Report and photos by Dennis Gray
Starting the Monday before the HMSA Championship Grand Prix at Thunderhill Raceway Park, weekend weather predictions had progressed from rain to heavy rain to heavy rain with strong winds to rain and snow to just lots of snow. Two predictable results from all these ‘predictions’ one: not many cars showed for the event and two: Saturday dawned cold and windy but clear, Sunday cold with no wind but clear.
A new experience for many of the drivers was the ambient temperature of 42 degrees Saturday with a strong breeze making for cold tires on a cold Thunderhill Raceway Park. A slippery situation. Added to the slippery track were runoff areas soaked from four days of heavy rain, resulting in a sucking quagmire. Drivers were warned if they used the run off area there was a good possibility of them sinking into the bogs.
Despite the predictions the drivers who did show up got lots of track time, lots of lonely track time.
HMSA Champion’s Grand Prix at Thunderhill – Cars of Interest
1968 Lola T70 Mk IIIb, SL73/129, Steve Hilton – SL73/129 was delivered new February 16, 1968 to Carl Haas Racing. Fitted with a Bartz 365ci 6.0 liter Chevy V8 mated to a Hewland LG600 gearbox. Sponsored by Simoniz in their orange livery and driven by Skip Scott. The car won three times in the 1968 USRRC including the Road America 500. Skip Scott finished runner-up in the 1968 USRRC series to Mark Donohue.
Late in 1968 the next owner Tom Dutton fitted a big block 7.0 liter Chevy. Tom and the car raced seven times in the 1969 Can-Am series finishing fifth and the top privateer at Edmonton. This drive got Tom a contract with Jim Hall as Chaparral’s development driver on the Chaparral 2J.
The car made the journey through various owners to the Bay Area’s Bud Romack minus a body and engine. Bud sold the car to Phil Reilly who combined the chassis with a MKIIIb ex-Penske body and sold the car via Steve Griswald to Chris Cord and Tom Skouras. Phil then restored the car in Penske livery for Cord and Skouras. The Lola was eventually sold to Rob la Roque, who campaigned the car through 2006 in the Penske livery.
Steve Hilton bought the car in 2006 and had Chris Hines, Arrow Lane Racing in Scottsdale restore the car with an original specification MkIIIB body finished in the orange Simoniz livery. The car is fitted with a Power Specialists-built 350 cubic inch Chevy mated to a LG600 Hewland transmission.
1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass, Ardie Oji – The #83 Oldsmobile Cutlass was raced in NASCAR Winston Cup by Lake Speed. Originally a 1986 Hutcherson/Pagen chassis campaigned by Hoss Ellington as a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, it was sold to Buddy Baker as a 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass. The Olds was later owned by Dick Schat, Del Markel and Lake Speed. Current owner Ardie Oji purchased the car in 2000 from Tom Speed, Lake’s cousin. Ardie has campaigned the car in vintage events on the West Coast since purchasing the car.
The car weighs 3600 pounds has a 359ci NASCAR spec engine producing about 650 hp; 11-inch Goodyear racing slicks; ‘clutchless’ racing 4-speed drives a full floating Ford 9-inch rear and huge four wheel disc brakes help to slow the car.
Ardi has been racing for over 50 years after starting in karts at age 14. He said the Cutlass is “a blast to drive. Relatively small tires, good brakes, lots of horse power and speeds approaching 200 mph.”
1962 Hatch-Parl Special, John Miller – In 1962, Everett Hatch and Joel Park, working at the Salem Speed Shop, began work on their project sports racer. Being American hot rodders they built and designed the entire project in house as a state-of-the-art racer using American parts. They designed and cast their own uprights, wheels and hubs. An aluminum 215ci Buick with a Buick 300 crank and heads was topped off with Hilborn fuel injection. The Special was finished with a Muncie aluminum four-speed, Hilbrand quick change rear-end, Troutman & Barnes side plates and Airheart disc brakes all around, inboard in the rear.
After winning the SCCA Northwest Division championships in 1963 and 1965, the car was lost until the 1990s. Chip Helli, a youngster when the car last raced, found the car’s remains in the Oregon woods. Half of the parts were missing and the rest was buried in the mud. Some parts were bought at a local swap meet where they had found their way, while others were rescued from a dumpster in the nick of time. The Halibrand rear end and entire back of the car was being hoarded by a local welder who held out for four years before finally selling them to Chip. He sold the car’s remains to an enthusiast in the Midwest who eventually sold it to Lilo Zicron in Los Angeles. John Miller found the car in pieces on eBay listed as a Devin Buick project car. Five years later he has it on track, still a project. The engine is an aluminum Buick but practically stock. Plans are afoot to build a period correct Buick and have it installed later this year.
HMSA Champion’s Grand Prix at Thunderhill – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
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[Source: Dennis Gray]