passenger seat and back seat have been removed; the now bare floor pan painted. The front end sits noticeably higher after removal of all the weight. I was curious about how much weight I had removed, so I weighed everything. Here are the results:

  • Carpet and floor pad/insulation - 72 pounds
  • Air conditioner compressor - 25 pounds
  • AC condensor, hood latches, hoses, trunk mat - 20.5 pounds
  • Rear seat, battery tray - 19 pounds
  • Front passenger seat - 40 pounds
  • Front sway bar - 12 pounds
  • Center console - 20 pounds (estimated)
  • Front bumper assembly - 80 pounds (estimated)

That gives me a total reduction of approximately 290 pounds, which is quite significant. Racers tell me that each hundred pounds lost is roughly equivalent to a gain of .1 second in the quarter mile.

I still have some safety items to take care of, namely the driveshaft loop and battery cutoff switch. The driveshaft loop would not be required at the speeds I will be running, but it's a darn good idea. I also have a B&M Pro Stick shifter, AutoGage Monster tach/shift light, MSD 6AL, MSD Blaster 3, and MSD 8.5 mm plug wires to install. 15" rear wheels and slicks will have to wait.

July 17, 2000 - Well, progress has been made. The front bumper assembly, AC compressor and condensor, battery tray and factory hood latches have been removed. I also have installed a pair of Mr. Gasket hood pins and clips to keep the hood shut at speed. The pins and the lack of a front bumper really do help make Dolly look fast sitting still. I will be removing more dead weight soon, as well as beginning on the mechanical installations. My goal is to be racing by July 28 at the O'Reilly Bracket races in Topeka, KS. It's a pretty ambitious goal, but it helps keep me moving.

Close-ups of the hoodpin installation


This car was given to me by my father in 1995. He bought it in 1987. In 1992, we had pulled the 360 out and replaced it with a 401, mildly built up. It served as my daily driver for several years, but body rust after a cheap repaint, and transmission problems had sidelined it for over a year. My intentions were to either customize it, or build it up for racing.

The car in it's original state

In 1999, my Dad began racing his '89 Mustang, and going with him to the races, watching him run, and walking around the pits gave me racing fever in a big way. I could visualize Dolly (the name my Mom gave to the car) charging hard down the quarter mile, wasting Big Three products with abandon. However, I knew that there was a lot of work to do.

Fast forward to July, 2000. I began work on the transformation. I had several constraints, not the least of which was budget. I decided to limit my approach to racing, and will modify only those components that need it. I will also keep the car street legal. My plan looked like this:

  • Engine: No real modifications here. Currently has an Edelbrock Performer intake and carb, not an ideal set up, but fine for the medium cam the car has (Comp Cams 268). The stock style cast pistons and bottom end will hold up fine under a redline cap of 5500 rpm and a shift point of 4800-5000 rpm. The Carter high flow fuel pump should also be sufficient.
  • Ignition: I will upgrade to the MSD 6-AL, giving me rev limit protection and a tremendous increase in ignition efficiency. I will also be using a MSD Blaster 3 coil, and 8.5 mm plug wires. The points distributor will remain stock for now.
  • Transmission: It is slipping really badly and will need a major overhaul. A 2600-2800 stall converter is a possibility.
  • Exhaust: Currently 2", will need to be at least 2 1/2" or even 3".
  • Rear end: Unfortunately, this car did not come with a Twin Grip, so either an AMC or aftermarket posi will need to be installed, along with 3.54 gears in place of the stock 2.73s in it now.
  • Suspension: I have a pair of NOS AMC fully boxed high performance rear lower control arms that I will install. I will also need to reduce the height of the station wagon springs in the rear to give me a better ride height and yet retain the stiffer spring rate. The front springs will remain, although I may get 70/30 racing shocks or adjustable shocks. Subframe connectors will also be fabricated and installed.
  • Front/Rear weight distribution: The Matador Coupe has a very long nose, so this is important. The plan is to remove pretty much everything that doesn't contribute to speed or safety as time permits, and relocate the battery to the trunk.
  • Safety: I anticipate a quarter ET in the 13-14 second range at 100-110 mph. A roll bar is not mandatory at those speeds, and is too much of an expense at this point. The stock hood latches are questionable at that speed, however, especially if there is any body flex (and there will be), so hood pins are needed. The brakes are adequate, and the car is mechanically sound otherwise.
  • Wheels/tires: I will stick with the front tires I have now, but will need something better for the rear if I hope to hook up at all. I'm planning on 26X10 Mickey Thomson ET Street tires, and 15" wheels. I would love to get something really cool like the Weld ProStars, but I will probably be stuck with much cheaper steel wheels for the time being.