PROJECT DOUBLE DUTY
Words and photos by Rob Livingston
[Ed. Note: Rob Livingston is one of the youngest and best bracket racers I have met. He has won two ET Finals in a row and three track titles in two years. He makes about 450 laps a year on his Nova. He finally agreed to share some information with our readers.]
This is probably the last car you want to line up against right now. Two IHRA ET Finals wins in a row, one in (Mod) No Box and the other in (Top) Box. Track championships and a ton of final-round wins. Looks pretty mild sitting there, right? Don’t be fooled — it is deadly consistent and Rob has been up on the wheel for the last two years.
At race tracks across the country that run Box and No Box classes, running both classes with the same vehicle is becoming very popular. It offers many advantages for the driver. You get twice the racing for the same tow, two chances to win, and more seat time. But running two classes puts different requirements on a racecar than the typical bracket car. When you run two classes, you can’t hold up the show or make your competitors wait for you. They will race without you, as they should. You need a car that can be hot lapped with minimal down time. You need a car that cools quickly, recharges quickly, and requires little to no maintenance at the track.
What you are looking at is stopping at your pit, throwing the charger on, running the water pump and fans for a few minutes, adding a splash of fuel and heading back to the staging lanes. Later in the rounds, you might not get that much time.
I am going to shed some light on what it takes to build such a vehicle. The best part is, you don’t HAVE to spend a fortune to have a car that you can compete with tube chassis No Box cars and $60,000 dragsters in Box class.
Project Double Duty is my 1967 Chevy II. It is a 3,400 lb., all steel (except hood), back half, ladder bar door car. It was probably a pretty trick piece in the ’80s, but today not so much. The engine is a 496” with a flat tappet solid lifter cam and factory iron oval port heads that could have come off a mid 1970’s smog motor station wagon. On paper this isn’t the combo most people would want to invest their entry fees in. But this little Chevy II has won me two back-to-back No Box track championships, multiple Box races, taken me to the final against myself in a combo race (wife got all the $), and won back-to-back ET finals (one in Mod and one in Top. So it’s a good thing we don’t race on paper!
You will need a good cooling system. Obviously a Scirocco radiator isn’t going to cut it here. Eric Bjorheim’s ’69 Camaro is a street car converted into a racecar; it was designed to withstand stop and go traffic. He has a 31”x19” radiator and has adapted dual electric fans from a 2000 Dodge Intrepid to fit. He has no problem running two classes on gas and keeping engine temps in line. You will not be able to burn him down at the starting line!
My car has a 26”x19” radiator and I have to run the fan as a pusher due to a tight engine bay. It worked fine on gas running one class, but it wouldn’t hold up running two classes. A larger radiator wouldn’t fit without hacking up the factory core support.
That left me with the choice of switching fuels, I chose E85. Living in Iowa, it is cheap and plentiful. I shopped around and purchased an E85 carb from Horsepower Innovations. Eric at Horsepower Innovations worked with me to fine tune the carb for my combo. It cured my cooling issues; even on hot days I can keep temps below 180. In 2016, I will be experimenting with some methanol carbs.
I wasn’t the first to change to E85 in this area but working with my carb builder we came up with a very consistent carb that lets me worry less about the weather changes and more about the competition. E85 is readily available in this area (Iowa) and CHEAP when compared to race gas. It starts good and warms up pretty fast and that makes it a convenient, affordable and consistent race fuel option.
Want to keep that converter cool when trans temps are hovering at 200 degrees? This D&D Race Products Kool-Verter fan bolts to the trans pan bolts and keeps the air circulating around the torque converter.
Transmission temperatures will also be a concern. Early in the day, you may have problems getting the tranny up to temp. Later in the day, as the rounds get closer, the heat will be harder to dissipate. I run an FTI converter that was setup for my combo. I told them I was more interested in consistency than going fast. The guys at FTI nailed it, and this converter has been a huge part of why my car works. With a loose converter and the gearing in my car, it really lugs when it comes out of the hole. It generates a lot of heat. I use an 11” x 11” B&M SuperCooler transmission cooler with a 10” Deralefan mounted to it. I also have a fan that blows directly on the torque converter, since that is where most of the transmission heat is generated. It is called the Kool-Verter, made by a fellow bracket racer at D&D Race Products. When time allows, I use a Black & Decker leaf blower. The 230-mph wind aimed at the deep tranny pan will cool the fluid down quickly.
Of course, synthetic fluid helps too. This setup is good enough for most racing scenarios. That being said, I have run into problems cooling my transmission. On really hot days, running quarter mile, and being hot lapped I have had a tough time keeping it below 200 degrees. I am researching the cure for this and will report back later on this subject.
After running dual 12V batteries the switch was made to a 16V one battery set up. Superior cranking power, voltage to keep MSD at peak output and the addition of a 16V alternator made for a reliable package for those days when 16 rounds are on your list for the day.
To keep the 16V battery at peak power I rely on this charger, a multi-level charger you can plug in and forget about it. Get the log book up to date and be confident you will have the “juice” to go to the winner’s circle photo op.
On the electrical end of the car, I like overkill. Most electrical gremlins are from grounding issues, so don’t skimp here. Battery and ground cables are I/O welding cable. I usually use 2-12 volt batteries and an alternator. I had battery issues this past season with my yellow tops, they just weren’t charging up as quick or holding a charge as well as when they were new. I decided to make the switch to 16 volt. I did some research and checked with several local racers and went with XS Power batteries XP 1000 battery and the XS 1005 charger. The charger is a real trick piece. It can charge 12, 14, or 16 volts at 2, 15, or 25 amps. It will not over charge, which is the death of AGM batteries. At the track I set it on 25 amps and the charger reduces the amperage automatically. Set it and forget it!
On the advice of many others, I went with only one battery. I sent my 12 volt, 74 amp alternator back to East Coast Auto Electric to be upgraded to 16 volt, 120 amps. I did have a points race weekend to attend while my alternator was getting upgraded. It was the first time I raced with one battery and no alternator, so it would be a good test. I charged the battery fully at night and in between rounds as time allowed. It worked fine. So when I added the alternator, I knew it would provide an extra level of protection for the times when I need to hotlap.
Regular vehicle maintenance is a must. A logbook is a valuable tool, because runs will add up quickly. Pay special attention to things that wear out like tires and brake pads. I put the car up on jack stands and give the whole car a good look over.
I have an 8-quart oil pan and try to change oil at or before 80 runs. On the advice of my engine builder, I use Brad Penn semi-synthetic motor oil. I also add a bottle of Comp Cam’s #159 oil additive at every oil change. This has all the anti-wear additives that you won’t find in off the shelf oils; this is a must when you run solid flat tappet cam and lifters. The nice part about regular maintenance is it gives you confidence in your car. When you have confidence in your car, you can focus on what you need to do as a driver.