Mopar Circle Track Racing: Practical Racing Tips Part III

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by "Blue" Mike Peterson, Schofield, WI

Over the summer I received a lot of letters from you folks who've made your 4 cylinder Mopars really work on circle tracks. WOW! the ingenuity and ideas you folks sent to me! Every one was a jewel. So here we are, the racing season over, the car sits in the shed, crew sitting around with beer or soda in hand telling stories about every dent and scratch, where it came from, and of course how none of them was our fault!! Already we're talking next season so a good plan is to give thought to what worked, what didn't, and start the shopping list for next year. Start it now as a lot of cars start migrating to the salvage yards as winter approaches.

Engine

If you ran fuel injection and it worked, I wouldn't worry about it. If you've ever given thought to switching to carb, do it over the winter. If you just haven't decided, why not round up the parts just in case?

Fuel injection guys, when you have the engine apart over the winter, do some grinding on the intake.  Lo and behold the opening is smaller than the throttle body, and there's a nasty lip in the way too. 

  1. Make the entrance to the intake a little bigger than the bottom of the throttle body.
  2. The opening in the head should be just a little bigger than the intake runner
  3. The exhaust manifold entrance should be just a little bigger than the head side.

Each of these steps assures the flow doesn't "bounce off" a lip and cause reversion ( a wall of disturbance  actually backing up against the flow). Make sure all the gaskets are opened up and out of the way. Where rules discourage porting and grinding, when it's neat, pretty, and the same size as its mating part, you're asking to be pinched. Leave it rough but... bigger as I explained. Follow it up with some muratic acid to take the shine off.

Running or switching to Carb

Start the search for an intake off a 1987 2.2. These were the last year for carbs and the design in 1987 improved distribution. The fancy Mopar performance intake is this very same one!

How would you like to lose that whole big computer and go from 15 miles of wires and hoses to just 6 or 7 wires? This was the single best thing I did over the winter.

Search the yards for the ignition out of a 1980 1.7 found in Omnis, Chargers, etc. This is the only year they ran this setup. (You can also buy the box new for about $30.00 under Wells part# ECM 4412) The control box looks like a mini version of the dime-a-dozen electronic ignitions all 6 and 8 cyls ran through the 70s and 80s. The difference is it's triggered by the stock hall effect distributors in the 2.2-2.5s.

For racing you don't necessarily need a mechanical advance because timing is at full advance (38 btc with near stock compression, down to 34-35 with higher) above 2500 rpm, you rarely fall below that. If you insist on having some type of advance, that distributor out of the 1980 1.7 can be pieced together with the "tall cap" style newer distributor from like 1984 and up with some work. Basically you have to remove the mechanical guts out of the 1.7 one and put it in the newer fixed one. You can even drill holes and put in the vacuum too if you want. ( E mail me if you want more instructions.)

With the timing locked it may start hard when hot so you may have to rig your starter on a separate switch so you can turn the starter over before activating the ignition, that way it doesn't fight against itself and will start right up.

If you're running a Daytona style chassis and want to lose your power steering, (I found you could feel the road better and resist oversteering which I was notorious for, plus it's couple more free horses), you'll want to find a rack out off a spirit or acclaim. The Daytona ratio was steeper thus harder to turn without the pump. Rigging in a manual is nice but the difference in ratio isn't that much.

Fill up the rack through the hoses, and then join them together to keep lube in .

Pick up a nice variety of springs from caravans and other cars through the winter. They don't necessarily have to be Mopar springs, as long as they fit in the bucket. I use springs from a V6 Baretta and because they are a lot smaller in diameter just run a hose clamp through the bucket and the spring to keep it from turning. Want height adjustable, "screw jack" kind of struts? First cut the entire "bucket (spring base) completely off the strut. Get a set of screw type collars real common at race parts suppliers, like the ones used on all shock/spring combination set ups you see on racing chassis. Put these at the bottom, welding the fixed collar obviously in, the turning collar goes over that, then put in a small diameter spring just big enough to fit around the strut, and modify the hat so the spring sits nice and flat, there you have it!! You can buy these new for $185.00 a piece, or make them for about $25.00. You can instantly turn in height and wedge on the spot. You want more info how to do this, drop me an e-mail.

When converting to carb on my 2.5 I went ahead and took out the charging system, to my surprise with running an electric fuel pump and fan, never did end up with a dead battery and what a pleasure it was losing even more wiring and that heavy alternator hanging way out in front of the engine!! One guy wrote who installed an alternator off a Toyota (small one with a built in regulator) off the end of the cam where the old smog pumps hang. Easy piezy japanezee!!

