The racers selected for Part III of our SoCal Pavement Pounders Shootout are a diverse group, running everything from traditional-powered, bracket style A- and F-bodies to a late-model, front-drive GTP and even an LS1-powered Firebird. We also picked a Firebird roadster that can't quite seem to decide what generation it is.
Feeling blessed to have a patch of perfect weather and solid track prep at Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale, California, we basked in the sunny, cloudless, 70-degree day, enjoying some of the best air that LACR had seen in quite a while.
This month, we highlight Jim "Old Man" Taylor's '64 Tempest, Hubert "Hubbe" Olofsson's '69 Firebird, Lindy Lindholm's '70 Ram Air IV GTO Judge, Roy Brewer's '74 Firebird, Josh Gordon's '98 Grand Prix GTP, and Jay Reichenthal's '01 Formula. Can late-model, high-tech power keep up with Traditional Pontiac brute force? Will age and experience trump youthful exuberance? Can that wild-looking Firebird roadster run as hard as it looks? You're right where you need to be to find out, so follow along as we bring you Part III of the SoCal Shuffle at LACR.
At the Track
As mentioned in our previous installments, we had some of the best racing weather and track conditions we had seen in years for Southern California and the best we'd ever seen at LACR. The combination of barometric pressure and actual elevation gave us an equivalent altitude of 2,700 feet, which was excellent for this facility. Effective altitudes here can easily top 8,000 feet or more. Correction factors were 0.9679 for e.t. and 1.0337 for the trap speed. The track surface at LACR seemed to work quite well for our competitors for most of the day, though some were noting some slickness late in the afternoon.
Jim "Old Man" Taylor
Jim's record-keeping skills were top-notch. His detailed account of every run helped him quickly isolate an ignition problem that was hampering the performance of his '64 Tempest. He noticed in his second and third run that his 60-foot times were more than a tenth off and he was giving up three tenths on the top end. Going through the basics, he found that his plugs were misfiring. A quick change of plugs and the ignition miss was gone and performance was restored. Jim's car was one of the vehicles that was experiencing traction and handling issues due to the track "going away," as he put it. Nevertheless, his best-corrected time of 10.71 at 123.58 mph indicates that his combination is well thought out, and his later runs show that even when the track wasn't up to snuff, the Tempest's performance was quite consistent.
Hubert "Hubbe" Olofsson
Hubbe's '69 Firebird is a bracket racer's dream, fast and consistent enough to run with the pack and low maintenance while at the track. The car's combination is fairly mild, but it is still quick due to the Bird's low weight and slippery aerodynamics. While they were at the track, Hubbe and Lisa Ann were merely fine-tuning an established setup, making adjustments to tire pressure and launch technique to maximize performance. Hubbe was happy with the performance of the first run and was actually able to improve on it. His best run, his third, a corrected 10.30 at 129.80 mph, came by way of a longer burnout. Subsequent runs had him slightly staggering the tire pressures, 6 psi in the left slick and 5.5 in the right to compensate for the slick track, and the results came close to his best of the day.
Lindy is a brave guy. He actually runs his original '70 Ram Air IV GTO on the strip, knowing what they are going for in the collector market. Even more amazing is that his car still has the original engine bolted between the fenders. He is well aware of what a hit he would take in the value if he hurt the numbers-matching block, so he preps it between rounds to ensure a happy, safe environment for his Ram Air IV. It's a runner to be sure, with a best corrected e.t. of 12.15 and a best corrected trap speed of 110.64 mph in separate runs. Lindy's first run was not what he hoped for and he wisely got out of it. After that, though, the Goat was "as constant as the northern star," varying by only 2 hundredths and 0.8 mph for the rest of the day. His secret was simple--let it properly cool down between runs. Hot lapping might be more fun, but it's harder on the car and can cause performance to suffer. If you're looking to learn how to go rounds, you do what makes the car the most consistent and Mr. Lindholm knows what he's doing.
Like Lindy Lindholm, Roy Brewer is another racer whose first run in his '74 Firebird was not where he wanted it to be, but he quickly pulled it together and did what he had to do to get the consistency bracket racers so desperately need to win. After a failed attempt to get proper traction, Brewer the elder kept getting better every run, laying down a corrected best of 10.30 at 131.48 mph. Strangely, it seems for this particular car the track actually got better throughout the day, as Roy didn't change his tune, launch technique, or shift points, yet the short times steadily improved. Moreover, the Firebird got quicker at every measured point on the track. Whatever the reasons, the car ran hard and picked up every time.
Josh's front-drive '98 GTP had its best run ever at LACR during our shootout--a milestone he has yet to surpass--a corrected 13.15 at 104.12 mph. He was tuning his car in both old school and high-tech fashions. First he was playing with tire pressure and launch rpm, but he was also using a ZZ Performance air/fuel controller. This little gizmo is used to fine-tune the air/fuel ratio at your choice of rpm levels. You can add or take away small amounts of fuel, usually in 1 percent or 2 percent increments, to help prevent knock retard or lean out an excessively rich condition. The neat thing about it is that you can add or subtract wherever you want it, so it can truly fine-tune a calibration. The combination of the AFC, adding rear tire pressure, and softening the front tires, helped Josh reach a new performance plateau. Who says newfangled and old-timey can't work together?
Jay's own notes say it as well as anyone: "ET consistency is my game, and as you can see, the car varied by only 3 hundredths all day." Not only that, there was only 0.579 mph separating the slowest and fastest trap speeds. Of all the cars out there, Jay's was the "Mac Daddy" of consistency at the shootout, making the most repeatable runs we've seen in quite a while. Jay was like a machine, running a corrected best e.t. of 12.76 and a best-corrected trap speed of 106.41 mph in different runs. Another interesting point is that the '01 Firebird Formula was consistent to the point of being locked into a particular performance level. Jay was actually trying to get the car to go quicker, varying tire pressure by 2 pounds and altering launch rpm and shift points by as much as 300 rpm. Try as he did, though, he wasn't able to significantly alter his times one way or the other. From a performance standpoint, you always want to go faster, but from a bracket racing view, it's a fine thing to pilot a car that you can't make inconsistent.
Our West Coast shootout was a great opportu-nity to see how a diverse group of Pontiac race cars achieve impressive performance and consistency levels using different approaches. There are lessons to be learned here from all of our Pave-ment Pounders Shootouts, from engine recipes and chassis setups to track tuning and driving strategies. No matter what kind of Pontiac you have, there are ideas you can apply to your own car to go faster.
Once again, a big "thank you" to Dave Anderson and Pontiac Drag Days, as well as LACR owner Bernie Longjohn, for their help organizing and executing the largest shootout we have yet completed. We'll conclude our coverage of the '05 So Cal Shootout with the last six racers in the next issue. Don't worry--they're worth the wait!