In an hours time I accomplished the job of removing the 5th gear simply by removing the outer tranny cover and removing the stuff you see. ANY loss of reciprocating weight is always a plus. IN another hour you can go to other side of the engine and disconnect the counter balance shafts, good for around 8-10 hp.

While finding new bumpers, opt for the cool aluminum ones in the sport models. When changing fenders, as long as they're off, skin the inner well out, trim the stuff off behind the side skirts, lose the door hinges, all that little stuff. It might not sound like a lot but put it all in a bucket and weigh it up when you're all done and you'll be surprised. Even take the time to take all the under coating junk off. I found this comes off real easy if you take an air hammer with a wide blunt end and just hold it lightly against the surface. The undercoating falls off in chunks, lord knows it all falls off when you're working under the car and you DON'T want it to fall off in your hair, eyes,  and down your shirt, right?

Replacing the stock tank with a fuel cell can rid you of the 70 lbs of gas you carry around to keep your tank full to avoid the fuel sloshing away from the pick up.  I just took the pump out of the tank and put it under the foam in the fuel cell in the rear right corner, ran the wires to it and never once had a problem!! Just be sure to still have a return line.

For safety's sake be sure the pump goes off with the master, wire in a breaker and a "collision" throw switch from the older Ford escorts. These would trip sensing a hard impact or if the car would tilt over 30 degrees. You reset them like a circuit breaker.

So let's summarize your winter wish list;

  • Carb intake from an 87 2.2 engine.
  • Ignition off of a 1980 1.7
  • A variety of springs of all rates, diameters and lengths.
  • Look for torsion bar off the higher performance models, they're 1 1/8.
  • Over the winter buy a box of hockey pucks made of high quality polyurethane and start carving new sway bar bushings, body mounts, anything you want.
  • A Rack off a Spirit or Acclaim if you want some extra HP and better road feel without PS
  • Do some mild porting, making each successive opening going with the air/exhaust flow just a little bigger.

These changes I mentioned made huge improvements in horsepower and handling, all costing little to nothing. I'm not trying to solicit you to buy these items but here's stuff I bought that I found in my application made the biggest seat-of-the-pants improvements.
Put in another way, in my experience this was the best money I spent.

My personal setup and experience

(NOTE- for reference I race a Daytona body with a switched over to carb 2.5, 5sp on 1/4 light banked, a 1/3 mile high bank, and a 1/2 mile mild banked asphalt tracks, weighing 2350lbs. Shaved .070 off the head, you need to purchase the MP cam belt which is a tooth smaller, and be sure to get the right one for your application- round tooth or square tooth. I bought Lambros race engineering's .504 lift cam and springs, installing as prescribed at 3 degrees advanced. Over years of experience this was the sweetest cam I'd ever owned. I loved it all the way from the super "RAPP" tone in the exhaust to the awesome power band. A little pricey ($300 for cam and springs) but every penny well spent!!

LRE's reduction pulley gave me a couple extra horses, and helped cool the engine significantly by slowing the flow down allowing the radiator to work.

An MSD blaster plumbed into the 1980 ignition was also a seat-of-the-pants (noticeable) improvement.

Taking the gas tank out, buying a cute aluminum 4 gal tank from jegs for $100.00 came ready to go with a cell like cap and plumbing stuff. 70lbs less gas had numerous handling and safety advantages. What's nice on a FWD is you can mount it anywhere you want.
My son bought me one of those "Tornado" dealys you put into your air intake. I test all my mods with an aerotech "pocket" dyno which goes in a car, plugs into a cig lighter and you enter weight, not exactly 100% science but this little deal did show me a 4 hp increase, and darn it the theory does make sense and after all, it couldn't hurt!

Running 10w-30 synthetic. Guys who say you have to run this 20w-50 mud for racing don't understand 4 cyl overhead cams too well. If your motor's in  OK shape, molasses oil only makes the pump work harder and slows the flow.  A base oil pressure of 15lbs at idle and 10 lbs per 1000 rpm has been all I ever needed.

AS always, I eagerly look forward to any of you Mopar folks who drop me a line on your ideas, questions, and stuff you've tried whether it worked for you or not. Come on, let's talk. e-mail me.

PS. I am presently writing a tech manual for Steve Smith publications on fundamentals of front wheel racing. I plan it to be an excellent preparatory resource and would be proud to use any knowledge (with your permission and give you credit of course)  you'd like to share with the racing world.

IMPORTANT! There are more articles in this series. Click here for the first one. Click here for the second one.

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